Russia/Ukraine - Coming of Age for OSINT?

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This is a podcast episode titled, Russia/Ukraine - Coming of Age for OSINT?. The summary for this episode is: <p>In the latest episode of The World of Intelligence podcast, we speak to Thomas Bullock, Senior Russia and CIS OSINT Analyst at Janes and Christian Haimet, Country Intelligence Analyst at Janes, about the real-world utility of OSINT.</p>

Speaker 1: Welcome to the World of Intelligence, a podcast for you to discover the latest analysis of global military and security trends within the open source defense intelligence community. Now, onto the episode with your host, Harry Kemsley.

Harry Kemsley: Hello and welcome to this edition of Jane's World of Intelligence. I'm Harry Kemsley, and as usual, my co- conspirator is Sean Corbett. Hello, Sean.

Sean Corbett: Hi, Harry.

Harry Kemsley: Good to see you, Sean. Thanks for joining us inaudible. And as a slight variation to our normal run of things, I'm pleased to introduce two Janes analysts and subject matter experts, Christian Haimet and Tom Bullock. Hello, Christian and Tom.

Thomas Bullock: Hi guys.

Christian Haimet: Hey.

Sean Corbett: Good to meet you guys, thanks for joining. So by introduction, Christian, Christian Haimet, is a Country Intelligence Analyst at Janes. He works on Europe and the CIS. Prior to Janes, Christian built his career researching geopolitics and sociology in the US, Syria, and CIS, and co- founded a war crimes database using open source intelligence to document, cross reference, and corroborate war crimes in Syria, as well as counter disinformation. Thanks for joining, Christian. Tom Bullock is a senior analyst with Janes open source intelligence OSINT force monitoring. He specializes in tracking and monitoring the Russian military, using a composite of open source information such as social media and satellite imagery, alongside Janes' foundational intelligence to create a uniquely powerful insight to what the Russian forces have been building to do in Ukraine, and which he has been doing for Janes from, for at least the last three years. Tom joined Janes in 2018, after graduating with a master's degree in intelligence and security studies from Brunel University. Hello, Tom.

Thomas Bullock: Hi.

Sean Corbett: So guys, both of you, thank you for joining. What you may be aware of is that last year, Sean and I ran a series of podcasts where we looked at the art of open source intelligence, the potential for it, and how you might exploit it. But that was somewhat the theoretical, somewhat conceptual, and all about really understanding why open source should be part of a multi source environment for analysts out there in the national security space. What we're doing this year, which brings us to this conversation, is we're spending a lot more time looking at how you actually can for real apply open source information and the intelligence insights you can derive from it, in a much more real way. We're looking at real case studies. And today, which is why I've asked you both to join, given the situation in the world, we're going to focus on how the real world utility of open source intelligence can be applied to a major strategic security challenge, such as the one we're facing in Ukraine. Now, what I don't want to do today, is spend a lot of time talking about specifically what is happening in Ukraine. Because that is, unusually, being covered extremely well from the largely open source information across the media. We're getting lots and lots of insights, satellite imagery, lots and lots of news. So we don't need to do that today, particularly. What I want to get into is how are those open source intelligence insights being created, and both you Tom and Christian, are at the forefront of that for Janes. So today, I want to spend a lot of time talking about how you have been doing the work that you've been doing. So let's get us started then. I'm going to kind of come to you first, Tom, with a broad understanding about how you have been using open source, publicly available information to get your understanding of the current situation. And then what I might do from there, Christian, is go across to you to see how that counter points with what you've done in the past, perhaps with a different conflict with Syria, and seeing how we've changed over the recent times. Sean, I'll come to you at the end, in terms some of the lessons we've learned from that, but also things we talked about in the past. So Tom, at last, turning to you. You've been working in the open source environment around monitoring the Russian military and it's behaviors. How have you been getting on with that? And how has that helped you understand the situation, Tom?

Thomas Bullock: So the bulk of our research and our analysis is based off two main source types really, within the open source real, and that is social media and satellite imagery. Normally, when we're tracking the Russian military for day to day exercises and things like that, we also tend to draw on Russian MOD sources as well, but they kind of take a backseat when the Russian military and ministry of defense are pushing specific information campaigns to say they're doing one thing when all the other evidence suggests they're doing another. So we still take them into consideration, but general focus is on social media and then attempting to verify that information we've gathered from social media with things like satellite imagery. And that satellite imagery includes high quality, 50 centimeters per pixel, commercial imagery, all the way down to free 10 meters per pixel SAR imagery, or synthetic aperture radar imagery, which allows you to identify activity, but not identify, for example, specific pieces of equipment. And then we use the social media side of that and Janes' fundamental knowledge of equipment in order of battle data for Russia to enhance our understanding there. So instead of just saying, there are tanks in this field, for example, using that Janes' knowledge, we can say this tank is this specific variant, it's capable of these things, it's drawn from this unit, which is based in this place, and it is now here in this specific location near the border.

Harry Kemsley: Very good. Now, what you've described there is a multi source approach. You've talked about some commercially available content that you have access to because you're a Janes analyst, but you've also talked about multiple publicly available sources as well. And is it fair to say, that's given you a high of confidence in the results and the insights you're drawing from, the work that you've done?

Thomas Bullock: Yeah, absolutely. I think we wouldn't be able to give the same level of confidence, if we weren't able to corroborate things through multiple types of sources, and even multiple sources within the same types. So multiple accounts showing the similar activity and the same area, for example, on social media.

Harry Kemsley: And Sean, I'll come to you in a minute when we've spoken to Christian about how that starts to stitch together. Because as we've said in previous podcasts, that ability to bring together the composite picture is one of the assets of context, if nothing else, that open source can deliver. So Christian, welcome again to the podcast, your background, we mentioned in your introduction, includes looking very closely at a different conflict, the Syrian conflict. And you did that at that time, some while ago with what was then available to you. Can you just give us an insight to how you approached that? And then at the end of it, we can talk about the confidence you had back then about what you were doing and the results you were driving from that analysis.

Christian Haimet: I mean, it depends on which project I would be focusing on for Syria. So for the war crimes database, I think our approach was literally to take as many sources as we could. Mostly from social media, but also from news reports, even from maybe government footage, government owned media sources in Syria or in Russia. We wanted to cross reference all these sources to create a meaningful picture, if possible, of each alleged war crime we encountered, and enable us to cut through either misinformation or disinformation, and give a label to each potential war crime, depending on how credible we thought the incident was and what is the scope of the incident. How many casualties do we think? What was the maximum? What was the minimum? And there was no comparable tool to OSINT to be able to cut through that misinformation and disinformation, or even the lack of information.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. And I certainly want to come back to that later, in terms of what may have changed, because Sean coming to you now, one of the things you and I have talked about in the recent period of time for our podcast is how technology has started to unlock the potential. It started to give us access to things that we just didn't have. Certainly not 10, 15 years ago, and even to some extent, five years ago. It's really seems to have changed. What are your thoughts though, about how that greater access, the improved technology, has enabled people like Tom and Christian to do what they do?

Sean Corbett: Yeah, obviously, a key enabler there, and Tom mentioned some of the sources there. But if you look at the technological side, particularly on the earth observation from some pretty sophisticated satellites, if you go back many years, even the exquisite military stuff, you're starting to see that replicated not too far now. There's a couple of elements to that though we're worth pointing out. And the first one is the proliferation of satellites, for example. Now what that allows you to do, of course, is revisit, which means you've got far more persistent view of what's going on rather than waiting for the satellite to come around again every third, fourth, or fifth day. So it does allow you to do that change detection. The other thing is obviously of the sensors. And again, Tom mentioned, synthetic amateur radar, particularly somewhere like the Ukraine, which is generally pretty cloudy. It just allows you to see in a different way, but actually penetrate that cloud cover. But going on to social media, I think a really important point, is the all pervasive nature of it. Everybody has a mobile phone now, most people have laptops, people take photographs. So it is just out there. I talk about everybody now is an intelligence collector. The key with all that, as both Tom and Christian have mentioned, is sifting through that huge amounts of information to come up with the gem that adds that value, the so what, but also, and we'll come onto this later and talk about the disinformation piece or misinformation or what is it not telling us. Just going back to Tom's initial piece, I used to metaphorically and not so metaphorically shout at the television when I could see these reporters talking about what was happening and what that meant on the ground, not that many years ago, thinking," You are totally wrong." And what's very obvious now, is that the commentary that's coming out on the big news media is really well informed. Now that is partly because of the technology, but partly I think that shouldn't be underestimated is the education side. So organizations such as Janes have now made it obvious about what is available and what you can use. I mean, I saw a, I think it was a sky reporter the other day, talking about a key enabler as a field hospital. You'd never heard that a little while ago now. They haven't just plucked that out the air, they've been told by an expert. And that's my final point at this stage, I think, is the art versus the science. I mean, they're too modest to say so, but you've got two extremely good analysts here, that it's okay to get the best data in the world, but unless you can interpret it in a way that adds that value with the experience that comes with that saying, yeah, okay, that formation's over there, but we might expect it to be over there, or that's not right, because they don't have the logistics with them or something like that, so you've still got to have that expert in the loop.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. I'm going to move on in a minute to talking about the how you do what you do, Tom and Christian. Before I do that though, just to step back a second, just to pick up on a point that came out there I think. You talked about the persistence of certain types of open source information and intelligence, like the satellites that are now giving us revisit rates of hours rather than days or weeks. Tom, have you utilized that sort of facility open to you, that you can actually go back and look over and over again, regularly to see a pattern of change? Have you used that in the work that you've been doing?

Thomas Bullock: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, one of the best resources for that is actually a free satellite imagery provider. So Sentinel Hub, which is essentially a satellite network that offers low resolution EO and SAR imagery of the world, they update their imagery every two to three days of everywhere on the planet. So if you have a piece of high res imagery or a lot of social media indicating activity in a certain area, you can use that constant refreshing feed of low res imagery to identify spots of activity and use that for further taskings, whether that's tasking high res imagery or tasking social media collection around that area. And that has actually been one of the crucial parts of building this picture is because we see equipment coming off trains at railway stations in villages, but then we don't know where it goes and it's a time consuming task to look through high res imagery everywhere. But if you use this low res free imagery, you can see these clusters of activity popping up and you can go back three days before the tanks arrived and see that it wasn't there. That's probably one of the most important tools we've used at the moment.

Harry Kemsley: And again, before we move on, Christian, you've talked about experiences you had previously around, for example, war crimes in Syria. Have you noticed a change in what OSINT, open source information and intelligence, can do for you as the analyst? Because you are going back to the Syria conflict and now you're coming forward to the Ukraine conflict, have you noticed a change, in terms of what's available and the power of open source information?

Christian Haimet: So it's a difficult question, because I've never been an OSINT purist, despite having jumped on that bandwagon very early because of what I was seeing in Syria. So I was seeing a narrative, like dominant narratives, that had nothing to do with what I was seeing on the ground, through social media and through OSINT. So I jumped on the bandwagon, but mostly to amplify the amazing work that people like Tom do, that many other famous social media OSINT users do, and amplify it through political context. So, maybe not in terms of techniques, I think the techniques are roughly the same, they've become more slightly more sophisticated. The techniques are roughly the same as I saw in 2014. But the credibility of those tools and techniques has been massively amplified.

Harry Kemsley: Right.

Christian Haimet: To show that one analyst can change the entire intelligence cycle on a topic as topical as Russia and the Russian military just shows how powerful the tool is. And Bellingcat, when they started with three analysts, the power to prove the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against the opposition or against civilians, or the power to prove two years before the Malaysia airlines report came out by Dutch investigators who was responsible for that attack. I think that it's massively amplified the credibility of OSINT as a tool and of OSINT users and of the tools and techniques. And I think that has led to a massive investment. So maybe the tools remain similar, but the investment has changed.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah, that's a good way to look at it.

Christian Haimet: So think tanks and the media have built OSINT teams since then.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good way looking at it. I like the difference there between the fact that not much has changed in terms of what's available, but it's being invested in, it's being engaged with properly, and therefore becoming much more valuable as a result. I'm going to move us on to talk about the specific how, Tom, I'm going to come to you first in terms of asking you to take us on a journey. You've been working, tracking the buildup of the Russians around the Ukrainian border for a considerable period of time, a long time before it became newsworthy, anyway, you were tracking it and developing and understanding what was happening. What I'd like you to do for us, Tom, is to describe the techniques, the things that you were using, the open source information that you were using and how you brought that together, so that we could begin to really get under the hood here in terms of the power of OSINT. So where have you been? How have you done what you've done? And what are the big, big pluses, and indeed challenges, you've had to overcome to get there?

Thomas Bullock: So, as I've said, the main areas that we draw on for our research come from social media and satellite imagery. Now the thing with both of those is you have to know vaguely what you're looking for to pull anything out of it. So with satellite imagery, you need to understand a general area of where the thing you're looking for is. With social media, you have to figure out what you're looking for because social media is massive and you'll never be able to find it just by glancing through a few websites. So for the project that I run, our focus is very specific. It's on strictly military movements. So we can narrow down that social media collection. And then it's just the case of developing the sort of keywords and the collection techniques to work across multiple social media platforms. And over three years we've been doing this project. We've managed to develop a fairly extensive methodology for collecting social sources from social media from every available social media platform. And then once we've collected all of that information, it comes down to verification. So that's either collecting more information about a specific location, geolocating and timestamping the videos if we can. So figuring out when things were filmed, when things were photographed, exactly where in the world they were photographed, and that allows us to say with a fairly moderate degree of confidence that something happened. Even if you're just looking at a single source, you can still say, well, it appears to have been taken in the last three weeks due to the weather and the condition of the trees, for example. And we can say, it happened exactly here, because you can see that position on software, like Google maps or Yandex maps, for example. And then from there, we move into additional validation. So that's using satellite imagery in the attempt to corroborate that, and then adding that extra so what, using the fundamental knowledge that we have from Jane. So that is the identifying of equipment, understanding why it might be there, thinking about what units operate that equipment, why they might be there, and whether that is an abnormal factor. And that really, the abnormality and our understanding of the Russian military, is what allowed us to twig onto this buildup so early on. Because it was seeing units that were hundreds of kilometers away from their normal training bases and normal training grounds in mid- October that really flagged this to us as something that we're going to need to keep watching. And you don't get that understanding by just tuning in when it becomes newsworthy, you get that from persistent, consistent monitoring.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. And you've been doing this for about two, two and a half years, did you say on this particular topic?

Thomas Bullock: Yeah, two and a half to three years, I think.

Harry Kemsley: Within that, my understanding is as well, that within the imagery that you are seeing, the social media imagery particularly, you're able to pick out discerning features of uniforms, of emblems on tanks and so on, and that detailed analysis of the imagery as well has been a feature of what you've been doing. Is that right?

Thomas Bullock: Yeah, it's one of the core parts of our analysis really. So we have fairly extensive databases of recognition markers for the Russian military, whether that's tactical markings that you paint on your vehicles or insignia that soldiers wear. And that allows us to add that... We're not just guessing when we say what the units are, we can point to verifiable pieces of evidence that we can go back and show you the sources that we have associated it with that unit. So I think that adds a level of confidence to a consumer where we say, if we say this unit is here, we can offer up multiple sources as to why and we can walk you through that methodology and say, you can see this thing that we've associated with that unit on the vehicle or on the soldier.

Harry Kemsley: Right. So you can get a pretty high confidence insight from these multiple inaudible sources. Christian, I'm going to come to you in just a second, in terms of how you've might use that in the disinformation environment that you talked about in my introduction to you. But before I do that, Sean, as I listened to Tom talking, it sounds reminiscent of days sitting behind a volt door with exquisite capabilities in front of me and trying to bring together the same sort of picture. Does it not strike you how similar that sounded, but albeit from an open source, to what we've seen previously in classified sources?

Sean Corbett: I was thinking exactly the same thing, actually, almost exactly. And going back to what Christian said about using the same techniques as we were in 2014, and I'm not going to go into how long I've been doing it, but nothing much changed. But I do wonder, if you hear a lot about, and you know what I'm going to say here, about artificial intelligence, machine learning. There has to be a role. And we all talk about it. How much of that actually gets used in inaudible, I don't know, but there has to be a role for those sort of techniques, the algorithms, to start sifting through some of the information in an automated way that lets the analyst focus on what they should be doing which is the understanding of what's actually going on. So I do think that is starting to really pervade now, and it's going to have to, if we're going to continue to use all the information we need to.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. Tom, you had a point?

Thomas Bullock: Yeah. I was just going to add in there about the artificial intelligence point. I think there's definitely a purpose for in that magnifying your ability to collect and filter information very quickly. You're seeing it now, we've been shown softwares in the past few days that absolutely dwarf an individual analyst's capability to collect and still leave them the same amount of time to do all the analysis in the world. So it's definitely scope for it going through.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. I think there is a debate to be had, and I seem to recall we had it last year, Sean, about the point in the intelligence cycle when intelligence that is artificial stops being useful and needs to be then more human based. But there is unquestionably a phase in the collate organize of the intelligence cycle that intelligence that is artificial can certainly help. Let me move us a little bit further down the pipe. Christian, coming back to you. I know that you've worked in your previous work around misinformation and the disproving of it. Sean, you and I spoke earlier today about some Ukrainian misinformation that has already started to be unraveled by the fact that you can see, for example, that person hasn't lost their leg. It is a prosthetic leg that is on the TV screen. But before we get to those kind of examples, Christian, your own experience, please, in terms of how open source is abled you to counter narratives that are clearly false.

Christian Haimet: I guess it kind of comes back to what Sean was saying about yelling at the TV. I think, I first realized that I wanted to get more involved in OSINT rather than just watch the space, in maybe around the time of September 2015 when the Russians actually intervened in Syria. And the narrative was that they were bombing ISIS, and they claimed that something like 95% of their targets were ISIS. I can't remember the exact statistics so please don't hold me to that.

Harry Kemsley: You're inaudible person, don't worry.

Christian Haimet: They were providing the coordinates, the Russian MOD was providing the coordinates of the places they were striking, and 95% of them were rebel so Syrian opposition or civilian targets. Bakeries, bridges, hospitals, and then they were primarily targeting the most moderate opposition. So completely ignoring hard line Islamists. So their narrative within, I would say 24 hours to 72 hours, was becoming completely unraveled on social media, but not in the media. And at the time, I actually happened to be a intern at the New York Times office in Paris, the international New York times, and I remember asking my manager and asking the head editor of the newsroom," I'm pretty sure we should report this. It's easily proven, it'll cost us nothing, and we can be the first to crack the story." And I was told," Okay, let's wait and see, let's see what government officials say. Let's see what reporting from the ground tells us," which were the traditional methods of countering disinformation. But those can be limited. How much access do reporters have to battlefield zones? How much do officials know? How much are they willing to say? And it ended up taking approximately, again, don't hold me to it, but I feel like it was three weeks before we reported on it and by then everyone was reporting on it. And we could have done it by the second or third day of the Russian intervention. And so in terms of countering disinformation, it immediately became apparent that it was the primary tool for doing that. This information is not just one narrative. Sometimes it's a saturation attack, essentially. And with the Trump administration, which I believe is more or less, so from 2016, 2017 on. So during the Trump campaign and by the time he was inaugurated in January 2017, with the amount of disinformation coming out of his administration, mostly from the US president himself, the media felt the need to react to the amount, but they were left at least for a year without the tools to do so. And I think that open source intelligence can allow you to, instead of react each statement and each disinformation or just misinformation narratives, OSINT allowed you to cut through that, and rather than respond to each claim, you could actually create an image of your own and it was a democratized ability to create that image of your own. Everyone could do it on their own accord.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah, of course, there's always dangers with that. If everybody is doing it, then it becomes potentially a tool for both sides of the narrative. Sean, you had your hand up a second ago, I'll come to you in just a moment, I promise. And I'm keen to hear your views about how else OSINT could be used in a classified environment, how it could be taken across the vault door to help them. But just to sort of put a punctuation mark in the conversation so far, what I've heard in the last 20 minutes or so is a series of examples where open source information has driven an understanding situation that didn't have to be done in a classified environment, because it was available in publicly available sources. However, to do that well to a high level of assurance, you need to have access to inaudible foundation. Tom, you've talked about doing that with Jane's content, there'll be other publicly available and commercially available sources that can be done with. But that composite, that multi- source view, that open source gives that provides context, arguably with Ukraine, I think it has been providing us with indicators and warnings, which you described earlier, Tom, how you do that by having specific, detailed understanding and knowledge as well as intelligence too. And we've also talked about how it might triangulate what might be known in classified environments. And interested by your point, Christian, in terms of how the media felt obliged to go to the open source environment, to start to counter what they saw as misinformation from a political environment. Whatever the incentive, whatever the motivation for getting involved with what's available and exploitable from the open source environment, we are trying here to expose and make clear the power of open source and the fact that it is being used to exploit what's available and drive insights, is what we're really, really here to talk about. Sean, take yourself back, if I may drag you back there a few years. You're inside the J2 intelligence environment again, what would be different today for you, if the J2 two environment was as plugged in as we've heard Tom and Christian are with the open source environment? What would be the major change for you as the J2 intelligence commander in the Joint environment with the power of open source available to you?

Sean Corbett: I think, the first element of that is actually a philosophical one, and that is the legitimacy of open source as a means of another intelligent source, if you like. The community is always, for good reasons and bad, some of it which is cultural and we've talked about this before, has always shied away from inaudible open source because it isn't collected in a certain way. It's not validated in the same way. And of course, it doesn't cost huge amounts of money and have huge agencies there to actually deliver it. So I think just the fact that it is being now utilized is a really important point. That comes with a burden, of course, because you've still got to do your cross referring, you've got to do your assurance, and all the other good things that I know you guys do. But if I was doing it now, what would I be using it for? Validation is one key thing. Making sure that is one of the legitimate sources, and it does support, not the perceived wisdom, but the actual analysis that's being done. And it can do that by everything that Tom and Christian have said because it all pervasive and you can use multi- source. I think the other thing it can do very well is gap filling. The intelligence community can't be everywhere all the time and it has to focus on those real priorities. Now that means inevitably that things aren't going to get covered as much detail as other things. So it can be used in the gap filling capacity. No question about that. And the other thing, going back to the disinformation misinformation, which two different things actually. So misinformation is just wrong. Disinformation is a deliberate attempt to obscure the truth, if you like. Open source intelligence has a major role, I think, in rebutting that disinformation. There's a whole different podcast here on of the post truth world, which we might want to consider in the future. But it's understanding, particularly when things are coming out of the government, who their target audience is and why they're delivering it. I mean, we used to use a targeting world where people used to say the baby milk factory in Iraq when we could actually see quite clearly on handheld imageries that it was actually a bunker. So, and fast forward, that it's a lot more sophisticated now. But obviously, the Russians are mounting a significant disinformation campaign right now, that is actually aimed at their own population. And there's the final point there is actually, if you go down straight downtown Moscow right now, I would suspect, in fact, I think there's been some sort of survey that the great majority of people believe that Ukrainians are attacking separatists or Russian supporting people in the Donbas because that's the narrative. So to able to counter that, you got to be able to show evidence in a clear way. Now how that actually gets disseminated is another question, and that's for another day, I guess.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks, Sean. Tom, go ahead.

Thomas Bullock: Sorry, I just wanted to add on a little bit there about use of OSINT and countering disinformation. I think it's really helped, especially in the mainstream media, because it's removed the ambiguity from especially Russian disinformation campaign. So maybe five, six years ago, a newspaper would have to say that Russian MOD has stated this thing. But now what we're seeing is, and we see this as a recent example with the Russian draw down in quotation marks from the Ukrainian border that was announced around two weeks ago. None of the newspapers believed them and they instantly turned to open source intelligence and information to verify those claims and say, well, it's clearly not happening because what you're seeing is more equipment is being moved towards the border. It's a real help in that space as well, just to remove that ambiguity completely.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. I really like that point. The fact that the media aren't trying to go to the government source and reporting it reluctantly. They're just not having to go there. They're saying, well, that's interesting that you said that because these images suggest completely opposite. Christian?

Christian Haimet: Well, I was just going to say that I completely agree. I think that has been, for the lack of a better expression, a god send. Because, truly, it was frustrating working in this field and having to see reporting have to report on official statements, whether it was by Russia, the US, or the Assad government in Syria, having to report based on claims if they don't have a reporter in the field.

Harry Kemsley: Right.

Christian Haimet: And instead now being able to completely ignore those and include those maybe as just an afterthought, or to enable the journalist or the report to weigh these statements, and the crux of the reports tends to be the weighing of facts that they've been able to gather through cross referencing. And that to me is an amazing change in the ability to report on conflict and disinformation.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah, I agree. And I'm going to come to you both in just a second to ask you to keep the answers to the question I will always ask at the end. What's the one thing you want your audience to take away in terms of the power of open source intelligence, for you in what you've been doing, in terms of understanding the current Ukrainian crisis? So what's the one thing you want them to hear and take away. Before I do that though, Sean, it sounds to me from this conversation and from conversations in the past, that there is an awakening happening about the power and utility of open source. That it is now being taken seriously. The very fact that the media we've just been hearing about are not reaching for the script from the government concern about what they claimed to have happened first, they're going to open, public, and commercially available sources. Do you see that as a sea change in terms of the attitudes, perhaps in only the media at this stage, but do you see that as a sea change, a coming of age of open source intelligence because of what's happening in Ukraine?

Sean Corbett: I really do, actually. You can't go onto a single news channel or radio channel without some quite deeper and more informed analysis. Now there is a point there, of course, isn't there? Data is agnostic, but the purveyor of that data isn't necessarily so you have to be objective with the data and consider it all. And there will be times when that doesn't happen, but actually generally, certainly in the Western media now, there is no question. This time has been a sea change in how the open source is being used, and for the better, I have to say. Now, I inaudible say, just to validate if nothing else, my last 30 years in the intelligence community, open source cannot be and will never be a total panacea.

Harry Kemsley: Sure.

Sean Corbett: But as an additional tool, a very important one, and you've heard me say this before, whereas in the old days you'd have 80% of your intelligence was from exquisite sources and 20% was added on. That flip that I've been talking about for the last three years is certainly starting to come inaudible.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah, I agree. So I'm going to come to you first, Tom. If you have one thing you want the audience to take away from this podcast, in terms of the power of what open source is doing for you to help you understand what the Russians have been doing and are doing around Ukraine, what would that one thing be?

Thomas Bullock: To be honest with you, I hope that we just take away this sort of methodology that appears to be forming in the news and intelligence conversation space, where we have this fusion of open source intelligence, news, and then official government statements continues. Because it's clearly a good methodology, and it's working well, it seems at the moment. I just hope keep that going over the next X number of years really.

Harry Kemsley: inaudible of time. Thanks, Tom. Christian?

Christian Haimet: I wanted to impact reaction times and the quality and confidence of reactions by government, by NGOs, and by the media. Even during this crisis, it took a few weeks, a good three or four weeks, for the media to get totally on it. And yeah, I just love that OSINT is able to give you that reaction time, that very short reaction time and that confidence to react, because you know that your image is quite clear. It'll never be perfect, but.

Harry Kemsley: Yeah. Yes. I agree. So, both Tom and Christian, thank you so much for taking your time out your day. I know you're both very, very busy right now because of the situation in the world, not least in Ukraine. I'll let you get back to your day jobs and thank you for continuing to do that. Sean, thank you as ever for your contribution to this. For me, walking away from this conversation, I get a sense of relief that I'm starting to see what I've known to be true understood by a wider audience, and that is that the open source environment is a very, very rich, not without risk, but very rich environment to go and find out what's happen and get some" ground truth." And the work you've talked about today, Tom and Christian, gives insight, I hope, to the audience that there is real power there, you just need to know how to go and find it, how to use it. Thank you all for your time today as always. Thank you for listening, and look forward to next time. Thanks very much. Goodbye.

Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us this week on the World of Intelligence. Make sure to visit our website janes. com/ podcast, where you can subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode.


In the latest episode of The World of Intelligence podcast, we speak to Thomas Bullock, Senior Russia and CIS OSINT Analyst at Janes and Christian Haimet, Country Intelligence Analyst at Janes, about the real-world utility of OSINT.

Today's Host

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Harry Kemsley

|President of Government & National Security, Janes

Today's Guests

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AVM (ret’d) Sean Corbett CB MBE MA, RAF

|CEO and Founder IntSight Global Limited
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Christian Haimet

|Country Intelligence Analyst, Janes
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Thomas Bullock

|Senior Russia and CIS OSINT Analyst, Janes