Open Source Intelligence (OSINT): Issues for Congress [Updated January 28, 2008]   [open pdf - 161KB]

"Open source information (OSINT) is derived from newspapers, journals, radio and television, and the Internet. Intelligence analysts have long used such information to supplement classified data, but systematically collecting open source information has not been a priority of the U.S. Intelligence Community. In recent years, given changes in the international environment, there have been calls, from Congress and the 9/11 Commission among others, for a more intense and focused investment in open source collection and analysis. However, some still emphasize that the primary business of intelligence continues to be obtaining and analyzing secrets. The collection and analysis of OSINT information will be ultimately judged by its contribution to the overall intelligence effort. Collecting information from open sources is generally less expensive and less risky than collection from other intelligence sources. The use of OSINT may result not only in monetary savings but also in less risk than utilizing sensitive technical and human sources. OSINT can also provide insights into the types of developments that may not be on the priority list for other systems or may not be susceptible to collection through other intelligence approaches - innovative applications of new technologies, shifts in popular attitudes, emergence of new political and religious movements, growing popular discontent, disillusionment with leadership, etc. Supporters of OSINT maintain that the future contribution of the Intelligence Community will be enhanced by its ability to provide detailed information and incisive analyses of such developments. This report will be updated as new information becomes available."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL34270
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