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United States

Open Source Intelligence 175

Artifice_Eternity writes: "Time magazine is running a story highlighting the US government's neglect of open source intelligence, or OSINT. OSINT includes stuff on the Internet and in various newspapers and periodicals, as well as "gray literature" (limited-availability publications like dissertations, local phone directories, etc.). It also includes foreign-language experts, and commercial data (satellite maps, news archives, scientific research). The mass of data to be crunched indicates how intelligence is an information processing problem in today's world."
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Open Source Intelligence

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  • Well (Score:3, Informative)

    by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @11:51AM (#3112686) Journal
    I know the Secret Service reads kuro5hin. They hauled one guy in for questioning after a post he made there.
    • Yes, I recall that story about the Secret Service investigating a Kuro5hin comment [kuro5hin.org]

      I've wondered who gets the task of monitoring this stuff. Can you imagine what it must be like to have your job being to read Slashot? (officially, I mean, not counting all the people who make it their job de facto ...)

      Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

      • > I've wondered who gets the task of monitoring this stuff. Can you imagine what it must be like to have your job being to read Slashot? (officially, I mean, not counting all the people who make it their job de facto ...)

        I was about to say "pretty fucking cool" when I realized that anyone using /. to communicate covertly would likely troll, get automodded to -1, and then communicate at low bandwidth using various ASCII penis birds as steganography.

        The poor bastard probably has to read at -2 all the time.

        On the other hand, it's probably a great incentive to develop steganography-detection tools and pattern-recognition software. There'd be no other way to read /. at -2 and remain sane.

        /me waves to spooks, and if you're hiring and there's Jolt cola in the fridge, I'm up for it.

      • /.ed K5

        kablooey
    • The secret service asked the guy some questions after he described how he would infect the Vice President with airbourne diseases. It was more likely a tip from someone to the Secret Service than the Secret Service dilegently reading K5 (although, after that, I bet they read it now!). Unfortunately, the Open source method works better against windbags on K5 than it does against read terrorists...
  • isn't the US supposed to make all that intelligence availible to the public after 30 years? If so, is there a site where I can look at all that "gray" information? hell, not like the us follows its own laws anyways ;-)
    • Well, even if you locate it, a lot of that "gray" information is going to have big "black" lines where text used to be. ;)
    • i've found that cryptome [cryptome.org] is a great source of intelligence info
    • as noted in previous /. articles the rules for public domain particularly regarding research and intelligence docs has been radically changed.

      the rules have changed

      Using openly available sources and trying to close the doors at the same time...
      dgd
    • You can file Freedom of Information Act requests, but I believe you need to specify what you want and pay for copying and retrieval costs. Walking in and saying, "I'd like everything you knew 30 years ago" is a little broad, unless you really want to be buried in back issues of National Geographic and Clogski: The Journal of Albanian Plumbing
    • The government is also supposed to be releasing files from the Reagan administration too but the Bush White House won't have any of that.
  • well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    If it dosen'tome from a reputable source, why bother. We all know reputable sources are only in it for the money. Otherwise they'd be godless heathens only out for the common good. Damn communists.
  • by jsmyth ( 517568 ) <jersmyth@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:37PM (#3112698) Homepage

    This is quite funny on two levels:

    • It's a lot of "take" and not much "give" on an international level, i.e. not at all open source (unless you take Microsoft's use of BSD code as "open source")
    • It's extremely US centric
    The second point is forgivable in itself, seeing as he's an ex-spook, and it's an article aimed at improving the US's intelligence. But what's with the open source phrase? How can the rest of the world make use of it? (hint for the easily amused - read "America" and "U.S." as "Microsoft", and "Open Source" as "Embrace and Extend")

    Non-Governmental Organization Data Warehouse ($10M) to provide free storage and network access to the various international organizations whose "local knowledge" is vital to U.S. understanding.

    Regional Open Source Information Networks for Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America ($40M) , each with an open source collection and processing center in partnership with local governments who will provide regional language skills and access to gray literature and local experts.

    What makes him think that these places - some of the poor and rebellious even internally - will co-operate with the US in matters of security? He's not even suggesting bipartisan sharing, which doesn't even approach what true open-source would be.

    The closest he gets to saying that this idea will be truly "open source" is an immediate increase in open source information sharing across the departments and with the private sector; and finally, the provision of a foundation for a web-based OSINT exchange with allies, other nations and international groups, in other words it's only open source if you're in the clique. A bit like any major software company we could name...

    And what's this?
    Digital Marshall Plan ($20M) to provide direct assistance and subsidies to extend the Internet to every corner of the world (including rural areas in America) via wireless delivery means.

    This is another example of how US-centric his ideas are - the most remote corner of the world he can think of is "rural areas in America"...

    This is clearly an example of some hyper-patriot using buzzwords and buzzconcepts to expand his country's control over scant international resources (intelligence analyses) without really understanding the international environment, or indeed without really understanding the terms he's using. Open source? Not likely. Open (to him) intelligence sources, closed (to everyone else) information.

    • Open source in the context of intelligence information has nothing to do with open source in the context of software. In the context of intelligence, open source is simply information that other governments and organizations don't try to keep secret.

      An example- The US military is constantly preparing for a potential war in Korea. This involves updating our intelligence picture of the korean peninsula. WE use closed sources(classified sattelites, spy planes, Jame Bond type ops) and open sources(New reports, public speeches, publicly availabble maps, etc... even books). Open source intelligence is simply that information about a potential issue that is publicly available.
      • I might also add that this use of the term "open source" for non-clandestine intelligence info goes back at least as far as WW-II and probably earlier than that. RMS wasn't even a twinkle in his father's eye at that point... So, if anything, it's the software community that misused the term (not that it makes any practical difference, though I wonder if this article would even have been posted without a misunderstanding of what "open source" meant -- it's not typical Slashdot fare).

        -Ed
    • It's a lot of "take" and not much "give" on an international level, i.e. not at all open source (unless you take Microsoft's use of BSD code as "open source")

      Why should we have a problem with this? The BSD license accepts this as a valid practice. If contributors have a problem with their code being repackaged and sold for profit, they should use the GPL.
    • This is quite funny on two levels:
      • It's a lot of "take" and not much "give" on an international level, i.e. not at all open source (unless you take Microsoft's use of BSD code as "open source")

      *sigh*

      "Open Source" in this context means that it is publicly available -- it has absolutely nothing to do with Open Source software.
    • by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @02:06PM (#3112885)
      What's funny is that you and/or Slashdot editors are reading in your own contextual meaning of "open source". I just rechecked the article and there is no analogy drawn to the software world or "Open Source software". Open sources (i.e. publicly available information) and the corresponding intelligence data is just being referred to as "open source intelligence". The author makes no sort of philisophical claim or analogy to similar practices with software source code.


      And while I agree that it's US centric, I think you are blowing that issue out of proportion. It's written for an American audience, and like I said, it makes no pretense that such projects have high-minded philisophical goals, beyond perhaps sharing some of the agglomeration of "open source intelligence" with the public or other friendly nations.

    • This is clearly an example of some hyper-patriot using buzzwords and buzzconcepts to expand his country's control over scant international resources (intelligence analyses) without really understanding the international environment, or indeed without really understanding the terms he's using. Open source? Not likely. Open (to him) intelligence sources, closed (to everyone else) information.

      This is why US intelligence gathering has failed, obviously it is a lot easier to penetrate the US with guerrilla tactics then it is for the US to penetrate 3rd world countries with billion dollar budgets.
    • "What makes him think that these places - some of the poor and rebellious even internally - will co-operate with the US in matters of security? He's not even suggesting bipartisan sharing, which doesn't even approach what true open-source would be."

      We're not talking about GPLed software here. "Open source intelligence" means newspapers, news broadcasts and other sources of publicly-available information. This isn't about letting the US set up surveilance cameras here, it's about letting the US a buy a subscription to the local newspaper.

      "Open source" means just that: the source is open and easily accessable. If you associate the phrase with a political movement, the sharing of information derived from analisys, or anything else but "easily-gathered information," you need to lay off RMS for a while.

      "This is another example of how US-centric his ideas are - the most remote corner of the world he can think of is "rural areas in America"..."

      Have you taken a look at what is part of the US?

      First and foremost we have Alaska: A state whose capital is pretty much only accessable from the air. And let us not forget about Point Barrow.

      Then we have the deserts out west. Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and many other states that consist of a whole lot of square miles of nothing. The only reason there are cities out there is because of boku irrigation.

      Further east there's the Appalacia region, a place as poor and as remote as many third world countries. Have you ever been to West Virginia?

      And I almost forgot to mention the rain forrests of Hawaii.

      For most of the United States, if you're more than a few miles away from an airport, interstate or railway, you're nowhere.
    • > This is clearly an example of some hyper-patriot using buzzwords and buzzconcepts to expand his country's control over
      > scant international resources (intelligence analyses) without really understanding the international environment, or indeed
      > without really understanding the terms he's using. Open source? Not likely. Open (to him) intelligence sources, closed (to
      > everyone else) information.

      Aha. That explains why the author went off into jargonland in the following passage:

      > the events of 9-11 demonstrated our
      > inability to detect and prevent bold asymmetric attacks
      > that used our own airliners as precision missiles.

      In case you don't follow, ask yourself WTF ``asymmetric attacks" is supposed to mean. ``Unexpected attacks"? ``Attacks without a counterpart"? If that is so, then why didn't he just use plain English & say so?

      Or would killing several thousand Moslems in the Middle East somehow justify a similar attack on the US?

      (Okay, that last sentence was off the wall, but if he is going to use weird language, then why can't I?)

      Geoff
  • Geez, I wonder what would happen if they spent their time reading through /. comments. They'd be pretty scared. I feel sorry for the dude named Anonymous Coward living in South Dakota...

  • This may be a bit anal of me, but did anyone else notice the verbiage in the first paragraph of the article... I have supplied the bolding to highlight the peculiar wording in the excerpt below...

    "[...] paying more than $30 billion a year for a national intelligence and counterintelligence community to protect it from both traditional state-based threats and unconventional non-state actors, the events of 9-11 demonstrated our inability to detect and prevent bold asymmetric attacks [...]"

    Non-state ACTORS , huh? Hmmm... I can definitely think of some actors that could be of a real and present danger to the US - most of whom are imports from our friends to the north, Canada!

    And for those of you who appreciate long and confusing acronym's, try this one on for size: The Open Source Intelligence International Non-State Actors Watch List, or as its friends call it - the OSINT INSAWL....

    • "actors" are people that act upon, and interact with, things/people/whatever. You also have various "entities" which can be, but aren't necessarily, actors.
  • by laetus ( 45131 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:39PM (#3112705)

    I think this is carrying the "open source" moniker a bit too far.


    What we're talking about is simply publicly available information.

    This guy is advocating gathering it and sifting it for useful nuggets of intelligence, a goal with which I agree.
  • by bokmann ( 323771 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:39PM (#3112708) Homepage
    The governments use of the word Open Source is different than what we mean...

    To the intelligence community, something like Time Magazine is an open source of information. Open, because everyone can have it.

    A phone tap, classified information from another agency, a spy, etc are closed sources of information.

    This does not mean that they are reading Slashdot, or reviewing the Linux source code. (I'm sure 'they' ARE, but thats not what this term means...)

    • Yes, and it's worth noting that this use of the term predates the software sense :-)

      I was wondering if this article got posted simply because of that confusion...
      • Possible, but there are very important digital ramifications. Given the comments at the end of the article, it looks like the author is pushing for some interesting programs. I like the idea of the Digital Marshall Plan among others.
  • Remember May 7, 1999? Chinese embassy in Belgrade accidentally bombed because it was down on old maps used by US military planners as a Yugoslav government agency.
    • Accident ? Or deliberate military strike ? You make the call [projectcensored.org]!

      Elements within the CIA may have deliberately targeted the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, without NATO approval, because it was serving as a rebroadcast station for the Yugoslavian army. The London Observer and Copenhagen's Politiken reported that, according to senior U.S. and European military sources, NATO knew very well where the Chinese embassy was located and listed it as a "strictly prohibited target" at the beginning of the war.

  • You do realize that this has nothing to do with open source software...
  • Granted his stuff is fiction, though quite a bit of it has been described as "unsettlingly accurate" by government types. In all of his books it's made note that nearly every Intelligence group has tvs turned to CNN and the like. I believe in one even CNN was called "the best civilian intelligence agency".

    • It was well known that even Saddam Hussein's government was watching CNN back when Desert Storm began.

      It's not unheard of for the intelligence community to manipulate the media for a desired advantage.

    • CNN certainly is the best civilian intelligence agency next to Stratfor, but the latters primary customer is the US government.

      Clancy is a smart man, and understands how the military works. His book Marine, was one of the best books explaining how Marines think and fight from a non marine. There were a few humorous misunderstandings, but for someone who hasn't gone through several years of training and service with the US MArines, was surprisingly accurate. I'm not surprised that he gets things right in his fiction...
    • CNN has been caught [geocities.com] employing CIA agents and many accuse [cro.net] the CIA of employing CNN reporters.
  • The US Government should change copyright policy to require electronic deposition. If every copyrighted work was available in data form via the Library Of Congress, OSINT would be a lot simplier and cheaper. Copyright interests would not like it much, but compared to the damage done to civil liberties so far in the aftermath of 9/11, it's a small sacrifice.

    • A) The problem is not getting the information. It is that the intelligence agencies are not using the information that is readily and freely available either over the internet or through other sources.

      B) Do the intelligence agencies really need to have every Danielle Steele novel available in data form?
    • Never going to happen. Besides the fact that copyright owners aren't going to want to spend the time converting their material to electronic forms (and many are just going to run it through a scanner without OCR'ing it and send in the pictures), and that it violates international treaty to require deposition, the problem is the foreign newspapers and foreign reports are going untranslated and unread, a problem that won't be solved by copyright registration tricks.
  • Security is obscurity ... is an old proverb that describes today's terrorists attitude very good, they try to hide their data in the really big mass of data floating trough the net every day. The U.S. have IMO a good chance of fetching up such information, when they do it the right way ... but what is the right way? :-)

    - I'm not stupid, but somethimes I do things that make me look stupid!
  • Well, of course they don't have people left reading the open literature. That's because they shot them all in Three Days of the Condor!
  • by ari{Dal} ( 68669 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:41PM (#3112724)

    Unfortunately, our spies and our satellites have lost touch with reality, for they collect less than 10% of the relevant information that we must digest to understand the complex multi-cultural world that is now capable of producing very wealthy and suicidal terrorists.


    There's a good reason for the above mentioned figure... While I agree that there's a lot of useful information on the net, there's also a lot of crap.


    Any intelligence agency looking to filter out the 99.9% of nonsense that's out there to glean the remaining .01% of useful information faces an incredible challenge. That's not to say that it's impossible, just very, very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. For every real threat being posted on the net, there are tens of thousands of harmless, steam-blowing rants posted. And how do you decipher between the two? Do we now get into investigating every idle threat someone posts on a bb, or in a chat channel? The sheer scope of this project would daunt even the most dedicated Government sanctioned snoop.


    Just as an example, sift through the comments of a /. article at -1, and you're guaranteed to find at least one or two flame-ridden rants about god knows what. Or look at your own past history. How many 'harmless' comments have you made about the stupidity of this or that idea, or how you'd like to kill that person for doing this? You know its harmless. Anyone who knows you probably thinks the same. But how does someone completely outside of your community know?


    The article does make a few valid points, however:

    Shocking as it may seem, our intelligence community does not routinely strive to identify the top people in the world (not just Americans) on the various topics of concern -- from terrorism to the environment to human trafficking to corruption to disease and public health -- with the result that our analysis tends to be shallow and incestuous, relying on the same consultants again and again.

    I think just about anyone who lives outside the US looking in (as I do) would agree with this statement; one has only to observe the lack of knowledge American citizens display with regards to the rest of the world to see that this attitude is quite widespread, and probably does affect intelligence gathering. Raise your hand anyone who's seen the (Canadian) 22 minutes special "Talking to Americans". It's rather depressing actually, to think that so many people, including prominant politicians, could believe that Canada works on a 20 hour clock, or that we're going to change the country's name to Chicago (I'm not exaggerating either... quite a few people were taken in by this).


    The Recommended Open Source Initiatives proposed in the article are interesting, though idealistic. One example: Digital History Project ($5M) to digitize and translate key Islamic, Chinese, and other foreign language historical, political, economic, cultural, social, and technical materials.. Having been involved in translation projects (French to English and vice versa) myself, I think he has seriously underestimated how much this would cost..Translation is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming activity; it's not a simple matter of babelfishing an article. Localized phrases and slang do not translate well from one language to another.


    Before you can even begin to sift through the plethora of information, you'll need people that are very net and tech savvy. Combining tech skills with those of an intelligence agent is just the beginning. I won't even go into the thorny privacy issues that could be touched on here... that's just a political bomb waiting to go off.

    • It's rather depressing actually, to think that so many people, including prominant politicians, could believe that Canada works on a 20 hour clock, or that we're going to change the country's name to Chicago.

      And raise your hand if you ever saw Jay Leno do his 'man on the street' skits? Not all of us are as daft as the media would have you think. Granted there are plenty of luddites among us, but how much footage DONT you see in that 22 minute special? My guess is they went for the dopes just like Jay does. It's more entertaining and you're more likely to watch to see just how silly some people are. (Unfortunately, that can include politicians who don't have to be smart, just charismatic.)

      • Right on.

        I bet I can go anyplace in the world and get 90% of people on the street to make an idiotic assertion. For example many in the Arabic world would now agree to the assertion that 4,000 Jews didn't show up for work on 9/11 on a tip. Many in the less, er, worldly parts of Europe are likely to believe that Americans have a diet consisting primarily of hamburgers. In much of Africa, people believe that heterosexuals can' t get AIDS; meanwhile, the continent is being decimated by it. No mass of people greater than 1000 is immune from this kind of idiocy.

        Sheepfuckers.

    • The CIA, FBI and NSA should just use Google [google.com].
    • I think just about anyone who lives outside the US looking in (as I do) would agree with this statement; one has only to observe the lack of knowledge American citizens display with regards to the rest of the world to see that this attitude is quite widespread, and probably does affect intelligence gathering. Raise your hand anyone who's seen the (Canadian) 22 minutes special "Talking to Americans". It's rather depressing actually, to think that so many people, including prominant politicians, could believe that Canada works on a 20 hour clock, or that we're going to change the country's name to Chicago (I'm not exaggerating either... quite a few people were taken in by this).

      Wow...that's some of the most horribly flawed logic I've ever seen. You know, America is also one of the fattest countries in the world too. Yet somehow we always manage to win quite a few medals at any given olympics...and you know we produce waaaaaaaay too many waifish supermodels.

      I find it amazing how fast people from other coutries are willing to stereotype me as an American (250 million people must all be the same, right?). When I travel, I find it amazing how many people will assume I can't understand their conversation just because I'm American (I speak 4 languages). We're not all dumb hicks from Arkansas and Texas (despite the leaders we've managed to elect).
      • I know that feeling, I'm only bilingual but the sentiment remains. (And that's why I can say this joke in good humor)

        What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
        A trilingual!

        What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
        A bilingual!

        What do you call someone who speaks one language?
        American!

        The only american stereotype I fill is my habit of leaving unnecessary lights on.
  • Not sure ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by goofy183 ( 451746 )
    To a point I can understand that the CIA and such may not think that open public information isn't usefull but for some reason I just don't completely believe this article. As we continuously find out all the stuff our government was doing 20 or 30 years ago that no one though they were doing or was even possible the more I think we should doubt people who put such strong numbers on our govertments secret practices. Most people accept that the CIA is probably at least 10 years ahead of the times technology wise (mail for cryptographic reasons I'd assume). If these are the same people that are gathering intelegence I doubt they would be so hard nosed as to ignore anything but "relevent sources of information"
  • "Open Source" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by autopr0n ( 534291 )
    Um, you guys realize that the term "Open Source" here has absolutly nothing to do with Open Source Software, right?

    I mean, it's kind of intresting, I guess. But it dosn't really have anything to do with the OSS "movement" or anything. It certanly isn't some fallout from the "revolution".
    • Robert D. Steele has been to many hacking conferences over the years. He has been a force in the movement to reform the US Intelligence Community and presents many fresh ideas.

      Unlike most of the rest of the Intelligence Community, he is open to us and our views.

      The term "Open Source" has had a meaning in the Intelligence field long before it came into vogue as a software development movement - RDS makes an analogy - that open intelligence sources and methods are more trustworthy (than closed sources) for the same reasons that open source programs are.
  • by tshoppa ( 513863 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:48PM (#3112754)
    It's trivially easy to inject false information via the 'net and have it taken as gospel by folks who ought to know better (e.g. Slashdot editors - look at some of the crap that makes the home page, Wall Street investors - look at what a teenager with an AOL account can do with a "fake" press report, etc.)

    I'm not saying that Open Source Intelligence is a bad thing; just that the gullibility index of interpreters will be a major fact into how useful it becomes.

  • Net-based OSI (Score:2, Informative)

    by libre lover ( 516057 )
    Here's a somewhat in-depth think-tank article, "Considering the Net as an Intelligence Tool (Open Source Intelligence) [metatempo.com] (pdf format) I found that focuses on Internet-based OSI and espionage, dating back to 1996.
  • The reason the US doesn't do more is it's too risky. Speaking as an expert (I saw 3 Days of the Condor _twice_), it's clear that we're simply putting bookish analysts (who happen to look like Robert Redford) at risk when the evil oil cartels discover the location of their open source reading rooms.

    Also, given that the bookish chaps have to resort to phone phreaking and even kidnapping to thwart Max von Sydow, OS int would put homeland security at risk.

    Nope, it's just to dangerous to risk.
  • Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by karb ( 66692 )
    So, let me get this straight. A Congressional Committee told the intelligence agencies that they should gather intelligence in a different way.

    And the intelligence agencies ignored them.

    That may be because intelligence agencies have been in the business of collecting intelligence for a few hundred years. And the congressional committee has never been in the business of collecting intelligence. So maybe, and I may be grasping at straws here, but, maybe, the cia knows more about collecting intelligence than a reporter for time magazine. (audience gasps)

    Before you discard my opinion, what do you think about congressional committees when they discuss the Harmful Effects of Video Games? Or the horrors of Pirated Music? Just because a few congresspersons decide the spooks don't know what they're doing doesn't mean that the congresspersons were right.

    I should also note that I met somebody once whose job was to work for the CIA and search the internet. I'm sure they are using osi to the degree they feel necessary.

    • 1. The CIA, including its precursors, has only existed since WWII.

      2. It's the JOB of our elected congressional officials to oversee & regulate the functions of ALL the government, including the intelligence agencies. You don't have to be a veteran spook to see a waste when the CIA spends tens of thousands of dollars for information that's published in some Pakistani daily paper.

      You met someone once whose job it was to search the net for the CIA? Congratulations.

      • (1) I'm not really referring to the intelligence community in the guise of any existing agency. The CIA didn't come about and all of the sudden decide to start gathering intelligence. The united states government has been collecting and analyzing intelligence since its inception. And the methods used then were probably learned from the french and the brits.

        (2) true, but you have to acknowledge the inherent difficulties in allowing popularly elected officials to dictate how agencies, consisting almost entirely of professionals in the field, should do their job.

        I don't think that congress shouldn't have oversight. Congress should be able to say "listen, CIA, you're involved in foreignkistan, and we don't like that, get out." However, congress telling the CIA that they should do their job in a different way is like your CEO telling you you should use java because your C++ program "has a lot of bugs." It is getting beyond telling them "what" to do and into telling them "how" to do it.

        Granted, congress has the authority to do whatever they want. However, nobody has to listen to their 'suggestions'. And I firmly believe that congress dictating methods (aside from "don't toruture people", etc.) to intelligence agencies is a very, very bad idea.

    • more like this, friend.

      intelligence agencies don't want to change because the people there are rich boy refugees from skull and bones who don't want to grow up. and why should they when daddy can swing an appointment into another prestigious club where they can pretend they're saving the world from from austin powers, doctor demento, or octapussy.

      or... they don't want to change because they can't get out of the cold war framework. and why should they -- all those spook houses were set up during the cold war for cold war purposes, and getting out of the cold war mentality would mean dismantling the entire spook apparatus.

      or... the brilliant minds in america's spook houses don't want to admit that they are incompetent thugs who couldn't even see the impending collapse of the ussr. changing their ways would imply that their ways were previously sub-optimal. how embarrasing.

      just because people in the us congress are idiots doesn't mean that the people in the 'intelligence community' are not. they come from the same class of people and tend to gravitate towards the same stupidities.

    • The problems with Commitees is that they often have a political agenda of their own. Just like everything else, you have to try to see thru their own eyes to get a non-biased view. I.e. take what they say, apply a good dose of subjectivity in the opposite direction of their and you are about where the thruth is. However, it is difficult to get a good measurement of that subjectivity in the first place.

      There was an article last month about Intelligence gathering (and you would beleive that the /.ers would have learned the difference between 'Open Source' in Intelligence and in software...), and one guy from the CIA or FBI said that at one point on Sept, 11th, they turned on to CNN to get the latest news. This is no bullshit, there is a lot going on 'in the open' that we can learn from.
      • by karb ( 66692 )
        I definitely agree that there are a lot of things that the intelligence agencies can learn (and have learned) from open source.

        I just kind of bristle at the idea of congressional committees dictating how people do their jobs. Who has more insight into the matter ... somebody's who's been doing it for their whole life, or somebody who's intelligent enough to accept large campaign contributions? Congress can do (nearly) whatever they want, legally. It's just not always a good idea for them to get involved.

  • OSI is nothing new (Score:4, Informative)

    by BoneFlower ( 107640 ) <george,worroll&gmail,com> on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:51PM (#3112776) Journal
    I remember 5 years ago sitting in the Navy/Marine Corps Intelligence training center as a young PFC(Private First Class) and having drilled into our head that we must look at open sources to develop a full intelligence picture. Even our closing practical app exercise included simulated CNN and reuters news bits for us to analyze. Exercises I was involved with when in the fleet included those. On 9/11, our intelligence officers first orders included one to keep the TV on and tuned to CNN and MSNBC 24/7 for the forseeable future.

    As for not translating korean stuff, well I remember these were unclassfied, if you can ever track down some of the north korean radio transcripts, they are worth a laguh and a look into the North Korean mindset.

    While open source intelligence may not get the attention it deserves at the highest levels, it isn't as badly neglected as this article seems to think.

    I'm not sure how detailed I can legally get on this point, so I'll be general. Some of this reluctance to use false sources may be due to false alarms such things have caused in the past. Some of our enemies will manipulate the open sources in an attempt to cause us to react to a perceived threat. It worked for us in WWII with the whole landing at Calais deal, and worked against us recently in the middle east(thats the bit I can't be more specific on).
  • hyperbole alert (Score:3, Informative)

    by denny_d ( 454663 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:53PM (#3112782)
    (the U.S. does not have military maps for 90% of the world.)
    this is bunk
    there are four levels of military maps the lowest is available openly 1:100000
    the next layer 1:1000 is supposed to be opened but recent events will probably change that
    layers go 1:100
    and 1:10 in terms of coverage accuracy
    The US has the world maps covered, as do the French, Russians, UK etc. most gov'ts sell and trade data (for a price) to most anyone with enough geld.
    dgd
  • by Nameis ( 556253 )
    Some good sources of intel on the web are:

    The Drudge Report [drudgereport.com] - Hey, he links to the important and interesting stuff in the mainstream media and breaks the stuff they won't report. What's not to like?

    Stratfor.com [stratfor.com] - Great, clean analysis that is hard to find elsewhere. Drawback - has one free article each day on their site; full access requires a subscription of $80-$120. Still cheaper than ignorance or Jane's [janes.com].

    Debka.com [debka.com] - Provides interesting intel on the Middle-East from an Israeli perspective.

    Anyone else have any favorite newshound/intel links?

  • by lyapunov ( 241045 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @01:57PM (#3112806)
    In the article:
    Shocking as it may seem, our intelligence community does not routinely strive to identify the top people in the world (not just Americans) on the various topics
    of concern - from terrorism to the environment
    to human trafficking to corruption to disease
    and public health - with the result that our
    analysis tends to be shallow and incestuous,
    relying on the same consultants again and
    again.


    I am not sure how many of you have looked into getting a clearance. There are some serious ethical choices that you need to make in order to get one. Some of these include:
    1. Restricted travel.
    2. Not being able to associate freely with non US citizens.
    3. (probably the most important for the academic types). Depending on what clearence you get and from which agency anything that you go to publish will have to be peer reviewed by people in the intelligence community before it can be published.

    THe reason that this is important is that the intelligence agencies can not just talk to any Tom, DIck or Harry about somethings. Many of the academic leaders can not justify the restrictions on personal freedom, so they choose not to work in the intelligence community.

    It would be great for them to pull resources off of everybody but, they are limited to what they can talk about and it would be easier for those opposed to our interests to learn what we are up to.

    I agree that it would be great to be able to do this but there are several things that need to be resolved before hand.
    • I am not sure how many of you have looked into getting a clearance. There are some serious ethical choices that you need to make in order to get one. Some of these include:
      1. Restricted travel.


      Not exactly... this depends on your position and agency, and exactly what info you have access to. Most of the time, it just means you have to report to your unit/companies security manager for a briefing and debriefing prior to departure and on return.

      2. Not being able to associate freely with non US citizens.

      Somewhat accurate. You must report initial contact to your security manager, who will then give guidelines on further reporting. I was able to converse freely with a girl in Sarajevo when NATO was bombing there a couple years ago, and I held a Top Secret clearance with SCI access(the highest clearance you can know about without having... strong rumours of higher clearances abound). My guidelines were simple- As long as she didn't pump me for info about battle plans and the like, no need for further reporting on the contact.

      3. (probably the most important for the academic types). Depending on what clearence you get and from which agency anything that you go to publish will have to be peer reviewed by people in the intelligence community before it can be published.

      YEs this is true... But, so far as I understand the regs at least in the Department of the Nany, its only if the work involves information you worked on while holding the clearance.

      Which means I've broken that rule, oh only about two or three times or more every time slashdot has posted something about US Intelligence...

      THe reason that this is important is that the intelligence agencies can not just talk to any Tom, DIck or Harry about somethings. Many of the academic leaders can not justify the restrictions on personal freedom, so they choose not to work in the intelligence community.

      THis is irrelevant. All they have to do is pull a professor of arabian studies or some such in to brief their analysts. The analysts may bitch about having to sanitize(remove classified information from) the briefing area, but it doesn't require giving the professor a clearance.

      • SCI was also the clearance that I was looking into getting.

        I was told that if I got the clearance that I would not be able to leave the country without prior approval. Yes, permission is usually given. As far as associating freely with foreigners, what they are most concerned about is having a relationship develop to the point of feeling an obligation to that individual. Like you said all contacts must be reported and any improprieties must be reported immediately.

        These are reasonable requests and they do require a certain amount of personal sacrifice. But, I still contend that these provide the basis for the reasons not many academics are willing to work in the intelligence community.
      • 3. (probably the most important for the academic types). Depending on what clearence you get and from which agency anything that you go to publish will have to be peer reviewed by people in the intelligence community before it can be published.

        YEs this is true... But, so far as I understand the regs at least in the Department of the Nany, its only if the work involves information you worked on while holding the clearance.


        Theoretically this is true. However, many scientists build careers one step at a time and the foundation of past work provides an architecture for future work. Pulling apart classified from non classified can be very complicated and result in many who are not familiar with your work to classify more than is appropriate or necessary. I have seen this happen even at collateral clearance levels.

        Many of the academic leaders can not justify the restrictions on personal freedom, so they choose not to work in the intelligence community.
        THis is irrelevant. All they have to do is pull a professor of arabian studies or some such in to brief their analysts. The analysts may bitch about having to sanitize(remove classified information from) the briefing area, but it doesn't require giving the professor a clearance.


        This is not irrelevant for the above reasons and that any future non classified job applications will have to have this temporal black hole on their resumes if they do perform classfied research that can only be described as "government contract work 1996-1998"

        Additionally, there are other problems with interviews or briefings in that often, "pulling in a professor" results in having to get that professor clearance anyway. Example:

        Analyst 1: "What can you tell me about organisms that see in more discriminate color bands than do humans"

        Prof X: (long discussion/lecture ensues describing human vision, vision of turtles, vision of pigeons etc...)

        Analyst 2: "Hmmmm. How would one go about pulling apart this visual circuitry and interpreting what these organisms actually percieve?"

        Prof X: (another long discussion/lecture) Followed by the natural question: why?

        Analyst 1 to Analyst 2: "In order to ask any more questions we need to get this guy a clearance."

        Analyst 2: Prof X, thank you for your time. Can we contact your friends/family and start an investigation to provide you SCI clearance? Pending clearance and approval we will contact you in two months.

        Prof X: What's SCI clearance?
        • Well, the professor shouldn't be asking questions anyway :)

          But seriously, if he needs clearance to get a question answered, he can be told so and choose to get the clearance or not. Otherwise, let him spew out information as much as he can without clearance before getting into that sticky issue of "classified information".
  • What this guy proposes sounds all well and good, but once all his specific proposals are implemented, the U.S. government will have a very robust methodology in place to gather information on EVERYONE, not just terrorists and evil-doers.

    If you read the article with a bit of a paranoid mindset, you'll realize that the tools described, if they are ever developed, will enable any government to have a comprehensive picture of all things happening in the world, good or bad. Given the fact that most governments have very little regard for personal privacy and freedom, especially after September 11, what is going to prevent an Orwellian use of information against citizens?

    The U.S. government, in particular, has enough money and enough self-righteousness to become a terribly effective Big Brother, and making a clear distinction between dangerous zealots and regular citizens with unpopular views will become ever more blurred.

    Morel
  • The Atlantic Monthly magazine covered this a month ago in a story that's on the web at http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2002/02/fallows. htm
    And why should anyone be surprised that they're using common sense _as well as_ your spare CPU cycles to find out what's going on outside those smoked-glass windows?
  • ...comes the title of the article:

    "Open Source Intelligence"
  • Sifting through publicly available information to find important trends, threats, etc is a wonderful no-brainer type of idea. He says it is not being done. Why and are there examples of where publicly available information could have been helpful but was not used? (Maybe it is not that helpful as it seems it would be.)

  • Check out it out here: http://osi.theofficersclub.com/
  • by ciurana ( 2603 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2002 @02:04PM (#3112865) Homepage Journal

    I first read the article on Sunday afternoon. It caught my attention because, like many on /., I made the right associations and tried to match "intelligence" with "open source" in the espionage sense. I was disappointed after reading 2/3 of the article, and didn't finish it. This was written by someone mostly grandstanding. The author focused too much on gathering data from all sources without giving enough thought to interpretation of those data.

    I had the privilege (misfortune?) to work with a few intelligence types. When you talk to the people in the field, not to the public figures, public affairs wags, or the pundits, you will almost universally get the same two answers, rated in order of importance:

    1. Intelligence analysis
    2. Human level intelligence (HUMINT)
    3. Fewer whiz-bang gadgets

    The open intelligence article advocates only points 2 and 3, and barely touches on 1. Just like in coding, where the problem is not writing code but writing code that does something useful, intelligence is all about interpreting the data so that policy and actions may be appropriately channeled.

    Dr. Ray S. Cline (former deputy director, CIA; look him up) once said that the world needed fewer spies and more critical thinking (I'm paraphrasing here a bit). Everyday disasters and attacks that could have been prevented still happen because there are too many toys and budgets and bureacratic fiefdoms to protect and there aren't enough ears who understand the bad guys' language, not enough cooperation between three-letter agencies, and not enough brains focused on making sense of the data gathered through various channels.

    Thus, while part of the problem is gathering data, making sense of it is what will prevent another catastrophe like the terrorist attacks last September.

    E
    • Damn, that's why my editor gets so frustrated with me...

      E
    • Dr. Ray S. Cline quote: It really isn't an all or nothing proposition. We should have (and need more of) both. No amount of intelligence can stop a detwemined, clever person from commiting an act of "terorism" 100% of the time. doesn't take a bunh of brains to figure that is you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. Every bully konws that there is power at in intimidating other people. Most people just want to live their lives without being bothered.
  • I've long been an advocate of something very similiar to what he's proposing. However, the single most limiting factor in todays intelligence community is one of employees. Satellites aren't able to record conversations in swahili in a back room of shanty town a. You need to have someone physically there (and capable of speaking the language/culture, plus be able to blend in as one of the locals). In order to make use of most of these 'open source' intelligence avenues, you're going to have to have manpower at their locations to 1) identify them 2) collect them.

    today's intel community suffers from a lack of qualified individuals who are able to successfully staff locations around the world. Identifying openly available sources of information is a great idea, but we've got to get the people in there to do it.
  • Body of Secrets by James(?) Bamford is very enlightening regarding the intelligence operations of the nation over the last few decades. Er, sorry, no Open Source stuff, though.
  • OSINT is strangely similar to competitive intelligence: Check out http://www.scip.org/

    LL
    ----
    Times flies even when you're not having fun.
  • I'm sure I'll get marked as Flamebait - this going against the Slashdot communities consensus and all - but this really shows how much the objections to Carnivore are a straw man.

    If the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities can't even keep up with publically available information posted on the web, how the hell are they going to find time to snoop through people's encrypted porn? (Or whatever the hell else they actually bother to encrypt.)

    Face it, it takes a hell of a lot to get an FBI agent to bother a judge about your private files.

    Or, as Dennis Miller put it: "The biggest conspiracy is that there is no conspiracy. Nobody is out to get you. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. There, feel better now?"

    • Not a bad sentiment, but you're all wrong with that "straw man" thing. A straw man is a type of arguing where you erect a very weak version of your opponent's argument, fell it, and then claim victory.

      An example of a straw man argument: "Senator Jones says that we should not fund the attack submarine program. I disagree entirely. I can't understand why he wants to leave us defenseless like that."

      If the objections to Carnivore often voiced here - that it is invasive, morally questionable, and poorly managed - were indeed straw men, there would be a stronger set of arguments against it that were being distorted. Somehow, I doubt that - if Carnivore is an unethical and (arguably) unconstitutional device, it is damned on its own accord, don't you think?

      One other point: "it takes a hell of a lot to get an FBI agent to bother a judge about your private files."

      Right. That is why they generally don't. (*gasp*)
  • The idea is wonderful, but a little bit naive, To achieve an objective, it is essential to consider the cost of the method.

    To collect the open information, process them, make decision on what is important, what is not, involves enormous cost (in term of money and time), This is what economists call transaction cost. If those effort is costless, all the firms will collect all the consumers info, do the direct marketing. You will continue to put your effort into certain endeavor if it yields more results than you put in. otherwise, you will put your effort into other method with better prospective to get more out of your effort.

    What at issue is not that CIA, FBI have less information, but how to do with all the collected information, and act on them. The recent report of 7 out 19 hijackers being noticed before 9.11 is the case for the point.

  • Currently, the FBI isn't allowed to use publications "gray literature" for investigation, much less prosecution. The FBI isn't allowed to even subscribe to magazines published by groups they might want to investigate. E.g. NAZI-skinhead-hate-group magazines. I've always found this to be an odd limitation but I assumed that, in the Byzantine world of law, there could be a logical reason.

    After all, the computer world has lots of oddities that might seem nonsensical to someone unfamiliar with the details or history of a particular technology.

    I am seriously concerned, however, that it looks like the CIA will resume covert investigation within the US... something that has been banned for decades. GWBush's father, when he was CIA Director, prior to being President, resisted this ruling and always wanted to eliminate the restriction. It looks like his son may succeed.

    As we become a more computerized and networked society, it seems likely that the once-obvious boundaries of our country will become more blurred. For example, the NSA has been evesdropping on US phone communication without warrants for years, even though they are not allowed to gather information about the US from within the US... just like the CIA. They have gotten around this limitation by using satellites that capture signals escaping into space; mostly microwave from repeater towers.

    I have no conclusions or suggestions... just a little food for thought. The most dangerous threat for any democracy is the complacency of its citizens. I am really glad to see that slashdot and other similar tools are thriving. The most dangerous threat to any despot is free communication between the people.

  • You know, outside of our own narrow world, not all the lexical phraseaology we are accustomed to carrys the same meaning. In short, he doesn't mean Open Source in the GNU sense you fracking idgits. OSINT in this case refers to non-standard methods of intelligence gathering. Traditional electronic intelligence and human intelligence methods would remain a foundation, but not the exclusive domain of intelligence gathering. Are any of you reading the article before posting your inane rants?

    You can all unwad your panties and stop tripping already.
  • RANT ON
    Jaw Jaw rather than War War.

    People should enter the political arena and all views should be rationalised and criticed - both internally and externally to the groups concerned. The world is a big negociation, what worked in the north of Ireland [big political fudge that most people voted for] may work elsewhere (even in the U.N., come on guys pay up).

    Force people to examine and justify their and their opponents beliefs as part of a negociating position. Keeping U.S. 'intelligence' secret is against the politicial process, let the U.S. Intelligence fights it out with other peoples (even non US) rationalised view of the world.

    RANT OFF
  • Open source intel is a vast field, any written piece stateing anything about a government or its activities is valuable intellegence to a forign power. This is a double edged sword enough foregn govt's can look at CNN, The New York Times, hell, even /. and get a good idea of how things are going in this country. The problem is sorting out what is redundant, and what pieces of intellegence are accually worth the time and effort, an accually rather small percentage. a very time consuming process, i don't know how many of you are paying attention to military news, but the us army just involentarilly extended all mi posisitons in an effort to combat this problem (again another piece of open source news better not known by people who don't have any business there, but it needs to be said) so the gov't is workin the problem, but the amount of open souce intel out there is dauting, and combined with all the accual human intellegence, imigary intellegence and signal intellegece thats constatly coming in, unfortunitly not everything can get the full attention it deserves.
  • Possibly one reason his proposal hasn't been accepted is because he doesn't seem to be pitching it very well. His rhetorical style is weak, and doesn't effectively convince me of what hes trying to say. He does make a stand on his authority as an expert, but this comes without any other really supportive logic. The first questions I would ask, if I were one of the Cabinet members he was trying to reach would be "How did you arrive at these numbers for different departments? Are you qualified to know the things you have stated as facts in this proposal?"

  • He spoke at H.O.P.E. many a year ago stating that hackers are "law-abiding citizens who have immense potential to contribute to society". Yes, he is a spook. Or was a spook. He resigned from the CIA out of frustration with their information gathering skills.

    He believes that publically available information is often more useful and accurate than information the CIA/NSA/DIA blow huge wads of our cash to collect.

    "I had spent eighteen years as a professional intelligence officer," he says, "and discovered that a whole lot of classified data wasn't really there. We just had a whole bunch of facts about Soviet missile silos. Nothing on the Third world, for instance. At the Marin Corps Intelligence Center we were spending $2 million a year on a system for accessing classified data from the CIA, NSA, and DIA--and I found that for $25,000/year I could get beter data from open sources."

    I knew it was him as soon as I saw the Slashdot headline. Very unique character. :)


  • Geeze, could the font be any smaller? Is this their way of enticing us to buy the dead tree version?

  • I most enjoy /. when the best of the posts provide more benefit than the posted article(s), and as is the case on this thread.

    I spent the greater part of a day in deep discussion with a fellow who traversed WWII as a polish soldier brought into Russian intelligence, who then moved on to British Intelligence, and ended his career having much to do with the founding of the Canadian Intelligence Service. A fair measure of our talk centred around the need for covert intelligence gathering in the face of laws either protecting the rights of citizens or curtailing the access to information. The facts of the world as it is brought home the inescaple need for covert intelligence gathering but also the prerequisites for said actions. The Russians, my military intelligence type relatives tell me, were (in)famous for garnerning intelligence at social gatherings by simply working the cocktail circuit and baldly asking pointed questions of targets in the offhand manner of party chatter. I'm told it was a very effective ploy. Working sources of information requires access and understanding, more especially of the social mindset of those under observation, and to this end the philosophical gap between Open Source Software and Intelligence gathering can be bridged by the seemingly trival observation that intelligence is most effective in an open enviornment where the information is freely available. Gadetry comes into play more so where direct access is not available. The recent reports of 23 bugs found on the American made jet for the Chinese President is a case in point.

    Perhaps most telling is the obvious fact that intelligence gathering requires we better understand one another.

    cheers
  • Business needs intelligence information all the time. I suspect they have many automated tools to help them keep tabs on their market, on their competitors, technologies, etc.

    Reminds me somewhat of one metric of the economy:

    How many times the word "recession" appeared in newspaper articles during a one month interval.

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