Open Source Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century

Title:                      Open Source Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century

Author:                Christopher Hobbs

Hobbs, Christopher (2014), Matthew Moran and Daniel Salisbury, Centre for Science and Security Studies, King’s College London, UK, eds. Open Source Intelligence in The Twenty-First Century: New Approaches and Opportunities. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan

LCCN:    2014016877

JF1525.I6 O46 2014


  • “This edited volume takes a fresh look at the subject of open source intelligence (OSINT), exploring both the opportunities and the challenges that this emergent area offers at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In particular, it explores the new methodologies and approaches that technological advances have engendered, while at the same time considering the risks associated with the pervasive nature of the Internet. Drawing on a diverse range of experience and expertise, the book begins with a number of chapters devoted to exploring the uses and value of OSINT in a general sense, identifying patterns, trends and key areas of debate. The focus of the book then turns to the role and influence of OSINT in three key areas of international security – nuclear proliferation; humanitarian crises; and terrorism. The book offers a timely discussion on the merits and failings of OSINT and provides readers with an insight into the latest and most original research being conducted in this area. “– Provided by publisher.


  • Machine generated contents note: — PART I: OPEN SOURCE INTELLIGENCE: NEW METHODS AND APPROACHES — 1. Exploring the Role and Value of Open Source Intelligence; Stevyn Gibson — 2. Towards the discipline of Social Media Intelligence ‘ SOCMINT’; David Omand, Carl Miller and Jamie Bartlett — 3. The Impact of OSINT on Cyber-Security; Alastair Paterson and James Chappell — PART II: OSINT AND PROLIFERATION — 4. Armchair Safeguards: The Role of OSINT in Proliferation Analysis; Christopher Hobbs and Matthew Moran — 5. OSINT and Proliferation Procurement: Combating Illicit Trade; Daniel Salisbury — PART III: OSINT and Humanitarian Crises — 6. Positive and Negative Noise in Humanitarian Action: The OSINT Dimension; Randolph Kent — 7. Human Security Intelligence: Towards a Comprehensive Understanding of Humanitarian Crises; Fred Bruls and Walter Dorn — PART IV:OSINT and Counter-terrorism — 8. Detecting Events from Twitter: Situational Awareness in the Age of Social Media; Simon Wibberley and Carl Miller — 9. Jihad Online: What Militant Groups Say about Themselves and What it Means for Counterterrorism Strategy; John Amble — Conclusion; Christopher Hobbs, Matthew Moran and Daniel Salisbury.


Date Posted:      September 9, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2]

Open source intelligence or OSINT is commonly thought of as all information in the public domain. Allen Dulles contributed to this view in his 1947 Senate testimony when he said the “proper analysis of intelligence obtainable by these overt, normal, and above-board means would supply us with over 80 percent, I should estimate, of the information required for the guidance of our national policy.”[3] A more accurate formulation would have reversed the terms “intelligence” and “information.” Open Source Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century deals with many aspects of OSINT in a four-part study with nine contributions by academics and former intelligence officers.

Part One begins with an assessment of the role and value of OSINT. It weighs the utility of numerical measures of OSINT’s contribution that range from Dulles’ 80 percent to a high of 98 percent by other authorities, adding that none explain how intelligence units should be used—articles, bits, time, resources, facts? An alternative qualitative approach to OSINT’s contribution that avoids the percentage ambiguity is suggested. But no mention is made of the effort required to validate OSINT. Sometimes public reports on an event or topic differ; analysts must decide which is correct. OSINT is not off-the-shelf intelligence.

Then comes a much-needed new “INT”: SOCMINT, or social media intelligence. In fact, this makes sense since social networks and the Internet comprise such a large part of today’s communication options. The methods, legalities, potential benefits, and impact of cyber security are considered.

Other topics include the role of OSINT in proliferation analysis and the potential for illicit trade in nuclear materials, and OSINT’s contribution to humanitarian crises and counterterrorism. The discussion of the latter topic includes the use of social media in monitoring the traffic between militant groups by civilian agencies and the military.

Open Source Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century is well documented and informative. It leaves no doubt that OSINT plays an important role while stressing the futility of seeking to quantitatively measure its contribution.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, pp. 124-125). Joseph C. Goulden’s 1982 book, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, was published in a Chinese-language edition in 2014 by Beijing Xiron Books. He is author of 18 nonfiction books. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, for law journals, and other publications. Some of the reviews appeared in prior editons of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted by permission of the author. Goulden’s most recent book [as of 2016] is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

[3] Allen Dulles, in National security act of 1947. Hearings before the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, first session, on H. R. 2319, a bill to promote the national security by providing for a National Defense Establishment which shall be administered by a Secretary of National Defense and for a Department of the Army, a Department of the Navy and a Department of the Air Force within the National Defense Establishment and for the coordination of the activities of the National Defense Establishment with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with the National security.[LCCN: 47046277], 1st Session, p. 526

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One Response to Open Source Intelligence in the Twenty-First Century

  1. Interesting Blog Christopher Hobbs. OSINT in 21st Century has influenced three key areas of international security – nuclear proliferation; humanitarian crises; and terrorism. New methodologies and approaches in technological advances have engendered the security risks.

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