Posts Tagged ‘Indications & Warning’

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2016

A lot has been written on how we missed out on predicting Pearl Harbor as the location of the initial Japanese attack. It strikes me now that one reason was that Pearl was not that important of a target in the overall Japanese war effort.

Consider the warning message of 24 November:

CHANCES OF FAVORABLE OUTCOME OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH JAPAN VERY DOUBTFUL.  
THIS SITUATION COUPLED WITH STATEMENTS OF JAPANESE GOVERNMENT AND  
MOVEMENTS THEIR NAVAL AND MILITARY FORCES INDICATE IN OUR OPINION THAT  
*A SURPRISE AGGRESSIVE MOVEMENT IN ANY DIRECTION INCLUDING ATTACK ON  
PHILIPPINES OR GUAM IS A POSSIBILITY*. CHIEF OF STAFF HAS SEEN THIS  
DESPATCH CONCURS AND REQUESTS ACTION ADEES TO INFORM SENIOR ARMY  
OFFICERS THEIR AREAS. UTMOST SECRECY NECESSARY IN ORDER NOT TO  
COMPLICATE AN ALREADY TENSE SITUATION OR PRECIPITATE JAPANESE ACTION.  
GUAM WILL BE INFORMED SEPARATELY.

And the followup “war warning” of 27 November (which went to the commander of the Asiatic Fleet, and others):

THIS DESPATCH IS TO BE CONSIDERED A WAR WARNING*. NEGOTIATIONS WITH  
JAPAN LOOKING TOWARD STABILIZATION OF CONDITIONS IN THE PACIFIC *HAVE  
CEASED* AND AN AGGRESSIVE MOVE BY JAPAN IS EXPECTED WITHIN THE NEXT FEW  
DAYS. THE NUMBER AND EQUIPMENT OF JAPANESE TROOPS AND THE ORGANIZATION  
OF NAVAL TASK FORCES INDICATES AN AMPHIBIOUS EXPEDITION AGAINST EITHER  
THE PHILIPPINES THAI OR KRA PENINSULA OR POSSIBLY BORNEO. *EXECUTE AN  
APPROPRIATE DEFENSIVE DEPLOYMENT PREPARATORY TO CARRYING OUT THE TASKS  
ASSIGNED IN WPL46*. INFORM DISTRICT AND ARMY AUTHORITIES. A SIMILAR  
WARNING IS BEING SENT BY WAR DEPARTMENT. SPENAVO [Special Naval 
Observer, U.S. officer assigned to the RN] INFORM BRITISH. CONTINENTAL 
DISTRICTS GUAM SAMOA DIRECTED TAKE APPROPRIATE MEASURES AGAINST SABOTAGE.

Not only didn’t it mention Hawaii, but the further away from the Far East it looked, the less it talked about naval action. Guam and Samoa and the Continental districts of the US were alerted against sabotage. Even with Magic, information gleaned from Japanese diplomatic codes, our warnings were aimed at the Far East.

In part, this is because the Japanese were aiming their main thrust south — Borneo, Malay Peninsula, Indonesia. We were tracking a major surface fleet headed that way, dozens of ships with thousands of troops, enroute to invade Malaya. They had hundreds of land-based aircraft at airfields in newly-occupied Cochinchina. This wasn’t just a main thrust, it was the whole reason for the war.

Pearl Harbor, from a force deployment perspective, was almost a side show. It was a head-fake, a bump-and-run. Yes, they felt that success at Pearl was vital to giving Japanese forces freedom of action at the start of the war, but it was like depending on a key block to make sure a large, complex play can run*.

*Hey, I’m doing the best I can — I don’t even like football.

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Pearl Harbor War Warning

November 29, 2014

On Thursday, November 27th, 1941, a week before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chief of Naval Operations sent this message to CINCPACFleet at Pearl Harbor:

“Consider this dispatch a war warning. The negotiations with Japan in an effort to stabilize conditions in the Pacific have ended. Japan Is Expected to Make an Aggressive Move Within the next Few Days. An Amphibious Expedition Against Either the Philippines, or Kra Peninsula or Possibly Borneo Is Indicated by the Number and Equipment of Japanese Troops and the Organization of Their Naval Forces. You Will Execute a Defensive Deployment in Preparation for Carrying out the Tasks Assigned in Wpl 46. Guam, Samoa and the Continental Districts have been directed to take appropriate measures against sabotage. A Similar Warning Is Being Sent by the War Department. Inform Naval District and Army Authorities. British to be informed.”

This would seem to be about as direct as it gets. It’s what the Indications and Warning community would consider a true warning — the leaders have been warned, and they know they have been warned. On the other hand, the Army commander at Pearl got a wishy-washy-waffling kind of a warning from the War Department:

“Negotiations with the Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act. This policy should not, repeat not, be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense. Prior to hostile Japanese action. You are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary, but these measures should be carried out so as not, repeat, not to alarm the civil population or disclose intent. Report measures taken. Should hostilities occur, you will carry out the tasks assigned in Rainbow Five so far as they pertain to Japan. Limit the dissemination of this highly secret information to minimum essential officers.”

Neither one was directly warned of the possibility of an attack on Pearl Harbor (all locations mentioned were in the Western Pacific or Asian littoral), and each took their own measures to prepare. General Short believed that the biggest threat to his forces (mostly, the Army Aviation units) was from 5th columnists among the second and third generation Japanese, almost all of them American citizens by birth. (Those are the ones who today say things like “The Jap planes came in over that ridgeline there”.)  That being the case, he had the aircraft brought to central locations, where they could be guarded, and drained of fuel, so they would be harder for a saboteur to ignite. The result was a massed target that couldn’t respond to an air attack in time. Interestingly, the only mention of possible sabotage was in the Navy message.

I think the underlying cause of the failure of commanders up and down the chain was the lack of a war mentality. We hadn’t been in on the start of a major declared war since the Civil War, and that uncoiled with a lethargic 18th Century slowness. The Great War was one we saw start elsewhere and slowly girded our loins to fight. Even after Pearl Harbor, our commanders might have been combative, but they were not really combat-minded. Witness all the lessons we had to learn during the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign, when we lost one night surface action after another. If you can’t conceive of what a war might be like, you can’t properly prepare for it, no matter how strong the warning.

The Paradox of Warning 2

August 9, 2013

And so Ramadan has come and gone, the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr have come and gone, and there’s been no attacks. Maybe there never were any planned, at least, none of substance.

As I said in my first post on the subject, The Paradox of Warning is that if you give your boss a warning of an event, and your boss acts on it, and as a result of those actions the event doesn’t happen, were you guilty of crying wolf?

Sometimes there’s corroborating evidence. In a big operation like this, there’s always that ten percent what don’t get the word, and so there’s a pattern of minor attacks — guys running up to the barricades carrying a flag with their shirt undone and not enough people behind them to justify a painting. Sometimes the other side will admit to their plans, usually years later. But sometimes you just get it wrong and there never was a serious intent to make a serious attack. And sometimes you are guilty of lying.

Take this latest kerfluffle. Look at the leaked “evidence” around it. The Legion of Doom holds a conference call that we are able to tap into, maybe because there’s so many participants they can’t keep track of who’s dialed in. There’s a threat that stretches across all of the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, requiring that we close our embassies there for a week. There’s a threat of attacks on pipelines and ports in Yemen. Except, of course, there’s always attacks on pipelines in Yemen and the pro-AQ tribes have never had the ability to mount a major attack on a port. Plus, I’m not aware of any pipelines that run through the embassy there.

What’s the result? I mean aside from us becoming the laughingstock of the Middle East, and aside from giving Al Qaida in Madagascar an idea for their next deception operation? Well, at home, the NSA supporters have the opportunity to claim that their programs (legal, but of questionable constitutionality) are needed to prevent these kinds of plots in the future. Funny timing on that, isn’t it?

It stinks, as they say, on ice.

The Paradox of Warning

August 3, 2013

The Paradox of Warning grows out of the experience of the Indications & Warning community. Say that country B is about to attack country A. If A’s I&W analysts figure this out, and formally warn A’s government, then A might take action to forestall the attack, like putting their troops on alert. When B sees this, they back off, figuring that their attack will be unsuccessful. There is no attack, and A’s government yells at their I&W analysts for giving a false alarm and causing them to spend money on troop alerts. And of course, A’s I&W analysts have no way of proving that there ever was an attack planned, unless someone from B should admit to that. IIRC, Anwar Sadat said that he was on the brink of ordering an attack on Israel six or seven times, and pulled back each time, before finally committing to the 1973 war.

On the other hand, there’s no way to prove that country A really believed they were going to be attacked, and didn’t just inflate the possible threat in order to distract the country from internal political complications, the Falklands War being a good example. On the gripping hand, there’s no way to prove that country A didn’t just inflate the threat in order to demonstrate that they really do need programs like PRISM and XKeyscore.

According to CNN, Sunday is the 27th day of Ramadan, and the day that Muslim extremists consider auspicious for attacks on the US. That may be part of the reason why there’s a State Department travel advisory, and why 21 US embassy’s are closed this weekend.

If there’s a major AQ attack, then the government is proven right. If there’s minor disturbances, even if they are of the kind that can occur any time in that area, then the government will claim to be proven right. If there’s no attacks, then the government will say “See, our precautions worked, and it was all due to our collection programs.” And nobody will be able to tell differently, unless, you know, somebody blows the whistle.

Me? I wouldn’t be surprised to see attacks sometime this month — merde d’occur — but I still don’t trust the government.

Pearl Harbor Part 3

December 7, 2011

Indications And Warning (I&W) is an obscure corner of an otherwise esoteric Intelligence discipline. It specifically deals with predicting a country’s intention to go to war through observations of their preparations. It was born of the Intelligence failures of the first half of the last century — Pearl Harbor and Korea (and the Chinese intervention there). It grew of age in the second half, watching the Soviet Union and North Korea. It was then subject to a major identity crisis when the Warsaw Pact collapsed, and the problem became one of predicting the terrorist actions of non-state organizations. Most of that is fodder for a different post.

I want to wrap up my Pearl Harbor coverage by looking at the I&W aspects of the problem. (more…)

Last Days of the GSFG

September 9, 2011

Here is a “now it can be told” story from Berlin at the end of the Cold War. It’s typical of the kind of information one really gets in this business, and the kinds of inferences that you have to draw. There’s a whole sub-discipline of Intelligence, called Indications and Warning, that deals with predicting major actions like the withdrawal of the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany.

While I worked I&W most of my career, I wasn’t in the line of work portrayed here (it’s Collections, not Analysis) but I knew folks who were, and at the time the story occured I had just retired from my USAF job at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where I was trying to unravel the GSFG problem from that end. The “liaison mission” mentioned in the article is the USMLM. They drove all over East Germany with big American flags on their license plates, but were prohibited from entering “Permanent Restricted Areas”.

USMLM tour car on the road
from http://www.usmlm.org


My uncle was in the USMLM, back in the late ’40’s, and was one of the people declared “persona non grata” for violating the Rugen Island PRA.

It was just outside of the Ludvigslust PRA that Major Nicholson was shot to death by a Soviet guard in 1985, about four years before this story took place.