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Class covers role of technology in intelligence gathering

In the Revolutionary War, George Washington taught his couriers how to use invisible ink. During World War II, the British capture of a German Enigma encoding machine saved lives and shortened the war by letting the Allies in on Axis plans.

Ralph Tildon, a CIA senior intelligence analyst, is teaching a class at NMSU this fall title "The Role and Scope of Technology in Intelligence Analysis." (NMSU photo by Deja Cloud)

Nowadays, security services employ satellite, microwave and radar technologies undreamed of in the past -- and the methods of thwarting them have also evolved, said Ralph Tildon, a CIA senior intelligence analyst who is teaching a class at New Mexico State University titled "The Role and Scope of Technology in Intelligence Analysis."

The class is part of a unique program in security technology developed at NMSU through a partnership between the departments of engineering technology and criminal justice. The program aims to give students a knowledge of the most up-to-date security technology together with an understanding of the context in which it is used, said George Alexander, head of the department of engineering technology.

Tildon said his class covers the history of security technology, concentrating on the period between 1940 and the present, and the effect technology has had on the collection, production and dissemination of intelligence. But it also offers practice in the thinking skills needed to use the technology by asking students to consider five "case histories," based on actual events, he said.

"The essence of the method is to put oneself in the role of a protagonist in the events, a person or persons who must make a decision," he said.

"The students have to grapple with the information they know and don't know. They have to ask, 'How would technology provide intelligence the protagonist wants or needs? What kind of technology and/or intelligence would he or she need?'" he said.

As an intelligence analyst, Tildon has been responsible for following events in Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait and other Persian Gulf states. He has also served as senior current intelligence editor and as executive officer of the agency's Directorate of Intelligence Management, Planning and Services Staff. Before coming to NMSU, he held a management position in the agency's Nonproliferation Center, working on the problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Alexander said Tildon brings on-the-job experience to his role as an instructor in security technology. "He brings a knowledge of the history and operation of some of the agencies who are potential employers of the graduates of our program. We are very fortunate to have him on loan from the agency," he said.

Each year, as part of its "officer in residence" program, the CIA sends approximately four senior agency officers to colleges and universities across the United States, Tildon said.

The officers-in-residence teach undergraduate- and graduate- level courses related to national intelligence and reach out to campus communities. This year CIA officers-in-residence began teaching at the University of Southern California - Los Angeles, Clemson University in South Carolina, the Joint Military Intelligence College in Washington, D.C. and at NMSU, he said.

Tildon will serve two years as an officer-in-residence at NMSU. Next semester he will teach a course on the history of intelligence gathering.

Security technology is currently offered as an academic minor, but there are plans to expand it into an interdisciplinary supplemental major, Alexander said.

Photo is available at http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/techintel.jpg
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PHOTO: techintel.jpg
CUTLINE: Ralph Tildon, a CIA senior intelligence analyst, is teaching a class at NMSU this fall title "The Role and Scope of Technology in Intelligence Analysis." (NMSU photo by Deja Cloud)

Jack King
Sept. 20, 2000