RAND report offers insights into second generation open source intelligence

The Overlapping Nature of Intelligence Disciplines (Image: RAND Corporation)
The Overlapping Nature of Intelligence Disciplines (Image: RAND Corporation)

The RAND Corporation published Defining Second Generation Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) for the Defense Enterprise, a thoroughly informative report on how the intelligence community can better define and leverage technology to improve its approach to open source intelligence.

From the report:

We define OSINT as publicly available information that has been discovered, deter- mined to be of intelligence value, and disseminated by a member of the IC. This is consistent with the U.S. definition in Section 931 of Public Law 109-163 that defines OSINT as “intelligence that is produced from publicly available information and is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.”4 OSIF is merely unclassified data available to the public, while OSINT results from applying process- ing and exploiting the information to validate it as relevant, accurate, and actionable for use by the consumers.

How intelligence disciplines are defined is important, because the definitions often dictate how intelligence information is treated by all-source intelligence analysts, particularly how it is evaluated for credibility and validity. They also affect whether an intelligence product is considered single-source or all-source, which impacts the IC’s assessments about the reliability of the product. Furthermore, prioritization of collection efforts in the way intelligence is classified (and therefore shared and disseminated) often follows the definitions of intelligence disciplines, underlining how critical it is to characterize OSINT.

For IC practitioners immersed in the world of OSINT, the material presented here may not be new. However, our goal is to provide context and definitions that will enable other IC members to better understand the work of their OSINT-focused coun- terparts and the value it can provide to intelligence support to policymakers. We hope that such grounding will aid their efforts to incorporate OSINT material into intel- ligence products and will put greater value on the technical skills possessed by OSINT practitioners. Further, it could enhance their appreciation of the potential intelligence value of OSIF. This report should also be of use to those outside the IC who may wish to understand more about OSINT, how it can be used to enhance intelligence prod- ucts, and the challenges and gaps encountered by professionals in this field.

Full report

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.


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