Senate Benghazi Report Urges Better Open Source Analysis

01.16.14 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The U.S. intelligence community needs to expand the collection and analysis of open source information, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

But that recommendation ironically comes just as the CIA has terminated public and scholarly access to its open source collection of foreign news reports.

“The IC must place a greater emphasis on collecting intelligence and open-source information, including extremist-affiliated social media, to improve its ability to provide tactical warnings, especially in North Africa, the Middle East, and other areas where the U.S. has facilities under high threat,” the new report said (p. 25).

“The IC should expand its capabilities to conduct analysis of open source information including extremist-affiliated social media particularly in areas where it is hard to develop human intelligence or there has been recent political upheaval,” the report said.

In the past, public consumers of CIA open source reporting were able to provide a measure of analytic support as well as area expertise to policy makers.

Such public consumers contributed to “expanded participation in informed analysis of issues significant to U.S. policy interests,” said the CIA’s J. Niles Riddel in 1992.  Back then, intelligence agencies “value[d] the work of private sector scholars and analysts who avail themselves of our material and contribute significantly to the national debate on contemporary issues such as economic competitiveness.”

But today’s CIA decided to cut off public and scholarly access to such material through the World News Connection, to the detriment of the “informed analysis” that public consumers might have contributed to the national debate.

The entire archive of the former World News Connection from 1995-2013 has been acquired by East View Information Services. For a subscription fee, “Researchers will still have access to over 1 million foreign newspaper articles, broadcast transcripts and datelines from Beijing, Beirut, Bogota, Cairo, Jakarta, Iraq, Mogadishu, Qatar, Ramallah, Sarajevo, Vienna, and hundreds of other spots around the world.”