Open Source Intelligence

Open Source Intelligence

An example of bipolar encoding, or AMI.

Open source intelligence, or OSINT as we like to call it, has rightly taken on a more prominent role across the national security landscape, as digital technologies have democratized access to data and information. Notice how I think of these as two separate things? Data is not information, and information is not insight. That transformation is a process rooted in specific methodology (or tradecraft), increasingly integrated with data science.

With the technological transformation mentioned above, the OSINT community has grown dramatically in recent years. No longer is open source intelligence the exclusive domain of government departments and agencies. Instead, today there are countless companies and not-for-profit organizations which are daily demonstrating the power of OSINT.

The CIA’s Open Source Enterprise (or OSE) has a long and proud history of excellence providing OSINT insights to inform analytic judgments shared with US policy-makers. And to provide operational advantage against some of our toughest intelligence challenges.

Aerial view of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters.

But did you know that the CIA’s open source mission extends far beyond the walls of our agency, to support the broader US intelligence community with uniquely valuable open source collection and insights?

Building on a dramatic transformation of OSE’s technological capabilities in recent years. Where subject matter experts now curate and enrich information made available through advanced digital technologies. Including artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML)! Moreover, the CIA has a deep commitment to sharing its expertise, tradecraft, and capabilities broadly across the US intelligence community.

To fulfill these commitments, OSE chairs IC committees, serving as a steadfast champion of efforts to advanced OSINT technology, tradecraft, training, data sharing, and production with wide representation from over 28 US government entities.
The 113 stars on the CIA Memorial Wall in the original CIA headquarters. Each representing a CIA officer killed in action

But our partnerships do not start and stop there. Today, OSE is also working more closely than ever with private sector colleagues on major technology initiatives, including the use of AI/ML to better understand the open source landscape, and with US government colleagues to provide IC-wide platforms for broad OSINT sharing.

In conclusion, I can think of no more exciting time to be working in the OSINT field. For our partners in industry, who might become interested in contributing to this effort. Lastly, I encourage you to monitor the NRO ARC and the “Digital Hammer” Broad Agency Announcement for opportunities to support OSE’s efforts to build the next generation of OSINT capabilities.

Written by Jennifer Ewbank, Deputy Director of the CIA for Digital Innovation 

Modern Military

CIA Deputy Director Jennifer Ewbank on Defending America in the 21st Century