The CIA has traditionally separated intelligence analysts and operatives (collectors) into two separate workforces with something of a wall between them. A big wall, two separate silos joined at the top of the house. This may effectively be changing somewhat as the CIA breaks itself into smaller groups. Obviously there is a difference between having 1000 analysts in one room and 1000 operatives in another, and 20 halls divided in the middle with each hall have 50 analysts on one side and 50 operatives on the other. It will inevitably be the cases that there is more communication across both sides of a smaller hall than between two very large big halls.
That being said, the original division was there because operators are not traditionally known to be good at analysis, and analysts have been known to make terrible operatives.
Now we have a lot of concerns about cyberspace, and a couple of software offerings to work in the social cyber-subspace, which blur the line between analyst and operative by allowing analysts to inject themselves via fake personas into the social space that they are analysing. The assumption here is that the line-blurring is somewhat more risk-free when you are working behind a computer terminal than when you are jumping out of a plane. It is not always clear that the risk is less.
So, with those caveats (don’t try this at home?), here are some nifty off-the-shelf systems you can buy to spy on and pseudonymously interact people in social networks:
- HIWIRE™ Intelligence Desk™: “A comprehensive array of tools needed throughout the web intelligence production lifecycle, from social media mapping and analysis, to cultivation and operation of virtual avatars, all the way through data collection, processing and report generation.”
- Geofeedia: “Our patented, cloud-based, location-based intelligence platform lets you predict, analyze, and act on real-time social media content by location from anywhere in the world—with a single click.”
I haven’t got a price list for these, but I’m pretty sure they’re not on sale at Target.