Am quite happy to help you as very few really have a mastery of this emerging pillar of 21st Century intelligence. I am posting this answer at Phi Beta Iota to help others, and will gladly respond to any further questions you might have, respecting your individual privacy.
01) In identifying and discussing the mechanisms of contemporary terrorism (organisational system, communication, etc.) and establishing a scorecard for how each of the disciplines does against them, you will be severely handicapped because those who spend great sums on secret sources and methods will lie to themselves, to their policy masters, and to the public, in order to protect those budgets. In my experience, most terrorist events are false flag events organized by the Mossad, the CIA, the FBI, or the local national intelligence or security force, generally under the guise of a drill that has unwitting “patsies” — and of course labeling legitimate opposition and insurgent groups as “terrorists.”
The other problem is of course blatant dishonesty, where everyone in opposition to their government — including now US citizens — can be labeled a terrorist and killed without trial. We even have Senators who should know better talking about “so-called Americans” as if their citizenship were some how invalidated by opinion. At the same time, we have governments that make decisions based on bribes from the recipients of taxpayer money, rather than on the needs of the taxpayer, and secret intelligence really does not matter, except as a crutch to justify spending money in criminally insane ways.
It is important to emphasize that most of those in the secret world are inherently honest well-intentioned people, they simply lose touch with reality. Here is an excellent quote from Daniel Ellsberg lecturing Henry Kissinger in the 1970's:
The danger is, you’ll become like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours” [because of your blind faith in the value of your narrow and often incorrect secret information].
For other relevant quotes, visit the About page. To understand terrorists as revolutionaries with righteous legitimate complaints, see my graphic and short paper below. Moral and intellectual rigor is the first requirement to be an intelligence professional, and I fear that most have lost it, confusing loyalty with integrity and obedience with intelligence — it is not helpful that too many intelligence analysts are children who have not proven themselves first in the open source world.
The real question in my mind is this: how can the public ascertain if the terrorism threat is real? Why does the public so easily believe a pack of lies from the government — the biggest one recently being the alleged death of Bin Laden, who actually died in 2001 as best as most of us can tell? At what point do secret sources and methods become so devoid of integrity as to no longer be intelligent, and to be a clear and present danger to any constituency of citizens? When can Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) be used to make it crystal clear that what is being done in the public name and at public expense is not in the public interest and should be stopped?
It is now KNOWN that the elements of the US Government assassinated Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. The first by an Army sniper detailed to the FBI, the second by a CIA team led by George Bush Senior with Cuban exiles trained and equipped by CIA to kill Castro, repurposed. Oswald was a patsy. So also do we now know that the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was at best an Israeli atrocity, and at worst an initiative of Lyndon B. Johnson to provide a pretext for war against Egypt. We now know the Tonkin Gulf was a false non-existent attack. So the real question for me at the graduate level is NOT “Is OSINT better than secret sources and methods for any given target (it is — providing 80-95% of what is needed)?” but rather, “What is the role of OSINT in keeping each of the eight tribes (academia, civil society including labor and religion, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit) HONEST?” Every one of the eight tribes has lost its integrity in the past fifty years. It's time we start the long road back toward government Of, By, and For We the People, fully informed by ethical evidence-based OSINT. Each of the eight tribes has a role to play, and that is the primary point that most in government intelligence simply do not get.
The PRIMARY role of secret sources & methods should be in counterintelligence (mostly defensive but also offensive — too few know the difference) — absolutely ruthless counterintelligence against bankers and religious zealots as well as corrupt legislators and acquisition program managers. I am so very sad to say here, publicly, that the crimes against humanity of banks and religions and governments make transnational organized crime look with a social club just minding its own business and avoiding the criminal influence of banks, religions, and governments. Like gypsies, crime families recognize no sovereign, and in passing, have avoided the fate that has befallen all of us, to be bankrupted by our own governments selling out to the banks. In the west, Iceland alone has gotten it right in the aftermath of decades of government without intelligence or integrity.
As I observed recently in a cursory review of PhD thesis on OSINT, OSINT is a philosophy (Open Source Everything or OSE), an ethical practice (whole systems and true cost economics in an M4IS2 framework — Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making), and a way of being right with God, with country, with community, with self. When secrecy becomes toxic, it is the greater enemy, and OSINT is the only legal ethical sustainable antidote.
In a round-about way that will be addressed more carefully in the book that is now under development online, I am getting to the role of intelligence as the soul of a nation, embedded with education on one side and research on the other. Intelligence without integrity is not intelligence. Governance without intelligence is not governance, it is organized crime.
02) The complete answer comparing OSINT to secret sources and methods is contained the following that you may quote liberally from. The secret world calls OSINT “Open Sores” and they will be quick to say that I do not understand how good secret sources are, but the fact is they are mistaken, wrapped up in their own self-deception. Put to the test, they fail. You will also find my many graphics useful, below is just one, use the directory to explore — any thesis that has at least ten graphics is better than one without. Graphics Directory (List)
NOTE: The chapter on OSINT in your Handbook is the operational level chapter, a revision of the NATO OSINT Handbook that I wrote for NATO and SACLANT. The strategic chapter, ignored by most academics who are not seriously diligent or who pander to the secret world and lack the integrity to think for themselves, is the chapter above in Volume II of Loch Johnson's priceless five volume series on Strategic Intellignece. It merits mention that the official CIA review in Studies in Intelligence called my chapter in the Handbook of Intelligence Studies “bizarre” because I stated they were not taking OSINT seriously. Let me be clear: The CIA Open Source Center (OSC) does less than 10% of what is possible, and compounds its ineptitude by classifying its products. It does almost nothing useful for Whole of Government and for action officers across all policy areas. It is totally oblivious to and therefore contributes nothing to OSC and M4IS2, being devoid of understanding of how to nurture common understanding and multilateral solutions across all boundaries through the sharing of information and the nurturing of participatory sense-making in real time.
03) “The value of OSINT in comparison with secret sources in combating terrorism” is certainly a legitimate topic, but most will fail to address this properly because they will not understand that terrorism is a tactic, not a threat, and a proper response to terrorism demands that the government be legitimate in the first place, something that few governments outside the Nordics, Netherlands, Singapore and one or two others can claim.
At the strategic level, terrorism is a symptom of illegitimate government that is failing to govern properly.
At the operational level terrorism is a means of demonstrating the incapacity of government to protect the larger population, and also a means of pushing stupid governments (as most are) into repressive measures that make the terrorists' point for them.
At the tactical level OSINT is extremely helpful when managed properly, which is to say, as part of HUMINT, not as TECHINT, and when used with deep historical, cultural, and neighborhood level intelligence and counter-intelligence.
At the technical level terrorism cannot be defeated. From cyberspace to trains to water supplies, if enough people become angry at the government, it will fall. I will make just two points here, the pedestrian minds will squeal their disagreement:
a) Terrorism “research” has been largely misdirected and inattentive to both ethics and context. There are of course some good bits — I particular like the mathematical approaches out of the University of Southern Denmark (terrorists are like submarines and Operations Research really does work) — but over-all, terrorism “research” is dressed up make-work — it avoids asking the right questions, devising a holistic model for inquiry, and it totally avoids the true cost of everything as a foundation for actually understanding who benefits and who loses in this chimera of the Global War on Terrorism.
b) The economics of terrorism are very straight-forward. Although 9/11 was not a terrorist attack in the conventional sense (Dick Cheney took it over, WTC was controlled demolitions and the Pentagon was a missile with pre-planted explosives inside the building going off prematurely — the video is out showing the missile 50-100 feet from the building when it explodes outward), the economics used there are helpful. Had it been a terrorist attack, the terrorist investment was $500,000 and the criminally insane US over-reaction, driven by ideology and special interests, has cost over three trillion dollars so far. There is not a government on the planet that can survive a persistent terrorism campaign — terrorism as a tactic is the ultimate asymmetric tactic precisely because terrorism costs next to nothing and countering terrorism falls to two extremes: either be a legitimate government that respects diverstiy and does not do predatory capitalism, unilateral militarism, and virtual colonialism; or establish a police state / Administrative State, and wage several wars to get the angry poor white guys and black guys off the street. Only the first option is sustainable.
For me the more interesting question is this: “In light of the 2004 identification and prioritization of the ten high-level threats to humanity, within which terrorism falls ninth and is included only because of the potential of mass catastrophes, why is the USA able to waste over one trillion dollars a year on a “Global War on Terrorism” and its related inter-state conflict occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia, along with its extrajudicial drone and special operations assassination progrems?” Is there a role that OSINT can play to demand that governments devise strategies, policies, and programs in accord with ethical evidence-based decision-support?
I will tell you right now that financial terrorism by Goldman Sachs and the City of London is vastly more detrimental to the Earth and to humanity than any possible global network of “terrorists.” The control of language is the first step in replacing democracy with tyranny. A good example of this is the Mexican response to the US request that Mexico declare Cuba a national security security threat. The anecdotal response by the Mexican President at the time puts the USA and its idiocy in place: “If I were to declare Cuba a national security threat to Mexico, 40 million Mexicans would die laughing.”
So the real value of OSINT — decision support not to be confused with the Open Source Information (OSIF) that most people produce today — is in calling the government to account, and questioning its ethics, its priorities, and its activities at our expense and on our behalf. This applies to ALL threats and ALL polities. What the USA does today in relation to terrorism is a study in how not to serve the public interest….at great expense, with moral costs into the future no one in the US Government appears to recognize.
I value questions such as yours, as I am continually refining my thinking toward the future. OSINT died in gestation– it has been badly developed by most, and it is clear that government is not capable of transforming in any serious way. This is why people are routing around government, and there is more and more tax avoidance and community currency emerging — the government simply cannot be trusted to get it right. So resilience demands that we create our own OSE/M4IS2 capabilities within which OSINT is a very small part — capabilities from the bottom up, and that we engage, respect, and learn from multinational sources and methods in a manner that the secret world refuses to contemplate. Hybrid governance, based on ethical evidence-based decision-support, is where I am focusing my energy. Full-Spectrum HUMINT with fully integrated OSINT, is the future of intelligence, NOT increased waste on technical collection with mediocre processing.
Happy to get more questions. Happy to Skype for a group of you at any time, especially if you can record it and post it to the web, I need to do more of that.
With best wishes,