Don't look now, but the Central Intelligence Agency is reading the nation's diaries …
You may have missed the recent story -- these days the mainstream media seems more arbitrary than ever about what news it deems important -- but it seems that the CIA has begun data mining the blogosphere in search of new trends, intelligence and early indicators of emerging international problems.
The story, as reported in The Washington Times by Bill Gertz, notes that the CIA's newly created Open Source Center -- even the name shows that the Company is getting pretty computer hip -- has "recently stepped up data collection and analysis based on bloggers worldwide and is developing new methods to gauge the reliability of the content," according to the Washington Times story.
The story goes on to say that the amount of the resulting "unclassified intelligence" reaching President Bush and other senior policy makers has dramatically increased in recent months. Though the center won't go into detail, it will say that the amount of blog-based reporting has gone up in the president's daily briefing.
As OSC Director Douglas J. Naquin told The Washington Times, "A lot of blogs now have become very big on the Internet, and we're getting a lot of rich information on blogs that are telling us a lot about social perspectives and everything from what the general feeling is to … people putting information on there that doesn't exist anywhere else."
As an example of this unique information, Naquin pointed to the fact the most information on avian flu outbreaks around the world come from open sources. And a Defense Department official told Gertz that the DOD has gained considerable knowledge of China's secret military buildup from Chinese bloggers.
Some of this material is even packaged in the form of "open source intelligence reports" and sold to a number of clients, including local police forces around the United States. And to make sure the material is both complete and reliable, the CIA has brought to bear, as only a government intelligence agency can, powerful computer networks to sift through the Web and gather information in real time. And it is apparently using increasingly sophisticated software to compare multiple sources and history to determine the reliability of its findings.
This is all pretty amazing stuff, and yet one more reminder of the growing primacy of the Web, and now the blogosphere, as the key conduit of news, opinion and culture in the 21st century. It is also amusing: One can only imagine what the president and his people think over their morning coffee as they read the rants and raves of bloggers like Juan Cole (It's an Israeli conspiracy!) and the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (Put the hippies in Guantanomo!). If they weren't convinced before that this country is ungovernable, these new CIA reports might just convince them.