The value of OSINT for intelligence sharing

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This is a podcast episode titled, The value of OSINT for intelligence sharing. The summary for this episode is: <p>In this episode Harry Kemsley and Sean Corbett are joined by Phil Ritcheson Ph.D. to discuss why intelligence sharing is now more important than ever. They discuss the growing need for allied and partnership and how by using open sources facilitates more timely intelligence sharing. However, ensuring that the open sources can be trusted and are assured is critical to maintaining strategic advantage.</p><p> </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 Janes World of Intelligence, with your host Harry Kemsley, and of course, my co- host Sean Corbett. Hello, Sean.

Sean Corbett : Hi, Harry.

Hi, Sean. So, Sean, we've done a number of these podcasts now and there are a number of topics we've discussed in the podcast. One that occurred to me comes up very, very frequently. We've talked about the value of the Open Source environment and the intelligence we derive from it as being valuable because you can share it much, much more easily than you can the top secret and derive from exquisite capabilities. So, I thought today we might spend some time talking about the power of Open Source in regard to its shareability. And for that, I am delighted to introduce a... Yes, he knows a great deal about that, from a background you can read about about just checking his bio, which is Phil Ritcheson. Hello, Phil.

Phil Ritcheson: Hello, Harry. Hello, Sean. Great to be with you.

Phil Ritcheson is a retired naval intelligence officer with strategic and operational intelligence experience in targeting analysis and collection operations. Of even more relevance to today's discussions about intelligence sharing, he is a former senior executive with experience in positions of increasing scope and authority at the Executive Office of the President, in the intelligence community, and Department of Defense, and also, at NATO. Always an agent for positive change, Phil has delivered numerous integrated, enterprise- wide effects, has managed crises and missions, and modernized capabilities at the agency and intelligence community level. His broad expertise spans national- level policy development and strategic planning. Regional, political military affairs, Department of Defense, and national intelligence issues, providing intelligence support, operational elements, national security and commercial space, technology development and application, and in allied and partner operations and intelligence environments. Again, very much involved in intelligence sharing. Phil has also worked extensively on a variety of geopolitical, international security and national security issues with the interagency, the Congress, allies and partners, industry, and academia. So, Phil, with a bio like that, I know you've had a huge range of experience across a number of different organizations in different contexts. Why is sharing intelligence a matter that we should be thinking about? Where have you seen examples of good sharing, bad sharing? What are the challenges? And then we can come on to where Open Source might be able to help. What's your experience of that?

Phil Ritcheson: Thanks very much for the question, Harry. I think I might start with a characterization of the operating environment, which you and your listenership will certainly appreciate. From my view and optic, it's one that's become more dynamic, much more complicated, one which expands time zones as well as geographies as well. In that kind of situation, where there remains a very broad conflict spectrum, the need to share information, to acquire information, share information and use information, I think has become always important, but it feels even more paramount today to do it in a timely manner. I think, added to that, is a complexity that I, as an international relations scholar through my education, would observe that the ability to have allies and partners with you as a strategic advantage, again, known throughout history and we can all think of examples, but there seems to be something different today about the importance of allies and partners to be with us. Let's use our nations as examples. And given that, the need to share information rapidly and effectively across multiple operational domains, I think is imperative. And if done well and if done right, it does become a strategic advantage which complicates decision making and crisis decision making of potential adversaries in the future. For myself, this kind of spirit, I think, has been something that I've worked towards, contributed to. I'm sure I haven't done it perfectly at all through my career, both as a civilian and in the Navy, but there have been definite points throughout both of those careers where the ability to share, or the importance of sharing, has been underscored. I can start even right off the bat, right after 9/ 11 when I was recalled to active duty, my job was to go set up, establish, modify, improve maritime intelligence exchange relationships throughout the Asia- Pacific area. And it couldn't have been more critical to share information rapidly about things in the maritime environment. I had the opportunity to work on the National Security Council staff, which was a great privilege, during a time where there was an enemy satellite test in space. And while Open Source itself was not used in the run- up to that event, the shareability of information was absolutely essential in the final preparations and in the wake of, so that diplomatically, the US government can do what it needed to do with releasable information, shareable information. There are other examples too, and I can continue to go with some others. At NATO, I think, without question, the world's greatest alliance, the shareability of information is absolutely essential. When I served there, there were 28 allies, there are now 31, there's no way to have 31 national interests aligned without the ability to share intelligence and share information to create a basic, common level of knowledge and understanding from which action- taking and decision- making can take place. So, there were a range of examples there during my time related to the Syrian Civil War, as well as other events as well.

Harry Kemsley : Well, let's pick those up, Phil, in just a second. Sean, I'm going to spin across to you. From your experience at DIA as a deputy director where, I believe, you have responsibility for the Five Eyes community, the collection of nations that share almost everything. I think it's fair to say that, in that environment, it's relatively straightforward, and I say that with a smile on my face knowing that it was anything other than straightforward to share, even in a tightly- knit community like that. How difficult would it have been had you had a non- traditional partner added to the Five Eyes community for just a period of time because of some operational necessity? How hard would that have been?

Sean Corbett : At that stage, it would've been impossible, because although the Five Eyes alliance is very well known, we do share intelligence. Even that, getting out of the single national caveats was quite challenging, as much so... I could talk forever about this, but partly from policy perspective, but as much cultural. So, I used to think, " Okay, what's in it for you for us to actually instill intelligence sharing to the inaudible?" I used to mental mentally think that. Well, I think that it's not just a one- way flow, but what it does do, and Phil did allude to it actually, is it gives... I can't remember a single operation I've been... No, I can. There are very, very few operations I've been involved with that did not have a coalition element to it, whether that was within Afghanistan, whether it was NATO, whether it was a bigger coalition, or whether it was just two or three eyes. There's the counter- terrorist piece there that was national, but that was only national interest. But everything I've been involved with has been. So, you've got to have that common understanding that Phil was talking about, so that everyone has the same situational awareness, roughly, everyone is pulling in the same direction, but knows the inputs as well. So, why is the big US and a lesser extent UK trying to head us down this direction? Oh, that's why. And of course, not everyone has that same level of information. You've got to get it to that level, where it gives you that common perspective, but it also gives the coalition the legitimacy as well. So, increasingly nations aren't going to do what another nation says just because it says so. So, you've got to bring them along, but you can only bring them along with that common intelligence. Back to your question though, I know I always digress. One of the big issues was cultural. So, you've got to think, right, okay, it is good to share intelligence because you get back as much as you put in. In terms of, okay, you might have one of the smaller nations, and I'm sure my New Zealand counterparts wouldn't mind me saying that, what can they offer to the party? But what they can offer is both geography, so geographical perspective, and a cultural perspective. So, for instance, just geographically, they're a lot closer to China than we are and have a different relationship than the rest of us. So, they have a different understanding, and in some ways a more insightful understanding about the way elements of China think, for example. So, it is a collective team sport, but it is challenging.

Harry Kemsley : Okay. All right. So, we've agreed then that sharing is an inevitability if you wish to grapple with the complexity, if you wish to have this common understanding of things, if you want to bring your coalition, which may or may not have traditional partners in it, to a point of common perspective. That all makes complete sense. We've alluded to the fact that there may be some cultural barriers to that, maybe we can come back to those later. But what I'm seeing from the perspective of a commercial Open Source intelligence organization, is how frequently, in the recent times, certainly since the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, we are being asked to provide assured intelligence perspective on things that, absolutely certain, the person asking has, but from exquisite means. And the fact that I can do so from an Open Source perspective means they can take what we have and they can share it, knowing that it's" good enough" for the information perspective that they're trying to convey to partners, maybe non- traditional. So, what I want to try and do with this conversation now is, I want to try and swing it into this Open Source intelligence utility that is perhaps one of the reasons why Open Source has had a bit of a coming of age in recent times, that it's become much more used at the agency level than maybe even before. So, what experience have you got of Open Source derived intelligence, Phil? And how much has that enabled, supported, the sharing of information?

Phil Ritcheson: No, a great question. I think I might go pick up a little bit where I had left off in a previous comment. NATO, I think, is often misunderstood by many who haven't had the pleasure of actually serving inside that system. It depends upon information flows that come from capitals. So, those are its collection systems, with very few exceptions. There are UAVs that they now operate on their own, but besides that, it is up to nations to provide information. I say that because, again, it gets back to something that Sean alluded to, which is there's obviously sensitivities and, in this case, capitals will want to make sure that they are careful about what it is that NATO itself has available to it. But it gets back to, there still needs to be that common level of knowledge on what is happening. In Syria, the Civil War was undergoing, it was really often getting quite hot while we were there. And while there were other sensitive sources of information, some of the best information actually came from unclassified or assessments that came from a lot of Open Source reporting from within the region and around the region by others in the Alliance, as well as partners in the region who were able to share information with us. Which gets back to something that Sean picked up on, which is, there's something to be said if you wanted to know about what is actually happening in Syria with all that complexity at the time, from within the region, from people who know really what is going on. There's no replacement for that. And I can think of other examples too as we monitored things going on in the wake of the Arab spring. Having some of our North African partners tell us what they think is going on based upon their assessments, based upon what they actually are just reading in the paper, or their view of what Friday prayers were actually all about, was absolutely essential. And there were other examples too, I think, where Open Source information, and where that shareability created a common place mark for people to understand problems and to consider activities. I'll jump to another area though. When I served at NGA, there was a big move to try to better use Open Source information for analysis. And while my job was not to do that analysis, part of my job, when I worked there, was to work with international partners for a range of either open mapping and charting and geodesy information, which is absolutely imperative for anyone who wants to walk the earth, fly the skies, sail the seas, or avoid subterranean mountains. And as well, working on other partnerships as well that were all about getting shareable information into what we would call a global geo and enterprise, to ensure common understanding from a geo perspective, upon which we could build other information. And then finally, I had an opportunity to serve a couple of times over at ODNI. And in one of those tours, back to the imperative of being able to share an understanding of what's happening in certain regions based upon people who are there. So, the partnership engagement piece, relying on less about the exquisite, of which there was plenty, but more the understanding that nuance, particularly at the time'19 to '21 when things were very ripe within the near east region, and we needed good understanding and the best understanding as quickly as possible. There was no substitute for that shareability, culturally, where Open Source information.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah, perfect. So, Sean, you and I, as I said in my introduction, have talked about the potential and the opportunity presented by Open Source intelligence. So, here we're talking about the fact that it is facilitating the sharing of information, particularly where there are other barriers to doing so, particularly if it's a classified or exquisite source. What about the cultural word you mentioned earlier on, in terms of sharing information? Is that a cultural problem that drives inefficient and effective policy? Or is it more deep- rooted than that? What is the cultural issue that you were raising earlier with regard to shareability?

Sean Corbett : I would say it's actually the other way around. I think the policy makes the culture particularly risk averse. So, nobody wants to get into trouble by sharing something inadvertently, so they don't do it. So, everybody goes, " Right, it's easier not to share than it is to share." And this brings us to what I think is a really good point, that there's a difference between downgrading secret intelligence and Open Source intelligence. But there's also a clear link, because one can facilitate the other. So, actually, it sounds counterintuitive, but to downgrade intelligence, particularly to an unclassified level, takes an incredible amount of time, effort, resource, and policy. Whereas if you can take that intelligence and say, " Okay, what's it telling us?" And then compare it to that which is publicly available and go, " You know what? That actually meets the aim, because it says what we're trying to say in terms of the big picture stuff." So, we can use that rather than going through that downgrading perspective. And that is a cultural change as much as anything. It's having the agility to understand the difference, but also the confidence, and that comes with leadership as well. So, when you've got people like myself and Phil that are encouraging it and all the rest of it, it makes people slightly less risk averse, but you still get in with the policy constraints. And this is why I think that, and I'm always talking about it, Open Source intelligence, that which is publicly available to anybody in a legal means. If you can take that intelligence and it says pretty much the what, the why, the so what, that you would get from the classified stuff, then why wouldn't you use it, because there is a time requirement in this? Absolutely.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah, I'll come to you just a second, Phil, but I'm reminded of a very quick example of this, where a customer reached out to Janes and asked if we had anything on the various infrastructure that the Chinese were building in the South China Sea. And of course we had lots of imagery, but not only did we have the imagery, but we also have within the imagery a deep understanding of the equipment that was now visible in there, and the capabilities of that equipment, et cetera. And we could put all that together very quickly. That was taken straight off the shelf and used, because it did exactly what you just talked about, Sean. Of course, the agency concerned had full access to all necessary capabilities that it needed to understand that, but the fact that it could take it from an Open Source commercial organization like ours, and effectively publish it, makes it so that they don't have to reveal their own sources, their own capabilities, in any way. So, that was, for me, a very good example, albeit some time ago, of how you can use Open Source intelligence. But, and this is the bit I'll come to you, Phil, isn't that, however, based on a level of trust? You've got to be assured that what you're looking at from the Open Source is actually usable. It's all very well to say I can use Open Source as an alternative to releasing things that I don't really want to release, but hasn't that got to be based on the fact that you actually trust the intelligence that you've derived from the Open Sources?

Phil Ritcheson: Yeah, I think that's a great point, and it was a valuable exchange you just had about culture. I think there's a lot to that and I could come back to that if desired, but to the question on whether you need to trust it, yes. If you look at it from an analytic perspective, and while my career wasn't one that was analysis all the time, I had analytic tours both in uniform and out, and it is being able to verify as much as possible that what you have collected is true, that your assessment is right. And it is almost invariably, as we know, impossible to be 100% sure. That's just not the business of intelligence. And Open Source, I don't think, makes it any easier. Just because it's out there doesn't mean it's true. And as a matter of fact, there's a ton of stuff out there which is-

Harry Kemsley : Not true.

Phil Ritcheson: ...yeah, completely not true. We can spend another five hours talking about that, but it's the opposite side of the coin about trust. You've got a lot of information that's out there, almost too much right now, which gets you into some of the tools and processes that I think need to be developed more to get through it. But what you do find and what you do validate with either another Open Source or some other means, I think does add to the trust factor which allows you to use it. But it's maybe worth making a point too, that one of the values of Open Sources now, with so much information that's out there, that's publicly available, commercially available, is you start to enable other disciplines and start to get to a point where, with that trust, you can provide more rapid insights. You can almost tip and cue. In many respects, everything that we can imagine in our own national systems, frankly, you're starting to be able to see, and this would include overhead remote sensing capabilities, overhead passive RF collection, as well as human intelligence that is interviews and information that come from a variety of other openly acknowledged and publicly available sources. So, it adds to, with the trust comes a richness of the data, which to your point, it creates usability opportunities, particularly for entities that may not want to go through the painful processes of downgrading. Trust is imperative. And that will be the just last comment on this, trust will be imperative and it'll be on the author, the analyst, the company, to ensure that they have verified that that information source is as valid as possible, supplemented, hopefully, with other sources themselves, and done in a rapid way which encourages better habits and muscle memory in the international system for this kind of information.

Harry Kemsley : Let me take that point up in just a second. So, we, Sean, you and I have spoken about the need for greater engagement with Open Source for deriving intelligence. We've talked about that many times, but we've also frequently talked about the trust and culture aspect. And Phil, what I'll do is, I'll come back to you in just a second in terms of... So, we're now sat in front of a policy organization, and we're going to try and convince them that they really need to break this problem down. I'll come back to you with that question in a second. What I'm going to do in the meantime, or get the cogs spinning, is just to talk to Sean about, when you look at the Open Source that you see today and you think back to your days inside the agency, behind the vault door, how much do you think, if you could go back in time, would you be convincing yourself to break open that box, mark dirty, unclean, unclassified Open Source, and change the way you did business back then?

Sean Corbett : So, it's a very leading question, but you know the answer to that, because the more I get into Open Source intelligence, the more I realize that, within the intelligence community, whichever agency you're in, there are some absolutely fantastic, discrete capabilities that are rapier- like in their focus and their capabilities, and bring some unrivaled insight. But they are narrow. And I think, in terms of the context, there are really early days, and there's examples I'm certainly not going to go into, where we just didn't understand why something was happening. We were seeing something, but we had no idea why it was happening. And had we been allowed to, because we weren't allowed to in those days, look at other Open Sources. I'm not quite old enough to say there wasn't the internet, but there wasn't, certainly, the availability of those. But had there been, we wouldn't have been allowed to use them. But had we been able to, I think would've got a lot more contextual understanding. You and I talk about context quite a lot, actually.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah.

Sean Corbett : But that would be really critical, and there is no question about it, how valuable it was and still is. And just before, I know you're going to go back to Phil in a second, but two really key points that Phil brought up there, which I think is absolutely brilliant, I knew this was going to be a good one. One was looking at almost the other way around, the Open Source intelligence can tip and cue the good stuff, if you like, of which there is a limited amount and it's very expensive, all the rest of it. So, you can hone down, and we've talked before about the Libyan crisis, and how little we had in the classified domain when we first started looking at an issue as an issue. So, it's not just the other way around, it's actually that it can be a false multiply if you want to use it there. And the other thing, which is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but worth stating though that, Open Source intelligence is not the same as publicly available information. Publicly available information derives Open Source intelligence if you use it right in the whole assured information and trust and all the rest of it. But we're not talking about PAI here, we're just not talking about low state, we're talking about that data that's been assessed and analyzed against a specific question.

Harry Kemsley : Sure. We're talking about intelligence derived from Open Source, rather than the data or information that is the Open Source information world. Phil?

Phil Ritcheson: Yeah, thanks. I was thinking, as Sean was talking there, that this is as much a... I guess it's a rationale, it's a reason, it helps explain what the challenge is and, at times, I'm very frustrated with the pace of cultural change, which I don't think is going fast enough to match the environment that I had described upfront. But if you look back at things, our system, and maybe both of our nations to some extent, certainly ours, was born out of a time where secrecy was absolutely critical, where knowledge was absolutely... It was the narrowest of narrow, it was behind the iron curtain. How do you get there? How do you understand what's happening? And it led to a culture, I think, and a well- established, well- needed one that depended upon secrecy in how things were collected, in particular, and what we thought about adversary intentions and capabilities. And I can still get a bunch of that, except for, I think, we would all acknowledge that that environment has shifted and changed, and it's been replaced now by the age of secrecy is, we're somewhere in an age of transparency. Transparency may be a little bit too much, but if you look at the 7, 500 satellites that are orbiting above us, the vast majority of which are commercial, which ensure that every spot on the globe can be imaged at least every 30 minutes. There's something different about that. The data saturation that we have, in a variety of areas, the complexities that we need to understand from the intelligence perspective, economics have always been an issue, but whether it be socioeconomic, sociocultural, you mentioned Chinese infrastructure earlier. There are plenty of other examples where, things related to climate, things that are affecting our global system, our international system, our national systems for national security as well. There's so much that we need to know about that is outside of the purview, really, of classified, secret organizations and approaches that depend upon, really, revamping and accelerating the cultural shift into, how do we take advantage of the information that's there? And then use those exquisite systems, when necessary, as an additive component, but not as the primary one. The environment is shifting and we need to recognize that and press on.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah, I think that's the bottom line, is that the things have moved on. The days when I started my military career, were where, really, the government of the world, they owned the insight. They could tell you what was happening in other parts of the world if they chose to do so. That is no longer the case. Very often, ministers of government are walking to work, riding to work, arriving at work, to find that news is breaking that they know nothing about, and they're being asked to react to it right now. So, I think that's the big change, isn't it? Sean, let me just bring the conversation back to you then. So, we've talked about the power of Open Source in many different ways, we've now accepted that the complexity, the context, the tipping, the cuing, all of these things drive the necessity for sharing. We've identified that there's a cultural problem. We've also identified that, if you had the chance to go back and talk to yourself 20 years ago, you'd be encouraging yourself to use more of the Open Source from that dirty, unclean box marked unclassed in the corner. What is it that we should be looking forward to in the future? As we now start to understand the power, the potential for Open Source, what do you see coming over the horizon that we should be thinking about in terms of Open Source intelligence generally, but also, how do we break this paradigm of not sharing when we really should?

Sean Corbett : So, I think there's two elements to that. Well, there's more than two, obviously, but one of the key ones is this: getting over the risk aversion and changing policy so that we're comfortable with using Open Sources. And the only way we can do this, which is one of my first ones, is to look at the structure about how we do stuff. For example, you've heard me say this before, 80-20 rule, as we used to say, it's not exact, but right now, 80% of the intelligence is derived from super secret sources, and then the 20% laid over it. We've got to turn that the other way around. We've got to. For all the things we've been saying, for the access to the data and the information that is global, that is broad and deep, thematic and geographical, but also, and the second point of that is, that can only really be achieved if we are smart with how we use the data. Data, data, data, data, data. How do we manage it? How do we wrangle it, your favorite word? How do we sort it to be able to get the analyst in a position where they go, " I've got all the information I need, but just the information I need to answer this." And then you can do that cognitive piece, and that, again, we've had this discussion before about, to what extent or when does the analyst need to be engaged? And I still think that, well, A because it's a lot of fun, but B, because I still don't think algorithms can do quite that cognitive piece that the human being can. So, that were the two things. So, structurally, and that includes the policy, but also using the AI tools that are now coming online, as tools.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah. We've discussed before, Sean, the power of Open Source in a subtly different way though, haven't we? We talked about the fact that it gives the analyst who has got those exquisite means, the chance to focus them. We talked about that earlier in this conversation. But does that also bring them to a much more mature stage of the analytical process much more quickly? Get them to the point where they don't need to go and do all the background homework on what is the lay down of forces, what is the all back, what are the equipment capabilities, et cetera? It just brings them to the point where they can launch from a much more mature foundation and onwards up into the more advanced analytics.

Sean Corbett : Yeah, as we get to trust those algorithms in terms of getting that data sorting in the right way, then absolutely. It's quite frightening, the amount of time my very clever analysts spent managing Excel spreadsheets, for instance, or transferring from one computer to another and just getting the data in one place. Very clever people getting really bored, and then the minimum amount of times are, " Okay, right, I've got it all now. Thank you. Right, what does it mean?" Rather than just data comes in, " Right. Excellent. I'm confident it's just the right data and the most I can get. Now I can do the so what and the what if."

Harry Kemsley : But isn't it always the case, Phil, that, just from the point of the analysts previously, without the availability of assured Open Source intelligence, all the tools to gather and collect and collate, they just about got to the point that, " Great, I've got my deck, I know what I've got now, and the deadline is when? It's in five minutes. I've spent the first three hours just collecting, collating. I've got five minutes to do the judgment piece."

Phil Ritcheson: Yeah, that will definitely be the pickle that a lot of those analysts find themselves in, and I think though, Sean did mention the tools. Part of the issue there, I think, is that the tools themselves, we need to help the analysts with tools that can get through that data faster. It's not going to do the work for them, that won't happen, and from my perspective, I think you all and listeners will agree, it's the right balance between human and machine. But there needs to be more of an emphasis, I think, on some of the machines, tools, processes to enable the analyst to do his or her job with the time constraints that they will inevitably have, but with maybe a richness of some initial Open Source insights that will help them do their job. So, that professionalization, that making more routine a craft, essentially, of Open Source intelligence, is something which leads, I think, easily to training regimens for analysts, not just when they come in and like, " Ah, here, you're going to be an Open Source analyst." No, you got to hit that maybe at multiple times as a mid- career analyst, as a senior analyst, as even a consumer and a customer, and even on the line management or above, and senior leader positions, there is utility in making sure that those people are aware of what the analysts are capable of doing, what they're being challenged with, and how they would go about doing it. I think if you do all those things, you get to a point where senior leaders are going to be more comfortable and will hopefully take more calculated risks with allies and partners, and not just in extremists. When it's like, " Okay, I got to get something to them." But it's as a normal, routine basis, and as activities to ensure that, in crisis, you are in a better position to act faster than adversaries will be able to.

Harry Kemsley : Right. Let me finish then with, I think, quite a difficult question, but I think it's one that we should tackle and that is, if I'm sitting outside the intelligence community, listening to this conversation as a person who's grown up with a digital capability in my hand, which allows me access to anybody I want to speak to in the world, in practice or in theory, and I can share information in nanoseconds by hitting the button to post things, isn't it fair to say that most of the Open Source environment is sharing everything almost all the time? And if we are not sharing in the intelligence community, we're just watching the story develop around us. It seems to me that, if I'd looked at it from the other end of the telescope, I would be looking at a world where everything is shared all of the time, and by the way, you throw in some myths and disinformation moved around at machine speed by bots. If you are not sharing within your coalition, national security environment, you run the risk of the story getting well ahead of wherever you've got to very fast, and constantly being behind the drag curve. How do we deal with the reality of sharing that's going on on those black mirrors in front of us all all day with mobile devices? How do we deal with that? Can we go to Phil first, because I see Sean wincing, so I'm going to go straight to Phil first.

Phil Ritcheson: I was wincing on the inside, I should have been more demonstrative. Yes, I think that may be really the proverbial$ 64 Million question. It affects everything from recruiting and retention as well, where you have your junior analysts come in and expecting to be able to use their phone inside, not liking the fact that it needs to go into a lockbox. But the point that you're making as well, Harry, what I think of is the increasing challenge, I think, of intelligence professionals being able to understand where their customers and the policy and action- taking and decision- making environments are, are going, and what their priorities are. Many may get a little bit nervous with that, thinking that there should be some sort of distinction between those intelligence professionals and customers, but I would go the other way. There are ways to be the ethical and responsible intelligence professional, while at the same time understanding what those priorities are. Which means you're inside their information space a little bit, it's not really an OODA loop, but you'll understand what I mean. You have a better sense of what it is that they're worried about, which means that you can track and tack with them when and as needed. Which helps as well, I think, deal with the reality that those decision- makers and those, in particular, focus on them. Our world is saturated, theirs is even more saturated. And the ability to get intelligence in precisely at the right time and place to have the effect, is for sure more art than science. I think it's facilitated by that closer relationship and awareness, while at the same time dealing with this blizzard of information that's out there. I think just one last comment before Sean jumps in. I think there is a way to solve for that junior personnel, those junior officers who are going to come in with their phone. Although it's not the norm at all, in some cases, there's at least one agency that is constructing a facility that is inverted maybe in an appropriate way for the time and age that we're in. A big public space in the front, an unclassified space behind it, an FOUO or the for official use only space behind it, and you increasingly get more classified, but it's starting with an openness. It's inverting the pyramid. Or maybe it's a normal pyramid. We have an inverted pyramid now, where we'll start with the very classified still. As we do that, as we hire and get new folks in here who will be calling for, asking for, seeking change, I think you'll see that change over time to ensure that we stay with the story instead of getting beaten by it. I think I might just make one more comment if I could. It's always going to be a super challenge, because no matter how aggressive we want to be in changing the culture of, in my case, 18 intelligence agencies that have been doing things a certain way for a very long time, technology is going to continue to accelerate at a rate far faster than certainly most government policymaking entities will be able to contend with, comprehend, and then adjust to. You can think of the world of virtual reality and augmented reality that's coming. That'll be yet another challenge, as well as gen AI and other kinds of high- tech and advanced technology approaches to our craft and to others as well. So, the best antidote may be to continue to press towards shifts and changes that acknowledge the environment that we are in, and not the one that we have come from.

Harry Kemsley : Yep, I agree. Sean, over to you.

Sean Corbett : I was wincing not because it's a hard question, but it is, but because there are so many elements to it. And I agree with, well, everything that Phil said, actually, but I think there's a generational aspect to this, no question. Is that, the next generation, those bright young things, are very comfortable. In fact, they're almost driven by getting instant data all the time, whereas we weren't. Partly because we didn't have these smartphones in our day, but partly because you left them in the locker and just never used them. So, there is a generational thing where people are comfortable with that. But what that doesn't mean, and this is where the intelligence community, as it is right now, does perceive a threat, because there is a narrative, that is a careless narrative, that says, " Well, if all this stuff is out there and it's all available, why do we need intelligence officers or intelligence specialists? Why do we bother having these agencies?" Et cetera. And there is a tiny thread of a point there, but the point is, as something we said earlier that, there is a complete difference between intelligence and information. And so, you've got to have that background, you've got to have that understanding of the ability to wait a piece of information, the ability to say, " What does that mean? Is it good information?" How do you subsume it into other pieces and come up with that analysis that is well- founded and is correct, rather than just spouting, " Well, I read this on the paper." And I've seen senior officers, I tell the story, as you know, all the time, going into our unified command as the two there, and knowing that I had to listen to Radio 4 and read the Times before I went in, because my three or four- star boss would go, " Right, Sean, why are you telling me this? I read it in this morning." Well, yeah, you read something this morning, but actually, it was either wrong, got the wrong inference, or didn't consider this possibility and that possibility. And so, it doesn't really matter, ultimately, where that information comes from, you've still got to synthesize it and turn it into something that's invaluable. Now, in terms of the final bit of your question, is that the agencies will feel under threat, because there is only limited amount of money, they're competing against each other, and so it's like, " How do I remain relevant and show my worth?" Of course, they've got different customers and all the rest of it. It would be very easy to go down that route of, " Well, all organizations are all source intelligence." And so there's a difference, particularly in the US and others as well that, some of these agencies are collection agencies. They collect against a specific part of the electromagnetic spectrum, so they're providing that extra source of information that might be that sprinkling of absolute gold dust that you wouldn't have otherwise. So, they are going to remain relevant, but I think that they need to continue to have the narrative and be comfortable with using the brighter stuff, the wider stuff as well, without getting too competitive about what we use Open Source intelligence as well. So, there are so many elements to that, I could keep going, but I'll stop there.

Harry Kemsley : All right. What we'll do shortly, and Phil, I will come back to you in just a second. What we'll do shortly after Phil's comment is, we'll start to draw stumps on this. And what I'm looking for, Phil, in just second, is for the audience, what's the one thing you want them to take away from this conversation? If you remember nothing else, remember this when it comes to Open Source intelligence and/ or shareability. But before that, and I'll go to you, Sean, first for that after Phil's last comment. Phil, go ahead.

Phil Ritcheson: Yeah, no, thanks. And actually, I was thinking that I may come back to a version of this comment. When Sean was talking, and this very valuable conversation has reinforced to me as well that, the world of intelligence, intelligence agencies, military forces, national security establishments, obviously need to adapt to the ages and the environments that they're in. I'm struck with all the changes that have taken place, and now that I'm out of government, do some of my colleagues who have not worked in government, they're like, " Oh my God, what aren't they doing? They're not doing anything." I'm like, " no, you don't understand, one, how hard it can be. Two, what really has taken place." If we look back at our national security establishments, back to 2001 and where we are today, there are very clear changes and shifts. No question about it. But I am struck by this conversation about the imperative Opens Sources. The imperative, really, of continuing to shift and change the way our establishments, our policy structures, our legal mechanisms should be considered for the age, I'm struck by that more and more. After 9/ 11 in our country, we established ODNI, we had legal changes, and we haven't had an event, really, that is leading to a new point like that. But I guess the point I would make is, I'm struck by what the current environment and the future environment looks like. The way we're postured now, which still has a bit of the legacy, a bit of an anchor drag in there from everything that we have done in the past, and maybe is not really primed, from an intelligence perspective, from a military perspective, from a national security supporting perspective, maybe even from an alliance and partnership perspective, in the way that we know we need to be. The rhetoric for Open Source intelligence, the rhetoric for partnerships engagement, the rhetoric for allies and partners has never been so good, but there's a gap between what the rhetoric is and what the capacity needs to be to be effective in the environments that we know we need to be effective in.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah.

Phil Ritcheson: So, I'm struck by... And this is a little bit far afield, but maybe not too far. If you even look at the operations unfolding in Russia- Ukraine, it's highlighting the need for change that get away maybe from, I'll say, deliberate, industrial planning and production of weapons, the leveraging of commercially enabled technologies that are low cost, that are replaceable like that. That if you lose them, it's no big deal. You lose a tank with a crew, that's a big deal. You lose £ 1, 000 or $1, 000 UAV, it's like, " All right, well, we'll go get another one." There are shifts and changings that are taking place, and I think we're looking at one that is on the intelligence side, but there's some connective tissue into the world of how we sense the operating environment, support decision making entities, whoever they are, and action taking entities that is drifting more around Open Sources, commercially available technology, different industrial practices, and whatever gen AI will become. There's a mixture there that we can see, but we haven't really adjusted to and respected for the change that I think it will drive and create.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah. Wow, there's about 200 things in there I'd like to tuck into some more, but I know we don't have time. So, Phil, I'm going to leave you with the task in a moment of the one takeaway. Sean, what's your one takeaway for the audience for this session?

Sean Corbett : So, it's hard, but I think, for me, actually, there's something very loud and clear, that it's just reinforcing the imperative to normalize Open Source intelligence within the intelligence community. Recognizing both its attributes, but also its limitations.

Harry Kemsley : Yeah, I agree with that. Phil, what's your one takeaway?

Phil Ritcheson: I think my one takeaway might be, because to add onto Sean's comment, Open Source intelligence and the ability to share with allies and partners, create, enable, and maintain strategic advantage with both of our nations will need at a time of crisis, in an operated environment that is not conducive to secrecy and to restrictions.

Harry Kemsley : Very good. For me, I think it's the word you used quite recently, Phil, the word rhetoric. The difference between what we actually need and must do, and what we're saying and actually doing. So, for me, the Open Source environment bridges that gap. If the governments of the world aren't going to share, if they're not going to tell us what's really going on and share amongst themselves, you know what? The Open Source is going to do that anyway. One way or the other, truth will out. And that's one of the things that worries me, is that if we don't get the policy moving at the pace that drives the culture and then the practice, we run the risk of not becoming irrelevant, to the point that Sean made, I think there's a relevance for the" intelligence process", via the information process, that will endure and will mean we'll have intelligence practice and trade craft. But if we're not careful, what we're saying and doing will be largely marginalized by the Open Source environment that will have already shared that information tenfold and moved it on at several layers, I'm sure, thereafter. So, for me, it's that bridge between the rhetoric and the reality. So, as ever, we run out of time before we run out of things to talk about, and I have nothing left to do other than to say a huge thank you to you, Phil, for your time and effort today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Phil Ritcheson: And thank you both, I've enjoyed this very much. A really valuable conversation and look forward to staying in touch in the future.

Harry Kemsley : Very good. Sean, thank you as ever for your contribution. And to the listeners, I do say this from time to time, let me add it one more time today, and that is, if you have any comments about what you've heard, if you have any requests for things you'd like to hear more about, let us know. We are starting to respond to some of those quite soon. Thank you for your time too. 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 this episode Harry Kemsley and Sean Corbett are joined by Phil Ritcheson Ph.D. to discuss why intelligence sharing is now more important than ever. They discuss the growing need for allied and partnership and how by using open sources facilitates more timely intelligence sharing. However, ensuring that the open sources can be trusted and are assured is critical to maintaining strategic advantage.

Today's Host

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Harry Kemsley

|President of Government & National Security, Janes

Today's Guests

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Phil Ritcheson Ph.D

|Specialist Executive