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How Does Russia Target Americans? Use Red Hat Analysis

Much has been asserted—and little yet proven—about alleged Russian efforts to develop both witting and unwitting agents of influence and collaboration in the United States. If you were Russia, what strategies would you employ? How would you evaluate your prospects for success? Try using Red Hat Analysis to answer these questions. This technique consists of putting yourself in adversaries’ shoes and asking how they would behave.

As an adversary, your first step is to learn everything you can about your targets and their business. This can most easily be done when they travel to your country. Any government official traveling to Russia, Cuba, or North Korea has been warned that their movements and hotel room will be under watch. My wife and I have observed this surveillance first-hand; she during her many trips to Moscow and me in my travels to Cuba—including a surprise visitor to my room by a Cuban intelligence agent. I awoke at 2:00 a.m. to find a man going through my open suitcase next to my bed; he smiled at me and then exited the room. Castro had communicated his message effectively. (Note to readers: For these reasons, always travel with a “clean computer” and store your information on a removable thumb drive that never leaves your possession. Assume people will access your room—and can access a hotel safe as well.)

The second tried-and-true strategy is to find a way to compromise your target so that he or she can be subtly cajoled—or even blackmailed—into cooperating with you. This can take the form of asking targets to write a paper to make you smarter about their subject, to set up an “exchange of information” as part of a mutually beneficial partnering relationship, or getting them to engage in illicit acts that are videotaped.

If you approach this from the perspective of Red Hat Analysis, you quickly learn that the process of making someone an unwitting or witting collaborator involves a lot more than just offering them money. Richards J. Heuer, Jr. notes in an unclassified study he undertook for the Defense Department some years ago that most people who provide information to a foreign power appreciate monetary rewards, but their driving motive usually is different. His research shows that espionage is also a means to satisfy compelling emotional needs; many are drawn to it as an expression of power to influence events, an outlet for anger, a means of revenge, or a source of excitement.

Heuer documents that people who become agents of a foreign power usually have more pressing emotional than financial needs. History has shown that if you are using Red Hat Analysis to think like an adversary, you would want to recruit people who possess many of the following character weaknesses:

  • Anti-social behavior. Lack of respect for commonly accepted rules of society.
  • Impulsiveness/immaturity. Actions are motivated by quick, easy gratification of desires and failure to consider the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Narcissism. The tendency to view the world only from the perspective of how it affects them, with related traits of grandiosity, a sense of entitlement, and a lack of empathy.
  • Inability to make and keep a commitment. The inability to form enduring emotional commitments.
  • Paranoia. A pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of other people; can easily come to view his employer or the US Government as the enemy.
  • Vindictiveness. Someone who seeks revenge for real or imagined wrongs; a trait found in narcissists whose self-esteem is based on a grossly inflated opinion of their own abilities.
  • Risk seeking. Impulsive or irresponsible behavior that leads someone to gloss over risks or think they do not apply to them because they are so clever or talented.

For a fuller description of Red Hat Analysis, order your copy of Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, 2nd ed. To learn more about how adversaries target people for recruitment, click here to access the DoD Adjudicative Desk Reference, 2014.

Critical Thinking Fundamentals ONLINE February 7-21, 2017