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Tracking Terrorists Through Open Sources

NCJ Number
Journal of Counterterrorism & Security International Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: 1999 Pages: 58-62
Donald Pearson
Date Published
3 pages
Many international terrorist organizations maintain propaganda organs to communicate their objectives and beliefs through press releases and postings on Internet sites; although these media outlets provide the publicity terrorists seek, they also present an opportunity to investigate the terrorists themselves.
Through careful reading of news reports, terrorist propaganda, and other publications, it is possible to create an accurate picture of a terrorist organization. The use of these public resources to acquire and analyze unclassified information is known as open source intelligence (OSINT). With the increase in the availability and accessibility of public resources, OSINT has become a viable tool in combating terrorism. This is particularly true when OSINT is used to support and augment all source collection activities. Using the growing number of on-line data bases, OSINT researchers can search and access thousands of local, national, and international newspapers, magazines, and technical journals from their computer terminals. Internet sites, however, may provide the most revealing information about terrorist groups. These sites typically contain propaganda and information on terrorist operations, techniques, and leaders. The author concludes that OSINT is not a panacea for terrorism but should be used by counterterrorism professionals as one of several resources.