At the 2006 annual meeting of the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, the US Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis described his view of the challenges ahead. His main point was that the extension of current trends (for example, increased globalization, communications flow, opportunities for terrorism) will continue to blur the line between personal security and national security, which in turn, will blur the line between law enforcement and military operations, and between activities involving people and those involving territory (Fingar, 2006).
There is increasing awareness of the importance of intelligence, particularly that from open sources. A senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense recently stated that most information (perhaps as much as 90%) that matters now is available to anyone with an internet connection, that understanding and influencing foreign populations was very important, and that future enemies are unlikely to confront the world’s overwhelming military power with conventional warfare, but with a technology-assisted insurgency (Packer, 2006).
Open source intelligence is an intelligence-gathering discipline that involves the collection, analysis, and interpretation of information from publicly available sources to produce “usable” intelligence. It can be distinguished from research since the former’s intent is to create tailored or customized knowledge to support a particular decision or satisfy a specified information need by an individual or group. The sources of this information are now quite vast, and include media (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, Internet), social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube), public data (government reports, speeches), observation and reporting (plane spotters, satellite imagery), professional and academic (conferences, papers), and geospatial dimensions. The latter are often glossed over, but must be considered since not all open source data is text-based. These data come from various sources, including maps, spatial databases, commercial imagery, and the like. As information has become more available by virtue of the Internet and other digital media, the physical collection of information from open sources has become much easier.