[IP] more on New US intelligence center to exploit publicly available information

David Farber dave at farber.net
Sat Nov 26 17:07:10 PST 2005

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	Re: [IP] New US intelligence center to exploit publicly
available information]
Date: 	Sat, 26 Nov 2005 16:11:51 -0800
From: 	Ross Stapleton-Gray <amicus at well.com>
To: 	dave at farber.net, "johnmac's living room"
<johnmacsgroup at yahoogroups.com>

[resend with a URL for the creation of COSPO, back in 1994... everything
old is new again...]

At 09:13 AM 11/24/2005, David Farber wrote:
>Douglas Naquin, the [Open Source C]enter's director, said it will build on
>the work of the
>CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which once monitored and
>translated foreign radio brodcasts but has since expanded its reach to other
>He said a key difference will be that the center aims to spread its findings
>and expertise across the US intelligence community, which consists of 15
>The FBIS' strength has been in tracking media trends that show, for
>instance, how foreign publics are responding to particular US policies.
>But in recent years a group at the FBIS also has been applying data mining
>techniques to analyze massive volumes of informaiton on the Internet or
>commercial databases, Naquin said.

FBIS was my first job out of college, as a CIA grad fellow... my
understanding is that it actually predated the CIA, having been originally
formed during WW II to collect and report on Nazi radio broadcasting.

But this is something of a second coming for Open Source for the
Intelligence Community.  In my last IC job, I served on the Intelligence
Community Management Staff, which supported the Director of Central
Intelligence (DCI) wearing his IC coordinator hat.  And around then (c.
1994), CMS was host to a new "Community Open Source Program Office"
(COSPO), to do what's being described here for the new OSC.  Here's the DCI
Directive, in fact, that created it... NB the similarities with the
newly-announced OSC: http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/dcid212.htm

Certainly "open source intel" (so-called "OSINT") had been used for many
years before that (and not just FBIS' collection... I remember when
Lexis/Nexis was the exciting new wave, and was one of the early Internet
agitators, especially after a presentation by Cliff Stoll, who was on a
book tour for "The Cuckoo's Egg," and spoke at both NSA and CIA... he
nearly broke an overhead projector glass with a yoyo).

Some time after I left, in 1994, COSPO got shuffled around, then pushed
down the org chart to live in the CIA's Directorate of Science &
Technology, where FBIS is located.  I believe that there was something of a
merger, given the common focus.

So this new thing is more a repeat of something that was done once
already.  And what had been the DCI's Community Management Staff now
reports to Mr. Negroponte, since he (as Director of National Intelligence)
wears the primary IC coordination hat, so I presume they may have a hand in
what this new Center does, as well.

What they'll find is a reluctance, from some quarters, to much dignify
"open source intelligence" as its own "INT"... "We deal with *classified*
intelligence... that's just *information*..."  Though, of course, as a
former intelligence officer who's worked without clearances for more than a
decade, I can vouch for the value all of the rest of us place on "plain old
information." ;-)  I'm fascinated by the gulf between the "classified" and
"unclassified" world (and am in fact doing some work now on how some
classified information can be "written down" for use by uncleared
researchers, e.g., redacted, dithered, or otherwise lessened in
sensitivity).  And I think it's to the significant detriment of many in the
classified world that they can't move as easily as those of us outside of
it, through the oceans of information now increasingly open and available.


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