Intelligence: Google Rules


January25, 2007: It's official, the U.S. Department of Defense has a new form of intelligence; OSINT (Open Source Intelligence.) This joins such old standbys as HUMINT (Human Intelligence), ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and several others. Basically, OSINT is the Internet. Before the World Wide Web showed up in 1995, there was "open source" (unclassified information in books, magazines and newspapers), but it was so difficult to sort through it all to find anything useful, that it was rarely a factor in intelligence work. Well, not entirely. The Soviet Union found the freely available technical publications in the United States to be a very profitable source of useful information. But for military use, OSINT wasn't there yet. No one expected it to ever be. Then came the world wide web and search engines. Everything changed.

Official recognition of OSINT is all about the ease of finding things on the Internet, and sheer depth, and timeliness, of data on the web. In the last few years, CIA, military intelligence, and many other, analysts have been finding good stuff on the web, that they can't find in their expensive, and highly classified, databases. While there's a lot of bad information on the web, the ease with which one can quickly locate several different versions of data, enables an astute analyst to quickly eliminate the trash, and come up with very useful material.

The only downside of OSINT is that everyone has access to it. The only edge anyone can have is the skill of their OSINT researchers. Thus the rush to master Google and other OSINT sources. Nothing good comes without a price.


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