Open Source Information
March 1, 2006
The global counterterrorism campaign cannot be successful without the adequate exploitation of open source information. A long-standing bias for classified information within the intelligence community and among its many customers constitutes a significant obstacle to international counterterrorism efforts. Over the course of the past year, a CSIS team conducted research, traveled extensively for interviews, and convened two major conferences in Europe―all of which helped to confirm and define the seriousness of this problem. CSIS has now organized a unique effort that, in conjunction with U.S. and international partners, will develop and then turn over to governments and outside experts alike a working model for significantly enhanced information sharing on counterterrorism—a model that has open source information (OSI) and a trusted information network (TIN) of individuals at its core. This report shares some of what has been learned and discusses the way ahead in this new and potentially critical area of information sharing and open source exploitation.
The authors believe that important perspectives on the shape and pace of terrorism in Europe are already beginning to emerge through this prism of unclassified information. When the expertise available to the CSIS TIN is brought to bear over the next year, even greater understanding of the terrorist threat will be developed. Most importantly, when this is ultimately combined with the privileged and sometimes more focused classified information obtained by numerous cooperating governments, CSIS will have created an important new tool to assist in combating terrorism.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is a senior adviser at CSIS and director of the CSIS Transnational Threats Project. Thomas Sanderson is deputy director and fellow of the Transnational Threats Project. John MacGaffin, formerly the associate deputy director for operations at the CIA, is a senior adviser at CSIS.