The core page for the beginning of an excellent Nordic adventure is 2016 Robert Steele on OSINT – Why and How. Note the two new videos (13 minute interview, 59 minute lecture) added 20160422.
This Answers page will be updated as new questions come in.
IDEN A: 2 Questions
IDEN B: 4 Questions
1) You said in your lecture that the biggest obstacle to OSINT is money. More specifically money going to politicians and contractors. Later in the lecture you said that today, the role of the governmental CI is to facilitate that the private sector can produce intel and that the private sector should a virtual extension. I assume contractors are part of the private sector, so what do you mean by the obstacle being money going to contractors?
In the USA “contractors” are a lower form of life not to be confused with the eight tribes (graphic). Contractors (good people trapped in a bad system) are a form of parasite. Their sole objective is to make money from government without being held accountable, as government is not held accountable, for actually producing value. Below are three links that expand my vision for an honest focused endeavor by the Nordics.
2) There’s a lot of discussion about how and where OSINT should be placed from an organisational point of view – should it be a stand-alone function/silo, should it be part of an existing intel function eg HUMINT, or should it perhaps be an integrated part of all intel types – HUMINT, SIGINT, COMINT, MASINT etc. What’s your view on this?
This is an extremely important question, perhaps the most important question, and it does to the root of why the US and NATO and European models have failed. Before sharing the comments of BGen Cox on this (also at the beginning of http://tinyurl.com/2016-OSINT) let me draw two analogies from the UN.
- UN pilots used to be assigned to missions, to the point that mission leaders could order to pilots to execute unsafe take-offs, landings, and exceed weight limits. The UN finally created a Department of Field Support (DFS) and pilots are owned by DFS Aviation — pilots can now refuse an illegal or unsafe order from a local authority with no understanding of aviation safety best practices and be protected by their centralized authority.
- UN analysts do not have this protection. I was the senior UN analyst for security for the UN commission against corruption in Guatemala, and I worked for a very nice man who was also totally without ethics. He was constantly asking me to fabricate a higher threat than actually existed so he could capture a larger portion of the commission's budget for security — too many people, too many cars, too many esoteric technical collection devices, too many exotic weapons. He was a fiefdom unto himself. The UN needs the UN Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN) as an autonomous truth-based provider of evidence-based decision support, ideally with a Nordic “core” based in Copenhagen that provides quality control. In my experience, all the UN analysts are too subject to pressure from their bosses to conform to the prevailing political views, and not allowed to go wherever the truth might lead them, which would include blowing the whistle on lies from Member states to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.
Here is what BGen Cox, the sponsor of the NATO OSINT program from 2000-2004 or so, said to me in an email in 2013:
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.
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.
Separately, in the two briefings, 2009 DoD OSINT Leadership and Staff Briefings, I tried to point out to Jim Clapper, then Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, that he needed to inventory what all the difference elements were spending on “OSINT” (including contractors spending on OSINT under “cost plus” contracts that do not reward effectiveness, only spending).
I hope I mentioned the Dutch concept of centralized discovery and decentralized exploitation. It is vastly more cost effective, knowledge-intensive, and ethical to do as I have long recommended (since 1992) and as BGen Cox finally recognized (2013): we need a center of excellent for OSINT that cannot be corrupted by its own customers. Indeed Denmark could and should offer to create the Nordic OSINT Centre as a NATO and then a UN Centre of Excellence, and become the teacher to all other regional associations including Central Asia, African Union, Gulf Council, and so on.
In my experience, and citing the US Defense Intelligence Agency, the US Central Intelligence Agency, and the US Army specifically, when OSINT is embedded as a controlled capability within the customer elements, it becomes a “tea service” rather than a full partner, and it is under-funded, under-respected, and under-utilized.
I would point out that one of the legitimate reasons the US secret world has refused to be serious about OSINT is that they believe that legal open sources of information should be acquired and exploited by the customers (e.g. Department of Agriculture) and that the secret world is in the business of secrets rather than decision-support. I wrote the below article addressing this point:
- Steele, Robert, “Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else,” CounterPunch, March 1, 2009.
What the secret world has never been willing to acknowledge — for lack of imagination mostly, but also for lack of integrity in a holistic sense — is that the customers do not know how to execute the “craft of intelligence” about which I have written a great deal, below are four starting points.
- Steele, Robert. “The Evolving Craft of Intelligence,” in Robert Dover, Michael Goodman, and Claudia Hillebrand (eds.). Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies, Oxford, UK: Routledge, July 31, 2013.
- Steele, Robert. “Open Source Intelligence (Strategic),” in Loch Johnson (ed.), Strategic Intelligence: The Intelligence Cycle, Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007, Chapter 6, pp. 96-122.
- Steele, Robert. “New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence,” in Robert David Steele, The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political–Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption, Oakton, VA: Open Source Solutions, Inc., 2002, Chapter 15, pp. 147-161.
- Steele, Robert. “Threats, Strategy, and Force Structure: An Alternative Paradigm for National Security,” in Steven Metz (ed.), Revising the Two MTW Force Shaping Paradigm, Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College Press, 2001, Chapter 9, pp. 139-163.
To create a Smart Nation we need, ideally in my view, three things:
a) a Multinational Intelligence Centre that can draw on national “eight tribe” intelligence centres, all in service to the public as well as the secret services and the private sector business interests seeking to enhance prosperity (not including contractors who simply seek to capture government money);
b) an Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) innovation hub, ideally at a major university such as the Technical University in Copenhagen, with nodes and joint industry-academia-NGO partnership cells everywhere; and
c) a Minister Plenipotentiary reporting directly to the Prime Minister with oversight of the Ministers and agencies responsible for education, intelligence, and research across all boundaries within any given nation's budget. Such a Minister Plenipotentiary would have multiple priorities including the modernization of education away from rote education and toward a mix of engaged field work and projects with distance learning “one cell call at a time” as well as structured face to face classroom time; the deliver of true cost economics to every citizen via the hand-held application shown in the graphic below; a ruthless commitment to using information to eradicate the 50% waste from every aspect of society starting with agriculture, energy, health, housing, security, and water; and implied in the latter, an equally ruthless ability to do quality control such that savings are achieved in secret intelligence collection and processing and analysis on the basis of enhanced use of lower-cost Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
In passing, here are two brutal critiques of the US military that no newspaper, think tank, or policy maker dares contemplate — General Mike Flynn, the last director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who was fired for trying to tell the truth, tells me he agrees with most of the second, we have not discussed the first.
- Steele, Robert. “The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes,” CounterPunch, July 6, 2015.
- Steele, Robert. “On Defense Intelligence: Seven Strikes,” CounterPunch, July 2, 2014.
To Donald Trump's credit, his instincts are right. The third graphic shows the degree to which the US military is consuming the US budget to a criminally insane degree while not being able to train, equip, and organize forces sufficient to the challenge of being able to address emerging threats globally.
By the by, also below is my graphic from 2002 predicting the illegal immigrant break-out.
Thank you for the questions.
1) You said, multiple times, “we need to get serious.” We Nordics consider ourselves very serious. So please summarize, for the intelligence community but also for the politicians that are supposed to use the products and services of the intelligence community, how we can be more serious, more professional.
The easiest way to depoliticize the word “serious” is to change the statement to say that we must be more “balanced.” Here to the side is a graphic from my second book (see especially Chapter 15, “New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence” and my lecture series for the Italian Ministry of Defense on re-inventing intelligence.
To be balanced we cannot ignore the need for intelligence support to strategy which by definition demands intelligence (decision-support) about ALL threats, ALL policies, ALL true costs, ALL demographics including those far away that are producing illegal immigrants. Here to the side is my original graphic from 1990 on the six things we needed to do in order to be “balanced” going forward. At least in the USA, we are still not effective in any of these six areas.
In theory, politicians and intelligence professionals have the same objective: to optimize service to the public. Politicians are responsible for the art of negotiating investments and outcomes that produce the greatest good for the greatest number, while intelligence professionals are responsible for producing decision-support (including true cost economics) that enables politicians to understand “best available truths.” There is always a philosophical-political spectrum of competing values, within this spectrum, intelligence should be an objective neutral starting point for discussing alternatives in the public interest.
Below is one of my reflections as well as a recent book review, and here to the side my preliminary holistic analytic model for a proper integrated 360 degree Nordic intelligence community that leverages all eight tribes across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. I believe Canada and BENELUX (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) followed by Australia, China, India, Indonesia, and Russia, and the next logical ring for experimenting with what the Swedes call M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making).
Steele, Robert. “2009 Robert Steele: Politics & Intelligence–Partners Only When Integrity is Central to Both,” Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog, October 13, 2009.
2) Many people agreed with your view that money corrupts, that money channels efforts and outcomes in ways that favor those with money and away from those without money. Interpret this statement in relation to the Nordic intelligence services, their relationship with U.S. intelligence services, and what our politicians and public should do to better balance the public value of intelligence with the distorting influence of money from others.
Let us begin with the pernicious influence of the Americans and their money — there are three kinds of bad money from the Americans: first, secret subsidies from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Nordic intelligence services — especially in Norway and Sweden — subsidies that may not be properly declared to your politicians and whose conditions and privileges are almost certainly not known to your politicians (including the right for the Americans to monitor your citizens from your own signals intelligence facilities); second, banking money that is tied to enabling decisions and investments that are not in the public interest; and third, “philathropic” money that I consider today to be completely toxic because it seeks to misrepresent reality and distract the public — and politicians — from emerging truths, such as the deep hazards to humanity of geoengineering, nuclear power, pesticides, chlorine, vaccines, and more.
There are at least three “awakenings” that a balanced Nordic intelligence centre, community, and network could achieve in my view:
b) Education, intelligence (decision-support), and research are the heart of any nation-state's ability to adapt and prosper going forward. The industrial-era model of scientific reductionism is toxic. Changes to the Earth that used to take 10,000 years now take 3. We are running out of clean water, clean dirt, and clean air. It is time to “re-invent” national intelligence so as to harness the distributed intelligence of every citizen, while assuring a peaceful and prosperous world for future generations.
c) True cost economics — a deep understanding of the ecological and social cost of every product, service, policy, and behavior — is essential is decision-support is to have any meaning. The two million illegal immigrants — soon to be ten to twenty million — is a direct true cost of allowing the Americans, Israelis, Saudis, and French, among others, to wreak havoc across the world from Afghanistan to Niger.
In my view, a national and then a Nordic discussion about the centrality of education, intelligence, and research to the national and Nordic well-being of the present and the future should result in two decisions:
a) We will no longer rely on the Americans for intelligence about Russia or anywhere else. We need to be able to make our own informed decisions based on information we have collected, processed, and analyzed. Take nothing from the Americans (or anyone else) at face value. When in doubt, ask the target party (e.g. Russia, Iran) and consider the evidence they advance in their own favor.
b) Education, intelligence, and research should be the foundation for creating our national budget, and should be managed together. The same analytic model — one that is balanced and comprehensive — should guide the education of citizens, the pursuit of intelligence, and the lines of inquiry for research. Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE) should in my view be central to every aspect of all three.
3) In your interview, but not so much in the lecture, you make an effective point about terrorism and illegal immigrants as a disease, a wake-up call, a symptom of larger problems that intelligence (and politics) could address together. You also very specifically said terrorism was not a threat, that it was theater and a traffic accident. Could you repeat that and expand on this line of thinking?
In the 1920's the elite in New York City (NYC) invented and invested in “public health” for one simple reason: they discovered that infectious diseases would emerge from the slums of NYC and kill the rich with impunity — no amount of money can defend a member of the 1% from an infectious disease spawned in the slums of the 99%. I made the point in my interview that we have created a Central Asian, Middle Eastern, African slum with our elective wars and predatory capitalism, and the illegal immigrants are the manifestation of the diseases those slums are now exporting to Europe and to the Nordic region.
Terrorism is not a threat. It is a tactic, and a tactic that has been used by the US colonialists against the British and the French, by the Israelis against the British in Arabia, and many others. It is also largely threater — it's greatest impact is in how it generates media headlines and channels money toward investments in expensive military equipment (rather than in human members of the military — in the USA, the infantry, 4% of the force that takes 80% of the casualties gets 1% of the budget). Here to the side is one of the top three graphics by public choice at the web site I curate, Phi Beta Iota Public Intelligence Blog. We are to blame for creating all these revolutionaries and terrorists.
During the lecture I provided my original matrix for predicting revolution, here I provide an easily expandable version. These are all the things that go wrong when politicians fail to act in the public interest. As Ambassador Mark Palmer has pointed out in his book, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil–How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, the USA and the European Union and the Nordics are “best pals” with over 40 dictators that repress their publics and loot their public treasuries. Add to that the countries that are ruled by two-party tyrannies (including the USA), and you have a world in which the 99% are being treated as abused pets and farm animals without no one to turn to for defense.
Legitimate grievances among the 99% — including in the USA now with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders each representing a very large very angry demographic, the two missing angry demographics being the blacks and the Latinos — will eventually bring down any government, but first poverty, disease, environmental degradation, genocide, other atrocities, terrorism, and illegal immigrants, will become a burden on the home government and other governments. We ignore reality at our peril. Reality bats last. The Nordics can no longer afford to ignore what two American authors call the Sorrows of Empire and the role of that Empire in Killing Hope. A Nordic Intelligence Centre and network is your essential foundation for being effective within the United Nations General Assembly, against the United Nations Security Council that is itself the greatest sponsor of war and sanctions and other forms of abuse that create terrorists and illegal immigrants, and of course against US foreign policy that is now under the control of neo-fascist neo-conservatives; as General Wesley Clark has pointed out on YouTube, there has been a foreign policy coup in the USA, and no one in the USA or outside the USA is being responsible about putting these people back in their cells.
4) Although your lecture was focused on doing Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) correctly, the real point of your visit seems to be the championship of a Nordic intelligence center that includes all eight “tribes” of information and was also very competent as supporting expeditionary operations abroad, including acquisition decisions about what to build and buy, not just homeland security issues. What would such a center look like? How would it be paid for?
My actual interest as it has matured in the last decade, partially culminating in my writing of The Open Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, and Trust, and more recently in the below documents one of which was written for the Nordics, is in an Open Source (Technologies) Agency with two bureaus: one for information and one for engineering innovation.
For me a Nordic Intelligence Centre should consider what I call the 8-10-12 approach of having all eight of the information tribes (first graphic in my response to IDEN A) as focal points for harnessing the distributed intelligence of the Nordic nations as well as the whole earth — this is the liaison and outreach or information sharing and acquisition elements — and also be organized to address all ten high level threats to humanity and the twelve core policies (third graphic in my
response to IDEN B). A separate “true cost” investigative arm is needed, to create a methodology and a global to local process for ascertaining the true cost of every policy, service, product, and behavior in terms that can be communicated to the citizen at the point of sale as well as in political deliberations and public discussions. Ideally the Centre would be tightly integrated with a major military educational enterprise such as the Royal Danish Defence College, and also a major university, such as the Technical University in Copenhagen.
There are four ways of paying for such a center.
a) Approach the American directly, with the Nordic counterparts to the Secretaries of State and Defense bringing up the topic of my Memorandum to Vice President Joe Biden and sharing the Memorandum directly. Although certified as delivered, my Colonels tell me that timid generals and senior executives did not actually present the Memorandum to the principals. I am unique for having gotten the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve $2 billion a year for this endeavor, contingent on one of the principals asking for it. Form a partnership with State and Defense, a D3 (Defense, Diplomacy, Development) partnership, and help the Americans — perhaps under President Donald Trump — reinvent D3 with evidence-based decision-support and Open Source Everything Engineering (OSEE).
b) Fund it directly by government allocation across all five Nordic countries. It can be modest — say 240 people — 80 from the eight tribes, 80 across the threats and policies, 80 for true cost and overall duties. Based in Copenhagen, this element could lead a national discussion about industry investment.
c) Create a non-profit enterprise that sells the truth, and ask selected billionaires such as Sir Richard Branson (imagine the impact of a brand, “The Virgin Truth”) to fund it. I do not have the cachet to gain access to Sir Richard, the Nordic leadership does.
We can do this. I have imagined it, you can execute it.
Afterthought: I cannot overstate the importance of having a Danish leader now in position as President of the UN General Assembly, as head of the Nordic Council, as Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). There is a six month window during which the Danish and the Norwegians, should they wish to, could create a global conversation and start a global initiative that is fully capable of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) within a decade, two at most, at one tenth the cost of the prevailing and dysfunctional industrial-donor paradigm.
With best wishes to all,
Robert David Steele