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Distilled Reading: “It was more than powerpoint.”

Gina Genton, former director of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) from March 2001 until August 2002, and later Deputy Executive Director at CIA, states in a meanwhile unclassified October 2003 9/11 Commission interview:

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There were two difficult changes made at FBIS that were very controversial: (1) the movement to softcopy, and (2) changing the business model, using independent contractors who work from home and who are not cleared.

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Production increased by 2x during the two years before 9/11.

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FBIS was a troubled climate. There were not a lot of people coming into FBIS, and there was a general sense in FBIS that FBlS was undervalued.

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Open source does not have its own requirements system.

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There are three types of FBIS employees: (1) operations officer, (2) analysts, and (3) she could not remember the third type. Most FBIS employees did not have language capabilities of sufficient level.

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It was very difficult to hire and clear foreign nationals (the polygraph was particularly a problem) – there was a very large counterintelligence risk.

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Two-thirds of the FBIS workforce (including foreign nationals) had no security clearance.

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The CRES annual survey of all-source analysts finds that FBIS is ranked very high on usage and value.

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FBIS could track the number of hits to its website, but she had no way to find out who the hits were coming from and what they were reading. Academics always complained about copyright restrictions; due to copyright issues, FBIS could only share a portion of its work with academics.

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With respect to Congress’s reaction, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was a heavy user. Congress in general detested FBIS’s website for being too clumsy. FBIS had not invested in its portal.

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WHAT IS OPEN SOURCE, ANYWAY?

“Grey literature” means literature not published by commercial media. Non-elite media is a blurry issue. Small FM stations are another example of a blurry issue. There is also “blurring of the line” between open source and other forms of collection.

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She was sometimes uncomfortable having certain of her information available to uncleared users.

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FBIS has a relationship with the BBC for monitoring.

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It should also be noted that there is a key difference between FBIS and the BBC – the BBC cares about breaking news, while FBIS does not care about breaking news and instead wants “intelligence.”

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FBIS was a “hugely undervalued asset” – it could have had a much bigger market share, but it could not get there within CIA. In a memorandum, she recommended that FBIS be designated as an INT formally and that the Director of FBIS be the program manager for open source, or the FBIS could be designated as a center for open source as a resource to the entire NFIP and removed from the DS&T.

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To say that open source is an INT would require a strategy. Three areas that FBIS could have done more on if open source was an INT:

(1) Internet. The Internet was not being done.

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FBIS felt it was too huge for FBIS to cover.

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(2) Deeper media analysis. The issue was not just what the media said, but also what effect did it have.

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(3) Open source as portal. FBIS needed to move from serial products to information services, to have the FBIS website organized by topic, to have the FBIS website be one-stop shopping for open source.

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The question of whether open source should be an “INT” is an open question that has not been assessed. Open source is not only important for transnational threats but for all types of targets.

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Because open source was not an INT, FBIS was not included in the National Foreign intelligence Program strategy.

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FBIS is a big collection operation.

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FBIS in fact predates CIA and was created in 1941.

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“It was more than powerpoint,” she said of her strategic vision.

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Television is very timeconsuming to monitor, and only a handful of people had the skills to analyze it. People were concerned that if they did not have languages, they had no future.

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