More Than Espionage: Open-source intelligence should be part of solution
By Andrew M. Borene
Here’s some food for thought: White House policymakers and Congress can help develop an increasingly robust national intelligence capacity by investing new money in the pursuit of a centralized open-source intelligence (OSINT) infrastructure.
Phi Beta Iota: In 1992 it was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and The MITRE Corporation that destroyed the emergent Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) movement. CIA refused to deal with OSINT unless everyone associated with it was a U.S. citizen with a SECRET clearance (we do not make this stuff up), and MITRE misled the US Government in such a way as to promote their Open Source Information System (OSIS) that ended up providing analysts mediocre high-side access to six open sources (LEXIS-NEXIS, Oxford Analytics, Jane’s Information Group, Predicast and two other non-memorable sources). The US Marine Corps, which was the proponent for OSINT based on the lessons learned in creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center (MCIC), argued for an outside the wire center of excellence that would have access to all sources in all languages (in part because the “experts” flogged by contracting firms may have been expert once, but are not “the” expert on any given topic for any given day–for that we prize European and Chinese and Latin American graduate students about to receive their PhD).
During his tenure as Director of the Community Open Source Program Office (COSPO), Dr. Joe Markowitz, the only person ever to actually understand OSINT within CIA, closely followed by Carol Dumaine, founder of the Global Futures Partership, tried four years in a row, with the support of Charlie Allen, then Deputy Director for Collection (DDCI/C), to get an OSINT program line established. Four years in a row, Joan Dempsey, then Deputy Director for Community Management (DDCI/CM) refused. The secret IC is incapable of creating an Open Source Agency (OSA) as called for by the 9-11 Commission, and any money it puts in that direction will be wasted unless the Simmons-Steele-Markowitz recommendations briefed to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are respected.
Dr. Markowitz is also the author of the OSINT portions of vital Defense Science Board reports such as Transitions to and from Hostilities, and is unique within the CIA alumni for understanding both the needs of defense and the possibilities of OSINT. COSPO was an honest effort–CIA/OSC is not.
CIA and LEXIS-NEXIS still do not get it–they both want a monopoly on a discicpline they do not understand and cannot monopolize. The US Government is a BENEFICIARY of OSINT, not its patron, and any endeavor that is not outside the wire, transparent, and under diplomatic and civil affairs auspices, is destined to fail, just as CIA/OSC has failed all these years, just as LEXIS-NEXIS, Oxford Analytica, and Jane’s Information Group have failed on substance all these years. They profit from government ignorance, they do not profit from actually connecting the government to sources that are largely free, not online, and not in English.
Since 2005 the CIA Open Source Center (OSC) has done nothing of note other than run 100 T-1 lines into Reston for its re-cycled Foreign Broadcast Information System (FBIS) employees to dabble with. They still cannot translate a Dari document captured in Afghanistan in less than 10 days, and they were worthless in the recent Haiti earthquake. Their leader Doug Naquin made so many promises (still unkept) to the U.S. military that we must consider him severely lacking in either common sense or ethics. We asked General Mike Hayden to stop Naquin from misleading the U.S. military, to no avail. This is one reason the U.S. military does not have a defense open source intelligence program outside the U.S. Special Operations Command J-23 that we helped create. Everything else is contractor butts-in-seats (US citizens with SECRET clearances) and so pedestrian as to inspire tears of frustration in hardened real-world professionals. CIA/OSC–and the abdication of the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Source (ADDNI/OS)–neither the first nor the second actually qualified to do the job that needs to be done–have stymied ethical professional development of this discipline since 2005, just as their CIA predecessors destroyed OSINT (aka “Open Sores”) time and again from the 1970’s onwards. The history of opposition is clear and documented (second link)
The Army, pressured by then Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT-02), paid lip service to OSINT in the 2005-2006 timeframe, but their mediocre OSINT doctrine is written by contractors who know nothing about the topic and have no funding for expert assistance–they have to go around begging and end up relying on contractors who don’t actually understand the full spectrum of OSINT possibilities and especially multinational information-sharing and sense-making possibilities. As a general observation, funding given to Army for OSINT has been mis-directed toward new facilities (Fort Leavenworth), new computers (National Ground Intelligence Center), and new hires that surf the web without actually being subject-matter-experts (everywhere else).
The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, both having much to gain from OSINT, have been pre-occupied and inattentive. The Departments of Energy, Commerce, and others have been oblivious. We attribute all of this to the fact that no one holds our political leaders and policy makers accountable for making uninformed decisions. In the absence of intelligence, ideology rules.
A contractor a year ago said “everyone has an OSINT cell now.” This is true. What is also true is that 80% of these are incompetent, wasteful, mis-managed frauds, nothing more than the cut and waste “lite” version of the $75 billion a year cut and paste waste we taxpayers fund on the secret side, whose motto is “Accountability? We don’t need no stinking accountability.” Astonishingly, neither the DNI nor USD (I) Actual appear interested in the FACT that an OSINT baseline would immediately set the gold standard for requirements definition, collection management, and all-source production across the secret world, and that would yield , in our estimation, a 10 to 1 return on investment as the DNI and USD (I) Actual could begin to leverage this substantive evidence to shut down the most wasteful parts of the secret world.
What is also true is that CIA/OSC is not now and never will be capable of Multinational Engagement. There are 90 countries out there with OSINT capabilities, a direct result of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) generals and colonels in charge of military intelligence (66 of them as we recall) being briefed on OSINT and then acting on that message aided by NATO’s funding of the NATO OSINT Handbook, the NATO OSINT Reader, and the NATO Guide to Intelligence Exploitation of the Internet. [Side note: DIA/DI “leaders” rave about these as the gold standard, and yet have no clue as who actually created two of the three, someone they have never met but believe to be the devil incarnate based on slander from CIA/OSC.]
Together with Dr. Ran Hock‘s on-going efforts, Arno Reuser‘s master librarianship in The Netherlands, and a few isolated pockets of excellence here and there, the NATO document are the gold standard–hence it merits comment that the then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Adm Tom Wilson, USN, fought furiously to stop NATO from getting into OSINT, just as the US secret world fights furiously to keep the United Nations from implementing the Brahimi Report and High Level Panel recommendations to create what we have developed with UN employees, the United Nations Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN).
In Africa and South America there are regional networks emerging, and CIA’s latest insult to Venezuela will aid Brazil in its suggestion that Venezuela fund the UNASUR segement of UNODIN while we are all hoping that South Africa, which sponsored the first African Regional Early Warning and Open Source Information Sharing Network might follow the model and do the same for Africa.
CIA/OSC has yet to learn what Harrison Owen, inventor of Open Space Technology [and master of ceremonies at a future Open Space on Re-Inventing Intelligence, that will be free and open to all] speaks to in his latest book,Wave Rider: Leadership for High Performance in a Self-Organizing World: OSINT is a wave to be ridden, CIA cannot control that wave; CIA cannot own that wave; CIA hasn’t even learned how to swim within that wave, much less surf it. For that, we must have Multinational Engagement while also creating a Smart Nation that connects all human minds to all information in all languages all the time. In our view, only the Department of Defense (DoD) has the funding and flexibility to get this right–however, the jury is still out on whether DoD actually wants to be informed by reality with respect to policy, acquisition, and operations.
Who DoD selects as the Defense Intelligence Senior Leader (DISL) for the Defense Intelligence Open Source Program Office (DIOSPO) will determine whether OSINT will be brought to its full operational capacity in the USA, or instead left to Brazil, China, India, and others to pioneer. If the latter, we anticipate a Voice TO America, and we anticipate Americans losing their Science & Technology primacy as well as much of their voice in international and regional forums. A great deal is at stake here, we are not at all certain that our leaders are really aware of how much is riding on this one decision. We know who CIA/OSC wants. We know who DIA/DI wants. Their choices will confirm business as usual and contribute nothing of substance to the future of national intelligence, national security, or national competitiveness. It’s up to D/DIA and USD (I) Actual now, whatever their decision, we are detached from the outcome, having done our best for 21 years to help the USA get it right. [UPDATE: An inoffensive gentleman was selected, business as usual rules.]
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability is our last word on this subject. As Dr. Dr. Dave Warner says, we must save the willing first. That leaves out most of the USG. St.