Read any government security document, any of the national security strategies produced by a now large number of states and you will get a feel for the proliferation in the number of threats they feel they face. The preamble will normally contain a paragraph explaining that after the Cold War or after 9/11 everything got a little more complex, a little less explicable.
Heightened complexity in the international system appears to have coincided (and is only partially causally linked) to the increased levels of activity/ improvements in technology, social media etc. The rate at which information can be collected has increased, even if the sort of information being collected is broadly the same.
The problem of accounting for events like the Algerian gas-plant siege a few weeks ago (or the development of the insurgency in Syria, or in the hijacking of the state in Mali) for state-based security organisations is that their resources allocated in such a way that it logical for them to be looking the wrong way when this happens. It would be unlikely – although we can’t be sure, obviously – that there’s a bod in every security community across Europe pondering the safety of gas-plants in the ME and Maghreb. So, when this happens the information required to rapidly come down the pipe needs to be hastily scoped and drawn in. And this got me thinking about Robert Steele’s ‘open source everything’ manifesto (I declare the interest that Robert has written a chapter for the Routledge Handbook on Intelligence that I, Mike Goodman and Claudia Hillebrand have compiled and which will be in a good bookshops from August, and that he and I have corresponded at length about these issues), and how it could be used or applied in these circumstances. I have my own take on this, and I’ve provided the link above to the source: Robert also has a good search on his name I think so I’d guess he’ll correct me in comments too! But my wonder is more in the aggregation of huge quantities of information.
ROBERT STEELE: I am honored to have a scholar of Rob Dover’s quality thinking critically about secret and open source intelligence. While Rob is diplomatic, not calling the existing system into question, I do not share his gift, and treasure people with his gift that can translate my blunt truths. Since I began the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) fight in 1988, finally leaving government in 1993 to take the fight global, I have been pointing out that collecting everything at great expense, while not processing it and not making sense of it, is criminal idiocy. The National Security Agency (NSA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and Cyber-Command are three “poster kids” for persistent expensive worthless endeavors. Since at least 1994 when I visited Singapore, among many other countries, to communicate my vision for creating a “Smart Nation” with fully integrated networks of education, intelligence, and research, I have been spreading the gospel of “just enough, just in time” intelligence. Alessandsro Politi, who coined the term “intelligence minuteman” at OSS ’92, and subsequently published an article on this vital concept, has been one of hundreds who have inspired me. The fact is that the US secret intelligence world is a dinosaur.
Nothing has improved since the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association first published my first book, ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (2000). The same concerns that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has in the late 1990’s persist today. The same concerns that Jim Schlesinger brought up in the 1970’s, persist today. There is no accountability across the secret world, and that is one reason I believe the time has come to shut down the NRO, NSA, Cyber-Com, and of course of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, a complete waste of time and money with no redeeming virtues. We need an Open Source Agency (OSA) under Department of State auspices, funded by DoD, and on that foundation, we can restore the traditional role of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and rebuild all of the traditional disciplines (eliminating Measurements & Signatures Intelligence (MASINT), which Mike Flynn should be using as a bill-payer), using the OSA to leverage commercial capabilities across all the disciplines, and developing new and truly covert capabilities if and only if we cannot FIND, GET, or BUY what we need to know.
It breaks my heart to see the US Government so incapacitated by ideology and corruption that it is incapable of creating and attending to ethical evidence-based decision-support. We do not lack for wealth or options in the USA — we do not even lack for integrity. What we lack is leaders with integrity who embrace integrity as the non-negotiable foundation for doing the right thing, instead of the wrong things. I will also observe that the USA is about to lose all of its traditional alliances. All over the world, regionalism, sub-regionalism, and secession movements are emergent. The ONLY common ground that might keep us all together is an Open Source Agency that inspires Open Source Everything (OSE) and M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making). It troubles me the established civil servants “leaders” in the US Government are content to remain deaf, dumb, and blind. It does not have to be this way.