Monday, November 14, 2016

Summary of Findings: Elicitation (4 out of 5 Stars)

Note: This post represents the synthesis of the thoughts, procedures and experiences of others as represented in the articles read in advance (see previous posts) and the discussion among the students and instructor during the Advanced Analytic Techniques class at Mercyhurst University in October 2016 regarding Elicitation as an Analytic Technique specifically. This technique was evaluated based on its overall validity, simplicity, flexibility and its ability to effectively use structured data.


Elicitation is a modifying technique for collecting intelligence. Elicitation is used to discreetly gather information. It is a conversation with a specific purpose: collect information that is not readily available and do so without raising suspicion that specific facts are being sought. It is usually non-threatening, easy to disguise, deniable, and effective. The conversation can be in person, over the phone, or in writing. Conducted by a skilled collector, elicitation will appear to be normal social or professional conversation. A person may never realize they were the target of elicitation or that they provided meaningful information.  


  • Can acquire important information that cannot be retrieved by conventional methods
  • Is flexible and useful in different types of situations
  • Can be used to supplement another type of collection technique to gather more information
  • Provides the ability to create and build future relationships and networks


  • Difficult to pull of without alerting the other party to your intentions
  • Can potentially cause a significant operation security risk if collection is detected
  • Language barriers limit the efficiency and effectivity of the method.
  • Difficult to replicate


  • Identify a target with the information you wish to acquire.
  • Obtain background information on the target to identify talking points
  • Plan ahead how you wish to get the information from the target without raising suspicion
  • Approach the target in a non-threatening environment and strike up a conversation
  • Walk the target through your pre-planned conversation in an effort to extract the knowledge you require
  • Once you’ve elicited the information you required, walk the target back to a more broad topic of conversation to disguise your line of questioning

Application of Technique:

Students in a class were asked to participate in a role playing exercise where there were four designated collectors and four designated targets.  Both the collectors and targets were given background information on one another but the differences in personal mission for the exercise.  The collectors were given a specific question they were try to find an answer to through indirect means.  The targets were given some piece of information that they were trying to protect.  At the end of the experiment the collectors were debriefed on the information they were able to gather from their targets.

Elicitation Exercise: The Diplomatic Party

The US embassy in Warsaw is hosting a party. The party members will be four members from the White Team. The party also has four members from the Green Team who will play the part of a respective adversarial intelligence-gathering component.
The Green Team will try to use elicitation techniques to gain information from the White Team members.
White Team: come up with a character you will play during the party. You can chose anything that you believe will be at a diplomatic party such as military officer, diplomat, government official, industry representative (rare but if relevant or invited), or any other.
Once you have a role in mind, develop a short backstory and a piece of information that your Green Team counterpart will have to get. Just make it up, it does not have to be very real to life, but should be plausible.
Green Team: The information you make for your Green Team person should be enough to give them exactly the question they need to use with the elicitation process as well as some basic information to sort of speed the process along.

White Team:

Major General Roman Popov, Russian Ground Forces
Major General with Russian diplomatic mission in Warsaw
Elicitor - US intelligence collector under diplomatic cover (top tip, do not open with that) Question:
What is the Russian Army’s current plan OR most likely plan for Ukraine operations?
Do not allow Popov to know what you are after.
Popov’s Secret:
The Kremlin is waiting to see what the new President does, but the sanctions are starting to strain the military. Barring anything severe, plans are being made that the Russian Armed Forces will quietly start to withdraw from Ukraine in mid-2017.
Vladimir Norov
Consultant of the Office of the President of Uzbekistan
Elicitor - Cover is a Chinese diplomat, but secretly is a Chinese intelligence operative.  
Will Uzbekistan strengthen its security ties with Russia?
Note: Elicitor NOT ALLOWED to ask question directly or will lose exercise.
Vladimir Norov’s Secret:
Russia offered to forgive Uzbek debt if the interim President agreed to slow exports to China by half, or 15%.  Norov knows the interim President does not like the Chinese and will almost certainly accept the offer and strengthen ties with Russia.

Mary Smith
Member of the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom (UK)
Elicitor - Cover is an American diplomat, but secretly is an intelligence operative for the Labour Party of the UK (The Labour Party is one of the UK’s two major parties, along with the Conservative Party).  
What is Theresa May’s main negotiating goal for Brexit?
Mary Smith’s Secret:
As long as other Brexit requirements remain, Theresa May is most willing to negotiate a deal which includes the UK staying in the European single market after Brexit.

Cpt. James Patterson, US Army
Commanding Officer of the Military Police Unit assigned to provide security to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw.
Elicitor - Cover is as an American journalist, but secretly is an intelligence operative for the Russian Government
(Primary) What are the security measures in place at the embassy as far as troop strength and weaponry?
(Secondary) What is the evacuation plan for the Ambassador during an emergency?
CPT James Patterson’s Secret:
(Primary) The embassy is currently being guarded by one squad (12) of active duty Army MPs equipped with crappy M16s and M9 pistols. The rest of the soldiers are off duty in their barracks located in the building next door to the embassy.
(Primary) The soldiers are tired, complacent, and are ready to redeploy home after a long year of embassy security in which nothing happened.
(Secondary) The escape plan for Ambassador Jones involves an underground tunnel which he is to be rushed through which leads to the back of a shoe store a quarter mile away from the embassy. Two MPs are stationed at the rear of the shoe store to secure the location.
For Further Information:

Spy Game Movie Training Sequence:

Collection Information:

The Scharff Technique: On How to Effectively Elicit Intelligence from Human Sources

Hanns Scharff:

Military Interrogation Techniques Training - Intelligence Gathering Tactics/Methods (1943):

Military Interrogation Manual: FM 34-52

Elicitation Counterintelligence:

Elicitation & Recruitment: Can You Recognize It:

Human Intelligence in Law Enforcement:

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