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Old 10-29-2005, 11:16 AM
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Ease of use: Secrets, hidden behind classifications, compartments, and special access programs, are difficult to share with policymakers and even fellow intelligence officers. All officials may read OSINT.

Cost: A reconnaissance satellite, developed, launched, and maintained at a cost of billions of dollars, can provide images of a weapons factory’s roof or a submarine’s hull. A foreign magazine, with an annual subscription cost of $100, may include photographs of that factory’s floor or that submarine’s interior.

Beyond this general argument for open sources, I would maintain that OSINT often equals or surpasses secrets in addressing such intelligence challenges of our day as proliferation, terrorism, and counterintelligence. When a nation develops a weapon of mass destruction, for example, hundreds or even thousands of engineers, scientists, and manufacturers may join the program. Bureaucrats and traders may sell the weapons abroad. The OSINT target is immense. Engineers attend conferences; scientists publish scholarly articles; manufacturers build production lines; bureaucrats issue guidelines; and traders print brochures for prospective clients. Many paper trails wind around the world beyond whatever may surface in the media.

Before terrorists act, they issue warnings, religious leaders of their community deliver sermons, and political leaders plead their cause. Open sources, while they may not tell us where the next bomb will explode, do allow us to understand the terrorist agenda and act thereby to address grievances or launch competing campaigns for hearts and minds.

When foreigners seek to tap US technology abroad or on our soil in order to evade embargoes or leapfrog the R&D process at our expense, open sources may alert counterintelligence officers to their activities. For example, the National Counterintelligence Executive has published reports based on Korean media from both sides of the DMZ to bring to light North and South Korean efforts to acquire Western technology both abroad and in the United States.[11]

The Cost of Slighting Open Sources
Arguing that we need to rethink the distinction between open information and secrets, which is more blurred than many think, and that OSINT is often more useful in addressing intelligence challenges, I would further maintain that Washington’s slighting of open sources is no way to run an intelligence community. In earmarking only one of every hundred dollars in the intelligence budget and assigning some similarly meager percentage of IC personnel to OSINT, our policymakers and intelligence executives are learning less than possible about our nation’s challenges while paying a higher price than necessary. DO officers without access to foreign media published uncounted numbers of bogus reports based on Chinese, Soviet, and other newspaper articles.* We are also almost certainly spending large sums today to obtain covertly information similar or identical to that openly available. Rather than learn through HUMINT or SIGINT that a scientist of interest attended an international conference, for example, would it not be better simply to acquire, then print or report the contents of the conference proceedings? Open acquisition would likely be less expensive, and all policymakers and analysts would have access to the information.

Policymakers and intelligence executives would also do well to resist the siren call of those who argue that we should simply privatize OSINT. Private corporations are an excellent source of dictionaries, software, and contractors for our government. But private companies alone are no substitute for accountable, dedicated OSINT professionals in government offices.[12] Let us take the vital issue of translation as an example. Contractors— whether individuals, translation agencies, or research companies (the latter generally subcontracting with translation agencies or independent translators for the talent they lack in house)—today translate most of the foreign newspapers, scientific journals, and other open information for the Intelligence Community. They do so under the lead of cleared OSINT officers who, knowing both the requirements of the Intelligence Community and the mysteries of the foreign media, manage the translation flows to provide answers to intelligence questions. Staff officers are also available to translate priority items themselves on a crash basis when contractors are unavailable. Staff officers serve one master. Contractors, busy with a mix of assignments from corporate and government customers, often are unavailable when most needed.

Ideally, in my view, the government should develop its own sizeable cadre of translators. Yet, that would be much more expensive than the present system. Some would argue for the opposite path of privatizing OSINT, which would mean intelligence analysts, case officers, and others buying their translations directly from the private sector without OSINT officers to apply their general requests against the appropriate media for the right information or to edit, often heavily, contractor translations that are frequently of poor quality.

The above logic, which applies to media analysis, targeting, and other OSINT functions as well as to translation, suggests that the government should retain its OSINT capabilities. The Intelligence Community requires staff officers to lead the contractors. To use an analogy from history, private corporations may have supplied the aircraft, landing craft, and rifles for D-Day, but General Eisenhower, his military staff, and soldiers in uniform took the beaches at Normandy.

Assigning Greater Resources
I have maintained that (1) secrets are not identical to intelligence; (2) the distinction between overt and covert sources is more blurred than commonly imagined; (3) open information often equals or surpasses classified material; (4) slighting OSINT is no way to run an intelligence community; and (5) the private sector is no substitute for the government in applying open sources to address today’s intelligence challenges. I can only conclude that Washington needs to assign greater resources to open sources. Whether we create a national OSINT center or leave FBIS and its counterparts right where they are is less important than the issue of dollars and people. Putting all the meager OSINT offices together in a single center, without added funding, would be analogous to a poor man combining several small bank accounts into one—he would still be poor. With greater resources, perhaps a doubling of OSINT spending to roughly 2 percent of the intelligence budget, we would see an impressive increase in intelligence available to all in government. It would even permit covert collectors to focus with greater precision on areas truly beyond the reach of open sources.
'Government is like a baby:
An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and
no sense of responsibility at the other'
- Ronald Reagan