Many are distrustful of the CIA and the intelligence community as a whole. Apparently so much so that Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time confidant to Hillary Clinton, was able to wield massive influence when it came to the decision to take action in Libya. Whether or not his information was accurate is not my primary interest. It’s that he pulled this off. Because to be plain, that’s badass. That level of influence is an intelligence officer’s dream. Except he’s just Sidney Blumenthal. This globetrotter was feeding high-level intel and background information to a head of state. Maybe that’s the future right there in front of us. Don’t bother recruiting spies, just be one and ask for forgiveness later.
Another interesting find in the Hillary emails is an email dedicated to a Financial Times op-ed about Syria. Apparently, the article also helped inform their opinions on the situation in the country. This gives credence and credibility to what SOFREP and others are doing right now. In an age of information, the ability to form a critical thought, regardless of your security clearance, remains at the heart of influence.
Who owns OSINT, open-source intelligence? Everyone and no one. It’s a struggle at the national level to figure out who is authorized to sell, create, or analyze OSINT. It’s a word that sounds official but means anything and everything. Understanding how to navigate the internet safely is as important as being on the lookout for counter-surveillance today. But we’re not focused on it. We’re stuck in the idea that we’re going to find the guy with the codes and that he is going to give them to us. Then, someone in the intelligence community will live forever with community lore attached to his or her name.
The world is complicated, and our enemies too dispersed to crack open with a single swipe. Even if you found a high-profile informant, he’ll just be lost in a sea of people. Plus, a person is flawed; there are no metrics to evaluate whatever reality they’re spinning. In the wake of the Jordanian doctor disaster in Afghanistan, and even in the situation in Syria, it’s clear we want to hear some things so badly, we are the ones getting played.
I’ve always felt that those with previous exposure to national security who move into journalism and wish to become thought leaders have a natural marriage with strategic thinking. The clearances hinder us from real talent. Looking back at the OSS—our actual model—many of the original recruits were journalists. Ideologically, many journalists are interested in doing the right thing. They’re willing to go wherever, unarmed. They’re underutilized in the ongoing battle to figure out the future. Like her or not, Susan Powers is impressive. She began as a journalist and was an important figure before helping then-Senator Obama.
We live in a golden age of information, but remain in a classification castle in the U.S. government. Where is this headed? What’s the solution? We as private citizens with knowledge and the ability to analyze and make recommendations may have a role to play. The government will be too slow to come around and digest OSINT. When they do, then there will be a funding battle in which cyber will likely take priority. People need to start reading, thinking, and contributing. Just expressing your opinions to members of Congress, consistently, can have a profound effect (it played a significant role in Syria after the chemical weapons drama). There will be a new generation of analysts and intelligence thought that isn’t bound by the walls of a sensitive compartmented information facility.