Using Body Cameras for Intelligence Operations
By Lisa Kochevar, Faculty Member, Intelligence Studies at American Military University
Body cameras are often discussed for use by local police officers; in addition, they are extremely important tools for intelligence officers and interrogators. The ability to covertly record and later review interactions with sources often leads to a more detailed picture of the intelligence captured during an interaction. Recordings of faces, voices, and identifying characteristics may prove valuable not only at the tactical level, but for overall national security.
During an interrogation, intelligence officers aim to gather information as broad as the intentions of a group and as detailed as the roles of certain individuals within that group. But intelligence goes far beyond what is communicated verbally. Important information can be communicated non verbally, though it can be difficult for an interrogator to interpret in the moment. Being able to review the interaction afterwards can often lead to a better understanding of the source and the situation.
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For example, body language and demeanor provide information beyond the words spoken aloud. In the moment, the interrogator must try to evaluate the forcefulness, threat, and attitude of the source. Such behavior can be exhibited through small tics, shifting of the body and vocal changes, which may be interpreted as deception. However, these small changes in attitude and behavior can be easily missed; cameras provide the opportunity for later review and analysis to collect this additional information.
Using body cameras for intelligence gathering is relatively inexpensive. Cameras can cost from $100 to several thousand dollars and are easy to maintain and operate. The more expensive models come with additional features such as three-dimensional recordings, high-definition filming, and effective operation in low-light scenarios.
Moreover, using body cameras for intelligence collection is practical because the cameras are relatively small and lightweight. They can be mounted on specialized glasses or pinned to the front of clothing so they are inconspicuous, which helps ensure that sources are not aware they are being recorded.
Unlike domestic recording by intelligence officers, using body cameras for intelligence collecting in foreign zones does not introduce privacy issues. However, body cameras should be used within the boundaries of legal interrogation as outlined in Field Manuals 34-52 and 2-22-3 published by the U.S. Department of the Army. Interrogations must fall within the legal limits of the United States Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Geneva Conventions.
Using body cameras ensures that interrogators reap as much information from an encounter as possible and provides the ability for others in the intelligence community to assess the information and verify its source.
About the Author: Lisa Kochevar is currently a full-time faculty member with American Military University, School of Global Security. Lisa earned her M.A. from California State University at San Bernardino in National Security Studies and has worked in higher education since 1999. Lisa has worked with such agencies as the Department of the Army, JSOC, and Special Forces Units. Lisa currently lives in Denver, Colorado with her two sons.