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How should intelligence analysis be utilized to counter cognitive warfare?

Intelligence Info - Descarcă PDFRădulescu, Bogdan-George (2023), How should intelligence analysis be utilized to counter cognitive warfare?, Intelligence Info, 2:4, 12-25, DOI: 10.58679/II18231, https://www.intelligenceinfo.org/how-should-intelligence-analysis-be-utilized-to-counter-cognitive-warfare/



I wanted to underline in this paper how intelligence analysis needs to adapt to deal with a brand-new concept: cognitive warfare. Intelligence analysts need to put much more effort into understanding and appreciating the dangers that such a concept entails. This additional dimension must be taken into account in any risk assessment in the area of security studies. The target of the operations of this type of war is human rationality itself. In a study developed by Johns Hopkins University pentryu NATO, researchers (Kathy Cao, Sean Glaister, Adriana Pena, Danbi Rhee, William Rong, Alexander Rovalino) best defined the nature of cognitive warfare: ”In cognitive warfare, the human mind becomes the field of battle. The goal is to change not only what people think, but also how they think and act.” (Cao & Glaister, 2021)  In keeping with the ratios of comparison, the duration and severity of the impacts of long-term cognitive warfare are fairly comparable to those of a nuclear attack. Just as scientists achieve atomic fission by shattering/breaking the nucleus of an atom into two or more nuclei, successful operations of cognitive warfare can force human groups in a society or even society itself to think against itself. The goal of cognitive warfare is to get a human collective to enter a schizoid condition where it misunderstands reality and existential situations, denies its guiding principles, or cultivates indifference to them. The tactical or strategic goals of an attacker are facilitated by each of these cognitive warfare-induced events. Non-kinetic or non-conventional military methods can be used to subdue a civilization. Cognitive warfare occurs in the liminal space where military and civilian life collide, where alternative realities are implanted into an enemy’s mind through disinformation, where psychological and informational warfare overlap, and where traditional combat and hybrid operations coexist. The topic that modern intelligence analysis must appropriately address is: What are the right instruments and what is the analytical viewpoint required to deal with cognitive warfare?

Keywords: cognitive warfare, intelligence analysis, security studies, psychological warfare

Cum ar trebui să fie utilizată analiza intelligence pentru a contracara războiul cognitiv?


Am vrut să subliniez în această lucrare modul în care analiza intelligence trebuie să se adapteze pentru a face față unui concept nou-nouț: războiul cognitiv. Analiștii de intelligence trebuie să depună mult mai mult efort în înțelegerea și aprecierea pericolelor pe care le presupune un astfel de concept. Această dimensiune suplimentară trebuie luată în considerare în orice evaluare a riscurilor în domeniul studiilor de securitate. Ținta operațiunilor acestui tip de război este însăși raționalitatea umană. Într-un studiu realizat de Universitatea Johns Hopkins pentryu NATO, cercetătorii (Kathy Cao, Sean Glaister, Adriana Pena, Danbi Rhee, William Rong, Alexander Rovalino) au definit cel mai bine natura războiului cognitiv: „În războiul cognitiv, mintea umană devine câmpul de luptă. Scopul este de a schimba nu numai ceea ce gândesc oamenii, ci și modul în care gândesc și acționează.” (Cao & Glaister, 2021) În conformitate cu rapoartele de comparație, durata și severitatea impactului războiului cognitiv pe termen lung sunt destul de comparabile cu cele ale unui atac nuclear. Așa cum oamenii de știință realizează fisiunea atomică prin spargerea/ruperea nucleului unui atom în două sau mai multe nuclee, operațiunile de succes ale războiului cognitiv pot forța grupurile umane dintr-o societate sau chiar societatea însăși să gândească împotriva ei înșiși. Scopul războiului cognitiv este de a determina un colectiv uman să intre într-o condiție schizoidă în care înțelege greșit realitatea și situațiile existențiale, își neagă principiile călăuzitoare sau cultivă indiferența față de ele. Obiectivele tactice sau strategice ale unui atacator sunt facilitate de fiecare dintre aceste evenimente induse de războiul cognitiv. Metodele militare non-cinetice sau neconvenționale pot fi folosite pentru a supune o civilizație. Războiul cognitiv are loc în spațiul liminal în care viața militară și cea civilă se ciocnesc, unde realitățile alternative sunt implantate în mintea inamicului prin dezinformare, unde războiul psihologic și informațional se suprapun și unde coexistă luptă tradițională și operațiuni hibride. Subiectul pe care trebuie să-l abordeze în mod adecvat analiza intelligence modernă este: Care sunt instrumentele potrivite și care este punctul de vedere analitic necesar pentru a face față războiului cognitiv?

Cuvinte cheie: război cognitiv, analiza intelligence, studii de securitate, război psihologic


INTELLIGENCE INFO, Volumul 2, Numărul 4, Decembrie 2023, pp. 12-25
ISSN 2821 – 8159, ISSN – L 2821 – 8159, DOI: 10.58679/II18231
URL: https://www.intelligenceinfo.org/how-should-intelligence-analysis-be-utilized-to-counter-cognitive-warfare/
© 2023 Bogdan-George Rădulescu. Responsabilitatea conținutului, interpretărilor și opiniilor exprimate revine exclusiv autorilor.


How should intelligence analysis be utilized to counter cognitive warfare?

PhD, Bogdan-George Rădulescu[1]


[1] M.A Security Studies Coventry University


We have to admit that cognitive warfare is not a new phenomenon. Actually, social media and the internet have just given it new forms; it has been around for a very long time. The basic tenet of cognitive warfare is the use of psychological and information-based tactics to influence and manipulate people. This type of conflict prioritizes mental conflict above physical violence. It also has roots in a number of academic fields, including as marketing, psychology, propaganda, and cyberwarfare. For instance, the subject of influencing people’s behavior through psychological techniques has been studied by psychologists for a long time.

The first thing to note is the necessity to clearly distinguish between the modern concept of cognitive warfare and the straightforward ideas of information warfare and electronic warfare. Many scholars have argued that the Soviet Union’s information warfare (based, among others, on ”active measures”) can be seen as an early example of cognitive warfare.  In particular, there’s a lot of discussion about Russia’s use of information warfare and disinformation campaigns to try to influence Western public opinion and sow discord. (Watts, 2018) (Pomerantsev, 2014) (Jamieson H., 2018) There are some scholars who focus on Russia’s broader strategy of ”hybrid warfare” which includes not only information warfare, but also economic and political warfare, and even military warfare in some cases.

From our perspective, cognitive warfare is distinct from the conventional idea of information warfare. Information warfare operations are dependent on time and aim to achieve specific political and military objectives as soon as possible. Cognitive warfare differs from them in that it does not involve fixing a specific target throughout a combat or conflict occurring when the goal is to briefly confuse and mislead the opponent. The main aim of cognitive warfare is to change the worldview and existential values of the targeted population. In this sense, isn’t just about carrying out information warfare, but trying to realize long-term, strategic goals, in order to turn the opponent’s mindset upside down and gradually erode those strong value cores that support the existential perspective of the populace of the state considered to be the enemy: ”Cognitive warfare is thus an unconventional form of warfare that uses cyber tools to alter enemy cognitive  processes, exploit mental  biases  or  reflexive thinking, and  provoke thought  distortions, influence  decision making and hinder action, with negative effects, both at the individual and collective levels”. (Claverie & Du Cluzel, 2022) Military analysts have even used the phrase – the human brain is becoming the ultimate battlefield. Or, as the NATO document states, ”The main goal is not to serve as an adjunct to strategy or to defeat without a fight, but to wage a war on what an enemy community thinks, loves or believes in, by altering its representation of reality”. (Claverie & Du Cluzel, 2022)

There are scholars who focus specifically on the idea of cognitive warfare and how it’s being waged by Russia against the West. It must be acknowledged that Russia’s current cognitive warfare approach draws on the old arsenal of Soviet misinformation and influence tactics from the pre-digital Cold War era and inherits mechanics and guiding principles from those methods.

Theory of reflexive control and Russia’s cognitive warfare.

From our perspective, the reflexive control theory, which was created in the 1970s and 1980s by Russian military intelligence services and psychologists from the Moscow Academy, serves as the foundation for today’s Russian cognitive warfare tactics.“ Reflexive control is an information weapon that is more important in achieving military objectives than traditional firepower”. (Thomas, Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military, 2004, p. 240).

We believe that a new understanding of the Russian theory of reflexive control is the basis of the Putin regime’s cognitive warfare. The reinterpretation of this theory took into account the explosion of new communication technologies favored by the globalization age as well as the strategic prospects presented by this era’s provision of efficient instruments. “Reflexive control consisted of two parts: the psychological concept of reflection and the cybernetic concept of control”. (McCauley, 2016, p. 14)

The theory of reflexive control has been studied by the KGB and decision-makers in the Russian army since 1968. Its application in the military was an open secret during the Cold War. This theory was not abandoned by the Russian leadership, but, on the contrary, resumed in 2001, which proves that reflexive control was not just a theoretical experiment that disappeared with the Soviet Union. In February 2001, an academic journal of psycho-social studies entitled Reflexive Process and Control was launched in Russia by a group of civilian researchers coordinated by Russian institutes for national security and under the auspices of the Information Russian Security Committee of the Russian Security Council. There is nothing surprising in this collaboration between the Russian academic world and the world of security institutions, since this theory has an eminently military utility and, especially, in that of the intelligence area. According to Timothy L. Thomas, there is “a military aspect of Russia’s concept of reflexive control”, and, because of the existence of this military aspect, this it allows the consideration of “its role as an information warfare weapon”. (Thomas, Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military, 2004, p. 238)

There are experts who claim that this theory of reflexive control would express the depths of Russian national psychology in which autocracy – as a predominant political model in Russia – is directly related to the idea of absolute control over subjects. In the opinion of Diane Chotikul, an authority on the analysis of the Russian theory of reflexive control, such an approach of political or strategic control over the population inside and over the thinking mechanisms of the external enemy was permanently fed by deep impulses related to the Russian mentality itself, “by psychological aspects of the Russian mindset such as dependence on a leader, awarenesss of external others, the importance placed on cognition and reflection, and a society characterized by vranyo and maskirovka”. (Chotikul, 1986, p. 76)  Diane Chotikul uses the chess player’s metaphor to describe Russia’s strategic obsession with controlling all possible variants on a chessboard, the psychology of combat pieces, and attack and reactive variants, “in much the same way as a chess player would attempt to keep one step ahead of his opponent and gain advantage over him by not only observing his actions and interpreting likely moves, but also by sending out specific signals of intention in an attempt to predetermine the opponent’s view of the situation and subsequently his reactions”. (Chotikul, 1986, p. 77)

For Beaumont, the main goal of maskirovka is “to fog and warp the mirror of perception” and its use serves “to condition an adversary, to lull him, to draw off him from reality”. For reaching this objective, maskirovka supposes “an orchestration of various modes of deception, camouflage and concealment”. Because the Russian psychologists have even insisted for coupling the tradition of maskirovka with the Pavlovian paradigm, in order to be used “to elicit evidence of the inner dynamic of a receiver (adversary”, providing a way “to penetrate a system and trace out algorithms”. (Beaumont, 1982, p. 38)

Analysing the theories developed by high-ranking Russian army officers (Sergey Komov, S. Ghekinov, S.A. Bogdanov,), exposed in military records and transposed into Russia’s National Security Strategy and the new Information Security Doctrine of Russia, Lt. Col. Timothy L. Thomas, former U.S. Army senior analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office notes that Russian military thinking tends towards a fusion of military and non-military operations. Various Russian military strategists talk about asymmetric warfare and the wars of the future, all based on “strategy of indirect operations”. Militarized active measures compose, in the economy of these new forms of waging war, the place of a prelude to decisive military operations: “the start of military phase will be preceded by large-scale subcersive missions conducted under the guise of information operation”.  (Thomas T. L., 2017)

In a 2015 article in the Bulletin of the Academy of Military Sciences of Russia, General Andrey V. Kartopolov tries to define one of the specific characteristics of what he calls new wafare and concludes that non-military aviation could include what the Soviets used to call them active measures. Military action must therefore be preceded and then accompanied by what is called “dynamic information-psychological effects against the population and leadership of victim states”. (Kartopolov, 2015)

The era of information technology development and the global proliferation of cross-border internet networks is becoming a fertile ground for extermination in the virtual universe of the method of disiformation and deception, increasing the effectiveness of the measures described by the reflexive control theory. Artificial Intelligence and Information Tehnology can bring with it a “change in the information process of an opponent by persuading him to make decisions according to the design of controller (Russia) and it affords the information weapona methodology for controlling an opponent”. (Thomas T. , Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military, 2004, p. 247)

Maria de Goeij has written about reflexive control theory from a psychological perspective. In her conference ”Reflexive Control Theory: A Soviet Perspective On Influence And Why It Matters In The Context Of The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine”, Maria de Goeij compares the Soviet disinformation methods of the Cold War, elaborated on the model of reflexive control theory, with those used by the secret services of Vladimir Putin’s regime in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Maria de Goeij’s work builds on and expands the original Soviet theory of reflexive control. Her work focuses on the psychological mechanisms that underlie this theory, whereas the original theory was more focused on military and political applications. Goeij does argue that the original Soviet theory was fundamentally based on an understanding of the human psyche, so there is definitely continuity between the two. And she also argues that the theory of reflexive control can be applied in a wide range of contexts, not just military or political ones (de Goeij, 2022).  Maria de Goeij has written that from a psychological perspective, reflexive control theory is based on the idea that individuals tend to react in predictable ways to certain stimuli. In other words, our reactions are often based on patterns of thinking and feeling that are deeply ingrained in our minds. By understanding these patterns, it’s possible to influence someone’s decision-making process by presenting them with certain information or experiences that trigger these predictable patterns.

The connections between ”Cognitive Warfare” and ”Narrative Warfare”.

There’s definitely a lot of overlap between the two concepts. In fact, some experts argue that narrative warfare is a subset of cognitive warfare, or that they’re two sides of the same coin. Essentially, narrative warfare is about using storytelling and narratives to shape people’s beliefs and perceptions, which can then influence their actions.

American researcher Ajit Maan elaborated on the concept of narrative warfare, CEO of the U.S. based think-tank Narrative Strategies, Affiliated Faculty at George Mason University, member of the Brain Trust of the Weaponized Narrative Initiative of Arizona State University. She contends that because modern battles are typically fought in contests of influence, the side with the finest information or accuracy won’t always come out on top. Those that effectively convey the information’s importance and how it affects the audience will succeed in them. Her theory of narrative warfare places a lot of emphasis on online and social media efforts that aim to negatively sway opposing audiences. According to Ajit Mann, storytelling is ”as natural to humans as breathing”. Humans, according to Dr. Mann, are ”meaning-seeking animals” who primarily use narrative to create meaning. ”Narrative is how we produce, communicate, and occasionally negotiate meaning. Without narrative, life would be perceived as an overwhelming and disjointed collection of unrelated random events. We utilize narratives that we typically inherit to organize, prioritize, and order our experiences. Our personal stories shape our sense of self, our tribal and familial stories shape our sense of belonging, and our national stories shape our sense of belonging”. (Maan, 2018)

The goal of cognitive warfare is to bypass this narrative aspect of individual and group identities (states, nations). Cognitive attacks can dismantle all the immeasurable values upon which every people has based its identity narrative. One of the goals is to artificially induce amnesia in collective consciousnesses so that they are no longer able to recognize their own identities or be able to identify with their own self-image. It is the fastest method of weakening an adversary’s will.  One could  say that  cognitive warfare is really about constructing a coherent story (narrative dimension) that presents certain values, ideologies, and goals as ”good” and others as ”bad”. It’s an attempt to impose a particular worldview, and to persuade people that this worldview is the ”right” one. In a way, it’s a way of re-framing reality and presenting a version of the world that aligns with the agenda of those who are waging the narrative war. The most substantial example of such cognitive attacks against a civilizational collectivity is the one offered by Putin’s Russia which is waging narrative war against West concerning its military agression agains Ukraine as a souverain state. Essentially, the Kremlin has been engaged in a massive effort to reshape the narrative around the war in Ukraine. They’ve employed a number of tactics, including spreading disinformation through social media and other channels, as well as trying to convince people that Russia’s aggression is justified. They’ve also tried to paint Ukraine as an aggressor, and to downplay the suffering of the Ukrainian people. It’s a sophisticated and coordinated effort to manipulate public opinion, both in Russia and abroad.

But  to understand the cognitive strategies of Russian intelligence, we first need to understand the overall goals of the Kremlin and how they view the conflict in Ukraine. From the Russian perspective, Ukraine is not a sovereign nation, but rather a part of the ”Russian world” that has been corrupted and influenced by the West. So, in their view, their actions are not aggression, but rather an attempt to ”reunify” with a lost part of their country. This narrative has been used to justify a number of cognitive strategies, including spreading disinformation and attempting to control the information space.  Everything is concentrated in what may be called a cognitive attack, to use Georgii Cheptsov’s words.

A cognitive attack seeks to alter how individuals and the general public see the situation. Cognitive biases are actively used by cognitive attackers to provide the general public with mental shortcuts. The Russian Federation media tools are fabricating events and objects to help maintain the intended line of attack on the enemy; planning various protest actions in Ukraine specifically for Russian TV news; and changing the concepts for describing the situation by adapting older negative images and myths for the current context (Pocheptsov, 2018). Ben Zweibelson, who has a PhD in cognitive science, has written extensively on cognitive warfare. He argues that traditional military strategies are no longer effective in the modern world, and that countries like China are developing new methods of cognitive warfare that target the minds and perceptions of their adversaries. Another interesting perspective comes from The Times of India, which has reported on China’s use of platforms like Tik Tok to influence public opinion and advance the interests of the Chinese Communist Party (Tzu-Chieh Hung, 2022).

Social networks are a crucial weapon in the battle of the mind. They turn into the fertile ground on which state actors carry out a slow, methodical activity to reshape the recipients’ value realities in the target state, the collective unconscious of the countries perceived as adversaries, as well as the way people think about certain Western values like political freedom, human rights, and liberal democratic mechanisms. To remove all of these ideas from the populace of the desired state, they are all systematically questioned. Sympathies for authoritarian regimes and dictatorial-style political and social reforms can be pushed in the open space that remains. The study called ”LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media Hardcover”  is an illustrative analysis for anyone who routinely uses social media, especially current warfighters who want to understand cognitive warfare better. The authors, Singer and Emerson, demonstrate in their study how the use of social media and information operations is profoundly altering the dynamics of international war and rivalry while endangering the tenets of democracy. They argue  that social media is rapidly becoming the new battleground of the 21st century, and that governments and militaries need to adapt to this new reality (Singer & Brooking, 2018).

How might intelligence analysis recognize and respond to cognitive warfare?

By examining patterns of behavior, both online and offline, and identifying common tactics employed by people waging cognitive warfare, intelligence analysts can attempt to detect and counter cognitive warfare. They can examine topics like troll farms, disinformation campaigns, and other strategies for influencing public opinion, for instance.

One popular method of cognitive warfare is ”astroturfing[1], which is the act of a person or group seeming to be a member of a grassroots movement while actually being a hired agent acting on behalf of another party. Astroturfing is a technique used to create the impression that a person or concept has widespread support when, in fact, it’s only a carefully manufactured picture. The practice of ”gaslighting[2] is another prevalent trick. Someone tries to do this when they want you to question your own reality or sanity. When you attempt to refute a cognitive warfare actor who has purposefully propagated erroneous information, for instance, they may accuse you of being paranoid or losing your sense of reality. Confirmation bias, groupthink, and the bandwagon effect are just a few of the psychological biases and heuristics that the cognitive warfare might use to its advantage.

We shall create a hypothetical scenario to better succinctly summarize the long-term objectives of cognitive warfare. One fictitious scenario would involve a state actor who spreads misinformation and sways public opinion using social media and targeted advertising. This could entail disseminating ”fake news” and other misleading information, as well as deploying bots to boost and amplify particular postings and messages. The objective can be to divide and perplex the target populace or to persuade them to adopt a particular political agenda.

Cognitive warfare tactics encompass a wide range of strategies and techniques aimed at manipulating and influencing cognitive processes to achieve specific objectives (Danyk & Briggs, 2023) . Here are some common cognitive warfare tactics:

  • Disinformation: Disinformation involves spreading false or misleading information with the intention to deceive and manipulate perceptions. It can be disseminated through various channels, including traditional media, social media platforms, websites, and online forums.
  • Propaganda: Propaganda is the systematic dissemination of information, ideas, or rumors to shape public opinion or influence behavior. It often employs emotionally charged messages, biased narratives, and selective or distorted facts to manipulate perceptions and beliefs.
  • Psychological Operations (PSYOPS): PSYOPS involve the use of psychological techniques to influence emotions, attitudes, and behaviors of targeted individuals or groups. This can include psychological manipulation, social engineering, or the creation of specific psychological effects through media campaigns, imagery, or messaging.
  • Social Media Manipulation: Social media platforms provide fertile ground for cognitive warfare tactics. Techniques such as astroturfing (creating fake grassroots movements), sock puppet accounts (creating multiple fake accounts to amplify narratives), and the use of bots or automated systems to manipulate trends or discussions are commonly employed.
  • Cyber Attacks: Cognitive warfare can involve cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure, communication systems, or information networks. Such attacks aim to disrupt or manipulate information flows, create confusion, or undermine trust in digital platforms.
  • Memetic Warfare: Memetic warfare leverages the viral spread of memes, cultural symbols, or catchphrases to influence public opinion and shape narratives. Memes can be used to convey political, ideological, or social messages that resonate with specific target groups.
  • Perception Management: Perception management involves shaping and controlling the way information is perceived by individuals or groups. This can be achieved through framing techniques, selective disclosure of information, or exploiting cognitive biases to influence decision-making.
  • Influence Operations: Influence operations aim to shape opinions, attitudes, and behaviors of individuals or groups through targeted messaging, manipulation of social networks, or the cultivation of influential individuals who can spread desired narratives.
  • Cognitive Exploitation: Cognitive exploitation involves exploiting vulnerabilities in human cognition, such as cognitive biases or heuristics, to manipulate decision-making processes. This can include using emotional appeals, fear-based messaging, or exploiting confirmation bias to reinforce existing beliefs.
  • Deepfakes and Synthetic Media: The use of deepfakes, which are highly realistic manipulated videos or audios, can be employed in cognitive warfare. Deepfakes can spread false information, deceive individuals, and erode trust in visual or audio evidence.

Intelligence analysis plays a crucial role in preventing and combating cognitive warfare, which refers to the manipulation and exploitation of cognitive processes to influence individuals, societies, or governments. Here are some ways intelligence analysis can help address this challenge:

  • Identify cognitive warfare tactics: Intelligence analysts can study and identify the various tactics used in cognitive warfare, such as disinformation campaigns, propaganda dissemination, psychological operations, and social media manipulation. By understanding these tactics, they can recognize when they are being employed and develop countermeasures accordingly.
  • Monitor information sources: Intelligence analysts can monitor and assess information from various sources, including traditional media, social media platforms, websites, and online forums. By analyzing the content, origin, and dissemination patterns of information, they can identify potential cognitive warfare campaigns and track their sources.
  • Detect and analyze disinformation: Intelligence analysts can specialize in identifying and analyzing disinformation campaigns. By tracking the spread of false information and analyzing its content, they can uncover the motives behind such campaigns and provide accurate and timely information to decision-makers and the public.
  • Collaborate with other agencies: Intelligence agencies can collaborate with other relevant organizations, such as law enforcement agencies, cybersecurity entities, and academia, to share information and expertise in countering cognitive warfare. Collaborative efforts can enhance capabilities and provide a broader perspective on the issue.
  • Develop countermeasures: Intelligence analysts can work on developing countermeasures to combat cognitive warfare. This can include developing strategies to debunk false information, implementing safeguards to protect critical infrastructure and communication systems, and conducting public awareness campaigns to educate individuals about the risks and tactics employed in cognitive warfare.
  • Enhance cybersecurity: Intelligence agencies can focus on strengthening cybersecurity measures to protect against hacking, data breaches, and other forms of cyber attacks that can facilitate cognitive warfare. By safeguarding critical systems and information, they can mitigate the potential impact of cognitive warfare campaigns.
  • Support policy-making and decision-making: Intelligence analysis can provide policymakers and decision-makers with accurate, reliable, and timely information to help them understand the cognitive warfare landscape. This information can inform policy development, resource allocation, and decision-making processes to counter and prevent cognitive warfare effectively.
  • Continuous research and adaptation: Cognitive warfare tactics are ever-evolving, and intelligence analysis must adapt accordingly. By continuously researching emerging trends, technologies, and tactics employed in cognitive warfare, analysts can stay ahead of adversaries and develop proactive strategies to counter these threats effectively.

In general, intelligence analysis has to evolve to keep pace with the changing nature of threats. In the past, the focus was primarily on physical and military threats. But now, intelligence analysts need to be able to identify and understand the more subtle and abstract threats of cognitive warfare. It’s not enough to just look at traditional hard intelligence indicators, like troop movements or weapons development. Instead, analysts need to also understand soft intelligence like public opinion, social media trends, and cultural shifts. One of the biggest challenges, I think, is that there’s no clear “right” answer in a lot of cases. With ”hard” intelligence, like the number of tanks in an army or the location of a military base, there’s usually a clear and objective answer. But with soft intelligence, the answer can be much more subjective and open to interpretation. For example, how do you measure the impact of a social media trend, or the effect of a piece of propaganda on public opinion? It’s a lot harder to quantify and assess. I think the first step is to recognize that these strategies exist, and that they need to be taken seriously as a threat. Then, intelligence analysts need to develop new methods and tools for assessing and measuring the impact of these strategies. One possibility could be to create new metrics for assessing the virality of information, and to track the spread of information across different social media platforms. Another possibility could be to develop new analytic models for understanding the psychological and emotional impact of propaganda and disinformation. According to Timothy Thomas “Specific individuals or particular social groups can serve as targets of disinformation. The purpose of a disinformation campaign is to influence people’s consciences and minds”.  (Thomas, 2010)


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[1] Astroturfing is the dishonest practice of passing off an organized marketing or public relations campaign as unwelcome input from the broader public. The strategy seeks to give an opinion a fake sense of “popularity” that it does not truly have by giving the appearance of spontaneous activity in support of it.It was typical practice for “agitprop” offices (as “astroturfing” was known in the communist world – from “agitation and propaganda”) to employ the technical term, now known as AstroTurf, during the “Cold War” to influence primarily public opinion in the West.

[2] Gaslighting is a term that describes the subjective experience induced by an agent who systematically, with malicious intent, calls into question the psychological reality of a receiver. It relies on the target’s memory, inducing a sense that the target has a distorted perception of reality, and creating the false impression in that person’s mind that they are suffering from mental instability.

Follow Bogdan-George Rădulescu:
PhD, Bogdan-George Rădulescu - Email: georgebogdan32@gmail.com M.A Security Studies Coventry University Book author: ”The Decline of Objectivity - Mass media in the age of fake news and post-truth"(2021, Cluj-Napoca, Presa Universitară Clujeană)

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