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The New Craft of Open Source Intelligence: How the U.S. Department of State Should Lead


Robert David Steele, CEO of OSS.NET
Remarks to the Secretary's Open Forum, Co-Sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC
Washington, DC
March 24, 2004

Opening Remarks and Introduction

Note: The 42 slides displayed during this presentation are easily downloadable from this url: http://www.oss.net/extra/news/?module_instance=1&id=2348

MR. STEELE: Now, nothing is ever what it seems. So I'll just tell you this is my 10-year-old's laptop, and that's his screensaver. Now, before I begin, Bill has to say that this is off the record, but I certainly am here hoping that you will take what I say elsewhere, and so I encourage you to do that. I will also have my slides posted -- in fact, they'll appear magically at 1:00 pm on my Web site, while we're at lunch.

The books are on sale at cost, mostly because I want to see them spread around, and so I encourage you to think about just buying them and using them -- or you can pay extra at Amazon. I have just posted 9,800 pages of free information, the proceedings from the last 15 years of open source intelligence conferences. They're all available on my Web site in very quick and easy-to-use PDF forms. Last but not least, if you have to leave early, my e-mail address is bear@oss.net, and I would be very glad if you chose to get in touch.

Let me also say thank you to Donna Evans. I think the World Affairs Council, together with the American Committees on Foreign Relations and Foreign Policy out of Carnegie are three of our most important citizen-driven institutions, and I'm certainly greatly honored, Bill, to have an opportunity here. In honor of the occasion, I left my grenades and live chickens at home. There will be no bloodletting. We're going to do a nice, easy-going brief. It will last exactly 30 minutes.

With that, let me begin. I'm here to talk about the New Craft of Intelligence. I am a recovering spy. Although I was good at it, I was stunned to learn, while creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Center from 1988 to 1992 that 85% of what we need to know is not secret, not in English, not online, and not known to anybody here in Washington. I looked into this, and in my second graduate thesis, looking at the three embassies where I have served, discovered that your average embassy, your average country team, is collecting roughly 10% of what can be known, what needs to be known to make wise decisions about foreign policy. And we spill 80% of that 10% by sending it back to Washington in the hard-copy pouch, where it goes to an overburdened desk officer who has no time to digitize it, copy it, share it or otherwise exploit it. Washington is operating, as is London, on 2% of global reality.

All right, there is such a thing as evil in the world and people willing to perpetuate it. That is the sad reality. However, there is another reality, and that is the reality of a mismatch between what we need in the way of national security and international affairs capabilities, and how we actually spend $500 billion a year in taxpayer dollars. No one present needs to be told that the challenges facing us are great, but I will quickly survey the landscape, and then outline my vision for saving America from itself through applied national intelligence led by you here in the Department of State.

I'm not Dick Clarke, but I think that each of us in our own way is addressing some important things. I'm not here to be critical. Let's forget the past. It is what is was.

In the mid-1980s, as one of the first case officers assigned to the terrorist problem full-time, I told the national intelligence officer for terrorism that we were too dependent on foreign liaison. That is still true today this minute. All that is wrong with national intelligence and national policymaking is not only well known, it has been well known for 10 to 15 years. We've shut out reality.

That said, I am focused on the future. We don't need to cast blame. More than anything we need to change our mind-sets about who does what --- for example, who leads intelligence for America. I believe it should be you here in the Department of State.

Nation-states are only 10% of the threat. More threatening are private sector organizations that destroy people's life savings or export their jobs, or that implant immoral capitalism abroad, enriching elites and disenfranchising all others -- ethnic criminal gangs such as we see coming out of Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Colombia -- and bacteria.

Finally, we have Mother Earth on the verge of collapse. And old spies do like poetry -- this from Philip Levine, 1979: "The Earth is tired of our talk, wants peace, an end to promises, and perhaps an end to us."

We are spending as much on national defense as Russia, China, the axis of evil countries, and the next 20 governments all put together. We are spending too much on a heavy-metal military and secret technical satellites, and not enough on salaries for our armed forces, on human experts including diplomats and aid workers, on technical processing, on state and local intelligence, and on public health and clean water supplies.

I'm not here to be critical. I am thinking in terms of a fresh start. But I have to point out this is our starting point. Now, the good news is that with this as our starting point there is plenty of money for new initiatives. The hard part is we have to stop funding the bad ideas.

You in this room know well that this is the reality. It's a reality that we are not ready to deal with as we are now trained, equipped and organized across all elements of the U.S. Government. We have a world that is largely unstable and at war with itself. In 2002, there were 23 conflicts between states, killing over 1,000 people a year, 79 killing under 1,000 a year, and 175 violent political conflicts internal to a specific country. Neither the CIA nor the U.S. media -- which provides perhaps 10% of what the European citizens get from their media -- is addressing and articulating this reality to our public. You here in the Department of State must take up this challenge.

It gets worse. Everyone knows about the Holocaust against those of the Jewish faith during World War II. What most people do not realize is that there have been over 70 genocides in history, and that there are 18 genocides taking place today as we gather here in this room at this time to consider national security and the future of America. How we understand and deal with genocide today is a litmus test of our national competence.

These ethnic conflicts tend to coincide with conditions of severe deprivation. Note the red line. Some of the worst water scarcity and some of the worst ethnic conflicts are along the Russian borders with both the Islamic states of Central Asia and the Chinese state -- and of course between Israel and Palestine. Water scarcity is a national security threat that does not receive enough attention. It has troubling potential here at home.

Instability spawns migrations, criminal activity, and disease as well as terrorism. There are 20 or so complex emergencies involving over 32 countries that are considered to be failed states. We have millions of refugees, millions of starving people, millions of people subject to plagues and epidemics -- 59 countries have plagues and epidemics as we speak today.
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You know these challenges well, but until we educate America, until we take this story out to every town and every state capital across America, we are not going to get the attention to foreign affairs that we require.

We are also very vulnerable at home. We built our great society on the assumption that there might be occasional acts of God, but never on the assumption that suicidal terrorists would be willing to blow up tunnels, bridges, pipelines, apartment buildings, dams, or banking centers. Our economy, our data, our public health are all hostage to the possibility of suicidal terrorists. Our existing national security capabilities are simply not effective against this threat. The water's edge is not a defensive shield. We must eliminate global instability precisely because we are so vulnerable locally.

As I discuss in my second book -- copies of which are in your library -- the real world presents America with four distinct threats, each completely different, each requiring completely different national security capabilities. Three of these four threat classes require very big investments in peaceful preventive measures and in human expertise such as you represent. And that is where you come in.

It is time for State to get back in the business of grand strategy, interagency planning, and interagency operational campaign management using all of the instruments of national power.

We can start by acknowledging that what we have now, a vestige of the Cold War, is a poor investment for the future. Evaluated against the real-world challenges, we quickly establish that our traditional defense budget, our traditional defense capabilities are relevant only 10% of the time. We need a strong national security program, but it must be a smart program that is relevant to the full range of real world threats.

We have started a six-front 100-year war. In the near future, we not only have to dampen this down and extricate ourselves from over 700 military bases around the world, but we have to devise a thoughtful plan for eliminating dictators, nurturing legitimate governments, stabilizing and then reversing deforestation and desertification, destroying ethnic criminal gangs and terrorist networks, and controlling corporate crime and corruption, including tax avoidance, which in the United States of America is roughly between $500 billion and $1 trillion a year -- more than enough to fund all of the social programs and peaceful preventive measures that we need. These are tough challenges. Your role here in the Department of State is very important.

We need to change how we manage our international affairs and national security, including our economic competitiveness. We do this with a single integrated policy staff that can make trade-offs and manage ways, means and ends across both domestic and foreign programs. We also need a modern intelligence community, one that places greater emphasis on open sources of information, while identifying $10 and $20 billion -- this is one thing that Jim Woolsey and I both agree on -- between $10 and $20 billion per year in savings from waste in the "classified community," as it is erroneously called. The Global Knowledge Foundation, ultimately to be funded at $1.5 billion a year, is yours to lose. If the State Department doesn't take open source intelligence seriously, I guarantee you the Department of Defense will.

A modern president must understand the importance of strategic thinking, and will create a strategic staff that is able to manage interagency responses to complex problems, and also able to plan longer-term campaigns that are in the best interests of the American people -- campaigns that will run for 10 to 20 or 30 years, and endure beyond any single political administration.

State used to be the center of policy planning and grand strategic thinking. We must restore those talents, both at State and within the White House. Your diplomatic skills matter more today, and will be priceless tomorrow, because the paradigm for international affairs has changed. Arrogant sovereignty and top-down unilateral decisions are history -- with the occasional neo-conservative exception. The future is here now, and it is about bottom-up multicultural decisions that are based primarily on shared open sources of information, not secrets, and that focus specifically on achieving sustainable long-term agreement.

Big change number one combines with big change number two to present an information explosion challenge that no one nation, much less any one central intelligence organization, can cope with. We spend $30 to 50 billion a year in America going after the small amount of relevant information that we can steal -- when we can find it -- and we spend virtually nothing addressing the universe of information that is legally and ethically available in 29-plus languages, and as many again dialects.

After writing my first book, which was basically everything that was wrong with intelligence, and most of it was written in the early 1990s, I wrote a second book, a new beginning -- called it "The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public and Political." And I did that because I came to the conclusion that Washington will not reform itself until the American people understand the threat at an unclassified level. I am quite serious when I suggest that Washington is operating on 2% of the relevant multi-lingual information.

We must create a smart nation that respects the lessons of history in all languages; that creates cost-sharing networks with other nations open source collection and processing; that harnesses the distributed intelligence in our private sector; and that focuses a revitalized spy service narrowly, deeply, and effectively. Don't confuse me with a spy saying we don't need to spy. When I'm done with open sources, I want a spy service the French can't find. We need to get serious across the board.

I believe we can double or triple what can be known at the policy level and at the public level relatively quickly, at a cost of less than $125 million a year.

With that as preamble, I will now spend a few minutes discussing open sources. First, we must distinguish between data -- the raw sources in many languages and mediums that we fail to capture from here in Washington; information, such as the New York Times, that collates data for generic audiences; and intelligence, which is tailored to the needs of a specific decision maker. Intelligence, properly understood, is about supporting decisions. It is not about secret sources. Intelligence is about decision support. It is a proven process that supports decisions. It is not about how secret and expensive and risky the sources were that led to your decision support.

I would also emphasize that OSINT cannot and should not be controlled by the spies. Ideally we should have an independent agency that is equally responsive to operators, to logisticians, to intelligence, to Congress, and to the public. Failing that, OSINT should be here at the Department of State.

And I would be remiss if I didn't say something very nice about the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. They're good people. But in the environment in which they are now, they are the red-headed stepchildren of that environment, and they are abused children. We need to rescue them so that they can grow to their fullest potential.

I have been working this issue for over 14 years now, and I have learned that there are some common misconceptions about open source intelligence among the most senior diplomats and other policymakers and operators.

Here you see what OSINT is not: At its best, OSINT is the complete marriage of the proven process of intelligence, from requirements definition and collection management to timely analytics, with all -- and I do mean all -- legally and ethically available sources. It is important to emphasize the paucity of those endeavors that are limited to English or the main European languages. If one cannot work in 29 plus languages on a 24/7 basis -- that is in real time and near real time, -- one is not serious. Print and broadcast media are actually the smallest part of the open source universe. Untapped perceptions, oral histories, informal exchanges, limited edition local publications, pre-prints, and geospatial as well as imagery information of all kinds -- including photos from cells phones with geospatial positioning system information -- this is the larger open source universe.

Lest you might believe that the U.S. Government does OSINT, but does not advertise, I will briefly highlight the fact that in August 1995, in an overnight exercise, I defeated the entire U.S. intelligence community -- all agencies -- in what is now known as the Burundi exercise. I did this with six telephone calls on my way to the airport. It was not a fair contest -- if you believe that only secrets matter, then you will tend to not know where to go for the non-secrets. There has been no real change since then, despite the best intentions within the FBIS community and the federal research Division at the Library of Congress, because of persistent opposing mind-sets at the highest levels.

Mark this slide. This is the slide that got General Peter Schoomaker's attention when he was the commander in chief of the Special Operations Command. And because of this slide, the special operations community today has the only element of the U.S. Government that I believe is completely proficient in what I call operationally oriented open source intelligence, from monitoring terrorist and insurgent Web sites in 29 languages, to tribal studies to acquisition studies to Russian military maps -- integrated with U.S. shuttle mission data, and providing sensitive no-notice border crossings. SOCOM gets it.

NATO also gets it. Under the leadership of another great Army general, William Kernan, NATO, when it began expanding, adopted OSINT as its standard for establishing common understandings with Partnership for Peace nations and other coalition partners of the moment, including non-governmental organizations. As of this minute, all three of these publications, available free on the Internet, represent the standard of excellence for open source intelligence.

Now, let me dig a little deeper and explore some of the nuances of the open source world. We achieve new efficiencies and effectiveness in national intelligence -- and in our international affairs -- by recognizing that there are seven tribes -- not one -- within each nation. We must nurture these seven tribes, in part by recognizing them, in part by training them, and in part by developing generic standards for migrating the proven process of intelligence from the spy world to the open world. That's where you and the Department of State come in. Only you can do this.

There is plenty of room for improvement on all fronts. This is my considered judgment on where we are today. My first book evaluates the U.S. intelligence community in great depth, and ends with a 62-page index. There is a lot of fine print in there. Don't ever be intimidated by a spy claiming to know things you do not know. The problem with spies is they only know secrets. Think about that. The problem with spies is they only know secrets. They completely miss the other 95%. They're out of context. They only believe in what can be stolen, not what can be known. We have to change that. It is you as diplomats who can bring these seven tribes together and nurture a new form of national intelligence.

Never in our history have we been more in need of a professional open source intelligence endeavor, and I believe that you here in State should provide the leadership. OSINT can cover everything the spies cannot focus on. It provides an insurance policy. It can be shared with anyone. Best of all, it puts State back in charge of foreign affairs.

I have posted a detailed budget at OSS.Net, developed for my colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee professional staff, showing precisely how I would spend $125 million a year, which is a logical starting point in growing toward an independent agency that is the hub for a global brain funded at $1.5 billion a year.

I created our nation's newest all-source intelligence center from 1988 to 1992. I have served in three of the four directorates at CIA, and I understand the real world and what can be known in the real world. I'm here to tell you that the U.S. Government, on its own, with all the money in the world to spend, will never in a million years get it right. It's not possible. We must -- we must lead the way in creating regional intelligence centers that share the burden and leverage local access and local knowledge from our many partners overseas who would respect State Department leadership in a service of common concern that focuses only on legally and ethically available information.

From OSINT we can graduate to multinational clandestine and shared technical operations, after going through some confidence-building measures. But first we have to do OSINT -- globally, regionally.

Let me jump from that to the current discussion of the need for a European intelligence agency. Europe, like America, must deal with decades of lax control over immigration and citizenship. Terrorists have U.S. and European passports. EUROPOL is not up to this challenge, and I do not believe that any kind of centralized pan-European agency will be effective either. Instead, I believe that Europe must create a network, with standards and templates for sharing information -- and for sharing the burden of collecting, capturing information, and posting it in a way that is immediately digestible by FBIS and other elements of the U.S. Government. It must also have standards and templates that allow the sharing of this burden and the sharing of this bounty with the private sector. It is my hope Europe will do something brilliant.

Now let's talk about money, as I move toward my conclusion. Bill's getting worried. I understand money, and the dollar figures in my first book were created by the top people in the Office of Management and Budget recently retired. I know money. I know how much money we are wasting today. And I know how much good we could do if State would take a leadership role in the question of open source intelligence, as Arnie Donohue (ph) said at the first conference in 1992, there is plenty of money for open source intelligence. I think I see my friend Bill Dunkie (ph) here -- the NRO cannot spend what it's been given. The NRO cannot execute the budget it has been given by this administration. There is more than enough money to cover a trivial $125 million a year. I think we can take big war down to $250 billion a year. Small war, including Bob Oakley's gendarme and an armed white-hat capability -- the military should be delivering sewing machines and water and medicine. But today with failed states, you have to do it under arms. You can't do peacekeeping without being ready to kill in your own defense. State should get $100 billion a year above and beyond what it now gets in program 150 -- $100 billion. I have a slide on that.

Homeland security needs to go up to $75 billion -- half at the federal level, the other half at the state and local levels -- to create full-blown intelligence centers and professional cadres of intelligence and counterintelligence specialists at the local level.

Beyond four forces after next, it's foolish for the military to try to create one force after next. We actually need four distinct international armed capabilities -- big war, small war, peace war and home war.

But we need sub-strategies to tie all this together. We need a global intelligence burden-sharing strategy, and I'm sorry but having coffee with foreign liaison doesn't cut it; a global interoperability strategy, so that what we do collect and what we do know can be shared securely, easily, with an audit trail; an acquisition strategy so that we are not building thousands of one-of with bells and whistles that are unaffordable by our NATO and Partnership for Peace colleagues. We need a fully funded preventive diplomacy and aid strategy, a home front strategy and a coalition strategy that uses a huge reserve to maximize foreign area and non-traditional skills on demand.

Lastly, not a sub-strategy, but simply a doctrinal recognition. We need to see corporations and NGOs as both potential allies, and potential belligerents, and therefore as legitimate targets for legal, ethical intelligence.

This is what I would do with $100 billion for State, above and beyond its existing budget. By the way, the $125 million for open source intelligence in turn allows State to make a compelling case for how we spend the $500 billion of our taxpayer dollars.

Secretary of State, as commander in chief for peace operations, should be leading the regional theaters. I think the theaters should become interagency command, led by men of the caliber of Bob Oakley, Ambassador Bob Oakley, with four-star military deputies. I agree with Ambassador Palmer about un under secretary focused on eliminating dictators, and I want a corresponding under secretary of Defense focused on peacekeeping operations designed and led by the Department of State.

So, what will change? In summary, State can and should become America's foremost intelligence organization, because State alone can orchestrate both a national and a global network of legal and ethical open sources that provide 85 to 90% of all that can and need to be known. Done properly, State should be able to change what we spend the taxpayer's money on.

State should also be able to change when and how we intervene.
The major problem with secret warning is that it can be safely ignored without alarming the public. Secret intelligence is not actionable intelligence in the public diplomacy or public security senses of the word. State, with open source intelligence, can warn America in a compelling manner that cannot be manipulated nor disregarded.

State can also influence who does the thinking. There are 1,400 professors across America who specialize in Middle Eastern matters and are not consulted by Washington. An equal number are resident in other countries. By harnessing the distributed intelligence of the nation, and of the whole earth, State can ensure that we avoid the cancer of secret intelligence, mirror imaging. Indeed, by providing leadership and structure, State can help create a smart nation, a world brain, and a framework for public intelligence in support of peace.

With State leadership, we can change how we make a difference, by leveraging all seven tribes. Faith-based diplomacy can be quite dangerous. Witness the combination of Texas evangelicals and Zionist zealots focused on spawning the perfect Red Calf. This is the obligatory obscure reference. Or it can be quite constructive. Journalists, academics, business professionals, non-governmental organizations -- they are all acting now in isolation, based on limited information. We can offer them all a voluntary framework for collaboration in the sharing of legal and ethical information.

We are making progress at the United Nations, aided in part by the Brahimi Report and by our new book on peacekeeping intelligence, which I have been informed is on display in the lobby of One United Nations Plaza. That's unheard of.

Intelligence is not about secret methods. It is about a process for methodically collecting, processing, analyzing, and acting on all that can be known. It is decision support. We will always need and must honor the value of secret intelligence. However, State should leap at this opportunity to embrace an old mission in a new world. It's about knowing. It is about sharing. It is about informed consensus. And it is about sustainable overt action by all nations acting together.

Finally, it makes sense for State, which is responsible for our foreign relations, to change the strategic focus of American intelligence, American defense, American strategy, and American spending. In the age of distributed information, "central intelligence" is an oxymoron. Only State has the global access, the international confidence, the intellectual savoir faire -- the obligatory French phrase -- and the emotional balance to connect the world, to lead a global campaign to digitize all knowledge, to coordinate international standards and investments without which we cannot be smart and save and prosperous, and to respect the role that security plays in assuring privacy and safety.

I would like to see all of you learn more. The World Bank would be the ideal partner, because with help from my friend Steve Denning, they have realized that they are in the knowledge business, not the lending business. I believe that nothing could be more salutary than a State-sponsored intelligence teach-in, with our respected intelligence colleagues on one side of the exhibit hall, open source intelligence vendors on the other, and our NGOs and other partners for information throughout.

This is an amazingly fertile and amazingly responsive, and an amazingly inexpensive solution to the problems that have been plaguing us about understanding the world. You here at State should lead.

This is the bottom line. Today intelligence has absolutely nothing to do with major decisions about how the U.S. taxpayer dollar is spent. Intelligence is not relevant because we have not learned how to do open source intelligence and make a public compelling case for trade-offs.

This is what $100 million can buy: it can buy a new warship or a large ground unit with tanks and artillery -- or 1,000 George Kennans or 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers, or a water desalination plant that will desalinate 100 million cubic meters of water a year. Or it can buy one day of war over water.

The same contrasts exist with respect to terrorism, poverty, disease, and dictatorships. With all humility, at the end of 14 years of wandering in the wilderness of open sources -- recovering spy that I am -- helping over 40 governments and over 6,000 intelligence professionals get in touch with open sources, I am convinced that the new craft of intelligence is the best hope for world peace through a world brain. State, not the director of Central Intelligence, should lead this endeavor. The public -- and through them, Congress -- should be our primary consumer. Thomas Jefferson had it right on education as a nation's best defense. In the realm of foreign affairs, you here in the Department of State have the action.

You, in the room, you in this department, must restore your statutory responsibility -- your primacy -- in understanding and interpreting the real world to our citizens and our policymakers. Open source intelligence can help you do that. Millions more are going to die before we get it right. I don't think there is any time to waste. I think we must start now, and I thank you very, very much for honoring me with your attention. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: Mr. Steele will be glad to take your questions, and we'll be glad to listen to your comments. What I would encourage you to do, if you are not sitting in front of a microphone, if you'll go to one of the two microphones we have over there, so that your questions and comments can be included in our transcript. The transcript of today's program, for anyone who would like to make reference to it, should be posted on the Open Forum's Web site by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, if all goes well. You go to the home page. In the left-hand column there's a link called "proceedings." If you click on "proceedings" that will bring you to the transcript of today's program. And, as I mentioned, our internal B-NET broadcast system will be rebroadcast this program in its entirely.

Now, Mr. Steele, I'll let you take some questions. Over here, and then we'll come back.

MR. STEELE: Oh, I'm sorry, go over here -- he's at a microphone. Go on.

Q: This is Steve Thibeault, I'm in charge of the media reaction branch at INR, and just want to inform everyone that State Department does have an open source intelligence operation -- we have four analysts. And that out of all the points that you made, I think the one that really resonates with me is that you can't focus on English, and you can't just focus on the Internet. In the aftermath of 9/11, we got a lot of calls from offices that had just been set up to find out what the world really thinks about the United States, and how people can have such a "distorted," in quotes, view of what the United States stands for. And the first response of the organizers was to put some people at a terminal and to cruise the net, and that we would find all the solutions. And I think that as far as looking at the broadcast media, and as far as looking at the Internet, there are a lot of very efficient crawlers and identifiers of material. But the big obstacles right now are foreign language capability and the people that then analyze that material. So I just wanted to fly the flag, say that we do have an open source operation, and just 10% of that $125 million would be much appreciated. (Laughter.)

MR. STEELE: I need your help. I got all the way to Carl Ford (sp) with Bill Wood's help, and Carl Ford told me he couldn't deal with more than his $12 million. I got all the way to Richard Armitage, and he decided because it had the word "intelligence" in it he wouldn't touch it in the first days of this administration. You guys need help big time. But you also have an extremely powerful and respected Secretary of State. And if this briefing doesn't reach him, then shame on you. Because this man is capable with one phone call of getting the Senate Armed Services Committee to put this $125 million in the legislation that is being drafted right now. And I believe that the Department of Defense is the best place to execute that budget -- ADCON we call it -- administrative control -- so that the centers are actually a part of the theater operations' concept, with theaters understood to eventually be under state management and interagency theater staffs and so on.

But the bottom line here if I can't get the Secretary of State to pay attention to this -- and I can understand why -- because $125 million is a trivial amount of money when you're talking about missile defense and many other important priorities, including North Korea. But the bottom line here is I want you guys here in the Department of State to take this puppy and tear it apart and put it back together and save yourselves. You should be in charge of open source intelligence -- and four analysts, God bless you, doesn't cut it. Okay?

Next. Over here we have a question. Do you have a microphone?

Q: Yes, sir, I do. Tom Switzer (ph), American Foreign Service Association. It's been widely recognized since 9/11 that not only the Foreign Service, but the intelligence agencies, suffer a critical shortage in language skills. It's been identified over the last year, for example, that there were something like only five or six career Foreign Service officers who had really fluent Arabic skills, which is of course a horrible situation given what we have right now in the Middle East.

The specific question I guess is: Do you have any specific suggestions as to the bottom-up reform of our language training and capability?

MR. STEELE: Yes.

Q: Because this is a lamentation that has been going on for years and we don't seem to be really getting it together.

MR. STEELE: Well, let me make a couple of comments. The first comment is stop deceiving the president -- and I'm not referring to you guys. When someone says they have doubled the number of Chinese-language qualified analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence, what they really mean is we've gone from two to four. That's not serious. And it's dissembling and misrepresent -- (short audio break for tape flip) -- to suggest that we have doubled the number of Chinese analysts. We should have no less than 40 Chinese language qualified analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence and in FBIS.

The second solution to the problem is separate the issue of language skill, clearances and citizenship. My company, which is actually four companies that work together -- my company identified and evaluated 396 terrorist insurgent opposition Web sites. We did this for under $60,000 in under 60 days, from the moment we were told. And our secret is European graduate students. A European graduate student will kill for a hundred dollar bill -- okay? And you just go to the ones that speak -- we actually had Gaelic and Catalan and Polish and German turn out to be good, because they've been doing some very good homework. We could not do our job without some of the superb work that the Russians have done. So languages, clearances, citizenship do not need to be in the same body.

Second, we really need a global reserve of language qualified experts who are never in a million years going to accept all the nonsense that goes along with a U.S. security clearance. Okay? They're just not going to do it. There isn't enough time and money to make it worth their while to put up with our nonsense. So we need to have a reserve -- and I don't mean the 25 people we've got now -- or the 250, depending on how you want to count them. I'm talking about 25,000 people of varied social states, varied cultures, varied citizenships. It's about mind-set.

You know, it broke my heart, when I was loading my 9,800 pages, and I was really also eating humble pie with Dick Clarke, because I realize we're all good people trapped in a bad system. But had I been a little more gracious, had I been a little less inclined to throw a grenade before stating my opinion, I might have made more progress from inside the U.S. Government. But all the problems today I was writing about in 1990. I was a ghost writer for General Gray (ph), among other things, and he was saying, Look, we need peaceful preventive measures, we need language skills -- we need all of this stuff. Congress didn't want to hear it. We have been paying lip service to foreign affairs, and we have been paying lip service to national intelligence. And it's time we got serious. And I absolutely agree with you languages are a big part of the problem. But if we have these regional centers, we can use their linguists, who are masters of the dialect. And the way I do China is they ship me a 10-pound bag every day, and I have a Chinese doctorate student who screens it so that the stuff isn't being clipped in China, and then we scan it, it goes to Australia, it gets translated, we do a quality control check with the same Chinese student, and then it goes to qualified defense attaches who do side by side and then add their analysis. It is about mind-set. It is not possible for the United States of America to understand the rest of the world using unilateral intelligence capabilities and blond blue-eyed kids from Kansas that don't speak foreign languages. You've touched on an emotional point with me. (Laughter.)

Next. Yes, sir?

Q: Roger Erickson (ph) of 272 Tech, a local company. Many of the things you've mentioned are very reminiscent of the business community. It's been 20-some years we've heard about ERP and business intelligence and many jargon words like that have come and gone, and they're all very reminiscent of the original idea of statistical process control, which has been around for 50-some -- 60 years. So if you go down your trail of access to unlimited amounts of data, you still end up with this problem of how do you build a decision support engine which is in itself open. And I guess you didn't have time to comment on that, so I wanted to ask.

MR. STEELE: Well, I do. I do. I'll do it briefly, but effectively. I put this slide back up for a reason, and I'll get to it in a second. I was the one who got Major Lawrence Pryor (ph), a Marine Reservist, then on the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence, to force Bob Gates to address open sources back in 1992, '90, whatever it was. And unfortunately I lost a really big argument. My original argument was we should treat open source as a center of excellence, where everybody with the classified stuff can come in, go out, get the stuff -- we'll get the stuff a la carte, and for the really paranoid we'll scan it back in and it will be safe. Instead, the U.S. intelligence community followed the business intelligence model, which is: Let's spend hundreds of millions of dollars on data-mining -- never mind that we're doing data-mining on 2% of the relevant information. We completely blew away the human part of the equation. We're simply not serious about data capture in 29-plus languages, an additional 29 dialects -- there are over 3,000 languages, but we're just talking the top ones here -- and then tailoring what we get and how we use it and how we deliver it back. Technology is not a substitute for thinking, and my evaluation of the business intelligence community is that it's at the 30% level, and the only reason it's there is because of pharmaceuticals and oil companies. Everybody else is down in the basement.

My biggest competitor is a middle manager who thinks he knows it all and doesn't believe that someone making widgets in Taiwan could possibly knock down his business in Kansas. So we have mind-set problems in the business community as much as we do in the intelligence community. And so what I'm looking for the Department of State to do is actually have first a teach-in, and then lead a national conversation. For example, I want a University of the Republic, where we take mid-career -- entry-level, mid-career and senior people from each of the seven tribes, and we bring them together here, and I have my eye on the South Central campus, which is richly deserving of a new building. And we get them together and we end up having a global national sharing network. The beauty of this is that if you dramatically lower the cost of your open sources, what you end up doing is freeing up billions of dollars for focused classified collection.

Mark Lowenthal who is the ACDI for CIA today, my former partner, and in reclusion, has said we don't pay the intelligence community to get stuff in the most expensive, difficult, risky way possible. Now, business intelligence takes the other tack. They say basically if I don't know it I don't need it. And so all seven of these tribes need to think through this.

And let me end by then using this slide here. When I started in the open source intelligence business I thought the weekly report was the end state. I thought that was the deliverable. It turns out that's only the beginning of the process. That weekly report is how you pay your experts from all over the world who participate in a forum at no expense to the U.S. Government in order to have access to that open source information. And you have distance learning. Because the single biggest threat to any expert forum are all the new people saying, Hi, I'm new -- how do I do this? The experts very quickly learn it's not an expert forum -- it's training wheels for newbies, and we don't have time for that. So distance learning actually takes care of the new people who don't get to open their mouth on the expert forum until they've passed all those courses or been validated by a master.

And you have a virtual library. It continues to astound me how the U.S. Government is paying three to ten different vendors for Chinese telecommunications information -- the same Chinese telecommunications information -- the Pacific Command, the Air Force, the National Security Agency and others. We need to get our act together, and we certainly need to have an open source center of excellence that understands best prices, best sources, best practices, and can create a virtual budget.

Where I have had some real success with some of my military colleagues is by pointing out to them that if they tell each other what they're spending their money on, they can identify duplication, eliminate it, and then by sharing the product paid for once have money freed up for other things. If we were to do that in the United States government today, we probably wouldn't need $125 million. We'd find most of it that's in the waste that's all over.

And then you have in addition to the budget you have a shared calendar. We need a global presence. There are conferences going on all over the world today that neither the embassy nor the CIA can cover. We need to find a way to have someone covering every single one of those conferences and bringing in all of those reports. And the way we do that is by having what Joe Markowitz (ph), one of my dearest and most respected colleagues from CIA, thought of, which is a marketplace, where we say we need someone to cover the European telecommunications conference that's taking place next week. We'll pay the admission fee, and what we want in return is a trip report and all this other stuff. And you can have more than two people do it, so you'd have matching cover.

And then finally a shared Rolodex. The single biggest thing I do for the U.S. Government is introduce them to people, because I've spent the last 14 years wandering the world, meeting everybody that matters in open source intelligence. And it is astonishing to me a month does not go by that some young captain doesn't come in from one of the commands and says, Hi, I've just been told I'm the stuckie for open source intelligence. And with one e-mail I introduce that person to everybody that matters in open source intelligence, with the exception of those that choose not to play. So that's important.

I think I've answered your question. If I haven't, send an e-mail to bear@oss.net.

Another question, please? And, by the way, the questions that I expected you to ask are posted on my Web site, together with the brief, and it will appear magically at 1:00.

Q: I'm Dale Dusette (ph). I was a career intelligence officer in the military. One of the questions that I have, without being too specific and embarrassing people, is to ask when you present good intelligence and the people at the top are not willing -- when this intelligence doesn't meet their particularly mind frame, and you get at the bottom very discouraged, and then what you tell them comes to fruition and causes an international situation. You wonder how do you present stuff so that the people on the top, if their mind was already made up, how do you convince them that things are going to happen?

MR. STEELE: All right, this being the last question, let me say that a two-by-four works well. (Laughter.) Unfortunately, you get fired for it. I met my wife when I was about to put a brick through a computer at CIA, and I asked my colleague -- I was in the holy of holies, the advanced program evaluation group, and I said, What will this cost me? And they said, Well, 400 bucks and your job. So instead I got married -- and we're still married.

I decided to write the second book, and I will be everlastingly grateful to Senator Roberts who wrote the foreword to it. Senator Boren wrote the foreword to my first one. I'm going to Senator Levin to write the foreword to my third one. I decided that the subtitle for my book on the new craft of intelligence had to be personal, public and political -- precisely because secret intelligence can be manipulated and ignored. And it is absolutely essential in the matters of extreme importance that my professional intelligence colleagues and you work on that you be ready to go public.

Now, it's better if you can go public with public intelligence, based on open sources of intelligence. But in extremis you must be willing to cut your throat in public, burn your body and save America by keeping us honest. I've done that after a fashion.

I encourage you to get the book if you can -- it's outside for sale -- and I can arrange to come back and sign books or whatever, if anybody wants. I believe the Department of State is at the beginning of a renaissance. I believe that the Department of State has it in its power, if it collaborates with the World Bank, to become the hub for a global knowledge network, that is unabashedly 24/7 in 29 languages with expertise on the fly -- and, oh, by the way, we don't need clearances. It's about mind-set. Let me end on that note. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: That certainly was a very compelling, thought-provoking presentation, and you're one of the few visionaries that came here who also told us where we can find the money to make the vision a reality. I want to thank you for that extraordinary and stimulating presentation.

MR. STEELE: Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: I also want to thank the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC once again for co-hosting this program, and also for arranging for the sale of the books.

Upcoming programs: On April 12 we'll be addressing the issue of trafficking in humans from the labor exploitation and migration point of view. On May 25 we'll be addressing the issue of trafficking in humans from the sexual exploitation, and our guest speaker will be Angelina Jolie. So if you're in the neighborhood, mark your calendars -- you may want to come.

And also in May we'll be doing a program on civil nonviolence as a way of achieving our global objectives. And we're still working on the date. We'll post it on the Web site.

I want to thank you all for coming, and I hope to see you again at future Open Forums. Thank you.
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