Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Spies Like Us

Author: Amy Zegart

Affiliation: Hoover Institution, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Affairs

Date/Place: July-August/USA

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 2800 


Keywords: CIA, Belling cat, Open-source Intelligence


In this article, the author talks about the events following the recent US elections and the accompanying violations of state sovereignty by Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol to obstruct the Congress’ approval of the 2020 presidential election results. These events have prompted ordinary Americans to participate in one way or another in the process of identifying the riot participants by tracking social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where many of the intruders have shared their photos and videos documenting the moments of their storming the US Capitol Building. The author points out the emerging and expanding world of open-source intelligence that has provided the opportunity for everyone to participate in this process, unlike in the past where traceability and evidence were limited to governments and law enforcement agencies with massive resources and budgets. Today, everyone can participate by using different platforms on the web, such as Bellingcat, a vital member of this new open-source intelligence ecosystem where its leader Eliot Higgins, a journalist and former blogger, sees its mission to “deter” the cats of global injustice. He calls his organization an “intelligence agency for the people,” an “open community of hobbyists in the collaborative search for evidence.” It was involved in investigating the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed in Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board and many other similar accidents. However, the writer stresses that there are no formal qualifications, rules, or standards with such platforms. Working online means that errors can spread. Participants do not risk losing a promotion or a job for making a mistake. Additionally, there is a fine line between the wisdom of the masses and the danger of the mob, and without standards and rules the investigation can veer towards entirely wrong results. According to the author, the future will bring more players from more countries with less experience; the open-source world will soon become more crowded and less moderate. Therefore, you must pay attention and prepare for what is to come.

By: Taqwa Abu Kmeil, CIGA Research Assistant



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