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Intelligence and social media


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Lt. Col. Jason Brown of the U.S. Air Force presents information about intelligence and social media during a Department of Defense conference.

Lt. Col. Jason Brown of the U.S. Air Force presents information about intelligence and social media during a Department of Defense conference.

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  • 1. Intelligence and Social MediaLt Col Jason M. Brown, USAF
  • 2. Disclaimer
    This briefing will discuss how the Intelligence Community uses social media for collaboration
    These views are my own and may not represent those of the USAF, DoD, the Intelligence Community (IC), or my chain of command
    This briefing is UNCLASSIFIED
  • 3. The Flat, Networked, New World
    “We are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations.”
    - Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
  • 4. Background
    The direct connection between stateside analysts and forward-deployed troops has made significant contributions to battlefield successes in the last several years
    Social media has played a big role in removing obstacles for analysts to share ideas and collaborate directly with others outside their organization
    “Military Taps Social Networking Skills”
    - NYT 7 June 2010
    Warfighting is no longer a matter of geography…it’s a mentality.
  • 5. Socially-Networked Warfighters
    Intelligence analysts and consumers are developing meaningful relationships using social media and other IT
    Enables analysts to become problem-centric rather than source-centric
    The “network” has become as valuable, if not more, than the sources
    "This flag was flown over Khan Neshin Castle, Rig District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on 5 May 2010 in honor of the DGS-2 crew by the Marines of 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion."
    Young Marines thanking young Airmen, whom they’ve never met (but are all Facebook friends by now)
  • 6. IC Social Media Programs
    A-Space (Analytic Space)
    “Facebook for Spies” - CNN
    Virtual work environment that allows IC analysts to connect and collaborate
    Microblogging platform similar to Twitter
    Situational awareness, alerts to breaking events, and time dominant collaboration
    Wiki used by the Intelligence, Defense, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and Diplomatic Communities
  • 7. A-Space
  • 8. Intelligence Transformation
    Finished Intelligence Living Intelligence
    Coordinating Collaborating
    Need to Know Need to Share
    Requirements-focus Mission-focus
    Production Problem-Solving
    Single-sourced Crowd-sourced
    Social Media and associated IT are critical enablers to the IC transformation
  • 9. Challenges
    Analyst, operator, and consumer communities of interest are still primarily using social media 1.0 (IRC) to interact
    Multiple networks with different classification levels are roadblocks
    Many analysts using SM regard themselves as isolated adventurers in hostile terrain
    SM use challenges linear processes and established business practices
    Organizational “branding” is still pervasive
    mIRC – First Gen Social Media
  • 10. Social Networking and Disaster Relief
    Conversation with my all-source analysts after receiving word we would execute the first RQ-4 Global Hawk mission over Haiti…
    Me: “You all need to reach out directly to the folks who will need support from this first Global Hawk mission.”
    SrACherry: “We’ve already done that, Sir. We have over 700 ad hoc imagery requests lined up.” (50 is normal for a mission)
    Me: “Where did you find 700 ad hocs????”
    SrA Cherry: “Well, Sir, we chatted with some folks at AMC, the MEU, the Embassy, State Dept, the Navy, the airborne unit who’s heading there, the Coast Guard, AFSOC, my dad who works at USAID…oh and all the analysts here, of course.”
  • 11. All Partners Access Network
    DoD Web 2.0 tool that integrates interagency, NGO & partner nation HA/DR efforts
    Began as Asia- Pacific Access Network; SOUTHCOM adopted for Haiti
    Supports HA/DR efforts and exercises world-wide
  • 12. APAN: Situation Updates
  • 13. APAN: Imagery
    Haiti HA/DR showed unprecedented amount of declassified imagery including first unclass UAV video
  • 14. APAN: Collaboration
    Sacre Coeur hospital, fully staffed and waiting for patients, posted it had additional capacity. JTF Haiti immediately sent 250 patients and medivac flights
    Allowed NGOs to coordinate movement of supplies and personnel into Haiti
    Informed U.S. forces of food/water needs at relief camps and surrounding areas
    Guided search and rescue efforts to Caribbean Market based on SMS messages from trapped citizens to users who posted request for help
  • 15. Crisis Mapping
    Uses crowdsourcing of social activism/citizen journalism and geospatial information to develop interactive maps
    A citizen-derived “common operational picture”
    Ushahidi mapping platform used in Haiti, Australia, Japan HA/DR and Egypt, Libya protests
  • 16. Crowdmaps
    • The upside – great resource for IC to contribute & receive HA/DR intel
    The downside – denial of service, unreliable sources & infiltrators
  • 17. Lessons from Disaster Relief 2.0
    Recent crises have demonstrated how mobile technology and social media enable private citizens and organizations to effectively collect, analyze, and fuse open-source intelligence
    “Every Soldier a Sensor” to “Every Citizen a Sensor”
    Data that is unreliable, especially in life-and-death situations, is often worse than no data at all
    • How will intelligence organizations learn from and/or integrate into this new reality?
  • The Challenge: Leading the Network
    It Takes a Network: The New Frontline of Modern Warfare
    “As we learned to build an effective network, we also learned that leading that network -- a diverse collection of organizations, personalities, and cultures -- is a daunting challenge in itself. That struggle remains a vital, untold chapter of the history of a global conflict that is still under way. “
    • General Stanley McChrystal
    (Foreign Policy March/April 2011)
  • 18. Sources
    NYT article -
    APAN -,
    Facebook for Spies -
    McChrystal FP article -
    C4ISR Journal -
    Air and Space Power Journal -
    Intelink –
  • 19. Intelligence and Social MediaLt Col Jason M. Brown, USAF
    Twitter: @collabsource