Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Danish OSINT, when is much too much?

A recent satellite map showing Fallujah on the homepage of the Danish daily Politiken is a testimony to the rising importance of open sources when reporters and intelligence-services tries to make sense of the world. A decade ago that kind of satellite imagery would have been almost unobtainable.

Together with a lecture on OSINT (open source intelligence) that I had yesterday with Dr Wyn Bowen, a former UN weapons inspector, it sheds some light on the Danish foreign intelligence service "Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste", FE for short.

Dr. Wyn Bowen, who is a research director at the Department of Defence Studies, a joint venture between the Joint Services Command and Staff College and Department of War Studies, mentioned briefly that a number of states were heavily reliant on OSINF (open source information) and OSINT - among these Scandinavian countries. He furthermore mentioned that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service based its intelligence reports on 80 % open material.

This is really interesting information in regards to FE. Last year in spring the whistleblower Frank Grevil leaked material on FE's assessments on Iraq's WMD capability. When the FE officer was exposed, he furthermore criticised the service for being political, backwards - and for relying to much on OSINF.

The daily "Information" followed the case very closely (see their theme here) and here is what they said:

"Apart from a very limited independent collection of information, FE is conducting a systematic surveillance of media and internet. 95 percent of the service's sources are in this way entirely open."

And then the question is: Is that surprising? And is it too much, when compared to, say, Canada? Most of the literature on OSINT and intelligence in policy-making agrees that secret intelligence most often only works as an reaffirmation of general attitudes that had already been reached. So is it realistic that Denmark, with 5 million people and only a couple of thousand soldiers, should have a fully secret strategic intelligence capability? And isn't there more expertise out there in the open than FE could ever hope to herd together, especially concerning things like nuclear proliferation and security?

I don't know, but it is an interesting thing to delve into.


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