Non- Literal Collection – Based on Case Study (INMS 610 Intelligence Collection Scenario)


Non- Literal Collection – Based on Case Study (INMS 610 Intelligence Collection Scenario)

China’s Island Building and Development in the South China Sea

South China Sea

China has been reclaiming land in the South China Sea by constructing new islands. They use a process of moving sediment from the seafloor to surface reefs in the Spratly Islands. This has been an increasing concern for the United States and its regional allies as these disputed islands are more than 500 miles from China’s mainland. China has focused its efforts on building ports, installations, radar facilities, airstrips, and other military infrastructure on the islands. This extends China’s military reach into the South China Sea in which one-third of all global maritime shipping transits. This is a significant national security concern for the United States as China claims virtually the entire South China Sea.

U.S. Navy Base

The U.S. has been conducting freedom of navigation patrols in the region in accordance with international maritime law and the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace. Most recently, the U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal without China’s permission. There is continuing interest in the State Department, Department of Defense and the National Security Council. The scenario in the South China Sea is real and changing every day. Develop a collection strategy and plan that includes force protection, monitoring and situational awareness of China’s military activity. It should reflect actual events and the conditions at the time of writing.


You are a Collection Strategist recently assigned to support a Crisis Action Team based on your previous experience working on the intelligence problem. As part of your in-brief for your new position, the team lead identified one of your tasks is to comply with the community-wide budget cuts to achieve cost savings, which means de-emphasizing some programs in your portfolio which include ELINT, FISINT, IMINT, and MASINT efforts. You must do this while maintaining the capabilities necessary to meet the challenges posed by the current events as described in your scenario. The CAT Director has asked you to provide a short issue paper spelling out the following:

•    Which non-literal technical collection capabilities are high priority, which are medium and lowest priority, with a justification for these rankings given the current state of the events in the scenario you chose?  

•    How you would use them to answer the intelligence requirements?

•    What are your specific targets?

•    What are your alternate strategies if you cannot get the assets you request?



Non-literary collections differ from the literary collections as they require expertise knowledge so as to decode the given data (Clark, 2013). The data collection technique is appropriate for the scenario of China Island building and Development in South China sea. The physical location of the case discourages the use of the general intelligence as they are few human beings inhabiting the location.  Some of the non-literal intelligence collection methods are Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Foreign Instrumentation system (FISINT), Radar Intelligence (RADINT), and Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT).

In the current Scenario, the high priority non-literal data collection is the ELINT.  Clark(2013) indicates that the  Electronic Intelligence ( ELINT) refers to the  information that is collected in form of the electronic signals (Benard, 2009). The signals do not contain speech or text and thus non-technical experts cannot easily decode the message.  The ELINT non-literal intelligence collection is vital in the case scenario due to the location of the China Island building and Development in the   midst of the South Sea. Few people have got the knowledge of the existence of the structures. Additionally, it may be humanly impossible for constant visits to the location so as to assess the extent to which the building does impact the general navigation of vessels in the Great South Sea.  Electronic Intelligence will offer high quality information that will precisely present the accurate intelligence concerning the development of the Island. The ELINT offers a unique capability of availing intelligence in subsequent intervals in a cost- efficient method. Thus, the use of the non-literary collection method enables the team work within the budgetary constraints.

 The three distinct types of ELINT make it stand out as a high priority data collection method.   Benard (2009) describes the first type of ELINT as the technical ELINT (TechELINT). It is useful in the case Scenario as it will avail crucial intelligence such as the signal structure, emission characteristics, modes of operation, emitter functions, and weapons systems association concerning the China Island building and Development in the midst of the  South China Sea. TechELINT will help the USA military in the future if it decides to launch an attack on the Island in the acquisition of counter machinery to match the existing machinery in the Chinese Island. The second type of ELINT is the operational ELINT (OpeLINT) which shall help in the case scenario through the determination of the patterns of the operations of the Chinese systems. The intelligence gathered here is vital in the forecasting of the attack missions. The USA team will optimize moments of low activity to ensure that the target is not missed. Benard (2009) describes the third type of ELINT as the TELINT. In the case scenario, TELINT would help the team through monitoring and situational analysis of the Chinese Military activity. It shall achieve this through intercepting, processing and analysis of Chinese telemetry. 

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The three types of ELINT will ensure that the situation in the ground is brought into light in manner of the current operations of the Chinese Systems and the future intent through the intercepting of conversations. The ELINT will help achieve accuracy in intelligence as specific targets shall be analyzed in the information collection process.

The non-literary collection that is ideal for the case scenario in the medium priority is Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT).  Clark and Morris (2016) indicate that MASINT denotes the technically developed intelligence that enables detection, location, tracking, identification and tracking of both the dynamic and fixed targets.  In the case scenario, the MASINT intelligence will be useful as it will help in the study of the equipment used by the Chinese government. Particularly, MASINT will help in the detection of the kind of machinery that the Chinese military has developed as well as the type of armory that has been devised.  The intelligence derived from the MASINT intelligence will help the team in planning of the counter machinery that can be used in case of an attack on the Chinese Island.  MASINT additionally will help the team in gathering intelligence on the radar used by the Chinese military. The information derived from the radar intelligence tapping will help forecast the nature of activities that the Chinese government is going to get involved in and help USA military to prepare adequately for any eventualities.

 The applicability of the MASINT collection tool to the case scenario emanates from its specificity in data collection and correlation to the existing information for identification ( Clark, and Morris, 2016). The data is collected using Radar sensors on the kind of activities that are undertaken by the Chinese Military in developing the island. To ascertain its accuracy, experts pair up the existing data with the information in the data. The  accuracy of the intelligence is a key component of the team’s intelligence work as they are sure that the kind of the information that the team is dealing with is from a particular source , the China Island building and Development in the   midst of the South  China Sea.

 In the case Scenario of the China Island building and Development in the   midst of the south China sea, MASINT ability to use its electronic radars in measuring all the distinct characteristics describing a target such as the machinery and the operational characteristics, the team will greatly benefit in the ability of understanding the ammunition available in the Island as well as the exact models due to its ability to rely the images concerning the specific target.

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 IMINT is the lowest category ranking non-literary collection capability due to the cost incurred in the initial purchase of the equipment coupled with the expertise needed in decoding the images in a constant manner.  Kovarik (2011), states that the Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) involves collection of images from a specific target. The images are then interpreted in a military manner to access the location of the target, the machinery and operations of the target and to help in the development of the combat plans against the adversary. The IMINT technique is applicable in the case scenario as it would help gather intelligence on the specific activities being undertaken in the South China Sea. It will help in relaying of on time information in terms of visual images, that can be used in developing intelligence on the operational activities in the Chinese Island.

IMINT has been placed as the lowest point collection capabilities due to the budget constraints that the team is facing.  IMINT application would call for the availability of the high technology visual cameras, infrared, lasers, multi-spectral sensors, and radar. The high cost of the initial purchase of the photographic equipment as well as the additional set of equipment such as electronic display devices would be far from the team’s budget. Thus, despite the unique capabilities presented in the IMINT non-literally collection capability it might not be possible for the team to acquire the equipment and deal with the issues at hand concerning the case scenario.


The specific target for the non-literal collection point is China Island building and Development in South China Sea.  The main target of the team is unearthing the intelligence concerning the operations ongoing in the Island. The team shall seek further to identify the kind of machinery that the Chinese Military has put in place in the Island. The intelligence team shall additionally seek the knowledge on the intent of the Chinese Military for putting up such a facility. In the target on the intent of the development of the Island, the team shall seek the futuristic approach especially concerning the navigation of the ships in the South China Sea.

Alternate Strategies

In the event that the required assets are not availed to the team, there exists an alternative strategy to the gathering of intelligence on the China Island building and Development in South China Sea. The first alternative would be to use the Collateral Intelligence (COMINT) in developing of information concerning the China Island building and Development in South China Sea. COMINT intelligence would suit the case scenario as it represents the non-expensive manner of gathering intelligence.  Clark(2013) states that COMINT entails the use of Intelligence  that has already been documented by others. COMINT can help the case scenario through the knowledge on how to solve the boundary issue and ensure that the Island being put up does not contain curtail the free navigation of ships.

 Single Source analysis would suffice as an alternative to the Case Scenario concerning the China Island building and Development in South China Sea. The single source analysis, according to Clark (2013) would mostly use the intelligence that has already been interpreted and documented by the experts. Single Source Intelligence analysis is fit for the case scenario as there exists an array of cases that contain intelligence on similar happenings in the past.  Additionally, the Single source analysis would not need extra equipment to gather and present the intelligence which has proven to be costly.

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 The third alternative to the non-literal data collection capabilities is the cyber collection capabilities. Clark (2013), states that it is one of the raw intelligence collection methods that entail the intercepting of the internet information to gather the desired intelligence on a particular aspect. The Cyber collection method is sufficient for the case scenario as it would not require much in terms of costs and equipment for the data collection and presentation. Additionally, the component of making the on-time intelligence will help deal with the case scenario as its events unfold. The intelligence gathered using this method will help in understanding the Chinese government intent on the future of the Island. The information concerning the futuristic components of the case will help in adequate preparation either for combat or any other military encounters. As such, as much as the top three priority methods are desired to be used in the intelligence gathering on the case scenario, if funds for methods are insufficient, the non-expensive alternatives still remain a viable option.


Clark, R. M.  and  Morris, J. L. (2016). Measurement and Signature Intelligence. Sage Publication

Clark, R. M. (2013). Perspectives on intelligence Collection. Journal of US Intelligence Collection, 20, 47-52.

Kovařík, V.(2011).Imagery Intelligence (IMINT). Univerzita obrany.


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