The CIA has opened the kimono on its Virginia-based Open Source Center, where a team known as the "vengeful librarians" pore over Facebook, Twitter, internet chat rooms, and any other overseas forum that anyone can access and contribute to openly, the Associated Press reports.
With hundreds of analysts, the team is charged with monitoring the pulse of various regions outside the US, from Thailand during the recent riots, to Pakistan and China following the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Its analysis is incorporated into President Barack Obama's daily intelligence briefing almost every day. The Open Source Center was set up in response to a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission as a way to improve counterterrorism and counterproliferation strategies.
The focus on social media started after watching how Iranian protestors used Twitter to bypass government censorship during the Green Revolution of 2009. Since then, Web 2.0 sites have been regularly followed by analysts armed with master's degrees in library science and the ability to speak local languages of the regions they're monitoring.
Many of the dispatches made over Twitter and Facebook lack accuracy, so the vengeful librarians have devised ways to vet reliable contributors to separate them from those who can't be trusted. The team frequently cross references online claims with news reports or even clandestinely intercepted phone conversations.
When media coverage slowed to a trickle during the recent riots in Bangkok, team members analyzed the updates of a dozen Twitter and Facebook users to determine who among them was providing reliable information.
The AP has more here. ®
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