Intelligence: The Street Price of Information


December1, 2005: In Iraq, and to a lesser extent Afghanistan, rewards for information have proved very useful. Oddly enough, getting money for the rewards has never been a problem. No, the major problems have been communications, and keeping the identity of the informants secret, as the terrorists and anti-groups often carry out reprisals against those who inform on their murderous activities. Communications, letting people know about the program, and actually getting the information in time for it to be useful, has been the big show-stopper. With millions of cell phone users in Iraq (Saddam did not allow any), the communications problem has finally been solved there. Over the last two years, American intelligence troops have developed workable methods to get informants paid quickly and safely. Speed is important, and the troops try to get their tipsters paid within 24 hours (of the information proving useful.) Rewards range from $100 (for reporting a corrupt Iraqi cop, which may mean he is working for the terrorists as well as himself) to a thousand dollars or more for the capture of a terrorist (the fee goes up with the importance of the guy caught.) Your average weapons cache will bring a few hundred bucks. This is the average monthly wage for an Iraqi, and what the terrorists often pay people to help them out with their attacks.

In true Middle Eastern fashion, there is often a round of bargaining, to determine how much a tip is worth. This is because there is rarely a price list for everything. You can put a specific price on the head of an individual, or offer a fixed amount for finding a roadside bomb, or where a suicide bomber is hanging out. But the haggle factor becomes more of a problem when it comes to safe houses (which could hold anything from a few low level people, to a major leader), bomb workshops (some are quite large) and weapons and bomb material caches (the same.) The solution is mainly one of gaining experience.

While there is basic information, on how to run an informant network, in training manuals, it’s difficult to train for this. The army is trying to solve this problem with interactive computer simulations (much like the best video games now available), but these things take a while to develop.


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