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This week in open-source intelligence (OSINT) news, the director of national intelligence calls for greater diversity in its agency workforces, a report on intelligence sharing and a recommendation to repeal the NOFORN caveat and a call for better policies to increase intelligence sharing among ally nations.

This is the OSINT news of the week:

Embracing intelligence sharing  

A decades-old rule preventing U.S. intelligence agencies is hindering sharing certain classified information with ally nations, even when it would be in their mutual best interests. The “not releasable to foreign nationals” (NOFORN) policy includes personnel with dual-citizen status and allies. 

With the adoption of OSINT techniques, open-source collection can allow for more intelligence sharing without compromising sources. Increasing the use of OSINT and information sharing work hand-in-hand. Because of the complicated policy nature and the limited time of analysts, NOFORN is often diverted to as a default setting and becomes, the Atlantic Council argues in a new report, severely limiting and counterproductive to U.S. foreign interests. 

In the report, the Atlantic Council makes recommendations to undertake a review of policy guidance to remove constraints, empower the director of national intelligence to have greater authority over classification, along with the under secretary of defense and to remove the caveat in its entirety. Open source intelligence is identified as one of the top 10 steps intelligence agencies can take to facilitate information sharing: “Open-source intelligence is the way of the future and will help overcome burdens to sharing information.”

“Only the most avid policy expert would be able to reconcile the various policy documents that apply to intelligence sharing and, even then, the degree of ambiguity leaves significant scope for interpretation. ”

— AVM Sean Corbett, CB MBE and James Danoy, Atlantic Council

Don’t overlook OSINT for defense 

Open-source intelligence has made great strides in recent years in becoming a more respected and utilized source of information amid government sectors. Yet, when it comes to building intelligence for defensive purposes, it still remains underutilized. Since its inception during World War II, when analysts garnered key information from magazines and radio broadcasts, OSINT has been considered by many to be a lower tier intelligence type, less revered than the main sources traditionally used. 

Yet in a changing world, intelligence gaps persist and may even be widening as finding classified resources becomes more challenging. Public information should not be discounted in its value among military personnel. It can help the U.S. gain a more holistic understanding of their adversaries and allow them to evaluate threat patterns from all over the world.

“While analysts often leverage five key sources of military intelligence -- human intelligence (HUMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence (IMINT), measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT), the value of open-source intelligence (OSINT) is often overlooked amidst a culture that generally prefers classified sources.”

— Evan Smith, Real Clear Defense

Director of national intelligence calls for greater diversity  

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement calling for greater diversity among its intelligence agency personnel to better represent the varying and broad experiences of the American people. The intelligence community (IC) recently released a report summarizing its plans for hiring more people of color, women and people living with disabilities. But despite their efforts, there is still work to be done.

To address one of its hurdles in more diverse hiring, remote work is top-of-mind for many employees in the post-COVID environment, and the use of unclassified materials, such as those derived from publicly available information (PAI), can help facilitate greater flexibility among IC employees.

In addition, making more micro-learning opportunities available to encourage employees to acquire and develop intelligence skills. Increasing access and moving away from traditional classroom-based learning environments is one way the IC can prepare for the future and give access to the populations it has traditionally overlooked. 

““To provide strategic advantage to policymakers and warfighters, we need to understand the world, which is constantly evolving and more connected than ever,” said Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence. “Building an IC workforce made up of people who think differently, see problems differently and overcome challenges differently is a prerequisite for success.””

— Kristin Mosher and Sue Kalweit, Federal Times

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