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Defining Second Generation Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) for the Defense Enterprise

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Technical Report

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RAND Corporation Santa Monica United States

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Although the Intelligence Community IC has been involved in open source intelligence OSINT for more than 50 years, the definition of OSINT and how it is characterized as an intelligence discipline are still subject to debate. In a 2011 document issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, OSINT was defined as intelligence produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement. The Internet and the rise of social media have made OSINT more complex in terms of both sources and methods. This transformation of OSINT is so significant that this report argues it should be seen as a second generation of OSINT. The report provides a definition for second-generation OSINT and discusses how it differs from the historic practice of OSINT, particularly in relation to the defense enterprise. It defines OSINT as an intelligence discipline and provides subtypes of OSINT specific to second-generation OSINT. It then breaks down OSINT methodology and the operations cycle specific to each of its subtypes, laying out some common difficulties in each and efficiencies provided by new technological advancements. The report next provides information about the tools and methods used for OSINT analysisparticularly in social mediaand defines the terminology related to lexical, social network, and geospatial analysis. It also discusses some of the challenges of using commercial off-the-shelf COTS technology for OSINT analysis within the U.S. IC. Finally, overall conclusions are presented, along with a discussion of new areas of development related to OSINT and the opportunities and obstacles they could present to open-source operations.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Intelligence

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