US Intelligence Ignores Open Source Data

The US' ability to monitor and analyse data and information requires that the US Intelligence Community (IC) gather, analyse information and strategic intelligence to anticipate geo- strategic shifts, as well as shorter-term intelligence so that the United States can respond to the actions and provocations of rivals both from within the US and externally

However, the US intelligence community has continued to ignore the usefulness of the enormous open sources of intelligence, simply because the information is publicly available and isn’t secret.

The intelligence community refers to monitor others using secret expensive classified satellites and intelligence-collection programs rather than to gather unclassified free information on the Internet. But intelligence should engage with open source as well as classified information and data.

Russia has conducted a strategic misinformation campaign to influence the results of elections in multiple countries, including the UK, Ukraine, France and the US and they did it on social media in view of everyone, except the intelligence officers who only look at classified sources. Because they did not engage with social media US officials said they were not warned about the fake news and misinformation. This also applied to China when senior advisors to the US government say  they do not understand enough about Beijing’s strategic goals and intentions.

Congress should have an open-source centre  that translates important Chinese documents for consumption by English-language readers. The US did have a method of analysis, but the US government took down its own open source center website.

This process of ignoring open sources also happened in  January when the Capitol in Washington DC was invaded by people who had organised, planned, and announced their plans to riot on-line.

The US government has an urgent need for intelligence based on open source information to understand and reveal foreign governments’ campaigns to harm the US and to identify the sources of online radicalisation campaigns and to better understand other countries’ strategy and tactics.

“And so the US Intelligence Community stands at the dawn of a new era of technological innovation and transformation unprecedented in its history.

“Driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and associated emerging technologies, including cloud computing, advanced sensors, and big data analytics, the approaching “AI era” will transform both the nature of the global threats the IC is responsible for assessing and the IC’s ability to accurately detect and assess them,” says the opening of a January 2021 report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

CSIS:     RAND:      Washington Post:      Defense One:        

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