An OSINT primer

Much of what will appear on the battlefield-to-be is currently on display for anyone paying attention. Are you? If not; you should be. We call this Open Source INTelligence.

It used to be common occurrence that everyone watched the local news at 5 or 6, followed by the national news. You got a version of events for sure, but in that short time frame the world stopped and you payed attention. Even the kids. People at least to a certain degree understood the world around them.

Compared with the 24hr news cycle that exists today, all the information is readily available to you right when you want it; and yet, it seems like many are less informed than ever. Ask someone about Benghazi…depending on their political persuasion you’ll get a variety of answers but you may likely not get any sort of factual basis. Therein lies the problem- we are so bombarded with information we lack the ability to decipher it into anything usable.

In his book The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political—Citizen’s Action Handbook for Fighting Terrorism, Genocide, Disease, Toxic Bombs, & Corruption” Robert David Steele lays the foundations for Open Source intelligence collection and suggestions on how to read the news. If you don’t own his works, you’re well advised to do so.

Just like with Hide Sites watching a target, the more angles something is being viewed from renders a much more complete picture. For example, if you only watch one local news channel, you’ll only get one slant on local happenings. One outlet may be in the pocket of one businessman’s interests, and will report as such. Depending on their leanings they may give no mention at all to certain events that may definitely have ramifications to you. The more angles you view an event from, the more complete the picture becomes. Prime example- wouldn’t it make sense that Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have quite differing versions of events? Put aside your own leanings and read both; one side may have more info than others which leads me to my next point.

Who, What, Why, When, Where?

Ask these questions while filtering the “news” through your brain. Much of it these days is written as pseudo-editorial propaganda anyway, so glean the relevant info and trash the rest. Op-eds are not totally irrelevant however; often times they telegraph a larger intent. Anti-gun propaganda is a great example, as was the anti-tobacco campaign of the mid to late 90s. With a trained eye, a careful OSINT collector can formulate an MLCOA and MDCOA rather easily based upon telegraphed intent.

For example, the Russian Federation about a year ago put on a display of new weapons. They have been modernizing their equipment at a rather quick pace as well. From pictures, we can surmise that they’ve picked up a few lessons from observing us over the past 14 years in our excursions in the Mideast. It could’ve been a good guess that they’re gonna live-fire test this stuff. Now they’re cranking up in Syria and have been in Ukraine. What new equipment are they using? How effective are their attacks and by what methods? It’s a cop-out to simply say “airstrikes”…by what type of aircraft and what type of munitions? RT will tell you one story from the Russian/Assad angle, and Al Jazeera from the pro-ISIS angle. The truth normally lies somewhere in the middle. Observe both and consider this- the Spanish Civil War was the test bed for WWII in Europe. Smart folks at the time payed attention and certain lessons were learned; however not nearly enough.


Once you’ve collected your info, now begins the processing (remember-info is NOT Intelligence, and Intelligence is NOT Info) to develop it into something I call predictive analysis. Whether you’re a chess player or a boxer, figuring out what an opponent’s Most Likely and Most Deadly Course Of Action is the key to victory or at the minimum not getting totally devastated. We’ll continue the Syria scenario since it’s current events. Most likely Russia will continue the air campaign directed by small groups of GRU guys embedded with Hizballah(the pro-Assad 5th column sponsored by Iran) to keep the homefront happy. Most deadly would be the Russians arming the Kurds and directing them in attacks against Turkey, challenging NATO’s resolve. Time will tell.

The point here is that whether it be predictive analysis any threat, no matter how small or large, will at least ensure you have a fighting chance.

You may have to become your own intelligence analysis cell. Just following the basics of what you can glean from OSINT and formulating an ML/MDCOA from there will make a world of difference. Read as many sources as you can in the mornings while you’re drinking your coffee. Read one account then search for another version from another outlet. You’ll become much better in time, and in addition much more informed on the world around you. Give yourself that fighting chance.

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