Monday, May 26, 2008

Open Source Intelligence Collection

Newsweek becomes the unwitting accomplice to an idea being floated by the Defense establishment that, hopefully, will be shut down quickly and quietly:

Congressional experts fear that Defense intelligence agencies are not making wide enough—and smart enough—use of the vast pool of "open source" information now available in cyberspace. The House Armed Services Committee, in a report approved last week on the House floor, worried that clumsy attempts by Pentagon agents to download useful intelligence from the Web could compromise U.S. spy operations by putting potential enemies on notice that U.S. intelligence is interested in them.

Last week the Federation of American Scientists made public a U.S. Army field manual, stamped FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, outlining procedures for open-source intelligence collection by Army units. The manual says Army agents "must use Government computers to access the Internet" unless they have special authorization to do otherwise. One U.S. official, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that, in an effort to track people behind Web sites giving detailed instructions on how to build sophisticated IEDs, counterterrorism experts two years ago asked Pentagon brass for permission to log on to the Web sites using fake identities. The official said the plan was abandoned when lawyers and policymakers insisted that the counterterrorism officials log on using computers with telltale ".gov" or ".mil" domains—a ruling that would have tipped off potential bad guys.

A Capitol Hill official who also asked for anonymity said that congressional overseers were concerned that using U.S. IP addresses to search the Net could "complicate [the] ability to go deep into Web sites to extract information." One way for the Pentagon to get around such restrictions would be to hire private contractors, but this raises questions about protecting the rights of Americans. A Pentagon spokesman told NEWSWEEK: "We've seen an increased appreciation within the Department of Defense regarding the value of open-source intelligence."

That's not what they want "masked" or hidden IP addresses for. But it was a good try.

Foreign intelligence services are already savvy to the fact that the US government conducts open source research. It's in many ways an open and free process that allows governments to put certain technologies on the table and to allow certain pieces of information to be made available, freely and without confusion.

For example, the Serbian government really does want the United States to know exactly where the Chinese embassy really is located in Belgrade. They really want the US military to be able to locate, find, and map exactly where it is. They don't want any confusion about that.

What the defense establishment wants is an excuse to hand hundreds of people free, unfettered access to any and all Internet sites so that they can harass, intimidate, and collect information from blogs, web sites, message forums and the like. This is because the DoD has had to shut down CIFA. Every time a major web site discovers that a government employee is "looking" at their content, it sends a collective shiver down the spines of free speech and civil liberties advocates. Since the DoD can no longer rely on CIFA, it makes sense to create a framework that would allow analysts to have anonymous access to the Internet in order to mirror or mimic what CIFA was (allegedly) doing.

This also gets around having to get FISA warrants or comply with USSID 18, of course. Because if a military intelligence analyst is collecting information anonymously, why would anyone have to worry about FISA in the first place? Who would know?

The defense establishment is simply tired of being caught doing this, so they are pushing to get the extra technology and funding to make their efforts more anonymous.

Apparently, they just want to be free to "stick it to the moonbats."


No comments: