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Communications intelligence

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Definitions Edit

Communications intelligence (COMINT or COMMINT) is

[i]ntelligence derived from electromagnetic communications and communication systems by other than intended recipients or users.[1]
a sub-category of signals intelligence that engages in dealing with messages or voice information derived from the interception of foreign communications.[2]
[t]he capture of information, either encrypted or in "plaintext," exchanged between intelligence targets or transmitted by a known or suspected intelligence target for the purpose of tracking communications patterns and protocols (traffic analysis), establishing links between intercommunicating parties or groups, or analysis of the substantive meaning of the communication. COMINT is a sub-discipline of SIGINT.[3]
[t]echnical information and intelligence derived from foreign communications by other than the intended recipients. COMINT includes collecting data from target or adversary automated information systems or networks. COMINT also may include imagery when pictures or diagrams are encoded by a computer network or radio frequency method for storage or transmission. The imagery can be static or streaming.[4]
intelligence derived from tracking communications patterns and protocols (traffic analysis), establishing links between intercommunicating parties or groups, and analyzing the meaning of communications.[5]

Overview Edit

It should be noted that COMINT is commonly referred to as SIGINT, which can cause confusion when talking about the broader intelligence disciplines. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff defines it as "[t]echnical information and intelligence derived from foreign communications by other than the intended recipients."[6]

COMINT, which is defined to be communications among people, will reveal some or all of the following:

  1. Who is transmitting and or where they are located. If the transmitter is moving, the report may give a plot of the signal against location.
  2. If known, the organizational function of the transmitter.
  3. The time and duration of transmission, and the schedule if it is a periodic transmission.
  4. The frequencies and other technical characteristics of their transmission.
  5. If the transmission is encrypted or not, and if it can be decrypted. If it is possible to intercept either an originally transmitted cleartext or obtain it through cryptanalysis, the language of the communication and a translation (when needed).
  6. The addresses, if the signal is not a general broadcast and if addresses are retrievable from the message. These stations may also be COMINT (e.g., a confirmation of the message or a response message), ELINT (e.g., a navigation beacon being activated) or both. Rather than, or in addition to, an address or other identifier, there may be information on the location and signal characteristics of the responder.

References Edit

  1. NATO Standardization Agency, NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions 2-C-11 (2008) (full-text).
  2. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Nov. 8, 2010, as amended through May 15, 2011) (full-text).
  3. U.S. National Intelligence: An Overview 2011, Glossary of Terms, at 80.
  4. ADRP 2-0, at 4-7.
  5. U.S. National Intelligence: An Overview 2011, at 55.
  6. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Nov. 8, 2010, as amended through May 15, 2011) (full-text).

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