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The existing US definitions of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) are severely deficient at multiple levels.  See the official definitions below the line.  Here is a proper definition devised with Joe Markowitz and others who actually know something about the discipline.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is decision-support (an output not an input) that integrates open sources and methods including all forms of direct human knowledge elicited by intermediaries without subterfuge.  It combines direct access to indigenous humans, gray literature, and the deliberate exploitation of both published and unpublished (field) human experts, advanced multi-disciplinary and multi-domain processing and integration or deconfliction, and advanced visualization and other methods for communicating context and insight to the supported decision-maker(s).  OSINT is not the same as Open Source Information (OSIF), which is where the official definitions are now–publicly available information, nor is it the same as Open Source Data (OSD) or Validated Open Source Intelligence (OSINT-V), which can only be produced by an all-source analyst generally not a contractor.  OSINT is a human intelligence function, not a technical intelligence function.

OSINT has been superceeded as the center of gravity for the future of intelligence by M4IS2: Multinational, Multiagency, Multidimensional, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making.  90% of M4IS2 is not secret, not expensive, and not federal or controlled by any government.  Outside the wire both OSINT and M4IS should be controlled by the J-3 via Civil Affairs (Human) and Information Operations (IO).  Secret bureacracies (including “cyber-commands”) do not have the knowledge, mind-set, or reliability to manage OSINT and M4IS2 interactions with all manner of humans in every clime and place.  Inside the wire, the J-2 becomes the integrator of all-source information, and Civil Affairs and IO become advisory functions to the J-3 on non-kinetic options.

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Search: osint vs humint

Official Definitions:

The DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms as amended through 15 May 2011:

Information of potential intelligence value that is available to the general public.

The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence has OSINT under the technical bureaucrat, treating it as a document exploitation and digital exploitation technical challenge.

CIA worst crime–among many–is to confuse “intelligence” with the clandestine or covert method.  CIA has, in other words, completely lost sight of its mission, which is to create decision-support for decision-makers.  Being collection driven, CIA confuses Open Source Intelligence with the collection of open sources of information,  involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence.

See Also:


2008 IJIC 21/3 The Open Source Program: Missing in Action

2008 Open Source Intelligence (Operational)

2008 Open Source Intelligence (Strategic)

2009 DoD OSINT Leadership and Staff Briefings

2009 Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else

2009 Fixing the White House & National Intelligence

2009 Human Intelligence: All Humans, All Minds, All the Time