Open Source Intelligence

There’s a report (here) about a National Press Club presentation of OSINT in the U.S. context. Two main points were made: the lack of correspondents making reports from local situations has an impact on the quality of available data (correspondents can go where professional intelligence gatherers cannot); and the amount of data on the Internet poses a challenge for analysis. In summary, there’s more data but less knowledge; and the knowledge is less well labelled in ways that traditionally made its extraction easy.

This is in some ways a U.S.-centric view. It’s ironic that one news organisation is adding foreign correspondents and other heavy-weight news gathering capacity at a significant rate — al Jazeera. The Washington Post may be getting lighter, but what’s happening in the U.S. is not entirely what’s happening in the rest of the world.

It’s also interesting that saying “organizing and prioritizing the material to be analyzed” is a challenge reveals the presupposition that organizing and priotitizing is somehow not part of analysis. Of course, readers here will know that it’s my view that “prioritizing” or ranking is at the heart of all intelligence analysis. The quotation shows a two-step attitude: first, find the good information in the vast wells of the Internet and then analyse it. It’s better not to think of these steps as separate; there’s only one task: getting knowledge from data, and dividing the task arbitrarily isn’t helpful.


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