Why Spy?

"I'm astonished that anyone's astonished" at the failures of the American intelligence community to detect or prevent terrorism, writes information guru John Perry Barlow. "After a decade of both fighting with and consulting to the intelligence community, I've concluded that the American intelligence system is broken beyond repair, self-protective beyond reform, and permanently fixated on a world that no longer exists." How could it be otherwise, he asks, in institutions that were designed to be paranoid and secretive? "The counterproductive information hoarding, the technological backwardness, the unaccountability, the moral laxity, the suspicion of public information, the arrogance, the xenophobia (and resulting lack of cultural and linguistic sophistication), the risk aversion, the recruiting homogeneity, the inward-directedness, the preference for data acquisition over information dissemination, and the uselessness of what is disseminated--all are the natural, and now fully mature, whelps of bureaucracy and secrecy." Some people in the intelligence community are proposing a radical alternative -- open source intelligence (OSINT) "assembled from what is publicly available, in media, public documents, the Net, wherever. It's a given that such materials -- and the technological tools for analyzing them -- are growing exponentially these days. But while OSINT may be a timely notion, it's not popular in a culture where the phrase 'information is power' means something brutally concrete and where sources are 'owned.'"