What are the training and skill requisites for someone working in OSINT?
In 1992 Dr. Stevan Dedijer, the father of Commercial Intelligence out of Lund University Sweden (himself born in Croatia and with service as General Westmoreland’s driver in WWII) led a delegation of 15 Swedes to my first conference, OSS ’92, persuaded me to add him to the program during a break, and used his time to shout out this basic message:
KNOW WHO KNOWS!
Easily half of OSINT leadership and management is ETHICS, and the other half is knowing who knows.
The crap that is being produced by over $2 billion in spending on cubicle rats surfing the Internet is a betrayal of the public trust.
Below is a “bare bones” OSINT cell.
Each of these six people should be someone with at least a decade of experience with commensurate education preferably at the graduate level. Each of them should have experience in harvesting open sources within their respective domains. Only the collection manager and the analyst need have clearances, and this can be optional.
The Internet out-sourceing person is skilled in identifying and hiring a CONSTANTLY-CHANGING mix of people who are BOTH subject-matter experts (e.g. in agriculture, energy, whatever) AND skilled at using multiple forms of search. Arno Reuser may well be the top Internet researcher in the world — any country that has not consulted him is almost certainly deficient in their exploitation of the Internet for substance. I regard those who focus on social media with scorn and contempt.
The commercial online out-sourcing specialist is skilled at leveraging those who render information services as a business. This includes intermediary services such as SciTech Strategies and the Institute of Scientific Information, information brokers such as Mary Ellen Bates, private investigators, free lance journalists, general managers, academics and others, all of whom can be hired as short-term consultants for a SPECIFIC combination of subject-matter expertise, language qualifications, and in many cases, locational presence (e.g. Burundi).
The primary research specialist — Risa Sacks in her time was the gold standard — knows how to use the telephone combined with citation analytics and mention in media to very rapidly identify the top 3-12 people in the world on any topic who are NOT published — non-profit field representatives, child advocacy observers in specific places, and so on. This person is skilled at creating “on the fly” human networks based on word of mouth recommendations and the ability to rapidly survey the human domain for any given question. This person is particularly skilled at leveraging third world recent retirees from any given government or private sector organization.
The finance officer is there to make rapid unconventional payments without all of the bureaucratic nonsense that accompanies major contracts that are 80% fraud. Western Union payments, credit card payments, PayPal and STRIPE and DropBox payments are all easily used to do $250 to $25,000 payments.
As a general rule, the OSINT team should be skilled at out-sourcing on the fly and be very small. Anyone investing in an army of full-time cubicle rats surfing the web is wasting money and not being serious. Most of those offering academic expertise are frauds — they limit themselves to a small range of English-speaking professors who are eligible for clearances, and they do not do serious multi-lingual or holistic analytics.
My most current work on where I wish to go is below.
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