An excellent source of information on what is going on inside Syria has been available from foreign workers flown or driven out of Syria by their home countries. This REFINT (refugee intelligence) has long been used but rarely gets much publicity.
Three weeks ago the Philippines advised all 7,000 Filipinos in Syria to leave and the Philippines provided transportation to Damascus airport and charter flights back to the Philippines for everyone. Diplomatic and intelligence officials interviewed, if only briefly, most of the evacuees and obtained a lot of very recent reports about what was actually going on inside Syria.
While many of the Filipino workers were domestics, many others were technical or medical professionals. Thus, from the Filipino workers alone, much could be learned about the true state of Syrian society during this civil war. Most other countries also seek information from evacuees, if only to make it easier to get the next batch of evacuees out.
This practice has been used for centuries but has become more organized because of the availability of cheap computers and satellite communications. Information can be collected, analyzed, and distributed in near-real time.