I am down in Washington for a couple of days for a conference on open source intelligence organized by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. I suppose I should mention why I’m here, before moving on to some conference blogging.
I’ve been interested in intelligence, and particularly open source intelligence, since I was an undergraduate political science major. “Open source” was a phrase I considered to be related to intelligence well before I heard it applied to computer programming, and I considered a dissertation on open source intelligence on the web, before turning to my project on Slashdot (which, as it may be clear, was a bit related).
I think that good policy happens only in information rich environments. Reasonable people can disagree over particular policy decisions, but there can be little doubt that good decisions are impossible when there is not a clear view of what the current situation is, and how that compares the environment historically. The intelligence community focuses on strategic intelligence for the defense of the U.S., but the principles are not that different from the application of information gathering and analysis in other policy contexts, or indeed, competitive intelligence in the business setting. Covert intelligence is important, but one of the greatest challenges in both clandestine and open source intelligence is that there is simply too much of it to make sense of in a timely fashion. My interest in open source intelligence fits quite neatly into my overall interest in transparency, self-governance, and learning. It also relates more specifically to my ongoing interest in grokking the global conversation that occurs on the web.
The current Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has written an overview of his vision for US Intelligence for Foreign Affairs, in which he argues, among other things, that new transparency among agencies, along with a focus on how information technology can help to make sense of the tsunami of open and closed source intelligence. This conference engages that transparency even further, inviting open collaboration with the academic world. That’s part of my interest in the conference, and so I’m here because–despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact) that I don’t know any of the other hundreds of attendees–I’m hoping that there is a space for building bridges and sharing perspectives.
As an aside, it’s an open conference. I haven’t seen anything that says no liveblogging, and there is a concentration of journalists here, so, time permitting, I’ll blog some of the sessions. The standard caveat applies: I don’t make any claims as a stenographer, so you shouldn’t expect a great deal of coordination between what I write and what is actually being said. It’s more a game of “that makes me think of…”