2013 BGen James Cox, CA (Ret) On the Record on Open Source Information versus Open Source Intelligence versus Secret Intelligence

Advanced Cyber/IO, Knowledge
BGen James Cox, CA (Ret)
BGen James Cox, CA (Ret)
(Then) Deputy N-2, NATO

Phi Beta Iota:  BGen James Cox, CA, as Deputy N-2, was General William Clark, USA / SACEUR ‘s action flag for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).  He arranged for Robert Steele to brief all flag officers and colonels in charge of military intelligence across all NATO and Partnership for Peace (Eastern European) countries, and he sponsored the triad of NATO OSINT documents that remain a standard in the field, albeit long over-due for being replaced with a new “rainbow series” that itemizes sources and methods within each of the eight tribes:  Academic/Gold, Civil Society/Brown, Commerce/Gray, Government/Red, Law Enforcement/NYPD Blue, Media/Orange, Military/Olive Green, and Non-Governmental/Non-Profit/UN Blue.  Our efforts to inform the Secretary General of the United Nations have failed so far.

On the Record:

I can say that even during what was done and the establishment of an ‘OSINT’ cell in the SHAPE Int  staff, I never thought that anyone had it fully ‘right.’ By that I mean, when the OSINT cell was  raised in SHAPE, all they did was collect open source information, mainly from print media like Jane’s, the Economist Intelligence Unit and Stratfor, and feed it to the small analytical staff. There was no analyizing the open source information in its own right and producing ‘real’ OSINT  from it.

The process, to my mind, simply stopped at “OSINFO” and never got to “OSINT.”

Even today, I think this is still a problem in most ‘modern’ intelligence staffs. People think that simply collecting open source info – although now from a  wider range of sources – is OSINT, when I say it is not. It’s like collecting satellite pictures and calling them IMINT … the job isn’t done until they are analyzed and an assessment made.

BGen James Cox, CA (Then) UNOSOM II Chief of Staff in Mogadishu
BGen James Cox, CA
(Then) UNOSOM II Chief of Staff in Mogadishu

If I was king of the world, I would build an OSINT organization to rival existing national SIGINT organizations (CSEC in Canada, NSA in US) and HUMINT organizations (CSIS in Canada, CIA in US). This OSINT organization would be in a number of big buildings around the country, tapped into all the sources you have long written about (media, experts, academia … all tribes) AND they would produce magnificent ‘single source’ OSINT products that could be added to SIGINT, HUMINT, IMINT etc. products at the national level.

Given the power and range of today’s global communications, I suspect OSINT products would be more complete and powerful than any other single source product.

Phi Beta Iota:  And 96% of the time, any other all-source product, at a fraction of the cost in a fraction of time.

See Also:

Graphic: Tony Zinni on 4% “At Best”

Graphic: UN 6 OSINT Relevance to UN Ten High-Level Threats

2008 Open Source Intelligence (Strategic) 2.0

2011 Open Source Agency: Executive Access Point