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Director's Remarks at the DNI Open Source Conference 2008

Remarks by Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden
at the DNI Open Source Conference 2008

(as prepared for delivery)

September 12, 2008

Thank you, Doug. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’m a huge fan of open source intelligence and the Open Source Center. As a career intelligence officer, I’d like to start today with an observation that might surprise some of you who are not: Secret information isn’t always the brass ring. In fact, there’s something special about solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that others are dumb enough to leave out in the open.

That came home to me years ago when I was defense attaché in Bulgaria. Of course, I read the state-run press, watched the state-run TV, and made all kinds of official contacts. It was a little dry, but it told me what the government was saying and how it acted. There was other information—also freely available—that I collected in less open ways. The key was knowing what to look for, and being in a position to see it.

Today, the job of intelligence officers is a lot harder, and a lot different. But the collection, analysis and dissemination of information from open sources is as vital as ever. This conference, covering such a broad array of topics and including virtually every stakeholder in the open source enterprise, makes abundantly clear the rich potential, far reach, and real impact of open source intelligence.

It’s something I appreciated even before my tour in Bulgaria and have carried forward since. A little over three years ago, a small group of us sat down to figure out what the Intelligence Community should look like under the newly created Director of National Intelligence. John Negroponte was DNI and I was his deputy. We set up shop just a few blocks from here, taped butcher paper on the office walls, and literally sketched out the shape of a DNI-led Intelligence Community.

There was a lot to think through, but it didn’t take long to identify the way ahead for open source. In fact, we saw the establishment of the Open Source Center as one of the three most important objectives for the ODNI in its first year. Establishing the National Clandestine Service at CIA and the National Security Branch at FBI were the other two.

Although we considered a couple of options for creating the Center, we decided that building on the expertise and capabilities of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and placing the Center in CIA made the most sense. FBIS represented the strongest possible foundation on which to build, with capabilities ranging from media and Internet collection, to research and analysis, to advanced information technology, database acquisition, and training.

So the aim from the start has been to build and strengthen those capabilities while extending their reach. Also from the start, we made the CIA Director executive agent for open source. The DCIA would be responsible for the Center’s success, not just in such traditional roles as collector, analyzer, and disseminator of open source intelligence, but in the new, broader role as Community leader working to expand open source capabilities, tradecraft, expertise, access, products, and so on.

I don’t offer this bit of history as a lesson in the IC wiring diagram, but rather to make a larger point: Open source intelligence is widely recognized as both an essential capability and a formidable asset in our national security infrastructure.

As the DNI’s strategic plan puts it, quote, “no aspect of collection requires greater consideration or holds more promise than open source information.” Here’s why: Those working in this discipline are at the nexus of two intensely dynamic industries—media and information. Moreover, while the Internet has revolutionized human interaction, there is still much to learn about its impact and the opportunities it presents. Also, the questions our customers ask—policymakers, military commanders and others—demand unique contributions from open source.

So, at CIA, one of the first things I did as Director was to make Doug Naquin a direct report to me. And early in my tenure, I visited two of the Bureaus. One stop was meant simply to be a courtesy call, but it turned into a three hour visit that was absolutely fascinating. Talk about time on target; talk about expertise with regard to that target. Those folks really had it, and they affirmed my view that the OSC is a priceless resource whose success needs to be reinforced and shared throughout the Community.

Today, Doug is with us three days a week at senior staff meetings. And open source has a seat at the table with CIA’s other core disciplines as the Agency makes decisions about resources and plans for the future. Open Source is a key component of our own strategic blueprint, called Strategic Intent. That’s the importance we attach to it.

As I indicated a few minutes ago, my job as “executive agent” for the Open Source Center is to help it achieve two primary goals:

  • First, to be a highly effective collector and producer of intelligence in its own right;
  • And second, to be a catalyst for the larger Community open source enterprise about which you heard Doug Naquin speak yesterday.

So how are we doing? One irony of working the open source side of the intelligence business is that the better we get, the less we can talk about it. We are often addressing requirements or questions that are sensitive by nature. And open source, while valuable in its own right, is typically combined with information from the other “INTs.” That’s when it packs the most punch.

What I can tell you is that open source intelligence contributes to national security in unique and valuable ways virtually every day. Take the recent Russia-Georgia conflict or Pakistan’s political upheaval. Finished intelligence delivered to policymakers on those subjects routinely integrated open sources and analyses based on open sources, including mainstream media, video, and blogs.

That kind of work is invaluable. We couldn’t claim to do all-source analysis without it. And it’s a baseline that helps us define what is truly secret, allowing us to better focus our clandestine capabilities.

Open source also helps us understand how others view the world. Without that understanding, we would fail in our obligation to provide insight, not just information.

Last spring, I had the privilege of speaking out at Kansas State University as part of their Landon Lecture Series. One of the main points I wanted the students to take away was how crucial it is for us, as a nation, to understand others’ viewpoints—those of friends and adversaries alike. We cannot be myopic, seeing things only through an American lens. It’s not only arrogant, it’s dangerous.

The lecture focused on the growing complexity of the world, and the fact that international relations in the 21st century will be shaped by a greater number and more diverse set of actors than in the 20th century. The overriding challenge this presents to those of us responsible for our nation’s security is that we must do a better job of understanding cultures, histories, religions, and traditions that are not our own. Open source officers have an important role in that. They expose us to perspectives we might not see otherwise, broadening our understanding of the world. There is nothing more fundamental to our mission.

Moving on to goal number two—our responsibility to lead the Community in unleashing the full potential of open source—we can be very proud of the progress made in the last two years. Just a few examples:

  • OSC now provides the White House Situation Room with more than 340 real-time video feeds from television broadcasts around the world. 

  • It provides daily highlights to EUCOM through a customized Internet portal.

  • It has formed new collaborative relationships with foreign partners, the private sector and other elements of our government. We’re taking advantage of expertise across the spectrum, from NGA headquarters in Bethesda, to the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to the Asian Studies Detachment in Camp Zama, Japan.

  • OSC also has expanded its training of officers across the Community. Almost half of the Open Source Academy’s students this year work for organizations other than CIA. Troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, personnel from homeland security fusion centers, and dozens of foreign partners are among those who have participated in the academy’s courses.

  • Perhaps most importantly, the Center is making more intelligence-related content available to more people in government than ever before. Almost 15,000 people—from state and local governments, to Congress, to policymakers—regularly use to access not only OSC material, but data and products from more than 100 other organizations.

We want to build on this momentum. That’s what drove the Action Plan Doug unveiled this week. It is strategic in nature, but focuses on practical, near-term objectives. We’ve set the path and now we’re going to execute.

Today, I am pleased to announce the creation of a new Community-wide governing board that will guide us as we move forward. The Open Source Board of Governors, which will consist of all primary open source producers and stakeholders in the IC, will lead an integrated approach to exploiting openly available information. The Board of Governors will set strategy and priorities for our open source enterprise based on input from all who want to ensure its success.

We see it as a forum where consensus can be reached on how best to use our collective resources both today and into the future. The Board will consider things like IT strategy and policies, centralization of services such as training and content acquisition, and standardization of tradecraft. The idea is to set direction and priorities in a way that allows each element of the Open Source enterprise to develop and make the most of its open source capabilities in supporting national security.

Since early last year we’ve had a similar governing body for the HUMINT Community. It has been a very effective forum for all agencies involved with human intelligence to discuss shared challenges and bring forward ideas for greater collaboration.

The new Open Source Board will meet quarterly, with the first session to convene before the end of this year. At that meeting, we’ll set a work plan for the upcoming fiscal year, with key milestones and decision points. Both the Action Plan and the Governing Board will help ensure that we maintain the very good trajectory we’ve been on for a number of years now—really since 9/11.

Yesterday, we marked a solemn anniversary, seven years since the attack on our homeland. That one, terrible day prompted action on many levels, and the Intelligence Community can be proud of the work it has done. Together with partners across the country and across the world, we have kept the United States safe.

But we owe it to the American people never to be fully satisfied with the job we’re doing. We owe it to them to constantly ask ourselves, “How can we better achieve our mission?”

There is abundant evidence that we are asking that question and challenging ourselves in the open source arena. Thank you all for being part of this exciting effort to push our capabilities to their highest level. And thank you for your energy and dedication as we continue to serve our fellow citizens to the best of our ability.



Historical Document
Posted: Sep 12, 2008 01:27 PM
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2009 11:25 AM