2008: Creating a Smart Nation (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

Articles & Chapters

Creating a Smart Nation

Robert Steele[i]

Mark Tovey (ed), COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (Earth Intelligence Network, 2008, pp. 107-130

Full Text Online for Ease of Automated Translation

In an age characterized by distributed information, where a majority of the expertise is in the private sector, the concept of “central intelligence” is an oxymoron.  In an age where General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret), has stated on the record that only 4% of his Central Command information and insight came from secret sources and methods, the persistent spending of $60 billion a year on that 4%, and next to nothing on open sources and methods in 183 languages we do not speak, must be defined as institutionalized lunacy.

      The greatest threat to both national security and national economic competitiveness is ignorance—uninformed decision-making. Intelligence communities are slowly discovering that they should not send a spy where a schoolchild can go, and that spies are not harnessing the vast distributed intelligence of the private sector, nor knowledge in 183 vital languages.

      Unfortunately, the culture of intelligence in most countries believes that its uniqueness rests on secrets rather than thinking—on producing secrets rather than informing policy.

To survive in the 21st century, every nation must become a “smart nation” and engage all of its citizens—every citizen must be a collector, producer, and consumer of intelligence—and thus, create the Virtual Intelligence Community. To integrate and make the best use of both open-source intelligence and traditional classified intelligence, each nation must establish a National Information Strategy, which addresses connectivity, content, coordination, and computational security.


This chapter outlines both the requirement for, and a recommended approach to the creation of a National Information Strategy. Despite the fact that we have leaders in both the administration and the legislature who understand the critical importance of information as the foundation for both national security and national competitiveness at the dawn of the 21st century, our leadership has failed to articulate a strategy and a policy which integrates national intelligence (spies, satellites), government information, and private-sector information objectives and resources

In the Age of Information, the absence of a National Information Strategy is tantamount to abdication and surrender—the equivalent of having failed to field an army in World War II, or having failed to establish a nuclear deterrent in the Cold War. This chapter is both an orientation for citizens and bureaucrats and a call to arms for both policymakers and legislators. It is a fundamental premise of this chapter that in the Age of Information, the most important role of government—at the Federal, state, or local level—will be the nurturing of the “information commons.”[ii]

National security will be largely a question of protecting information infrastructure, intellectual property, and the integrity of data. National competitiveness will be completely redefined: corporations and individuals are competitive in a global economy—and it is the role of nations to be “attractive” to investors. How nations manage their information commons will be a critical factor in determining “national attractiveness” for investment in the 21st century.[iii]

This chapter addresses and defines the challenge of change; the information commons and information continuum; the theory and practice of intelligence in the Age of Information: the ethical, ecological, and evolutionary implications of this approach; the need to reinvent and integrate national intelligence (spies and satellites) into a larger network of distributed intelligence largely accessible to citizens; and, finally, the concrete elements which must comprise the National Information Strategy.

The challenge of change

As we enter the 21st century, we are faced with several dramatic challenges, confronted by order-of-magnitude changes that defy resolution under our existing paradigms and organizational or policy structures.

The most obvious challenge to government as a whole is the changing nature of the threat. Since the rise of the nation-state, with its citizenship, taxation, and standing armies, the most fundamental national security issue for governments has been the sanctity of its borders and the safety of its citizens and property abroad. Physical security maintained by threat of force was easy to understand and easy to implement. Today, we face a world in which transnational criminal gangs have more money, better computers. better information, and vastly more motivation to act and to act ruthlessly, than most states, Perhaps even more frightening, we face a world in which we are allowing technology and limited policy understanding to create very significant masses of displaced and alienated populations—including sizeable elements within our own borders; at the same time, we are ignoring our government's obligations to provide for home defense, for electronic civil defense, in the private sector.[iv]

Since this chapter was written, and ignored by government when published in 1996 (just as the Congress and White House chose to ignore the Peak Oil testimony in 1974, and varied other testimonies about toxic products, the externalization of “true cost” and so on), the High-Level Threat Panel of the United Nations, with LtGen. Dr. Brent Scowcroft, USAF (Ret.) as the US member, has published a report that identifies and prioritizes the ten high-level threats to mankind.[v]  These are addressed in “World Brain as EarthGame™ (Chapter II-05-01), but because they are so relevant to the prescience of this chapter in 1994, and the urgency of this chapter in 2008, I list the ten high-level threats in the footnote and make two points: first, none of these threats recognize artificial political borders; and second, 80% to 99% of the information needed to addresses these threats is not secret, and generally not in English and not online.  Our secret intelligence world is inside out and upside down, as I explain in the Forbes ASAP article, “Reinventing Intelligence.” (2006); it is time for the public to stop waste.  It’s our money.

There is another important change requiring government diligence, and that is the change in the role of information as the “blood” of every enterprise, every endeavor.[vi] Three aspects of this change merit enumeration: first, each citizen, whether conscious of this fact or not, is increasingly dependent on accurate and timely information in order to be fully functional; second, the “information explosion,” like a major climatic change, is making it difficult for citizens accustomed to slower times and simpler tools to adjust to the requirements of life in the fast lane of the information superhighway; and finally, most citizens, stockholders, and business managers do not realize that we have national telecommunications, power, and financial networks that have been designed without regard to security or survivability.

It is not safe, today, to work and play in cyberspace, and we do not even have a body of law that requires communications and computing providers to assure their customers that their services and products are safe and reliable.[vii]

In brief, we now have an information environment in which every citizen needs to be a collector, producer, and consumer of “intelligence,” or decision-support; and at the same time, we have an extraordinarily complex and fragile information infrastructure which can be destroyed, disrupted, and corrupted by single individuals or small groups now capable of attacking our information infrastructure nodes through electronic means or simple physical destruction— and able to do so anonymously.

Defining the “information commons”

The “information commons” can be viewed-as the public commons for grazing sheep was once viewed in old England-as a shared environment where information is available for public exploitation to the common good. There are three major information “industries” that must contribute their fair share to the commons if the commons is to be robust and useful

The first, relatively unknown to most citizens, is the U.S. intelligence community, traditionally associated with spies and satellites. In fact, between 40% and 80% of the raw data going into the final products of the intelligence community comes from “open sources”—from public information legally available.[viii] Unfortunately, this S25 billion (today $60 billion) dollar-a-year community buries its open source acquisitions in the “cement overcoat” of classification, with the result that most of the useful public information acquired by the intelligence community at taxpayer expense is not, in fact, made available to the citizen-taxpayer.

The second, well known to most citizens as a massive bureaucracy which generates regulations and imposes taxation, is the government. The government is not, however, known for making information available to the public, and this is an extraordinary failure, for it turns out that not only is the government acquiring enormous stores of information at taxpayer expense on every imaginable topic, but the government also serves as a magnet for vast quantities of information that it receives “free” from other governments, from think-tanks, lobbyists, universities, and every other purveyor of a viewpoint desiring to influence the bureaucrats who comprise the government. In the Age of Information, governments must make the transition from the industrial model (vast bureaucracies attempting to deliver goods and services using a hierarchical structure to control resources) to the “Third Wave” model (small expert nodes nurturing distributed centers of information excellence).[ix] There are some significant capabilities within government intended to address this issue, including the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) in the Department of Commerce and the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) in the Department of Defense, but by and large government information is out of control. If the intelligence community is a S60-billion-a-year industry, then the U.S. government (defense only) can safely be assumed to be at least a $900-billion-a­year industry driven by information.

The third “industry” capable of contributing to the information commons is the most important, the most diverse, and the most dynamic—it is the private sector. This has extraordinary implications for both governance and enterprise in the 21st Century, because of four characteristics of “knowledge battle” in the 21st century that governments must recognize if they are to do their part:

  • First, 90-95% of knowledge is open, not secret—governments that continue to believe in secrecy as the paramount element of executive action will fail;
  • Second, the center of gravity is in the civil sector— governments that continue to rely on their military and their police and exclude from consideration the role of private sector capabilities, will fail;
  • Third, information today is distributed—governments that persist in relying upon “central intelligence” structures will fail; and
  • Finally, information is multilingual—governments that do not invest in analysts and observers able to move easily in multilingual environments will fail.

If the intelligence community is a $60-billion-a-year industry, and the U.S. government (defense only) is a $900-billion-a-year industry, the private sector can safely be assumed to be a $2.5-trillion-a-year industry in need of $100 billion or more of early warning and estimative, real-time, and deep discovery commercial intelligence (decision-support).[x]   I want to stress this: if the financial and business communities do not get smart fast and recognize the true costs of their current business practices, they will be insolvent within 10-15 years.

The information continuum

The “information continuum” for any nation is comprised of the nine major information-consuming and information-producing sectors of society: schools, universities, libraries, businesses, private investigators and information brokers, media, government, defense, and intelligence.

It is very important to understand three basic aspects of the information continuum:

  • First, each organization within each sector pays for and controls both experts and data that could contribute to the information commons. Perhaps most importantly from the taxpayer and government point of view, these distributed centers of excellence are maintained at no cost to the government.
  • Second, it is important to understand that what any one organization publishes for sale or for free, whether in hardcopy or electronically, represents less than 20%—often less than 10%—of what they are actually holding in their unstructured databases, email depositories, or in the tacit knowledge of their individual employees.
  • Third, and why a National Information Strategy is essential, it is important for both citizens and bureaucrats to realize that across the information continuum there are “iron curtains” between sectors, “bamboo curtains” between organizations, and “plastic curtains” between individuals within organizations.

The role of government in the 21st century is to provide incentives and to facilitate the sharing and exchange of information between the sectors, the organizations, and the individuals that comprise the national information continuum—and to work with other governments to create an international and transnational information commons.[xi]

Schools and universities have expert faculty and willing student labor as well as significant electronic storage and processing facilities. They also tend to have multilingual populations that can do very fine data entry and filtering work. Two examples are the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), which uses graduate students fluent in Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Arabic to maintain the world’s best database on the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; and Mercyhurst College, which uses undergraduate students to produce newsletters on narcotics trafficking and other trends of interest to law enforcement agencies and whose new Institute for Intelligence Studies (IIS) is both the first and the best in the USA.[xii] Universities can also provide technical assistance and project assistance—one fine example of this capability, which provides direct support to local government agencies as well as small and medium-sized businesses, is the InfoMall developed by Syracuse University.[xiii]

Libraries represent “distributed knowledge” in the best possible way and provide citizens with not only direct access but also with skilled librarians who can serve as intermediaries in global discovery and discrimination. Examples of unique contributions in the library arena include the University of Colorado, which created Uncover Reveal to distribute electronically the tables of contents of all journals it processes; the Special Libraries Association, which brings together corporate and association librarians; and the Library-Oriented List Service developed by Charles Bailey, Jr.

Businesses not only hold significant amounts of data that they generate themselves, including customer preference data that could contribute to aggregate industry studies, but they also pay for great quantities of data, such as market surveys, which could after a short passage of time be eligible for sharing with smaller businesses and universities. One of the challenges facing nations that desire to be attractive to international investors is that of creating “information-rich” environments within which corporations can be globally competitive. One way of doing this is by developing information consortia and protocols for releasing into the information commons such data as might have already been exploited by the company that collected it or paid for it but which could now have a residual value for the larger community.[xiv]

Private investigators, information brokers, and commercial intelligence are addressed separately because they play a unique role in a global economy driven by information, in which information is—as Alvin and Heidi Toffler have noted—a substitute for wealth, violence, labor, and capital.  The capabilities of organizations dedicated to finding and processing information can be extraordinary and worth every penny of investment. It is important to note that one of the most significant changes to occur in relation to government is that the “information explosion” and the free market economy have led to the establishment of private sector capabilities that are superior to traditional government collection and processing mechanisms, even the most secret and expensive programs. Examples of “best in class” commercial intelligence capabilities include the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) with its Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index for identifying the top experts in the world on any topic;[xv] InfoSphere AB in Sweden, with a global network of legal and ethical experts and observers who work on a “just enough, just in time” basis; Deep Web Technologies, which has taken multilingual web exploitation to the next level; All World Languages, which can meet the needs for native language translation capabilities the government does not have; and East View Cartographic, which offers world-class Russian maps of the 90% of the world the USA decided not to map, at the military resolution level of 1:50,000 (1:10 meters) with contour lines.[xvi]

The utility of media information for policy, economic planning, military contingency planning, and law enforcement, is almost always severely underestimated. In fact, journalists—especially investigative journalists like David Kaplan until recently the Chief Investigative Journalist for US News & World Report, or adventure journalists like Robert Young Pelton (host of Discovery Channel, “Come Back Alive”) and Robert Kaplan or Ralph Peters—are extraordinarily talented, energetic, and well-connected individuals who produce very significant and accurate reports that can be integrated into finished reports on virtually any topic. It is also worth noting that most journalists publish only roughly 10% of what they know. James Baker, former Secretary of State, notes in his memoirs that “in terms of fine-turning our own work, staying abreast of the press comments was particularly important.” [xvii] Colin Powell, in his own book, notes that when he was Military Assistant to then Sectary of Defense Casper Weinberger, he preferred the Early Bird with its compendium of newspaper stories to the “cream of overnight intelligence” which was delivered to the Secretary of Defense by a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) courier each morning.[xviii] In a direct and practical example, the U.S. Southern Command, working with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was able—at very low cost—to exploit Latin American investigative reporting such that tactical interdiction missions could be planned and executed based primarily on media reporting.” This is not to say that media sources are superior to classified intelligence, only that they cannot be discounted and are especially useful to those in the private sector and in much of government who do not have authorized access to classified information.[xix]

Finally, we have the government, including state, local, and tribal governments and their information holdings, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community. These are not examined in detail here. However, it bears mentioning that in the absence of a policy supportive of information archiving and public dissemination-and the means for implementing that policy —vast stores of information reaching the U.S. government, including information collected and processed by contractors to the U.S. government, are being “buried” each day, needlessly depriving the public of significant information resources. FirstGov, now going toward its third iteration as GovUSA, is promising, as are the distributed commercially-secure storage and retrieval capabilities of IBM’s Blue Genie, and the Internet Archive.

Intelligence in the age of information

Having explored in general terms the elements of the information commons and the information continuum, we now must focus on the specifics of intelligence in the Age of Information.[xx]  Among the core concepts that government and private sector information managers must adopt and promulgate are: Espionage, whether by governments or corporations, is less cost-effective than intelligent exploitation of open sources. Unfortunately, most intelligence communities are trained, equipped, and organized to do secrets, and they are not well positioned to collect and integrate open sources-public information-into their analysis and production processes. This needs to be changed and is discussed further below.

The customer and the environment are the best target for the application of intelligence methods (requirements analysis, collection management, analytical fusion, forecasting and visualization of information) not a competitor.

Decision-Support (intelligence) is the ultimate objective of all information processes. One must carefully distinguish between data, which is the raw text, signal, or image; information, which is collated data of generic interest; and intelligence, which is information that has been tailored to support a specific decision by a specific pennon about a specific question at a specific time and place. Most government information and so-called intelligence products are so generic as to be relatively useless in directing action. Only when information serves as the foundation for intelligence can its cost be justified.

Distributed information is more valuable and yet less expensive than centralized information. The art of information governance in the 21st century will focus on harnessing distributed centers of excellence rather than on creating centralized repositories of information.

“Just in time” information collection and intelligence production is far less expensive and far more useful to the consumer of intelligence than ‘just in case” collection and archiving.[xxi]

The value of information is a combination of its content, the context within which it is being used, and the timeliness with which it is obtained and exploited. This means that information which has been used by an organization declines in value when taken out of context and after time has passed. This, in turn, means that there is every reason for an organization to barter, share, or sell information (e.g., market research) once its “prime” value point has passed. This is especially important to an organization as a means of increasing its acquisition of new information which-in its own context and time-has greater value than when it was lying fallow in the information commons.

The new paradigm for information acquisition is the ‘diamond paradigm” in which the consumer, analyst, collector, and source are all able to communicate directly with one another. The old paradigm, the ‘linear paradigm” in which the consumer went to the analyst who went to the collector who went to the source, and back up the chain it went, is not only too slow but is also unworkable when you have a fast-moving topic with many nuances that are difficult to communicate. Today and in the future, the information manager' greatest moment is going to be when a consumer can be put in direct touch with exactly the right source who can answer the question directly, at low cost, by creating new knowledge tailored to the needs of the consumer, at that exact moment.

The most important information resource is the employee. Every employee must be a collector, producer, and consumer of information and intelligence. This is called the “corporate hive” model, and it is the foundation for creating a “smart nation.” If every personnel description does not list as task number one: “collect and report information useful to the organization,” and if organizations do not provide a vehicle and a protocol for sharing information among employees, then by definition the organization is “dumb.”[xxii]

Published knowledge is old knowledge. The art of intelligence in the 21st century will be less concerned with integrating old knowledge and more concerned with using published knowledge as a path to exactly the right source or sources that can create new knowledge tailored to a new situation, in real time.[xxiii]

The threat (or the answer) changes depending on the level of analysis. The most fundamental flaw in both intelligence and information today is the failure to establish, for each question, the desired level of analysis. There are four levels of analysis: strategic, operational, tactical, and technical. These, in turn, are influenced by the three major contexts of inquiry: civil, military, and geographic. A simple example from the military sphere will illustrate the importance of this issue. Examining the capability of a specific Middle Eastern country in the mission area of tank warfare, it was found that while the initial threat assessment (by someone unfamiliar with the levels-of-analysis approach) was very high because this country had a great many modem tanks, in fact the threat varied significantly depending on the level of analysis. Only at the technical level (lethality) was the threat high. At the tactical level (reliability), the threat was, in fact, very low because the crews were not trained and had poor morale, and the tanks were generally in storage and not being maintained.  At the operational level (availability), the threat increased to medium because there were large numbers of tanks widely scattered over the country. At the strategic level (sustainability), the threat dropped again to low because it would be almost impossible for this country to carry out extended tank warfare operations, even on its own terrain. This approach can and should be applied to every question for which intelligence—tailored information—is to be provided.[xxiv]

Ethics, ecology, and evolution

Our “Industrial Age” concept of intelligence and information has relied heavily on a centralized, top-down “command and control” model in which the question virtually determined the answer, and the compartmentation of knowledge—its restriction to an elite few—has been a dominant feature of information operations. This chapter suggests that the true value of “intelligence” lies in its informative value, a value which increases with dissemination. The emphasis within our government, therefore, should be on optimizing our exploitation of open sources, increasing the exchange of information among the intelligence community, the rest of government, and the private sector, and producing unclassified intelligence. This could be called the “open books” approach to national intelligence.[xxv]

As we prepare to enter the 21gt century, we must ask ourselves some fundamental questions. How do we define national security? Who is the customer for national intelligence? What is our objective? There appears to be every reason to discard old concepts of national security and national intelligence and to focus on developing integrated nationwide information and intelligence networks, which recognize that national security depends on a solid economy and a stable environment; that the center of gravity for progress in the future is the citizen, not the bureaucrat; and that our objective must be to enable informed governance and informed citizenship, not simply to monitor conventional and nuclear threats.

I am convinced that the “ethics” of national intelligence requires a dramatic reduction in government secrecy as well as corporate secrecy. After 30 years as a government intelligence professional, I am certain that secrets are inherently pathological, undermining reasoned judgment and open discussion.[xxvi]  Secrets are also abused, used to protect bureaucratic interests rather than genuine equities. Consider the following statement by Rodney B. McDaniel, then Executive Secretary of the National Security Council:

      Everybody who's a real practitioner, and I'm sure you're not all naive in this regard, realizes that there are two uses to which security classification is put: the legitimate desire to protect secrets, and protection of bureaucratic turf. As a practitioner of the real world, it's about 90% bureaucratic turf and 10% legitimate protection of secrets a far as I'm concerned. [xxvii]

Thomas Jefferson once said: “A nation's best defense is an educated citizenry.” I firmly believe that in the Age of Information, national intelligence— unclassified national intelligence—must be embedded in every decision, every process, and every organization. The “ethics” of openness needs to apply to the private sector as well as to the government. Universities should not be allowed to hold copyrights or patents if they are not able or willing to disseminate knowledge or commercialize technology. Corporations should not be allowed to monopolize patents to protect archaic production processes.

The environment in which we live, in which we hope to prosper and secure the common defense, is our most important intelligence target and our most neglected intelligence target. Our traditional intelligence community and our more conventional government information community both appear reluctant to take on the hard issues of honestly evaluating the larger context within which we export munitions, keep the price of gasoline under two dollars a gallon, permit unfettered gang warfare and exploitation within our immigrant communities, and so on. At what point are we going to establish an architecture for integrating Federal, state, and local data about the natural environment and for producing useful strategic analyses about specific political, economic, and cultural issues? The following paraphrased observation by Ellen Seidman, Special Assistant to the President on the National Economic Council, is instructive:

CIA reports only focus on foreign economic conditions. They don't do domestic economic conditions and so I cannot get a strategic analysis that compares and contrasts strengths and weaknesses of the industries I am responsible for. On the other hand, Treasury, Commerce, and the Fed are terrible at the business of intelligence — they don't know how to produce intelligence.[xxviii]

Taken in combination, what we do out of ignorance to our environment each day through our existing energy, trade, defense, housing, transportation, and education policies is far worse than a whole series of Chernobyls.

Finally, if the nation is to evolve, if it is to “harness the distributed intelligence of the Nation,” as Vice President Al Gore has taken to saying in his many speeches on the National Information Infrastructure,[xxix]  then we must come to grips with the fact that we are “losing our mind” as a nation and that education is the “boot camp” for national intelligence. We must revitalize our educational system, including corporate training and continuing education programs, and realize that openness is a powerful catalyst for bringing to bear the combined intelligence of every citizen and resident. Instead of “National Intelligence” (spies and satellites) bearing the burden for informing policy, we should rely upon “national intelligence” (smart people) and use our distributed network of educated scholars, workers, information brokers, journalists, civil servants, require a depth and breadth of commitment to information as a commodity; to information as a substitute for time, space, capital, and labor. Intelligence— applied information—is vital to both our defense and our prosperity.

Connectivity is but one of the four major elements of what must soon become a National Information Strategy.[xxx]

For those counseling the incremental approach, “connectivity today, content tomorrow,” one must say: it will be too late. The fragility of our position in the world, in terms of brain drain, budget deficit, and electronic security, all require that we establish a four-point integrated program, as outlined below, immediately.

Connectivity. Such a strategy should build upon the National Infrastructure as its technical foundation, but provide for three additional elements:

Content  Existing government programs, under the auspices of a National Information Foundation within the White House, should provide incentives for all elements of the information continuum (K-12, universities, libraries, business, information brokers, media, government, defense, and intelligence) to put content online; only in this way can we establish a robust national “information commons” and give Robert Reich's symbolic analysts something other than a starvation diet It is vital that we establish a means of nurturing distributed centers of excellence throughout our nation in all topical areas, providing all sectors with incentives to place encyclopedic information into the ‘information commons” and, thus, stimulating productivity. Just 3 billion a year invested in this program could yield enormous productivity and competitiveness gains across our entire private sector. Within government, we should dramatically accelerate NTIS involvement in structuring and digitizing information now in the possession of the government but not .-available to the public.

Coordination. Using a body similar to those now orchestrating NII technical issues, focus on resource management across government and private sector boundaries in both technical and nontechnical (content) arenas. There is no good reason why hundreds of major organizations should be wasting approximately $2 billion a year creating hundreds of variations of a basic multimedia analysis workstation. There is no good reason why hundreds of corporations and other organizations should be wasting enormous sums collecting and processing the same encyclopedic information about foreign countries, companies, and capabilities. Presidential leadership would make a difference and save the nation billions of dollars annually, not only within government but across the private sector.

Communications and Computer Security, We have a house built over a sinkhole The vulnerabilities of our national telecommunications infrastructure to interruption of services as well as destruction, degradation, and theft of data are such that experts feel comfortable in predicting that—unless we are able to establish a major Presidential program in this arena—we will see a series of enormously costly electronic attacks on our major financial and industrial organizations, generally undertaken by individuals who stand to benefit financially from degraded or interrupted performance. The current generation of systems engineers was not raised in an environment where security was a necessary element of design. At every level, through every node, we are wide open-and in a networked environment, one open house contaminates the rest of the network.

Such an integrated program could be established using existing resources. The cost savings from the elimination of redundant and counterproductive investments in information collection and information technology across government departments and into the private sector would also make a substantive difference against the deficit, while inspiring productivity increases that would address our future unfunded obligations now known to exist.[xxxi]


We are a smart people today, but a dumb nation. Our national security and our national attractiveness as a site for international investment which permit our citizens to prosper arc both at risk. We have no alternative but to completely redefine the role of government to emphasize its responsibility for the nurturing of our national information commons, and to redefine national intelligence so as to create a Virtual Intelligence Community in which every citizen is a collector, producer, and consumer of intelligence.  To do this, we must have a National Information Strategy. The Smart Nation Act will give precisely the constellation of mixed public-Congressional-Executive capabilities needed to be the smartest, safest, most productive Nation in the Age of Information.


The Smart Nation Act

Enabling Open-Source Information Acquisition and

Multinational Decision-Support Beneficial to All[xxxii]

  • Expands and enhances the role of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) with direct access to all available information, advanced analytic processing tools, and sufficient personnel to provide each jurisdiction of Congress with unclassified decision-support that can be shared with constituents and the media.
  • Protects and enhances role of the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Sources (ADDNI/OS) by legislatively mandating an Open Source Intelligence Program (OSIP) under the complete control of the Director of National Intelligence, directing that no less than 1% of the total National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIB) be allocated to the selective, collection, processing, and analysis of open sources of information in all languages, which are essential to the mission of the secret intelligence community.  To the extent acceptable to the DNI and the ADDNI/OS, recommends that most raw unclassified information be delivered to a central federal processing facility to avoid duplicative collection by others.
  • Within the Department of State, expands the capabilities of the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy by providing the incumbent with oversight authority of the Open Source Agency (OSA) and the Office of Information Sharing Treaties and Agreements.
  • Creates an Open Source Agency (OSA), as a sister-agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), with the same arms-length independence that Congress wisely mandated to assure journalist independence, but in this case, to assure the integrity of public intelligence.  The small Headquarters could be constructed on the South-Central Campus, adjacent to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), which could serve as a partner in global information peacekeeping, and easily accessible to the employees of the Department of State and the National Intelligence Council as well as others to be based on this campus to be completed and occupied by all parties in 2008.  All information obtained will be a public good freely available to all schoolhouses and chambers of commerce as well as all citizens.
  • Creates an Office of Information Sharing Treaties and Agreements, to negotiate no-cost information sharing treaties with Nations, and no-cost information sharing agreements with non-governmental and private sector organizations including universities world-wide, while also establishing standards facilitating both sharing and semantic web sense-making across all languages.  Could be co-located with the US Mission to the United Nations, or the OSA.
  • Broadens the mandate of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with non-reimbursable funding from the OSA to create an Internet dissemination capability that offers free universal access to all unclassified information acquired by the OSA, with a robust man-machine translation capability that offers free online education in at least 31 major languages as an important new foundation for public diplomacy and information peacekeeping.  Call centers supporting schoolhouses in all languages on all topics will define the newest form of Public Diplomacy.
  • Expands the concept of the National Virtual Translation Center by establishing a Global Virtual Translation Network (GVTN) using commercial open source software now available (www.telelanguage.com), to allow all jurisdictions to handle both 911 calls in all languages, and to do critical translations for immigrant constituencies of Congress, as well as 24/7 live remote interactive translation for diplomats and warriors in the field.  This open source software system can leverage existing employees, and default to low-cost indigenous persons if online volunteers are insufficient.
  • Creates a Global Volunteer Teacher Corps (GVTC) of translators in 183 languages who can use www.telelanguage.com to register their availability to serve as tutors to the 5 billion poor, one cell phone call at a time.
  • Within the Department of Defense, converts the existing Coalition Coordination Center (CCC) at the US Central Command into an Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Field Agency under the oversight of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD SOLIC). The Multinational Decision-Support Center (MDSC) will provide unclassified decision-support to Stabilization, Reconstruction, Humanitarian Assistance, and Disaster Relief missions around the globe, as well as Early Warning and Predictive Analysis in relation to the ten High-Level Threats to Humanity.  All unclassified information will be ported to the high side and into USA.gov.
  • Within the Department of Defense, creates a Center of Excellence for Computational Mathematics, and creates a fully international network that shall evaluate all patents, products, and services that employ computational mathematics, and shall determine the degree of risk to the US Government and to other legitimate enterprises of computational mathematics being used to violate privacy, copyright, security, or other public policy and public safety conventions, regulations, and laws.  The knowledge created by this Center shall be fully and openly available to international standards and other organizations.
  • Authorizes direct decision-support to the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations, and the use of that decision-support to provide Foundations with prioritized recommendations for giving.  Funds an Assistant Secretary General for Decision Support with four deputies and five staff, ten reporting to the Undersecretary of the United Nations for Safety & Security.  The Principal Deputy and the Deputy for Operations shall always be U.S. Citizens, respectively an Ambassador and a Defense Senior Leader.
  • Within the Department of Defense, charters the Secretary of Defense with responsibility for substant6ially expanding Irregular Warfare capabilities, to include a redirection of resources toward Civil Affairs, and the creation of a Transitions Command with a Joint Task Force Concept of Operations for Rapid Response Stabilization, Reconstruction, Humanitarian Assistance, and Disaster Relief.  The concepts of “Peace from Above” and “Peace from the Sea” shall be realized in support of this Joint Task Force.
  • Makes it a federal crime for anyone to use Civil Affairs as a “cover” for any clandestine, covert, illegal, or questionable activities.  Anyone convicted of this offense after due process will be reduced in rank by two grades and be subject to dishonorable discharge from service.
  • Creates fifty state-based Community Intelligence Centers to be manned by the National Guard, and broad networks that permit citizens to report threats (119) and suspicions (114), while also leveraging a global translation network (below) that can do all languages for the 911 system (and the new 119 and 114 systems) across the Nation.  This solves the current lack of a place for bottom-up dots to be collected and analyzed, while providing a channel for distributing global information to all schoolhouses and chambers of commerce as a means of enhancing our national security and global competitiveness at the local level.


[i]An earlier version, written in 1995, appeared in Government Information Quarterly, Volume 13, Number 2, pp 151-173 (Summer 1996). It also appears in The Smart Nation Act: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest  (OSS, 2006).  The second sentence has been added to this chapter, drawn from www.oss.net/OSINT-S.

[ii] Lee Felsenstein, then of the Interval Research Corporation, is the originator of the term “information commons.”

[iii] I am indebted to Dr. Katrina Svensson, of Lund University, who brought to my attention the work on decision-support and information access as a key to national competitiveness. Her views are consistent with those of Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who defines “U.S. companies” as those that employ U.S. citizens and pay U.S. taxes See also Len Oxelheim, “Foreign Direct Investment and the Liberalization of Capital Movements in the Global Race for Foreign Direct Investment,” Prospects for the Future, edited by Len OxeIheim (Berlin: Springer-Veriag, 1993).  See also his. Financial Markets in Transition: Globalization, Investment and Economic Growth. London & NY: Routledge (1996).

[iv] Hackers” are not the threat. As I have noted on many occasions, hackers are a national resource because they are forcing us to acknowledge that “the emperor is naked.” Sherry Turkle in My Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984) examines the origin of “hacking” at MIT and demonstrates conclusively that the hacker ethic is identical to “right stuff” associated with the early astronauts—both push the edge of the envelope striving for excellence. The actual “threat” to our national information infrastructure begins with bad engineering and culminates primarily in authorized users doing unauthorized things. David  Ioove, Karl Seger, and William Von Storch note in Computer Crime: A Crime­Fighter's Handbook (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, 1995) that economic losses associated with computers are attributed as follows: 55% to human error and 20% to physical disruption such as natural disasters or power failure (one could say, poor computer design), 10% to dishonest employees; 9% to disgruntled employees; 4% to viruses; and only 1-3% to outsider attacks.  2007 Note: The Chinese have made major advances in using precision electrical pulses  to neutralize the electronics of satellites, in-flight weapons, and all forms of mobility systems.  See the Memorandum.

[vi] For over 1000 books on this topic and related matters, see my reviews and lists at Amazon.com, which has become an essential starting point for shared knowledge.

[vii] The seminal work in this area is Winn Schwartau, Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway (New York: Thunder Mouth Press. 1994). Thoughtful papers on the vulnerability of specific networks include Maj Gerald R Rust, “Taking Down Telecommunications” (School of Advanced Airpower Studies, 1993); Maj Thomas E. Griffith Jr., Strategic Attack of National Electrical Systems” (School of Advanced Airpower Studies, October 1994); and H.D. Arnold, J. Hyukill, J.Keeney. and A Cameron, “Targeting Financial Systems a Center of Gravity: ‘Low intensity' to ‘No Intensity' Conflict,” Defense Analysis, 10(2, 1994). One major U.S. government agency, extremely competent in computing, intercepted all communications and computing hardware and software reaching its loading docks for a period of one year. It found 500 separate viruses contained in shrink-wrapped products coming straight from the factory.

[viii] The Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Ward Elcock has stated publicly that 80% of the inputs for finished intelligence products come from open sources; the Canadian service also makes it a point to publish unclassified intelligence reports. Although the U.S. intelligence community only acknowledges 40% as the official contribution of open sources, the former Director for Sciences & Technology has stated publicly that the figure is actually 70%.   As a general rule, if a Service is competent in accessing open sources of information, which is not the case with the U.S. Intelligence Community, it should be able to answer 80% of its essential elements of information (EEI) using low-cost legal ethical sources and methods. This does, however, require interaction with foreigners who do not have security clearances, and it is this reality that tends to constrain secret agencies from making the best possible use of open sources of information in all languages.  Since this chapter was first written, over 30,000 pages have been produced by over 750 practitioners of the discipline of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), all of which are readily accessed.  The seminal chapters for the discipline are at OSINT-S and OSINT-O.  See also BASIC & www.oss.net/LIBRARY as well as www.oss.net/CCC and www.oss.net/GNOME.

[ix] Although several authors, including Peter Drucker, have addressed reinvention and reengineering imperatives in relation to the information age, none have done more to help public undemanding than Alvin and Heidi Toffler with their books PowerShift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century (New York: Bantam1990) and War and Anti-War.: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century (Boston MA: Little Brown, 1993).  Most recently, they published Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives (Currency, 2007) which dots the i’s and crosses the t’s on trends they foresaw decades ago, to wit, in a digital era, wealth can be multiplied by sharing information.  Other books make this point as well, here I provide only a few titles:  Barry Carter, Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era (1999); Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization (2003); Tom Stewart,The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (2007).

[x] At the time this was originally drafted, 1995, the U.S. Intelligence Community budget had been cut back from $30 billion a year to $25 billion a year. Today (2007) it is known to be at $60 billion a year, with $8-10 billion of that being for the simple protection of secrets—the cost of storage and security, not the cost of acquisition or exploitation. The deficit is just over a half trillion a year, the debt is at $9 trillion, and we have $40 trillion in unfunded future obligations. The only person in the Nation that seems truly concerned about our actual insolvency as a Nation is the Honorable David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States, and director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

[xi] Since this was written in 1995 and published in 1996, the stated objective of some formidable public advocacy groups has become that of “free universal access to all knowledge.” The author shares that objective for the simple reason that it is the fastest way to unleash the entrepreneurial productive capacity of the five billion poor. Cf. C.

K. Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits Wharton, 2004).  It was this book that persuaded me to create the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network and devote myself to being intelligence officer to the poor.

[xii] Robert Heibel, who received one of the twelve lifetime achievement awards in the field of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) in 2006, was a decade ahead of his time. Today his program, still the best in the world, is being emulated by Johns Hopkins University and others, as the concept of legal intelligence as decision-support begins to prove its value in the business world.

[xiii] Today, a decade later, two individuals stand out: Brewster Kahle, who has extended his Internet Archive to include digitization projects at major libraries around the world; and Larry Brilliant, who has become the Executive Director of Google.org, with a mission of applying information to global challenges. His first investment was in the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, a totally legal, ethical, open endeavor.

[xiv] In the mid-1990’s, during an annual conference of middle-aged hackers, popularly known as the Hackers or THINK Conference (started by Stewart Brand, today managed by Glenn Tenney) there was a discussion of what return on investment one received from volunteering information into the Internet. The general consensus was that for every piece of information that one contributed to the commons, 100 pieces were received in return, of which 10 were actually useful. This is a 10-to-1 noise to signal ratio, but it is also a 10-to-1 substantive return on investment (ROI).   The author is an elected member of this collective.

[xv] This is a good place to note that commercial intelligence is not about knowing how to use such services—it goes up another whole level.  For example, these two indices are not worth buying in hard or softcopy unless you do a lot of citation analysis—it’s much better to use the DIALOG Rank Command on File 7 (for Social Sciences), and to know exactly which information broker  (Bates Information Services) pioneered the least expensive way for extracting exactly the right information to enable direct contact with the top 100 people on any topic.  That in turn feeds into the one-pager for the CEO or asset portfolio manager and it is that one-page, representing the process of requirements definition, collection management, automated and human analysis, and acutely concise presentation, that is commercial intelligence.

[xvi] Most of the companies mentioned in the original article have fallen by the wayside. The field is wide-open now, and most interestingly, as discussed in supra note 7 and by Business Week in a cover story, “The Power of Us” (20 June 2005), individuals are finding that voluntary intellectual labor produces income and benefits no one ever imagined previously. Lego Corporation, in an example offered by Business Week, received 1,600 engineering hours free from loyal fanatic customers eager to help design new systems.

[xvii] James A. Baker, III, The Politics of Diplomacy (New York: O.P. Putnam's Sow, 1995), p. 154.

[xviii] Colin Powell, My American Journey (Random House, 1995)., p. 293.

[xix] This exciting story, by the principal investigator at Los Alamo National Laboratory, is contained in James Holden-Rhodes, Sharing the Secrets: Open Sources and the War on Drugs (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Pre, 1994). The various laboratories of the Department of Energy are, in fact, the nation’s most important open source asset, and very important examples of why we can no longer afford to compartment classified information apart from “rest of government” information.

[xx] My keynote speech to the Association for Global Strategic Information (AGSI) contained many of these operational concepts and has been reprinted as “Access: The Theory and Practice of Competitor Intelligence,” Journal of AGSI (Ju1y 1994). My most developed work in this area, is my white paper, “‘Access: Theory and Practice of Intelligence in the Age of Information.” (October 26, 1993).

[xxi] Paul Evan Peters, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, is the originator of this concept.

[xxii] Kevin Kelly, Out of Control: The Rise of the Neo-Biological Civilization (Reading, MA Addison-Wesley 1994), provide a brilliant exposition of why, in a very complex global system driven by information, organic self-healing and relatively autonomous elements must be accepted and nurtured. It is impossible to control complexity in a centralized preplanned fashion. Those concerned about the fragility of our information infrastructure would do well to read Kelly's work, a well as one predating him by 10 years, Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (New York: Basic Books, 1984). Simple systems have single points of failure fairly easy to diagnose. Complex systems have multiple points of failure that interact in unanticipated ways. Today we have a constellation of very complex information systems, all built by the lowest bidder and without regard to the dangers of authorized users doing unauthorized things. Robert Steele is the originator of the terms “smart nation,” “information arbitrage,” and “information peacekeeping.”

[xxiii] We keep forgetting that books were generally written as dissertations or started roughly 10 years before finally appearing in print; articles are generally 10 months or so old; and even newspaper stories are at least a day if not 3-10 days old. Within academic circles, it is well-known that if one is not receiving the drafts of works in progress and the pre-prints, it is simply not possible to be a serious competitor.

[xxiv] At the strategic level, civil allies, geographic location, and military sustainability are critical  At the operational level civil instability, geographic resources, and military availability  At the tactical level, civil psychology, geographic atmosphere, and military reliability determine outcome. At the technical level, civil infrastructure, geographic atmosphere, and military lethality are the foundation for planning and employment. This is an original analysis model developed by the author while serving as the Deputy Director and Special Assistant (senior civilian) in the new Maine Corps Intelligence Center (today a Command) in Quantico, Virginia At the time, examining all products from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intolerance Agency then in hand, the author discovered that none of the products purported a specific decision and that none of the products was related to any specific level of analysis.. Everything was generic, topical, a “snapshot,” virtually useless to a policymaker or commander. Little has changed since then, one reason why some policymakers feel they can define reality in ideological terms—and a major reason why we need an ethical public intelligence capability.

[xxv] This section draws on a full-length article, “E3i: Ethics, Ecology, Evolution, and Intelligence,” published in the Whole Earth Review (Fall 1992).

[xxvi] Although Alvin and Heidi Toffler have called me “the greatest enemy of secrecy” in the United States (in their book War and Anti-War),I am only an enemy of unnecessary secrecy because it costs a great deal—not only in dollars but also n terms of lost opportunities. My complete views are set forth in my “Testimony and Comments on Executive Order 12356, ‘National Security Information.'” provided by invitation to the Presidential Inter-Agency Task Force on National Security Information, Department of Justice, June 9, 1993. I believe that we should all be strong advocates of “no classification without justification.”

[xxvii] He was speaking in 1990 to a group of government employees selected for increased responsibility and attending a Harvard Executive Program Cited in Thomas P. Coaklcy (ed.), C4I: Issues of Command and Control (National Defense University, 1991),  p. 68.

[xxviii] Seidman was speaking to the Open Source Lunch Club on January 1, 1994. Her observations were subsequently reported in OSS Notices 94001 dated February 21, 1994

[xxix] This phrase was borrowed from the author by Mike Nelson, then an aide to Al Gore.

[xxx] Among my many speeches and publications in this area, the following are especially pertinent: “National Intelligence Strategy: Needed initiatives,” speech to the National Defense University Foundation National Industrial Security Association Symposium on The Global Information Explosion A Threat to National Security, May 16, 199S (with Alvin Toffler, Bo Cutter, Emmett Paige, Robert Johnson, and Bill Studeman); “National Intelligence: The Community Tomorrow?,” speech to the Security Affairs Support Association Spring Symposium, National Security Agency, April 20, 1995; “Private Enterprise Intelligence: let’s Potential Contribution to National Security,” paper presented to the Canadian Intelligence Community Conference on Intelligence Analysis and Assessment, October 29, 1994; and “A Critical Evaluation of U.S. National Intelligence Capabilities” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Summer1993). I have also provided invited testimony to the Commission on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Much of this material is contained in the first book, ON INTELLIGENCE.

[xxxi] One authority, Paul Strassmann, estimates that in information housekeeping costs alone $22 billion could be saved over seven years. This is apart from policy savings derived from improved intelligence support. Strausmann has been Director of Defense Information and Chief Information Offer of the Xerox Corporation and other major companies. His books, including The Politics of Information Management. The Business Value of Computers, and Information PayQff, and are all exceptional.

[xxxii] Drafted in partnership with Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT-02), a book on this subject, THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest (OSS, 2006) is available free online at www.oss.net, or from Amazon.com.

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