Open Source Intelligence Advances

02.05.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The DNI Open Source Center, which gathers, translates, analyzes, and distributes unclassified open source intelligence from around the world, is steadily growing in capability and impact, according to Doug Naquin, the Center’s Director.

The Open Source Center, which replaced the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service, is doing more analysis and outreach than its predecessor and is also exploring new media, said Mr. Naquin in a recent speech (pdf).

“We’re looking now at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence,” he said.

“We have groups looking at what they call ‘Citizens Media’: people taking pictures with their cell phones and posting them on the Internet. Then there’s Social Media, phenomena like MySpace and blogs…. A couple years back we identified Iranian blogs as a phenomenon worthy of more attention, about six months ahead of anybody else.”

“But we still have an education problem … both with the folks who are proponents of open source but perhaps don’t know exactly why, and folks internally who are still wondering why I am sitting at the same table they are,” he said.

“All of us have heard the statement by [intelligence community] leaders at one time or another that ‘Our business is stealing secrets.’ Or ‘Our business is espionage.’ While I deeply respect that, and I understand where that’s coming from, from my Open Source perspective, I’m thinking that’s like a football coach saying, ‘Our mission is to pass the ball.’ Or ‘Our mission is to run the ball.’ Well, not exactly. It’s to win football games.”

Mr. Naquin addressed the Central Intelligence Retirees’ Association on October 3, 2007. The text of his remarks is available here.

While the Open Source Center may be thriving, its net value to the general public has actually declined. That is because only a small fraction of its product is normally made publicly available (for a substantial subscription fee), while alternative means of public access to international information sources continue to multiply.