Dan Butler

LexisNexis Roundtable on Open Source Intelligence

delivered 17 June 2010, The National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address


MR. BUTLER: I'd like to thank Andrew and LexisNexis and the National Press Club for hosting this event and doing the difficult work of organizing it.

When Andrew suggested this a couple of months ago now, I think it was, he told me there was a hunger for discussion in our community, in our professional community, about open source intelligence, and he reminded me of the conference we had -- three-day conference back in 2008. And I thought, yeah, there might be a hunger for it, and I was surprised actually when I saw that he had to cut off registration for the event today.

And I appreciate the great turnout, and itís kind of like a reunion. Iím seeing a lot of really terrific people, people that were pioneers in this business, people like Peggy Lyons [ph], who actually wrote the first Intelligence Community Directive 301 on the National Open Source Enterprise; Dr. Dick Ward from the University of New Haven, who is truly a pioneer in the academic community in terms of bringing open source exploitation capability to the forefront. And I saw that firsthand when he was the dean at Sam Houston University. So really, this is a pleasure for me to be able to see so many good friends and colleagues.

I want to thank my panelists, my colleagues, who have taken time out of a very busy schedule to join us here today. Alex Joel is jumping on a plane as soon as we finish up here and going off to speak somewhere else. Ken Rapuano came rushing up 95 to be here to join us today. Doug Magoffin was probably just lingering in the hallway somewhere most of the morning.

DOUG MAGOFFIN: Watching soap operas.

BUTLER: But we really were fortunate to get people like Kevin OíConnell and Mark Gabriele, who can tell us a lot about what we should be anticipating in the future for open source intelligence.

I want to thank all of you for coming. I know you all are very busy, and I know from knowing many of you that you are critical to the overall enterprise, what I consider not the intelligence community but the community of intelligence that we in the IC need to tap into to be able to do our job most effectively.

Let me start by just saying that -- telling you a little bit about my small office. Peggy has heard this a few times. My small office was established by our first Director of National Intelligence, Ambassador John Negroponte during the first year of the ODNI, and we were charged with advocacy, integration, evaluation, oversight and guiding strategic investment in our National Open Source Enterprise.

And Iím reading this to you out of the first Intelligence Community Directive 300, that actually outlined responsibilities within the DNI, within the Directorate of Collection, for various disciplines that we needed to provide oversight for for the entire community.

Now, Iím also charged with encouraging community collaboration, building public-private partnerships, overseeing the DNI Open Source Center and two other national centers. In my advocacy role, Iím a big believer in public discourse about our profession, within the bounds of discretion of course, and believe we have a responsibility to think strategically about our future intelligence community enterprise.

Iím proud of the dedicated men and women who have built and sustained our nationís open source exploitation capabilities. They are extraordinary professionals. They include librarians like Janet Burke [ph], who is sitting here on the second row, the librarian up at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Iíve watched Janet play a leading role in building our National Open Source Enterprise for the intelligence community.

Events like this one allow us to contemplate how the future open source environment might present us with new challenges and new opportunities -- opportunities to do our job better, more efficiently, and honoring our pledge to safeguard our national security and protect and defend our Constitution and our values.

My job this afternoon is to provide some foundation and some context for you and the exceptional panelists that have joined us today. Weíre here to think towards the future, 10 years hence. Now, Iíve always found that itís good, if weíre going to have a panel and discuss something like OSINT, that we should define right from the outset what weíre talking about. So let me offer to you the official definition of OSINT, at least the official IC definition.

Open source intelligence is:

...intelligence produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.

That comes from the Intelligence Community Directive 301 entitled "National Open Source Enterprise." And we didnít make it up. It was cribbed, actually, from law -- the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2006.

"Open sources" is kind of a term thatís in vogue. I would say itís in vogue today because we were trying to think of a better way to capture what weíre doing today as opposed to what weíve done for decades, because really weíre not doing anything much different than we did during World War II or during the Cold War.

Open source is research. Itís good research. Itís rigorous and disciplined research. And I could give you a lot of good examples of how our intelligence community back in the 1940s and 1950s was built on a very solid foundation of what today we call open source intelligence, or open source exploitation. Back then we called it research. We went to librarians to get us the information and to help us find the answers we needed in order to perform our job.

What I would rather do is focus in on the game changer. The game changer was the Internet. We are in the Internet age. Today, in 2010, weíre grappling with a capability that is a tremendous force for good, as we have all experienced, Iím sure, and it can be used against us. It can be used against our national security. It can be used against our families. So itís a typical double-edged sword, a tool that can be used for good or for evil, and itís a tool that we have to figure out how to exploit best. The Internet has transformed the open source universe.

So whatís the ODNI interest in open source exploitation today and looking toward the future? Well, I would like to talk about our imperatives. I think itís important to look back at, even just five years later, why we are here, or why Iím here at least and why my panelists are engaged in this effort with us in trying to develop a federated National Open Source Enterprise.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, in Section 1052, states that,

It is the sense of Congress that open source intelligence is a valuable source that must be integrated into the intelligence cycle to ensure that United States policymakers are fully and completely informed. The DNI shall ensure that the intelligence community makes efficient and effective use of open source information and analysis.

That charge doesnít come much more directly or strongly, I think, than was provided by Congress and that sense of Congress.

The WMD Commission reported out in 2005 in the wake of the 9/11 disaster, and they looked at open source. And one of the things that they gave and provided to us as our mandate, as our charge and as our imperative was that we needed to do more with open source.

The WMD Commission stated,

Increasingly, intelligence community professionals need to quickly assimilate social, economic and cultural information about a country, information often detailed in open sources.

Executive Order 12333 as amended states,

All reasonable and lawful means must be used to ensure that the United States will receive the best intelligence possible. All means consistent with applicable federal law in this order and with full consideration of the rights of United States persons shall be used to obtain reliable intelligence information to protect the United States and its interests.

Special emphasis shall be given to the production of timely, accurate and insightful reports responsive to decision-makers in the executive branch that draw upon all appropriate sources of information, including open source information.

So these are our imperatives today. Weíre charged with ensuring that we make the best use of a vast and growing repository of open sources, and the Internet has dramatically changed the availability of open sources to the intelligence community.

Looking to the future -- thatís what weíre here to do today. We want to try to look forward 10 years into 2020 and try to figure out, try to grapple with and deliberate on, what might the open source universe look like in 10 years and what might we, as the intelligence community, need to be thinking about? How might we partner with our important partners in the private sector, in academia, foreign partners?

The WMD Commission actually projected ahead what they expected to see if we as an intelligence community did our job and did it well. According to the WMD Commission, it is our hope that open source will become an integral part of all intelligence activities.

The WMD Commission also referred to a finding and a recommendation where they recommended that about 50 open source analysts -- they called them "evange-analysts" [ph] -- be dedicated to the task of going out into the intelligence community and spreading the gospel, so to speak, of open source and the power of open source.

But the WMD Commission wasnít thinking in static terms. The WMD Commission said, however, we have an expectation:

We expect that the need for these specialized analysts will not be permanent. Over time, the knowledge this group has about open sources is likely to be absorbed by the general population of analysts as a result both of their education outreach efforts and of the influx of younger, more technologically savvy analysts. As this happens, these open source specialists can be absorbed into the broader analytic corps.

Now, itís important to understand this charge or this expectation from the WMD Commission. For those of us in this business who are responsible for ensuring that the IC makes appropriate and best use of open sources, we have been tasked by the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission essentially with putting ourselves out of business -- out of the business of establishing, nurturing, governing an industrial area capability for delivering open source-derived intelligence to decision-makers. The WMD Commissionís underlying message is that open source exploitation skills should be a core competency of every intelligence professional.

If we do our job well, we should see the U.S. intelligence community in 2020 exploiting, in a disciplined, ubiquitous fashion, the vast, pervasive and persistent cloud of open sources of information that the Internet and other technologies are now making accessible and conceivable. Our efficient and robust just-in-time access to expertise, knowledge and open source-derived wisdom should improve to the point that we can truly focus more acutely on the most difficult intelligence challenges facing our nation using other means, more expensive means, more esoteric, other-than-open-source means of collection.

I think there are several factors that we need to think about as we look to 2020. The first is obviously going to be technology. We have already seen that the Internet is a game-changer and we are going to see, riding on the backbone of the Internet, more game-changers, and I think Mark Gabriele will talk -- or speculate about what some of those game-changers might look like.

Smartphones. Itís astonishing today what a smartphone is capable of and what that provides to anybody with access to a smartphone, and what it provides to people that can get that material that people that have a smartphone can access.

GPS devices. Some of you, like my wife and I today, probably used a GPS device to get here. The GPS device in our vehicle -- the Garmin, the Magellan, the TomTom -- that is a tool thatís empowered by open source data, NAVTEQ data, and thatís a great example of the blending of technology and open source data in an interface that provides very actionable, timely, instantaneous intelligence.

Dr. Mark Gabriele will offer some insights into what we could be facing in the next 10 years and what those open source intelligence technologies could mean to our national security.

The second item I think we need to talk about are resources and risk. We should anticipate that our ability as a nation to fund ever-increasing growth in intelligence community budgets will end. What might that mean to our intelligence community, to our effort to exploit open sources? What about the relative capabilities of our adversaries? How might actual risk and the U.S. publicís tolerance of risk change in the ensuing 10 years?

Ironically, despite our immense national wealth and unprecedented investment in intelligence community capability, one could argue that our comparative advantage as an intelligence powerhouse has eroded in recent years with the advent of the Internet and the astonishing access to data it affords to everyone -- to your children, to our adversaries. The poor manís intelligence community is now available to anyone with access to an Internet cafť or a smartphone.

Our relative expertise and ability to exploit open sources is one advantage we would be well-advised to ensure we never cede to our adversaries. We must stay at the forefront of open source exploitation, innovation and sophistication.

What if budgets do fall? Itís a trite but powerful aphorism that necessity is the mother of invention. My team recently examined what the future could look like if we were forced to deal with drastic budget reductions in the intelligence community.

We took an extreme case and simulated a much smaller nation. We used an actual nation, that I hesitate to name, with a much smaller intelligence budget to postulate and assess how the U.S. intelligence community might actually end up relying more on inexpensive, virtually free open source information to address many of our intelligence requirements.

Panelists today with extensive experience dealing with outsized challenges and constrained resources are two former Marines, Doug Magoffin and Ken Rapuano, can address how falling resources, changes to our comparative advantage over adversaries, our adversariesí growing sophistication and access to open source intelligence, and U.S. societyís tolerance of risk and intrusion into our privacy can affect how we might use or might refrain from using open source technologies in the future.

Third, civil liberties and privacy -- key issues that we need to think about in the next 10 years. Foreseeable and unforeseen advances in technology, fluctuating resources and adjusting comparative advantages enjoyed by our adversaries will have significant ramifications for our society, for our security, for our civil liberties and for our privacy.

Again, Ken Rapuano, enjoying the perspective of somebody with direct and intense involvement in our homeland security policymaking after September 11th, 2001, can discuss the tensions in delicate and shifting policymaking and political balance we must find between security and privacy. And he can speak to how that balance changes with events, the actions of our adversaries, and other factors beyond our control.

Our communityís leading expert on civil liberties and privacy and what we as intelligence professionals must consider as we try to carry out our responsibilities is our statutory ODNI civil liberties protection officer, Mr. Alex Joel. Mr. Joel can speak to potential impact of pervasive Internet access to information about U.S. persons and how we must consider how and when we can, should, or should not exploit new technologies.

Finally, a fourth issue that I think we have to grapple with is how we organize and prioritize today to make most efficient use of open sources in the next 10 years. In my view, this is our real challenge. Itís something we as U.S. intelligence professionals, intelligence community leaders, U.S. industry and potential partners, partners in academia, must collectively tackle.

If we aspire to make disciplined, rigorous and sophisticated use of open source exploitation; if we intend to make that a core competency of every intelligence community professional, what might that require? How will dramatic technological shifts affect our ability to get to that stage? Will our national demographics, as the WMD Commission suggest, help us achieve our goals, or will we need to do more to exploit our demographic advantages? Do we, in fact, enjoy relative demographic advantage or will other nations enjoy those comparative advantages and outstrip us in sophisticated use of the Internet as an intelligence engine?

With growing access to open source data and new tools and applications that can sift and mash up that data for relevance and timely action, how much, if any, of the open source intelligence exploitation industry will be the exclusive province of the U.S. government, and how much will we be borrowing or buying just-in-time, and possibly at dramatically lower costs, over the next decade? Mr. Kevin OíConnell and our entire panel can help us delve into aspects of these and other key questions as we contemplate OSINT in the year 2020.

Thank you for joining us today. I look forward to your questions, your insights and a constructive dialogue on these issues.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Original Text, Audio, Image (Screenshot) Source: DNI.gov

Page Updated: 1/23/22

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