This briefing has been funded and approved for delivery in its present form, in April 2016, to the military, police, and national intelligence services of Denmark. It was also presented in Norway, but less formally. As NATO and a number of countries “re-think” Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), this briefing and the related white paper, should help focus on the essentials that have been neglected for the past quarter century.
It is nothing less than an indictment of 25 years of expensive passive failure associated with the mis-direction of OSINT away from active human sourcing as I originally envisioned, toward passive online searching that is, as one study recently concluded, over 80% absolute garbage.
This is what BGen Dr. James Cox, the original sponsor of my work for NATO in 2000-2002, had to say 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.”
I agree with BGen Dr. Cox. I have known for 25 years how to do OSINT “right,” and have been pleased to do some pretty spectacular OSINT for the US Special Operations Command and others during that time. I could not, however, compete with the corruption inherent in the US system that embraces waste without accountability. In my judgment, 80-90% of what we do today in both secret and open source intelligence is a waste of the taxpayer's money.
Today, 25 years after I started this revolution, I believe we may finally be ready for OSINT Done Right — Active OSINT.