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The United States Dominates Signal Intelligence

Thought Leader: Peter Zeihan
May 5, 2023

We’ve poked holes in the US system and talked about Russian intelligence declining, so today, let’s look at what the US dominates: signal intelligence (SIGINT).

Next time you find yourself in the Netherlands, ask the local shopkeep how many languages he can speak…I bet it’s more than a few! On the flip side, if you head to the US, the answer is likely one…or two if you’re really lucky. That dichotomy summarizes America’s human intelligence (HUMINT) problem; a small recruiting pool requires lots of expensive training.

However, the US does excel on the SIGINT side of things. This is the monitoring, deciphering, and sifting of mass amounts of data (texts, emails, etc.) and tracing it back to the source. Then the human side of things identifies and extracts the most important stuff.

Since the US is such a significant world player, it’s become extremely good at this. But do they do it alone? No! The Americans partner with many allies, but four stand out: The UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. With the US, they form The Five Eyes Alliance  – a monitoring and sharing agreement that has given the US a good grasp on global signal intelligence.

Encryption has made this process a bit harder, but processing power and AI have helped the US lead the way in focused signal intelligence. This doesn’t mean that the Americans have abandoned HUMINT altogether; instead, SIGINT enhances and guides the strategy for the boots on the ground.

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