I’ve heard many a parent jokingly – and begrudgingly – note that their son or daughter seemed to be spending his or her college years majoring in “Facebook.” While that may be a joke the value and utility of social networking tools isn’t just something marketers are embracing.
The intelligence community is increasingly looking to open source intelligence, and much of it derived through social media channels. That spells new opportunities for professionals interested in dovetailing analytical skills and social savvy into a career.
Previously looked upon as the red-headed stepchild to clandestine activity or more traditional intelligence gathering mechanisms, the opportunity created by open source, including the ability for the government to partner with non-traditional partners in the public sphere – makes it a highly valuable option.
“Our motto is collect once, share everything,” said Patrick O’Neil, director of analytic development at the Open Source Center (OSC) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, speaking at a recent event hosted by the Government Executive Media Group and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.
Experts noted that integration between open source and traditional analytics was critical. Collecting open source information is significantly cheaper, eliminating some of both the overhead and headache of traditional clandestine operations. While cheaper, O’Neil noted that open source would never replace clandestine operations, but does offer a useful partnership that allows intelligence analysts to focus their dollars and time more efficiently.
When it comes to the “tradecraft” of social and open source intelligence, it’s still being created. Issues also come into play when open source research reveals data that should be classified.
“Open source information co-mingled with classified information is classified,” said David Abruzzino, the director of the Open Source Intelligence Exchange at Fairmont State University.
Professionals doing open source intelligence work may or may not require security clearances, depending upon the scope of their work and their employer. While it may come as a surprise, often open source work is classified, being done in secure facilities by cleared personnel.
For individuals looking for a career in open source intelligence, language skills may be the silver bullet. Due to laws and policy concerning domestic monitoring, most open source intelligence gathering is focused entirely overseas, with procedures in place to prevent inadvertent monitoring of Americans. With focus overseas, comes a need for individuals who can speak the language.
Executives at open source intelligence firms said language abilities are huge advantage. Combine language with quantitative skills in analytics and research, and you’ll have a career that looks to be in demand for some time to come. With intelligence budgets strapped and open source gathering offering very viable solutions for meeting intelligence gathering needs, those with the skills and interest in pursuing a career have no problem finding opportunities.
Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves cybersecurity, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.