Open source intelligence

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Intelligence is one of the cornerstones of American identity. The US has over the years relied on complicated intelligence gathering methods that have been one of the key drivers of the country`s success. Conventionally, intelligence gathering is done secretly and has in the past relied on spies and spying devices and technology. Over the years however, it has been argued that information in the public domain also contains important clues relevant to intelligence gathering. This is called open source intelligence. Open source intelligence is a kind of intelligence that is obtained from sources that are publicly available. These sources include media sources such as television, newspapers, radio and magazines among others. Other sources of open intelligence are social networking sites, public data such as government reports and academic literature written by professionals. The department of defense (DoD) describes open source intelligence as “information of potential intelligence value that is available to the general public.”
There are exists several definitions of OSINT. However, all agree that it has to do with public available information. One author chooses to break down the terms and definite them separately. Open Source is defined as “any person, group, or system that provides information without the expectation that the information, relationship, or both, are protected against public disclosure.” Such information is deemed to be public information. This is further defined as “Data, facts, instructions, or other material published or broadcast for general public consumption available on request to a member of the general public lawfully seen or heard by any casual observer or made available at a meeting open to the general public.” OSINT plays an important role in intelligence gathering. Lowenthal notes a number of functions of OSINT. One of them is that it aids in the provision of background information on any particular subject. Such information provides a foundation for continuous generation of intelligence. Secondly is that it provides answers for requirements such as depth, availability and the range of information that is publicly available. Thirdly, OSINT triggers more sophisticated sourcing of intelligence using other means. Lastly is that OSINT boost the richness and productivity of gathered data from other means. It aids in making connections and making full analysis of data.
Gathering of intelligence information has been helpful in curbing terrorism, organized crime, fighting drug cartels, fighting gangs and other forms of illegal activities both in the US and around the world. With advances in technology, the internet has been a major medium of communication around the world and also a valuable source of gathering intelligence. Current intelligence gathering processes rely on information technologies with computer programs and the internet at the center. Some of these intelligence gathering systems are designed in a way that they cannot be detected or even protect confidential information from being accessed by unauthorized persons such as other intelligence gathering systems. Generally, information gathering systems are designed to: protect confidential information, ensure that well organized and relevant information is available on demand, protect information from being tampered with by other persons and thus maintain its integrity, verify and authenticate the identity of persons, maintain authorization to access, modify and even delete data stored and finally to ensure accountability such that any activity on the data can be attributed to a single individual or system.
The value of open source intelligence in the development of intelligence systems has been questioned over time. The intelligence gathering bodies in the US have been called to task in providing intelligence information to the public. For instance, there is an ongoing debate in the public domain claiming that the US government has been withholding information about alien life that has been obtained through alleged `alien visit` here on earth and the space exploration expeditions carried out by NASA and other governments such as Russia. Whether such secret information exists is unknown. If the information existed, it is the function of the intelligence body to ensure that such information is only accessible to very few people. On the other hand, such intelligence gathering bodies are supposed to make such information available to all in public interest. Such information could be useful to organizations and individuals. In matters relating to terrorism, such intelligence can be very useful to organizations especially for multinational organizations with operations in countries with high risk of terrorism.
The Department of Homeland Security has been accused of failing to provide appropriate open source information to the American public. A house committee on Homeland Security released a report that criticizes the department for failing to provide such information. The reported noted in part “The proliferation of Internet use and other advanced forms of communication is rapidly leading to an information revolution among terrorists groups,” the report says. “The sooner the Department of Homeland Security recognizes the value in this type of unclassified information, the sooner DHS analysts can analyze it and provide useful open source intelligence to state, local and tribal law partners.”
Hypotheses
The government does not take OSINT seriously
The processes and technologies of collecting intelligence from ONSIT are changing rapidly
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The review literature examines the views presented by other studies on the issue of OSINT. To start, the American government aptly recognizes the importance of OSINT. The NATO OSINT Reader clearly indicates in the following statement,
Open source intelligence provides the outer pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, without which one can neither begin nor complete the puzzle. But they are not sufficient of themselves. The precious inner pieces of the puzzle, often the most difficult and most expensive to obtain come from the traditional intelligence disciplines. Open source intelligence is the critical foundation for the all-source intelligence product, but it cannot ever replace the totality of the all-source effort.
In his research on open source intelligence, Dr. Donald L. Madill examines three important aspects. To begin with, he examines the steps that are followed in the open source intelligence process. Secondly, Madill examine the various sources of information that play a role in open source intelligence integration. Finally, he examines how the various sources of information, private sources included, have contributed to the successful integration of open source intelligence.
According to Madill, there are four steps in the open source intelligence process. Madill indicates that the first step is the collection step. Here, collection of information is done from various sources one of them being the public domain such as unclassified foreign government documents, books, magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals. He also adds that public domain source of information can include broadcasts from radio and television. Apart from public domain sources, the other sources from which collection is done is the human intelligence, here, Madill says that the information usually originates from human sources and is usually collected through a very sensitive means to prevent any kind of possible interference. Collection also involves technical means and ways such as imagery intelligence, signature intelligence and measurement.
The second step of the open source intelligence process is the processing step. Here, the collected information from the various sources undergoes processing in order to be in a form that can enable the easy production and analysis of intelligence. For example, translation of a material of foreign language is usually done at this step. The data collected is often taken through a process which involves sorting, screening and sifting. After all these are done, the information thus becomes useful to the military officials and analysts who are often involved in the production of intelligence.
The third step of the open source intelligence process is production. Here, the information after processing is converted into intelligence. This is enabled through evaluation, integration, analysis and interpretation of all data that is available. This step also involves the preparation of finished products of intelligence that support user requirements and that are in a form that the user can apply. Under the production step, the raw information is evaluated so as to ensure that the source where it was obtained was reliable and accurate. The raw information is also integrated such that a pattern is formed through selection, synthesis and combination of information that is evaluated and developed intelligence.
The final step of the open source intelligence process according to Madill is dissemination. This step is necessary as it helps in the dissemination of intelligence that is unclassified that will help to support military activities such as training.
Madill`s research also gives a provision of sources of information that have helped in the integration of the open source intelligence process. He indicates that some of the sources that provide information for the open source intelligence process include human sources, foreign government documents, books, magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, foreign radio broadcasts, foreign television broadcasts and internet.
Information gathered from open source intelligence must be identified as so either through human resources or technologies such as computer programs. One way that the sources of information have led to successful integration of OSINT process is that they have helped intelligence collectors in the classification of raw foreign intelligence information basing on the source sensitivity and means and ways through which the information was collected from the sources.
Government has embarked on intensive training in changing the perceptions of intelligence collectors. Through this, the sources have contributed to the successful integration of open source intelligence process. Madill also adds that the information obtained from the above mentioned sources such as magazines and newspapers can help influence both classified and unclassified efforts among military individuals and officials.
METHODOLOGY
The intent of this study was to know how information that is obtained from private sources will contribute to the successful integration of the open source intelligence process. The researcher relied on secondary sources of data for the research. Published studies in the OSINT were sought from a number of online databases. Articles capturing the desired variables only were considered. The variable identified for the study were relevance of OSINT to companies and organizations, governments perceptions towards OSINT, challenges of OSINT
The key terms used in the search were homeland security, security, intelligence, open sources and information. Over three hindered and sixteen sources were gathered in the initial search. The sources were further assessed based on publication date. Only sources published not later than ten years were considered. This is because there was need to use recent information relevant to the studies and current issues.
ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS
Data Analysis
In the words of Walliman:
In content analysis, the researcher should be able to immerse in the collected data to search for patterns, surprising phenomena and inconsistencies to be in a position to generate new concepts and theories or uncover further instances of those already existence.
The data collected from the published reports was descriptive in nature. The data was analyzed using thematic analysis guided by the variables being assessed. The research assessed the trends in the various variable recorded over the years. The changes in the trends were discussed relative to time. Other data that were not captured in the variable but critical in making an informed conclusion in this research was identified and noted down. The objective of descriptive statistical analysis is to develop sufficient knowledge to describe a body of data. This is always accomplished by understanding the data levels for the measurements chosen.
Findings
During the study, there were several findings that were discovered. To start with, it was found out that the private sources of information such as internet and TV broadcasts were helpful to the intelligence collectors in the military camps who were involved in fighting criminal activities. The sources of information were helpful to them as they aided in the classification of raw foreign intelligence information. Through this, it was convincing enough to conclude that the private sources of information play a big role in the contribution to the successful integration of the open source integration process.
Moreover, it was found out that the private sources of information such as internet, radio broadcasts, TV broadcasts, magazines, academic literature and newspapers have greatly changed the perceptions of intelligence collectors in military camps. This is because of the effective and faster transmission of information from one military camp to the other. This has enhanced the fight against terrorism in several countries worldwide, with the US being ahead due to its technological advances. The change of perception among militants caused by the private sources of information especially internet has made the militants to positively embrace the open source intelligence process thus contributing to the successful integration of the OSINT.
Additionally, it was found out that the private sources of information such as radio and TV broadcasts and internet among other sources have contributed in the successful integration of OSINT in that they influence classified and unclassified effects that are usually evident in military camps.
During the study, it was also found out that the transmission of information from one military camp to the other was very fast and applied the use of technological advances. These later on promoted new discoveries regarding technology. For example, the use of internet by the militants as a source of information led to the discovery of more advanced ways of fighting criminal activities and transmission of information. As a result, this contributed to the successful integration of the open source intelligence process.
CONCLUSION
In conclusion, open source intelligence is a kind of intelligence that is obtained from sources that are publicly available. These sources include media sources such as television, newspapers, radio and magazines among others. Other sources of open intelligence are social networking sites, public data such as government reports and academic literature written by professionals.
In the words of Lowenthal, Open source intelligence (OSINT) has several roles that it plays. To start with, it aids with the provision of background information on any particular area of operation. This back ground information lays a foundation which is a very important aspect in the continuous generation of intelligence knowledge. The second role of open source intelligence is that it provides answers for requirements such as the depth, availability and the range of information that is publicly available. Additionally, OSINT helps to enhance collection as it encourages the use of technological ways of collection. The productivity of army commanders is very essential. Therefore, when they use open sources of intelligence, their productivity is boosted. This is because they will have the benefit of all available sources of information in order to make their decisions.
Private sources of information such as academic literature, private television programs, newspaper articles, magazines and private internet websites among other sources have in the past and still continue to be influential in the successful integration of open source intelligence. Bringing together of intelligence information has been helpful in curbing criminal activities in several countries in the world especially in the US.
This research was very influential and very helpful. The research was done in the US military camps with the aim of knowing how the information obtained from private sources will contribute to the successful integration of the open source intelligence process. the private sources of information for the open source intelligence that were discovered during the study included human sources of information, foreign government documents, published books, magazines, newspaper, scholarly journals, foreign radio and TV broadcasts and internet.
These sources of information were found to be very influential in the contribution towards successful integration of open source intelligence process. To begin with, the sources such as internet, TV broadcasts and radio broadcasts were found to help intelligence collectors in military camps in the classification of raw foreign intelligence information. Through this way, the private sources of information were found to be very helpful to the integration of the open source intelligence process.
In addition, during the study, the private sources of information such as internet were found to cause a great change in the perception of intelligence collectors in the military camps that were visited. This caused the militants to positively embrace the open source intelligence process thus causing a positive contribution to the integration of the open source intelligence process.
During the study, it was also found out that private sources were very influential as they influenced both the classified and unclassified efforts that were evident in the military camps that were visited. Through this, it was realized that private sources were contributing to the successful integration of the open source intelligence process.
For future research on the same, sufficient preparation should be done so as to avoid similar challenges that were faced such as poor transportation and unresponsive respondents. Advanced technological ways of data collection should also be included suppose future research is to be done on the same topic. If this will be done then accurate and reliable research findings will be obtained.
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