Gentilmente segnalato da Daniele vi allego questo articolo di Kristan Wheaton pubblicato su ISN.
The coming revolution in intelligence affairs
By Kristan J Wheaton
In June 1815, according to legend, financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild stationed a scout on the outskirts of the battlefield of Waterloo. As soon as the battle was over and it was clear that the Duke of Wellington had won, the scout supposedly raced back to the London banker to deliver the news. The result, so the story goes, is that Rothschild made a fortune on the London Stock Exchange the next day.
In April 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally ill student, committed suicide at 9:51AM after having killed 32 people and injured another 23 at Virginia Tech University in the US. By 3:16 PM the same day, news of the massacre had been posted to Wikipedia, the open, online encyclopedia. Within three hours, over 300 changes had been made to the page as new information poured in. Within two weeks, over 8000 edits had been posted, causing a local newspaper, The Roanoke Times, to acknowledge that Wikipedia had “emerged as the clearinghouse for detailed information on the event.”
The contrast between these two stories, and the implications for intelligence, could not be more clear. The story about the Battle of Waterloo, while false, is believable because in 1815, only someone with Rothschild’s immense fortune and connections would have the resources necessary to acquire and the opportunity to take advantage of such an important piece of information.
By 2008, the situation has almost reversed itself. Now, the crowd, armed with a variety of speedy communication devices and simple, online tools with which to exploit them, can increasingly outpace the most sophisticated news and intelligence capabilities. As then-director of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, in congressional testimony on the threat posed by terrorist groups pointed out in October 2002, “Al-Qaida did not need to develop a telecommunication system. All it had to do was harvest the products of a three trillion dollar a year telecommunications industry; an industry that had made communications signals varied, global, instantaneous, complex, and encrypted.”
However, the changes that modern telecommunications technologies and their associated applications have brought to the world are only the most visible of those that are already affecting intelligence affairs. Three other trends, the ascendency of the “open,” the collapse of the so-called intelligence cycle and the changing perception of intelligence in the public eye, are likely to completely revolutionize intelligence over the next 5-10 years.
The ascendancy of the “open”
Much has been made in recent weeks of the use of open sources, or freely available information, in intelligence. On 12 September 2008 the US Office of the Director Of National Intelligence closed the second annual Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) Conference in Washington DC. Registered participants for the event rapidly exceeded available slots as organizations from all around the world sent people to attend the widely publicized convention. Interest in open sources in the US intelligence community, however, significantly predates the media hype associated with the recent conference or even its predecessor in 2007.
Sherman Kent, often referred to as the “father of intelligence analysis” within the US intelligence community, estimated in 1947, that 80 percent of the information the intelligence community used came from open sources. As he states in his 1949 book, Strategic Intelligence For American World Policy, “Some of this knowledge may be acquired through clandestine means but the bulk of it must be had through unromantic open-and-above-board observation and research (See Kent Sherman, Strategic Intelligence For American World Policy (1949), Princeton University Press, P 3-4).” By 2006, former director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Samuel Wilson, had raised that estimate to 90 percent.
Much of the recent interest in open source intelligence, however, comes, directly or indirectly, as a result of the withering critique of US intelligence capabilities in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the coalition invasion of that country in 2003. The 9/11 Commission found the US intelligence community “too complex and secret” while the WMD Commission went even further, devoting several sections in its report to recommendations involving the expanded use of open source information.
While the US intelligence community adopted many of these recommendations and has moved decisively to correct some of the worst imbalances and oversights in the use of open sources in intelligence, the ascendancy of the “open” in intelligence work goes beyond open sources of information. Today, increasingly, intelligence communities around the globe are playing catch-up to the proliferation of open systems. The US intelligence community, for example, announced the development of Intellipedia in 2006, five years after Wikipedia, and only recently publicized its deployment of A-Space, modeled after the highly successful social networking site, MySpace, which went online in 2003.
Part of this hesitancy to adopt open systems is due to the focus – some would say excessive focus – many intelligence professionals put on secrecy and compartmentalization. Some secrecy serves to legitimately protect sensitive sources and methods as well as to preserve a decisionmaker’s options. Excessive secrecy and compartmentalization, however, can effectively lock down important information, virtually ensuring that it cannot get to the right people at the right time. This is sometimes done for reasons that have little to do with the goals and purposes of the organization. So pervasive was this last problem that it led Rodney B McDaniel, executive director of the US National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan, to comment in 1987 that “[…] there are two uses to which security classification is put: The legitimate desire to protect secrets and protection of bureaucratic turf. As a practitioner of the real world, it’s about 90 bureaucratic turf; 10 legitimate protection of secrets as far as I’m concerned.”
Collaboration, one of the Enterprise Objectives in the first publicly available US National Intelligence Strategy, has been elevated to one of the intelligence community’s “values” in current DNI Mike McConnell’s Vision 2015 document. Furthermore, in the US’s Intelligence Community Directive 205, analysts have been ordered to “leverage outside expertise as part of their work.”
Collaboration and outreach imply openness and a variety of easy to use, off the shelf tools to maximize it. Moreover, where the US$60 billion US intelligence community leads, other national, law enforcement and commercial intelligence enterprises are likely to follow. The only other option is to retreat back into some sort of slow-moving, inflexible, safe-but-irrelevant organizational structure that remains in a permanent state of reaction to the fast, agile threats surfacing and strengthening daily. Ultimately, there is only one logical choice for the intelligence community and, as internet entrepreneur Dick Clarence Hardt put it at the Open Source (of the software variety) Convention in 2005, “Open and simple wins.”