Cultural Revolution in Intelligence

The piece below is my contribution to a special report on the revolution in intelligence affairs and was originally published by the International Relations and Security Network. Particularly insightful is the editorial by Kris Wheaton and a topic piece by Ken Egli on the potential role of academia in intelligence collection and analysis.


Cultural Revolution in Intelligence: From Government to Business Enterprise

Earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a document entitled Vision 2015: A Globally Networked and Integrated Intelligence Enterprise. The first part of this bold intelligence community statement begins with an evaluation of the “shifting strategic landscape,” the defining characteristic of which is said to be uncertainty:

“We live in a dynamic world in which pace, scope, and complexity of change are increasing. The continued march of globalization, the growing number of independent actors, and advancing technology have increased global connectivity, interdependence and complexity, creating greater uncertainties, systemic risk and a less predictable future.”

Uncertainty has become one of the trendier concepts over the past few years, and is currently used profusely in the jargon of a variety of disciplines from intelligence to complexity and network sciences to corporate and risk management. The intelligence community is not the trendsetter. Originally stemming from the physical and natural sciences, the emergence of the concept of uncertainty has been accompanied by the development of a homogenized lexicon to talk about “new risks” generated and driven by globalization and network growth to a point where domains previously falling outside the scope of intelligence and security have been securitized. These domains run the gamut from society and culture to demographics and health to economics and finance to innovation and technology to natural resources and the environment. Regardless the domain, we now talk about complex adaptive systems whether we are examining conceptual physical models, bio organisms, tribes and clans, financial markets, terrorist or organized crime networks, or corporate knowledge management.

The list of globalized mashed-up vocabulary is long. It would appear that whichever way we turn, we find researchers, analysts and managers trying to detect emergence patterns, spot uncertain and unstable environments, aggregate and mine various types of data, develop systemic and holistic strategies and approaches, build resilient models, integrate systems within systems, collaborate and share knowledge across domains, form strategic partnerships, build agile infrastructures, transform organizational cultures and mindsets, and win the war for talent.

So how, apart from adapting to a new vocabulary, is the intelligence community going to achieve the transformation it so vehemently advocates? How is a largely static government enterprise to turn into a dynamic business enterprise? What is actually happening in the process of transforming the culture and mindset of the intelligence community so it may accomplish its mission to create decision advantages? What kind of education is needed to kick start the transformation? Is descriptive qualitative analysis obsolete and should the intuition-led approach be substituted with formal structured methodologies?

Vision 2015 proposes that in order for the intelligence community to transform into an enterprise able to provide decision advantage to policymakers, it must transform from a government enterprise into a “globally networked and integrated intelligence enterprise.” In other words, the intelligence community must start thinking and acting like a business. How well does the business metaphor hold in the government/national security context?

Government, critics of the business analogy have argued, is not comparable to business because it cannot be responsive to market forces since it has a higher purpose: public welfare. These critics also see the competitive advantage of intelligence in the community’s ability to “steal secrets”, which further implies a stronger emphasis on collection over analysis. Such an argument epitomizes the mentality and culture that the new vision is trying to counter. It is a snapshot, a still life if you will, of the Cold War mindset as to what characterizes intelligence. This mindset envisages a centralized national customer, promotes the obsession with secrecy, places value on the finished intelligence product rather than the process of intelligence, and treats flexibility as a foreign word.

Applying a business metaphor to intelligence processes in the national security context is not only valid; it is highly desirable. What the market is to business, international relations is to government. Are we to believe that government should not pay attention to the forces driving the developments on the international arena and respond accordingly? With globalization, where once particular domains were immune to changes outside their immediate environment, and cause-effect analysis had a more linear dimension, the interconnectedness and resulting complexity of drivers cutting across disciplines, calls for non-linear approaches both in terms of collection and analysis.

For at least two decades now it has widely been acknowledged that the so-called intelligence cycle (the process of collection, analysis and dissemination) is an idealized Platonic model that is not only obsolete in today’s environment, but also dangerous and misleading. The first step toward transforming the intelligence community from a creeping and decrepit government apparatus to a dynamic enterprise is providing whatever education necessary to curb the old mindset. Business and national security intelligence share the same strategic objectives: avoid surprises, identify threats and opportunities, gain competitive advantage by decreasing reaction time, and improve long- and short-term planning. With this in mind, the intelligence community should most certainly be responsive to market forces. It should allow for the formation and dismantlement of processes on a need basis. If a process is recognized to be “unprofitable”, it should not be allowed let to drag on for decades because government institutions have a “higher calling”!

Vision 2015 recognizes that the most difficult part of implementing the envisaged transformation is cultural change:

“The first and most significant impediment to implementation is internal and cultural: we are challenging an operating model of this vision that worked, and proponents of that model will resist change on the basis that it is unnecessary, risky, or faddish.”

Yet the real challenge of transforming the culture lies neither at the top (the Cold War veterans of the intelligence community who by the sheer force of nature are on their way out) nor at the bottom (the fresh-off-college Generation Y recruits who may have the “right” attitude and ideas but too little real world experience to know how to best apply them). The challenge lies in the lack of mid-level leadership as this is the level at which bottom-up generated ideas are filtered to form strategic direction at the top and get the buy-in from the customer. Inability to recruit and sustain competent middle management will translate into either empty rhetoric and a hodge-podge of recycled vocabulary, or in stagnation, lack of flexibility, and death by a thousand paper cuts.

If the intelligence community is serious about winning “the war for talent” (an expression around which its human capital strategy  is fixed), it should aim at developing its mid-level capabilities. “Investing in our people” is a nice enough sounding cliché. This does not mean, however, ensuring competitive compensation and providing competitive benefits because in the war for talent, there will always be someone ready to offer bigger, better, more competitive compensation packages. Adequate compensation should not be a strategic human capital goal. It should be a given. Strategically speaking, investing in people should translate into offering them the opportunity to grow their potential through continuous learning, which in turn, will increase their sense of ownership and loyalty. True, one can change a culture by throwing money at it, but the resulting culture is hardly the type that is likely to stand up to the values set in Vision 2015: commitment, courage, and collaboration.

Winning the war for talent is not a silver bullet for a successful cultural transformation. If we think of information as the currency in the world of intelligence affairs, then surely we must observe fluctuations in this currency as the external environment changes. The relative scarcity of information during the Cold War era resulted in putting a high price tag on information. Not only was there a lot less information available in contrast to today’s web- and telecommunications-networked world, but this information was collected secretly by means of human intelligence (HUMINT). Hence the culture in which the intelligence community operated was one that first, placed far greater emphasis on collection than analysis; and second, created a glamourous, cult-like image of secrecy.

The “information tsunami” as information overload is figuratively referred to, together with proliferation of telecommunication and media technology, has clearly devaluated not only information as a currency, but also its attribute – “secret”, thereby creating a shift from the emphasis on collection to that of analysis. More value is now placed on sorting out relevant information from the ubiquitous noise, which has resulted in the creation of a grey area somewhere between collection and analysis, namely synthesis. Yet synthesis is no new fad. It is an analytic process that every person in academia, from a freshmen to a graduate researcher to an established professor engages in daily. While some more progressive elements of the intelligence community have supported “outsourcing” the synthesis of open source information (the most voluminous type of information) to knowledge workers outside the community, be that academic institutions, think tanks, or in some ultra-progressive cases – crowdsourcing, such initiatives are still in the single digit count.

There is some evidence of cultural change in the intelligence community of acknowledging the value of open source intelligence (OSINT) such as the creation of an Open Source Center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the ODNI sponsored Open Source conferences in 2007 and 2008, which served as an outreach activity to bring together intelligence professionals, academic institutions, think tanks, private sector intelligence providers and the media. Nevertheless, a successful cultural transformation from obsession with classified information to a wider use (not just acknowledgement) of OSINT has not been achieved.

While one of the key design principles upon which Vision 2015 rests is adaptability and the document duly declares: “The keys to adaptability are active engagement and openness to outside ideas and influences.” The implementation plan fails to mention either OSINT exploitation or openness to collaboration and contribution by non-community members, such as think tanks and academia, where a large volume of vetted OSINT resides. Failure to take actionable steps in this regard will not serve the community well in its attempts at cultural transformation. Promoting ideas without an actionable plan is like taking one step forward and two steps back; worse – it creates a “cry-wolf” image.

All that said, it should be acknowledged that the United States is a pioneer in promoting the use of OSINT among intelligence professionals. The OSINT discussion at  the EU-level is lagging behind. As for countries with alternative understanding of democracy, transparency and accountability, such a discussion is not only non-existent, but very likely sends ripples of cynical laughter in the midst of planning the next black PR campaign.

Another due acknowledgement in this discussion should be the fact that cultural transformation rarely occurs with a swipe of a blade, but undergoes various phases over a period of time. Following a re-evaluation of the definition of intelligence in the post-Cold War environment, the type of human capital the community wants to attract and retain and a makeover of inward and outward-looking operation models, is a re-evaluation of what constitutes quality intelligence products and the development of quality benchmarks. In this respect, Vision 2015 provides a bullet point under the section of adaptability actions, which reads as follows:

• Build the organic capability to conduct exercises and modeling and simulations throughout our processes (e.g., analytics, collection, mission management, etc.) to innovate and test new concepts and technologies.

For the reader unfamiliar with the intelligence community’s internal debates, the above provision might sound somewhat surprising. What? Doesn’t the community already have such capabilities? Aren’t collection and analysis done according to structured methodologies? Stephen Marrin, a CIA analyst from 1996 to 2000, reveals a different picture. In an article for the American Intelligence Journal (Summer 2007), he clearly outlines what is known in the community as the “intuition vs. structured methods” debate:

“Even though there are over 200 analytic methods that intelligence analysts could choose from, the intelligence analysis process frequently involves intuition rather than structured methods. As someone who worked at the CIA from 1996 to 2000, I possess firsthand knowledge of the kind of analytic approaches used at the time. While I was there, the reigning analytic paradigm was based on generalized intuition; an analyst would read a lot, come up with some analytic judgment, and send that judgment up the line without much focus on either the process involved in coming to that judgment, or making that process transparent to others. No one I knew – except for maybe the economic analysts – used any form of structured analytic process that was transparent to others. No quantitative methods; no special software; no analysis of competing hypotheses; not even link charts.”

For the sake of clarity, it should be said that “intuition” is meant here not in the sense of some extrasensory paranormal activity. It simply refers to arriving at a judgment by means of extensive experience that cannot be clearly demonstrated. Another word commonly used to describe this process is heuristics, or a rule of thumb. The preference of old school intelligence analysts for using intuition rather than structured methodologies stems from the historical Cold War mindset that was described above, and the reasons for its perpetuation are to be found in…human nature.

During the Cold War, the intelligence community operated in an environment characterized by opposing ideologies, the bulk of analysis constituted political analysis: political situation assessments, profiling of political leaders, etc. To attempt to quantify such analysis would rightly be considered pseudo-science. Qualitative analysis, which is often based on intuition (that is opinion vs. fact) is suitable to such an environment and to the problems it is tasked to analyze. However, with the securitization of domains previously not on the agenda of national security professionals such as energy security, environmental issues, proliferation of networked non-state actors, qualitative analysis falls short in its ability to provide the type of rigorous analysis the new vision outlines. Perhaps even more importantly, in the aftermath of 11 September, analysis based on non-structured methodologies evades both the transparency of how the analytic judgment was formed and the ensuing accountability.

Significantly, a number of academic intelligence programs have sprung up during the past decade offering advanced education in the field of Intelligence Studies. It is interesting to note that most of the advanced degrees they offer are Master of Arts degrees rather than Master of Science degrees. This indicates that the debate whether intelligence is an art or a science persists. A cultural change will not follow until people in the community stop thinking along black and white lines. Intelligence is both an art and a science. Resistance to implement structured methodologies stems from habit, from “this is not the way we do things around here” mentality, from the numerical illiteracy inherent in the Humanities and many Social Sciences, and a “if it were so great, why do you have to always prove it to me” attitude. Countering such deeply ingrained habits will take time and there are no quick fixes to this problem other than investing in people’s learning on the job. The intelligence community’s return on investment will be nothing short of realizing its lofty vision.


Russian Foreign Policy toward the Balkans: A Situation Assessment


Here is the final version of my part of the project on Russia. I hope to be able to publish here the team’s final report, which includes an analysis of competing hypotheses on Russian Reorganization of the Civilian Nuclear Energy Sector, a cost benefit analysis of Russia – Ukraine energy security relations, and a social network analysis of Dmitry Medvedev’s Leadership Network. However, I’m waiting for the permission of the other team members and the instructor to do so.

A brief evaluation of the effectiveness of the technique in relation to the topic

Using situation assessment to analyze Russia’s foreign policy toward the Balkans has as both its principal advantage and disadvantage the flexibility and resulting breadth of scope it offers. On the positive side, this flexibility functions to fill deficiencies in more formalized methodologies, where restriction of sub-methods and limitations of scope can result in an exaggerated focus on the particular details, failing to detect an over-arching pattern or structure. On the negative side, the potentially limitless options this method offers to the analyst can result in either oversimplification through generalization, or a lack of focus altogether. One way to avoid losing the string would be to commission situation assessments not of individual analysts but of an inter-disciplinary team. I believe this would only add to the potential multi-faceted direction this method is open to, while at the same time, keep the more wild fancies on a leash of peer review.

The elements I chose to include in this situation assessment, which in retrospect were best suited to the topic were the various IR theories on power and regionalism. In this spirit, I would advocate the use of open source analyses by various think tanks, especially if the analyst is not an area specialist. The potential pitfall of arriving at politicized information could be safeguarded against by a thorough source reliability check, which would take an infinitely shorter time than self-education of the analyst on a broad theme under the duress of a deadline.

Finally, the informal, descriptive nature of a situation assessment is conducive to writing in a narrative style, which is less prone to jargon and offers the analyst the opportunity to engage and “talk” to his/her client/decision-maker as the analysis unfolds. Not only does this make the reading experience of a person tired of reading report after report with uninspiring technical and/or management, or worse, bureaucratic language, but has the potential to establish good rapport between the two sides, minimize misunderstandings hidden in vague and ambiguous language, and add a dialogue-element to the analyst’s otherwise rather lonely job.

Fantastic OSINT Wiki on Non-State Actors in Sub-Saharan Africa

I’m doing some OSINT collection on Sub-Saharan Africa for work and came across a wiki project on Kris Wheaton’s blog on sources and methods in intelligence.

It’s an OSINT wiki project developed by Mercyhurst students on Sub-Saharan Africa. I take my hat off not only to the students but to everyone behind the Mercyhurst intelligence studies program! Talk about revolution in intelligence analysis! Seeing examples of this kind fills me with optimism for the future generation of intel analysts and at the same time overwhelms me with a feeling of lament how far Europe is lagging behind.

Of further interest to wiki enthusiasts will be a paper Kris Wheaton presented at this year’s ISA convention. In it, he discusses lessons learned from using a web-based collaborative tool, commonly referred to as a wiki, to create custom intelligence products for decisionmakers in national security, law enforcement and business. He argues that analysts are massively and consistently more productive using a wiki and observes that the reduction in time spent accomplishing administrative duties, while modest in individual terms, quickly add up giving the teams more time to spend analyzing the data and less time sorting it our or sending it around to other team members. This result is better, more nuanced, analysis no matter how difficult the problem or how successful the team ultimately is in examining the topic under discussion.


New Advanced Analytical Techniques Course – opportunity for collaboration

moscow.jpg   med_put.jpg   icon.jpg   pipelines1.jpg  

I’ve just started the last course of the Mercyhurst Applied Intelligence Analysis Program, which deals with the application of various structured methodologies to the analysis process. I’ve had to select a particular technique to work for in the following 2 months in relations to a topic that is of national security concern.

My chosen technique is situation assessment, and I’m working together in a team of 5 on various issues pertaining to Russia. And here is my topic:

Russia’s recent election has confirmed Dmitry Medvedev as Vladimir Putin’s heir. Western leaders are speculating as to the course and conduct of Russian foreign policy under the new leader. Medvedev has publicly stated that he will continue to assert Russia’s renewed strength on the international arena. But as events in Kosovo have shown, Russian foreign policy continues to be shaped by forces beyond its control.

Provide a current assessment of Russian foreign policy towards the Balkans in light of Dmitry Medvedev’s accession to the Russian presidency.

In the course of the next weeks, I’ll be posting thoughts and findings on this topic and some more theoretical things related to the methodology. If you are visiting my blog and have any information that you think is pertinent and you would like to share, I will be grateful and certain to acknowledge your contribution (if you wish so, of course).


You can leave your comments on the blog or email me at


This is my planned outline so far, but it is subject to change upon my instructor’s input:

The purpose of a situation assessment is to gather context specific information and evidence to inform the decision-maker. As a methodology, it resembles an analysis of the external environment in a business context. In political science, it is more frequently referred to as a case study. A case study typically focus around a singular theses. The situation assessment outlines the process of gathering and analyzing the information needed to make an explicit evaluation of the thesis (i.e. Russian FP) in its “environment” (i.e. Russia’s role in the international/regional arena).


1. Historical background of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

This doesn’t appear to be a part of a situation assessment according to the sources I was able to find, but I think it will add value to this particular thesis, so I’m rather keen to include it. One of my reasons for doing so will be to explain later on in the analysis why the Christian Orthodox card Russia’s been flashing toward the West should not be taken at face value.

2. Collect and evaluate internal and external stakeholders’ perceptions about Russia’s FP to the Balkans

This part of the analysis will focus on Russia’s bilateral relations with the different Balkan countries, as well as the EU and the U.S. I intend to use the SWOT technique to collect this type of information, as it will bring focus to the analysis by breaking it down into four broad categories:

S – strengths of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

W – weaknesses of Russia’s FP toward the Balkans

O – external opportunities that might move the Russian agenda forward

T – threats that might hold Russia’s ambitions back

3. Evaluate the impact of specific events on actors

Here, I’d like to discuss Russia’s position on the independence of Kosovo. Why was this position taken and did it achieve its planned results? If not, will Medvedev abandon this course of “action” or continue along the same lines?


4. Define previous implied foreign policy strategies

Here I would like to examine Putin’s legacy and a few different scenarios for change under Medvedev. Given the unique Putin-Medvedev relationship, I will attempt to ascertain the extent of influence the two actors will have on shaping future Russian FP based on a political personality assessment.


In Defense of Open Source Intelligence

While intelligence academic courses and free range journalists are busy educating students and informing the general public of the benefits of open source intelligence, few intel agencies are ready to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.

This article, for example, from the exposes the unwillingness of the Australian intelligence community to give up its fixation on secrecy and start employing open source methods to both its collection and analytical divisions. The author pays homage to U.S.’ pioneering spirit in this regard and laments Australia’s lagging behind.

The article states that according to a former senior defense intelligence officer, up to 95% of intelligence sought by governments was available from open sources, but Australian agencies focused on information obtained secretly.

Apparently the Aussie obsession with secrecy goes as far as barring intel officers from using the internet for security reasons, which in 2008 is not only ridiculous but outright irresponsible.

In my last class we had a rather extensive discussion on the type of biases we should be careful to avoid when producing an intelligence product, and obsession with secrecy was…surprise surprise…high up on the list.  (see full list below)

This is not to say that Australia alone should be criticized for making advances toward intelligence reform with the speed of glacials melting (perhaps no longer an apropriate analogy). Risk-aversed Europeans are also tagging along, obdurate to common sense appeals by various individuals and NGOs promoting the use of open source intelligence, not as a substitute to secrecy, but as an efficient and far more economical complement.

My two cents on this: (and I can’t speak about Australia as I’m not familiar with the situation there) the time wasted brooding over “disasterous” American foreign policies and various expressions of anti-Americanism, would be better employed in recognizing the U.S.’ leading initiative in the field of open source intelligence and adopting and promoting the use of open source on local ground.

 List of Biases and Misconceptions

1. Best-case analysis – optimistic assessment

2. Conservatism in probability – tendency to avoid estimating extremely high or low probabilities

3. Defensive avoidance – refusal to perceive and understand extremely threatening stimuli

4. Denial of reliability  – attribution of irrationality to others who are perceived to act outside the bounds of one’s own standards of behavior or decision-making (Opposite of rational-actor hypothesis, can result from ignorance, mirror-imaging, parochialism, or ethnocentrism)

5. Ethnocentrism – projection of one’s culture, ideological beliefs, doctrine, or expectations of others; exaggeration of the casual significance of one’s own actions

6. Evoked set reasoning – information and concerns, which dominate one’s thinking based on experience

7. Excessive secrecy (Compartmental-ization) – over-narrow reliance on selected evidence, based on concern for operational security; narrows consideration of alternative views.  Can result from or cause organizational parochialism
8. Ignorance

9. Image and self-Image – perception of what has been, is, or should be (image as subset of belief system)

10. Inappropriate analogies – bias of “representativeness” or the perception that an event is analogous to past events based on inadequate consideration of concepts or facts, or relevant criteria

11. Lack of empathy – underdeveloped capacity to understand others’ perception of their world, their conception of their role in the world and their definition of their interests

12. Mirror-imaging – perceiving others as on perceives oneself

13. Organizational parochialism – selective focus or rigid adherence to prior judgments based on organizational norms or loyalties

14. Over confidence in subjective estimates – Optimism bias in assessment

15. Presumption of unitary action by organizations – perception that behavior of others is more planned, centralized, and coordinated than it really is. Dismisses accident and chaos; ignores misperceptions of others

16. Presumption that support of one hypothesis disconfirms others – rapid closure in the consideration of an issue is a problem

17. Prematurely formed views – premature closure in the consideration of a problem

18. Proportionality bias – expectation that the adversary will expand efforts proportionate to the ends he seeks

19. Rational-actor hypothesis – assumption that others will act in “rational” manner based on one’s own rational reference

 20. Superficial lessons from history – uncritical analysis of concepts, events, superficial causality, over generalization of obvious factors, inappropriate extrapolation from past success or failure

21. Wishful thinking (Pollyanna complex) – excessive optimism, hyper-credulity

22. Worst-case analysis (Cassandra complex) – pessimism and extreme caution, based on predilection (cognitive predisposition), adverse past experience, or in support of personal or organizational interests or policy preferences

23. Willful disregard of new evidence – rejection of information that conflicts with already held beliefs.

Transforming Intelligence

I just came across two recent (2007) publications of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, which re-inforce the dire need of the U.S. intelligence community to step up to the challenge of completely changing the way it “does business” and stop deluding itself that simple business re-engineering and organizational restructuring will suffice to face and adequately respond to 21st century non-state actor threats.

The first paper, “Wearing Sunglasses in a Dark Room: How Our Obsession with Secrecy and Security Undermines Counterterrorism Efforts” by Christopher Preble discusses how the severe lack of linguistic and cultural skills of intelligence professionals has had, and continues to have, negative impacts both on intelligence collection and analysis. Preble outlines the paradox of the IC’s desperate need to hire people with knowledge of languages such as Farsi, Pashto, Korean, Mandarin, and a number of African dialects while refusing security clearences to many first generation American citizens and discriminating against individuals with friends and family in foreign countries, “the very people” he argues, “who are likely to be already proficient in a non-English language.”

This is essentially a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, the difficulty of procuring security clearences for qualified individuals results in a significant lack of expertise in linguistic and cultural knowledge. On the other hand, the increasing amount of classified information requires that more people, and people with the right skills, be hired to process this information.

What to do then? How can the pool of qualified persons be expanded without compromising national security? Preble advocates expanding access to information. In other words, taking advantage of the linguistic, cultural, academic and other skills of people who are unlikely to pass a security check due to their foreign affiliations. Such “experts” can be instrumental in processing the vast amount of open source information derived from newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasting, and the internet – an onerous job, which the IC does not have the full capability of doing on its own.

The benefits of OSINT partnerships between the IC and the media, academia, independent think tanks, and NGOs far outweigh the security risks they pose. This is not to say that security checks on people applying for jobs in the IC should not be performed nor that sensitive information should be declassified. The argument is rather that classification processes should be re-evaluated and individuals without security clearences should be recruited to collect and analyze open source materials.

The second paper, “Transforming Intelligence through New Institutional Arrangements” by Dennis M. Gormley, continues much along the same lines. It focuses on the key challenges to improving the means of intelligence collection, analysis and collaboration, and what it would take to build truly agile human intelligence.

According to Gormley, the main shortcoming of the IC, which leads to both performance errors and politization of intelligence is the IC’s traditional approach to analysis. He advocates the need “to recognize complexity and variability of outcomes by using multiple alternative competing hypotheses” as well as moving away from the emphasis on producing current intelligence toward a better balanced combination of current and strategic analytical products.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the article is a discussion on creating an open source international intelligence network composed of intelligence professionals, academic institutions, NGOs, and other interested parties as a truly effective multinational response to terrorism. This is a novel idea, but some experiments are already under way. An excellent example of such a multinational initiative is the Trusted Information Network for Counterterrorism, organized and moderated by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. This project, completed over a period of 12 months using online collaborative technology, included 15 non-intelligence experts from 4 continents, who were asked to produce an intelligence estimate on the roles, activities and impacts of jihadists in Europe and the implications for U.S. security. The highlights of the report can be found on the CSIS website. The full report is available for purchase. It is a fascinating read in that it offers a glimpse of how work processes in the intelligence field are changing. It has also given me a surge of inspiration to lead a similar initiative at the ISN in Zurich. As this is still in a process of planning, I will be posting more on this topic a a later stage.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Issues for Congress

The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress published a new recommendation report earlier in December on the benefits of open source intelligence (OSINT) collection and management over traditional clandestine methods. The report argues that although unclassified information has often been slighted by the intelligence community (IC), a consensus has existed since 2005 that open source information must be systematically collected and in fact constitutes an essential component of analytical products. The authors state that in response to legislative direction, the IC has established the position of Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Open Source at the National Open Source Center. The organization’s goal is not only to perform open source acquisition and analysis functions, but also to create a center of excellence in open source collection and analysis that will support and encourage all agencies in the IC in the effective use of open source information.