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Spy Agencies Turn To Online Sources For Info 140

Posted by kdawson
from the i-spy-with-my-little-internet dept.
palegray.net sends us to US News and World Report for an article about increased spy agency use of online sources. Turning to well-known destinations such as NPR and Wikipedia, folks in the intelligence world are increasingly filling their reports with information gleaned from the public domain. "A few days ago, a senior officer at the Pentagon called his intelligence officer into his office. The boss had heard a news report about China while driving to his office and wanted some answers. It wasn't a tough assignment, given the news coverage, but there was a hitch. 'There was plenty of information in the public domain about the topic,' recalls the intelligence officer, a 10-year veteran. 'And yet, if there wasn't some classified information cited in my report, the boss would never believe it was accurate.'"
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Spy Agencies Turn To Online Sources For Info

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  • Just Google it Agent Smith.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Just ask United Airlines.

  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:27PM (#25018657) Journal

    Spy Agencies Turn To Online Sources For Info

    How naive can people get? Even I spy on my friends and neighbors this way and have done so for years. Professionals have been doing it for much longer.

    • by lgw (121541) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:53PM (#25018963) Journal

      Seriously. Most spying is not covert at all. Most of our spies work openly, either here or in embassies in other nations, simply reading the local press and other local public information. This is called "official cover", but the spies aren't in any way covert (it now US law that if a memebr of, say, the CIA has ever been posted overseas with official cover, they can never do covert work - because CIA managers tried to get cute and lots of people died).

      The one thing a CIA employee will never do is directly collect secret information from a forieng government - they're not sneaking into government buildings at night photographing secret documents with tiny cameras, or planting bugs, or etc. Overt agents just read the press (and get the mood on the street). Covert agents recuit trusted locals to do any sneaky stuff (often posing as a memebr of some other nation's covert intelligence arm - whatever nation the source is sympathetic to).

      There was a time when the overt data colection would get you executed as a spy, so there's a historical reson for our overt agents to pose as State Department officials, but it's not exactly a secret these days (anyone in an American embassy is just automatically assumed to be a spy), and most useful and trustworthy information comes this way.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 15, 2008 @08:22PM (#25019275)

        Actually one of the more interesting bits i've run into concerning modern espionage is based exactly on what you're describing there. Between the restrictions on covert operatives and the restrictions on us "officials and ambassadors" usually the actual black-mask stuff is outsourced to a foreign power. This allows the US to state they did not authorize whatever it was, deny that their agents had anything to do with it (carefully), and also show that they didn't break the statute that US officials and ambassadors cannot bribe foreign nationals.

        Funny thing is, all that takes is getting someone else to do the actual spying/bribing. Also interesting, it's thanks to this exact situation that is why canada has some of the best covert ops and communications interceptions people in the world.

        • by causality (777677) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:53PM (#25020139)

          Actually one of the more interesting bits i've run into concerning modern espionage is based exactly on what you're describing there. Between the restrictions on covert operatives and the restrictions on us "officials and ambassadors" usually the actual black-mask stuff is outsourced to a foreign power. This allows the US to state they did not authorize whatever it was, deny that their agents had anything to do with it (carefully), and also show that they didn't break the statute that US officials and ambassadors cannot bribe foreign nationals.

          Amazing how that works, isn't it? This is a completely hypothetical scenario: If you kill someone, you are charged with murder; if you contract a thug to kill somebody for you ... you are charged with murder. If you're a US official and you conduct the "black-mask stuff", you are breaking the law. If you're a US official and you conduct the "black-mask stuff" by proxy, why, that's fine and good and you get to enjoy doing so with impunity. Isn't that wonderful?

          I seem to be in a tiny minority because I believe that government officials should be held to a stricter standard and punished much more severely when they break the law, because when they do it and especially when they either get away with it or receive a slap on the wrist, it's a threat to the entire concept of rule of law. The fevered egos who want political power are easily replaced -- if any are legally removed from power by means of due process and convicted of a crime, there are plenty more where they came from. The concept of rule of law is not so easily replaced.

          • Replying to remove my accidental 'Redundant' mod - was meant to be 'insightful.' Oops!
          • by KGIII (973947) * on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @06:10AM (#25022985) Journal

            Sometimes laws need to be broken.

            (Before the mods get snarky - look at copyright and patent laws.)

            The very idea of covert acts means, generally, violations of someone's laws.

            I see this sort of stuff on /. all the time and, well, I guess I'm old. One minute we'll sit here and yell that information wants to be free. The next minute we'll sit here and yell that our private data must remain private when we just got done saying that all information wants to be free.

            It just doesn't hold up. I have been just as guilty of this.

            I think it is my military (Marines) background that triggers it on conversations like this. There are times and places where the law must be broken. It is against the Geneva Convention to use a shotgun in combat. If I am in combat and the only weapon I have available is a shotgun then, yeah, fuck that convention.

            Am I attempting to justify the acts of corrupt officials? No. When a person in power fails I think they should be held to higher punitive damages than your average citizen simply due to the fact that they were an officiate. But, and here's the kicker, I think that there are times when extreme actions must be taken for the benefit of society as a whole. I'd suggest watching a really retarded example of this to see where I am coming from. Download, buy, rent the movie, 'Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins.'

            "Would you watch your child die in a house fire or attempt to rescue your child knowing that you will die in the attempt?" If you answer that you will attempt to rescue your child in hopes that the slim chance will allow them to live and you to die or both of you to live then welcome to the human race. If you answer with the choice to watch your child then congratulations, you will make a good leader.

            Just so you know, I am of the 'attempt to rescue my child' group so I have my doubts as to how well I'd lead. Sometimes I lie to myself and think I'd do the logical thing that minimized risk while maintaining my ability to continue to procreate and further the human race but, really, I don't know and suspect I'd try to rescue my child.

            As an aside, I think the majority of our current crop of elected officials in the United States of America are from a separate group, those who are cowards and would not make a choice but would hide and, well, do nothing.

            There are times when violating a law is a requirement for a variety of reasons. Civil Rights leaders accomplished a great deal by encouraging people to disobey the laws that they felt were unjust. In *my* state you are ENTITLED to drive as fast as you would like if you are an elected representative and are not on time for the assembly. On the other hand, if you are too slow in getting there, they can and will send out the state police to get your ass to the assembly via escort.

            There is a time and place to allow people to violate the law. Some laws are just fucking stupid. I think that in ALL cases of law violation the matter should be judged effectively and without bias while looking to ensure the greater good for the society as a whole.

            The above paragraph's words were chosen carefully. Many people think that their societal rules should apply to the world in general and I think that ruins cultural diversity. I say "the society" because our views don't represent that of the world. The majority of the world lives in what we would view as a repressed state. If we were a democracy, world wide, we would be in the minority. That should probably clue people in as to how skewed our thinking is. To me, if a society has chosen to treat women as second class citizens, use slaves, or force something we consider inhumane on their citizens it is not our place to judge them as long as they keep what they believe within the confines of their spaces. We, as a Western Culture, have decided that our views are the only acceptable positions. We here on slashdot have taken that a step further and decided that our small segment of views (and we can't agree on them) is the on

            • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @07:17AM (#25023293)

              Oh there are Special Circumstances. Times when actions not normally allowed must be taken. Drop a daisy cutter on the town to stop a viral outbreak, shoot the suspect who you think is about to set off a bomb, tap the phone of the guy you suspect has access to some terrible weapon.
              There need to be mechanisms to decide when it was justified to break the law.

              But when it's all over, the disease is contained, the bomb plot finished or foiled, the suspect found guilty or exonerated it all needs to be draged into the light.

              The general who decided to break a law and bomb the town should have to stand before the people and show that what they did saved lives. Not investigated by a closed military court where his mate from boot camp is the judge and his golf friends are the jury.

              The cop who shot the suspected bomber should stand before a public court, not a closed internal police investigation. Everyone should see the evidence, let the members of the society that's being protected decide if they are willing to accept such actions for the sake of more safety or if they can't tollerate them.

              Let the agent who tapped the phones of suspects stand up and explain exactly why what he was doing was so important that he was willing to break the law. If the people decide if he was ultimatly justified.

              But instead we get closed hearing, classified documents and amnesties for politicians friends.
              There needs to be strict short limits for how long government documents can be kept secret with careful controls on extensions. If some operation needs to be kept secret for more than a few years or months then let them explain why to the supreme court (closed court sessions like this should be kept to a minimum).

              Otherwise you get stories like this:

              http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/07/09/alharamain_lawsuit/print.html [salon.com]

              • by KGIII (973947) * on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @10:36AM (#25025227) Journal

                No. The General who made the choice to obey orders does not ever need to be in front of the public explaining his choice. He follows the Commander In Chief. He follows orders and so long as he was following those orders (and he damned well better except in circumstances we've NEVER seen as a human species) he never needs to defend his actions.

                That doesn't mean that he is unaccountable for information. When the dust settles he had also better be able to damned well tell you who he got his orders from. More important than anything else they, those in power, should be able to explain HOW there was a benefit to the war or to society in general by their acts. Rather than animosity they should be encouraged to speak.

                I'm guessing you have no military experience and no combat experience? I, on the other hand, will die and kill to protect you if need be. This doesn't mean I ACCEPT our current actions across the globe, just my personal feelings. In fact, for the most part, I agree that what you are saying makes sense.

                The problem with making sense is that those things are most likely all already covered in the law. Altering the law to suit the circumstances is, in my opinion, a bad idea.

                Here, I have a way to save a metric fuckton of gasoline. Take out all stop signs and all red lights except where there is evidence to show that they are absolutely needed. The gas saved from a rolling stop will save a fortune. I can back this up with math.

                Is this a law that I need to break to get my point across? Probably not.

                We already have the laws and *should* strive to live within them. New or additional laws tend to suck. If you can get and pass a law that says all you entail or think then I applaud you.

                A huge part of my mentality comes from being a Marine. I don't support Bush one bit but if I were ORDERED to serve I would do so without question. I consider that a failing on my part.

                • The General who made the choice to obey orders does not ever need to be in front of the public explaining his choice. He follows the Commander In Chief.

                  I only said "general" because it was the first rank I could think of which I thought would be a decent example of where buck might stop for a big decision.
                  Lets say the Commander In Chief is the one who decided to break the law in some significant way or that the Commander In Chief could not be contacted in time.

                  He follows orders and so long as he was following those orders (and he damned well better except in circumstances we've NEVER seen as a human species) he never needs to defend his actions.

                  actually no, there you are extremely wrong and the fact that they never hammered that one into soldiers is worrying.
                  If you're ordered "round up all those villagers, put them in that barn and set fire

                  • by KGIII (973947) *

                    The Commander in Cheif is the President in my country and yes, yes he should face some charges but he never will.

                    And yeah, even if you weren't American. I'd still die to protect you or kill for you if called to do so.

                • by bkr1_2k (237627)

                  It is still unlawful to obey an unlawful order. It always has been and always will be. Now, whether the scenario explained is unlawful or not, is probably up for debate at this point. I believe that's the reason for open hearings that HungryHobo might have been getting at.

            • by SimonGhent (57578)

              There are times when violating a law is a requirement for a variety of reasons. ...
              In *my* state you are ENTITLED to drive as fast as you would like if you are an elected representative and are not on time for the assembly. ...

              There is a time and place to allow people to violate the law.

              Agreed, but that is not one of them!

              I'd be deeply suspicious of any law that sets out lesser standards for "an elected representative", higher standards on the other hand...

              • by lgw (121541)

                Ahh, this is actually a very interesting special case. It's very bad indeed to allow a representative to be detained for any reason when on the way to cast a vote. Think about it.

                The federal government and most (all?) states have similar laws, and for good reason. Sure this gets abused (see Charlie Wilson and his DWI accident) but the abuse is still better than the abuse under the alternative.

            • by causality (777677)

              I think it is my military (Marines) background that triggers it on conversations like this. There are times and places where the law must be broken. It is against the Geneva Convention to use a shotgun in combat. If I am in combat and the only weapon I have available is a shotgun then, yeah, fuck that convention.

              The difference between us and them (the government officials) is that you would do that expecting to pay the price for violating the Geneva Conventions. If any government official feels he has a h

          • by bkr1_2k (237627)

            I agree that government officials should be held to a higher standard but I ask, whose law?

            It's not against US law for our operatives to spy on foreign governments. It's against that foreign government's law.

            You're comparing to very different things.

            • by causality (777677)

              I agree that government officials should be held to a higher standard but I ask, whose law?

              It's not against US law for our operatives to spy on foreign governments. It's against that foreign government's law.

              You're comparing to very different things.

              The example given was one in which an official conducts an action by proxy in order to hide the fact that he is conducting that action, i.e. because said action is illegal/unethical and would get said official into legal trouble or perhaps bring a large amount of disgrace. Therefore in this example it's implied that there is a law or a standard somewhere that could be used against this hypothetical official (whose law or whose standard is irrelevant so long as it satisfies that criteria). You are talking

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by meringuoid (568297)
          I remember hearing about an interesting little scheme that the US / UK axis used to perpetrate. This is back when it was illegal for the US government to wiretap its own citizens, and the same in the UK. So instead the British eavesdropped on Americans' calls, and the Americans eavesdropped on Britons' calls, and then the two intelligence agencies simply compared notes.
          • by myvirtualid (851756) <<pwwnow> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @07:10AM (#25023265) Journal

            I remember hearing about a scheme that the US / UK axis used... to wiretap its own citizens.... the British eavesdropped on Americans' calls, and the Americans eavesdropped on Britons' calls, and then the two intelligence agencies simply compared notes

            It's called ECHELON [wikipedia.org] and its more than US-UK: It's the Anglic-5 (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).

            With Canada and Australia in the mix, a significant part of the globe is covered. And with all five countries in the mix, it's easy to imagine that perhaps one government would pass on information about persons of interest to any of the other four.

            Oh, I suppose I need a mandatory /.ism:

            ...a scheme that the US / UK axis used to perpetrate...

            ...a scheme that the US / UK axis perpetrate...

            There, fixed that for ya!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Alsee (515537)

          canada has some of the best covert ops and communications interceptions people in the world.

          I've never trusted those goddamn Canadians.

          Their in it with the gays - building landingstrips for the aliens.

          -

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cdrguru (88047)

        There was a time when the overt data colection would get you executed as a spy,

        Where have you been hiding? China imprisons such people even when they are clearly not working for anyone outside China. Many Middle East countries will certainly execute people that are reading the newspapers a little too closely.

        When was the last time that an American was imprisoned or executed? It has been a while, at least back to the 1980s or so.

        • When was the last time that an American was imprisoned or executed? It has been a while, at least back to the 1980s or so.

          There were some Americans caught [wikipedia.org]by China after they crashed their plane in to a Chinese craft.

          There was never any question that the US team were spies, on reconaissance in Chinese airspace.

          I don't know if you could describe what happened to them as imprisonment, but they were certainly held in detention for a while before they were ultimately released.

      • by dubner (48575)

        Yeah, there's nothing new under the sun -- it's been going on for years. When I was in the USAF in the late 70's and 80's, Squadron Intelligence got their data on the foreign powers and briefed aircrews based on articles in Time Magazine.

      • For those interested in some further reading on the subject, might I suggest the following: Class 11: Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class [amazon.com]. The book elaborates upon, among other things, the differences between clandestine and covert operations, the training of CIA case officers for domestic and overseas assignments, different types of cover (official and otherwise), and basic spycraft techniques employed by case officers. It was an interesting inside look at an often misunderstood agency of our gove
      • by bit01 (644603)

        they're not sneaking into government buildings at night photographing secret documents with tiny cameras, or planting bugs, or etc.

        That's so passé.

        Covert agents recruit trusted locals to do any sneaky stuff

        Like that network connected windows office PC or smartphone sitting on the desk there. The one with the cute animated LOLcat screensaver. With the built-in microphone and camera.

        M$ (and almost certainly the US government with a secret "security letter") have complete access to every network conne

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by Joe Snipe (224958)

      Even I spy on my friends and neighbors this way and have done so for years

      I think this is the first time I actually experienced "lolwut?"

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        "lolwut". I had to look that one up. LOL! And you can ignore this sentence, it's just to pass the time so /. lets me post.
        • by Joe Snipe (224958)

          Glad someone thought it was funny. Why are you spying on your friends and neighbors, BTW?

    • by stanjam (1057588) *
      Ya, this is not new, nor should it be Earth Shattering news. What would be news is if spy networks didn't use the internet for data collection. It works both ways though. There is a lot of information out there that isn't accurate or is purposely misleading. You may find information on the net, but verifying those leads can be the real bear I would imagine.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:27PM (#25018661) Journal

    Interestingly, the name for intelligence derived from analyzijng public information (rather than spying) is "open sources".

    Note the trailing "s".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Errr... no, it's not. OSINT is just plain "open source", no 's'. Check Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for more information.

    • by xyzzy (10685) on Monday September 15, 2008 @08:07PM (#25019089) Homepage

      Not sure what you're trying to imply. Open Source intelligence predates open source software by probably 30 years.

      • by dynamo52 (890601)

        Interestingly, the name for intelligence derived from analyzijng public information (rather than spying) is "open sources".

        Note the trailing "s".

        Not sure what you're trying to imply. Open Source intelligence predates open source software by probably 30 years.

        I think what he was saying is that to qualify as "intelligence", that it has to be widely reported from many perspectives if it is coming from the public domain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:28PM (#25018693)

    Can you imagine if they got into an edit war with Osama on Wikipedia?

    • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:31PM (#25018727) Homepage Journal
      Truly everyone researches online, why would intelligence agencies be any different?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It comes down to trust.

        If you think everyone should trust what they read on the Internet, then God help you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Well, Tony Blair [wikipedia.org] did it too. So it must be a good idea.

        Whole sections of Marashi's writings on "Saddam's Special Security Organisation" were repeated verbatim including typographical errors, while certain amendments were made to strengthen the tone of the alleged findings (eg. "monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq" became "spying on foreign embassies in Iraq", and "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes" became "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes").

    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:49PM (#25018915) Homepage
      If they use Wikipedia, I wonder what they'll make of edits like the following:-

      "Osama Bin Laden is generally considered to be one of the leading inspirations of global terrorism AND MR SMITH IS HIS BOYFRIEND LOL!!!!! ALSO KIM SMELLS and a leading component of the so-called "axis of evil".

      "Sir, it appears that Osama Bin Laden is associated with previously unknown figure called 'Mr. Smith'. Further investigations reveal that Mr.Smith is Michael James Smith, an English teacher at Buttfuck Middle School, Illinois."

      "Excellent work... have him arrested as soon as possible, and don't let him get away. He may have valuable information on his homosexual lover Bin Laden, or even be a part of the conspiracy himself. Also, find out who the fuck this mysterious 'Kim' girl is."

      "Rumour has it that she's an adversary of the person who contributed this information anonymously via a Buttfuck Education Board IP address, and that she may be one of three girls between ten and thirteen years old."

      "I'm beginning to suspect that this information might not be quite as reliable as we'd hoped."

      "So you suspect that Kim doesn't smell after all?"

      • Look at Youtube and Liveleak; there are dozens of terrorist training and recruiting videos, as well as videos of Islamic attacks against American troops. There are posters that post pro-Islamic statements on those websites as well. Now, many of those are trolls, but if the NSA tracks these people and put a web together, they probably could get a good idea of how things work. Abrogation of civil rights? Sure. The worst thing the Bush Administration ever did? Not the least.

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          How is tracking information which is in the public domain an abrogation of civil rights?

          Next thing you'll be telling me is that it's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed. If you're stupid enough to implicate yourself, there's absolutely nothing that says the authorities can't take advantage of it.

          • by dynamo52 (890601)

            Next thing you'll be telling me is that it's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed

            It's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed. This isn't because they are not retards violating a law in a public way. The question is why the hell are the police wasting valuable public resources pouring over facebook to find idiots who are merely viol

    • by orkysoft (93727)

      It's already happened [slashdot.org]...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's called robots.txt

  • by Rie Beam (632299) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:33PM (#25018751) Journal

    "Due to increased intelligence gathering online, we have come to believe fighters in Iraq have developed some sort of animal growth hormone, capable of increasing fertility exponentially. What they plan to do with it is unknown, but the fact stands, the elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months!

    Trivia:
    * African elephants are not normally found all over Africa
    * Elephants have been in many films, and tend to be used as trucks"

    • by tygt (792974)
      More trivia:

      * African elephants are not normally found in Iraq
      * Iraq is not normally found in Africa

  • by istartedi (132515) on Monday September 15, 2008 @07:39PM (#25018807) Journal

    "I pulled facts from the public domain and fit them together into a well-researched report with accurate citations". Booooring.

    "I'm presenting this report because I know you're cleared, and I believe you have the need to know. It's TOP SECRET, Compartmentalized, Code Fushia". Sex-ay!

    • by e4g4 (533831) on Monday September 15, 2008 @09:04PM (#25019701)
      Hate to be a language usage/spelling nazi, but fuchsia is spelled that way, and the phrase you're looking for in your sig is "For all intents and purposes" - whether or not the purposes are intensive is irrelevant.
      • by ecavalli (1216014)

        Hate to be a language usage/spelling nazi, but fuchsia is spelled that way, and the phrase you're looking for in your sig is "For all intents and purposes" - whether or not the purposes are intensive is irrelevant.

        Unless those uses of "whom" are also classified and code fuchsia. Intensive times call for intensive use of the word "whom." Sieg Heil!

      • It's starting again!
        When I mistakenly used this phrase on slashdot it led to over a hundred posts of pure pedantry.

      • by Alsee (515537)

        If you're going to be a usage/spelling nazi, at least get it right.
        He shouldn't have had a 'u' in "Intensive porpoises".

        -

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Hate to be a language usage/spelling nazi

        No you don't.

    • by Alsee (515537)

      "I'm presenting this report because I know you're cleared, and I believe you have the need to know. It's TOP SECRET, Compartmentalized, Code Fushia". Sex-ay!

      Ok... calling Code Fushia sexy has got to be on the top-ten list of Clues You Might Be Gay.

      -

  • Does it sound to you like the intelligence agencies are a bit late to the game? Isn't big brother supposed to be watching everything we do? Carnivore and all that? Something sounds fishy about this, like a false flag kind of thing. You know they have been monitoring the intarwebtubes for child porn and anything else they can find. To hear someone say they are having trouble presenting information from the Internet is like saying NASCAR mechanics just found out ways to cheat using fuel additives.

    Seriously, n

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)
      The government is not as omnipotent as you think due to policies that make little sense. US Intelligence comes in for a lot of criticism due to a lot of it being done by people that fly in and out, don't even speak the language, and get everything from some form of remote sensing that removes context or tip offs from petty criminals which removes context. The British method was to have people living in the place for years that spoke the language and were completly loyal instead of a temporary bribe.

      The ma

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Most of the competent people were fired by Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, that meant that only the incompetent political hacks were left. It will take the rest of my lifetime for that to be fixed.

  • No new news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Technician (215283) on Monday September 15, 2008 @08:06PM (#25019067)

    This is not news. Intelligence gathering has been from two types of operations. Covert is the stuff spy movies are made of with wire taps, break-ins, etc. Less glamorous is the overt gathering of info which is still a huge part of any intelligence operation. This is classic observation of publicly exposed information. Overt intelligence is still kept under wraps as it is not a good idea to reveal just what you are looking for.

    Overt intelligence includes reading local newspapers, picking up over the air radio traffic, including encrypted (who and how much traffic is important even without breaking the code) and simply watching train, ship, truck traffic. A train load of military vehicles doesn't need covert operations to notice. The fact you noticed is often classified. A fishing boat using lots of encrypted radio traffic is of interest for example, but watching ports and keeping track of where it visits is an overt operation, but what is found out is kept under wraps from the public for good reason.

    Watching train watchers, and other sets of eyes online is the only new angle in addition to picking up local newspapers and watching trains arrive and leave. It saves on manpower and may pick up something of interest.

    Understanding what happened to the nuclear core of the Trogan Nuclear plant does not require covert ops to know the core was loaded on a boat and shipped up the Columbia River. If it headed out to sea instead, it would have been noticed without covert ops.

    • Yep. Its called OSINT. nothing new.

    • by nospam007 (722110)

      >Less glamorous is the overt gathering of info which is still a huge part of any intelligence operation.

      So IOW they get billions to google Bin Laden?

    • I'd only say, supporting your view that the objective of any intelligence agency or military is (paraphrasing) "To Protect and Serve". Whatever means are used to accomplish this, I don't really care as long as it truly helps the mission even if the information is public and not guarded at all. I've the impression that this has been the case all along. Analysis depends on understanding politics, geography, biology, chemistry, economics, math, yada yada. Are they going to re-write everything just to make it

  • That explains it (Score:5, Informative)

    by russotto (537200) on Monday September 15, 2008 @08:07PM (#25019087) Journal
    Now we know why the CIA etc has been so often completely off base -- they've been getting their information from Slashdot!
  • So now the truth comes out - some anti-iraq cheerleader edited the wikipedia article on Iraq to say that Hussein had massive amounts of WMDs and the spy agencies plagiarized wikipedia and with no actual agents in iraq they just took it at face value.

    Upon further investigation it seems the the IP address of the edit that put those claims of WMD in the article on iraq is the same as the one for the Project for the New American Century. [newamericancentury.org]

  • "Er, um, yeah, boss."

    "I had to check out that Goatse site for possible terrorist activity. You don't want then sneaking up behind us when we're not looking. Do you?"

  • by PhoenixHack (1032194) on Monday September 15, 2008 @10:11PM (#25020253)
    I hardly find it surprising the senior officer wanted a second opinion to "news" derived from the official spin put out by Chinese government officials.
  • The spools have always used open sources (newspapers, radio stories, etc.) to agument their clandestine information. They have been doing this at least since WW2, and probably since the Romans.

    No news here, move along.

    • by KGIII (973947) *

      Spools?

      I'm at a loss. Rather than flame or what not, I'll ask what you are saying so that I can understand it better.

  • And yet, if there wasn't some classified information cited in my report, the boss would never believe it was accurate.'

    DUH!

    That's what separates you, backed by billions of dollars and the latest, greatest, technology, from me sitting in my boxers pounding snacks and hammering google!

    Does this even require common sense? I think this shows a severe deficiency in the intelligence community. If they're using wikipedia and other websites as sources, then why do they need billions of dollars a year to do their

    • Re:DUH! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:00AM (#25021465)

      That's not intelligence. It's what everyone already knows.

      Obviously you have never worked in the intelligence business. The public domain is the first source of information for any intelligence agency and it generally contains a lot of useful information. As you yourself have said, a great deal of information can be gleaned using basic search techniques, cross-checking, and comparison of publicly available sources and it is relatively cheap too. So before you devote time, money, and resources to developing more information on a particular subject by non-public means, wouldn't you want to devote some time to reading Google news and checking basic facts with a few well placed queries? At the very least it would help you to decide what cases merit the time and effort of a more thorough investigation. Even the most powerful and pervasive intelligence gathering agencies do not have unlimited resources after all.

  • NPR, BBC, PRI, APM, MC Lehrer Ndws Hour, TOTN, TTBOOK, Science Friday...

  • Huh? How stupid can one get to use the Internet as a reliable source of information? As I and many others have written It it is on the Internet it must be true! [uncyclopedia.org] as a joke for many that do fact-checking over the Internet.

    Those that "fact check" over the Internet become known as Uncyclopedia Brown [uncyclopedia.org] and will believe any wild far fetched conspiracy theory [uncyclopedia.org] and do political attacks on vice-presidental candidates based on fictional stuff someone wrote on a blog [youtube.com] like Sarah Palin believes that dinosaurs existed 4000

  • I hear wikileaks.org is pretty good.

  • Most of "spy" work is done by intel analysts compiling all the public sources of info, and indexing them, then making connections.

    Of course there's much more public info every day than the secret info even the best spies can find out. And of course all the public info must be dealt with, because otherwise anyone could have an advantage in that blind spot. So simple logic shows how there's vastly more public sources for intel services than secret info.

    This basic fact has been known to anyone serious with any

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      Moderation -1
          100% Overrated

      Some "spies" have lame jobs like going around trollModding comments that explain how lame their jobs are.

  • Which on of the following is that:
    * National Partnership for Reinventing Government under the Clinton administration in the United States
    * Nevada Public Radio
    * Non-photorealistic rendering, a computer graphics rendering technique that does not aim toward photorealism
    * North Pennsylvania Railroad
    * Nuclear posture review, the occasional assessment and planning taken

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