A university researcher wrote to me a week or two ago. He asked if I would be interested in a project studying Operation Mockingbird and the CIA’s past and continuing use of the news media (and of social media).
A little research into the researcher showed that he was involved in a website promoting the use of OSINT.
OSINT is the graceless acronym the government bestows on something called open-source intelligence.
OSINT is public information similar to what this blog uses.
Not just media reports, but links on forums, government data, court documents, commentary at blogs and in discussion groups, social media postings.
As long as it’s not confidential (a lawyer’s privileged conversation) or obviously private (a home phone number or medical information), it’s all fair game.
Until “national security” gets involved.
Of course, “national security” is an elastic term that seems to include everything.
The empire’s desire for full-spectrum dominance makes anything in outer – or inner – space part of “national security.”
Now, until I encountered the term OSINT in the past few days, I‘d no idea that what I was doing by chance bears a resemblance to what a whole wing of the CIA specializes in.
I do it because I’ve generally found the major media unreliable (and uninteresting) and the alternative media, while far more interesting, ideologically biased.
But there’s a catch.
OSINT can get an un-credentialed journalist or blogger into serious trouble.
Wikipedia on the dangers of OSINT:
“Accredited journalists have some protection in asking questions, and researching for recognized media outlets. Even so they can be imprisoned, even executed, for seeking out OSINT.
Private individuals illegally collecting data for a foreign military or intelligence agency is considered espionage in most countries. Of course, espionage that is not treason (i.e. betraying one’s country of citizenship) has been a tool of statecraft since ancient times, is widely engaged in by nearly all countries, and is considered an honorable trade.”
So, well-paid mercenaries and meddlesome bureaucrats who provoke international conflicts and break domestic and foreign laws while spying on foreign countries are patriots, while unpaid citizen-bloggers/journalists trying to deconstruct the dense fog of corporate-state propaganda to help ordinary people should be shot.
That leads me back to the curious invitation in my mail-box.
If gathering open-source intelligence can in some circumstances be seen as treasonous, then why the invitation?
Blogging from public sources is one thing. But blogging that is intended to inform an enemy might be another.
The OSINT web-site I saw gave me a hint by referring to an open-source “revolution.“
Long-time readers of my blog will probably know how I feel about “revolutions,” especially those led by what I call techno-utopians.
And sure enough, in the last two weeks it seems that the 45-year-old meme of “open source revolution” has been revived.
Yes, 45 years. That’s how old this “cutting-edge” meme is.
Only now it’s migrated from the soft-ware community, where it began, to the intelligence community.
Going back, the term “open-source” was a spin-off from a community of “hackers” creating what was later called free software at an MIT artificial intelligence lab in 1971.
The word hacker here doesn’t mean anything criminal. It’s a positive word for people who take apart and improve on computer programs for the sheer fun of it and for the good of the public.
At least, that’s the self-portrait.
The developer of free software, Richard Stallings, later worked at Lawrence Livermore lab and won a MacArthur “genius” award.
Lawrence Livermore is a government lab devoted to science and research in the interests of national security.
The cypherpunk group, devoted to developing strong cryptography , was the group from which Julian Assange and Wikileaks emerged.
It included one researcher from the Lawrence Livermore lab, as well as many senior people from Bell, MIT, and Sun Microsystems (among others).
Stallings himself is a strong supporter of free software.
He developed the “copyleft” approach to IP, which allows changes to be made to code by innovators, so long as each innovator in turn allows other users the same freedom.
Copyleft also allows people the freedom to commercialize their innovations.
Stallings is a strong supporter of the hacker collective Anonymous, seeing it as a kind of legitimate “street protest.”
You can search this blog to find my ruminations about Anonymous….
(To be continued)