Association Analysis

Creating an association matrix forms the basis for many other techniques covered in this course, including link charting. Association matrix, as the name may suggest, involves plotting out the associations or connections between entities. These entities can be individuals, organizations, loose-knit groups (such as Anonymous, or ISIS) or other communities.

The purpose of the association matrix is to allow you to see connections between individuals that may not be immediately obvious. For instance, if you know that 3 individuals who attend Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club are known members of the New Jersey mob, you may begin to suspect (rightly) that the 2 individuals you know who also attend but whom you have no other information on may be connected as well.

The steps to performing an association matrix are as follows:

  1. Identify what entities you would like to examine
  2. Choose symbols for the connections
  3. Plot them on the table
  4. Examine the table for potential connections

We’ll work through these steps step by one.

Identify entities for examination

In this first step, you choose what you want to examine. One simple way to begin this step is to begin with someone known to be involved in the activity under investigation and branch out from their contacts. For instance, if you know that John has been convicted of drug dealing and operates out of a gun shop, you might examine John’s contacts and those of other known drug dealers or buyers.

This a simple association chart from the UNODC. The matrix shows 5 individuals and 3 organizations. Based on notations made in this chart you can identify associations between these individuals.






Choose symbols for the connections

The simplest notation is one given in FM 34-60 Counterintelligence (pg. 110), where a filled in circle represents a known association and an open circle represents a suspected association.

A more complex association chart is used by UNODC Analysts,

If you think back to our lesson on the Intelligence Cycle, with the reliability and validity charts (reproduced below), you can use these to consistently determine whether a link is confirmed or suspected.

Reliability Rating Validity Rating
Reliable – Source’s reliability is unquestioned or has been well-tested in the past A


Facual 1
Usually reliable – Source’s reliability can usually be relied upon as factual. The majority of past information has proven to be reliable B Probably true 2
Unreliable – Source’s reliability has been sporadic C Possibly true 3
Unknown – Source’s reliability cannot be judged. Authenticity or trustworthiness has not been determined by either experience or investigation. D Factually unknown 4

The UNODC recommendation is that you consider a link confirmed when it is A1, A2, B1 or B2 and unconfirmed when it is evaluated differently.

Plot them on the table

Now it’s time to actually plot the information you’ve gathered. Two examples are provided below:

Example 1

Example 2

The numbers at the bottom include numbers. These are the number of links. The higher the number, the more connections these individuals have to each other.

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