US Spies Surf Internet for Open Secrets

In Information Age, useful intelligence hides in plain sight
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2008 12:56 PM CDT
Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility is seen in this March 30, 2005 file photo. Spies gleaned insights from readily-available photos in preparing their latest intelligence estimate on Iran.   (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
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(Newser) – Where do America’s spies go to get their most useful information? The Internet, mostly. Intelligence reports are increasingly filled with “open-source intelligence,” or information that’s available to nearly anyone, USA Today reports. The much-publicized December report on Iran’s nuclear program, for example, relied heavily on public photos from Iran’s Natanz nuclear reactor. Details like the size of certain pipes gave spies crucial insight.

“A lot of what we know about our adversaries comes from statements and videos they put on the Internet,” said a former national security adviser. Some believe 90% of our intelligence could come from open sources, once spies fully commit. “"There's still a cult of secrecy,” complained one former intelligence officer. “Nothing is seen as important unless it’s classified.”