2021 Spring Symposium Spotlights the OSINT Advantage

2021 Spring Symposium Spotlights the OSINT Advantage

2021 Spring Symposium Spotlights the OSINT Advantage

INSA's 2021 Spring Symposium, OSINT: Thinking Outside the SCIF," attracted over 800 registrants from across the intelligence and national security communities. The two-day virtual event featured two exceptional keynotes and two lively panel discussions. Even more, audience members advanced the discussions further through their active participation in Q&A sessions.

April 7 | The OSINT Advantage: Reimagining Policy and Culture

Day one began with a keynote address from former Acting Director of the CIA, The Hon. John McLaughlin. Mr. McLaughlin’s remarks set the stage for the following panel discussion by highlighting the importance of OSINT to the Intelligence Community and discussing some of the current challenges of integrating open-source analysis into the IC. "There's nothing new about open source," he said, "It's just easier to get."

Mr. McLaughlin stressed that everyone in the IC, from an operational, analytical, and technical level, must utilize open-source information and integrate such information with relevant classified material. On a related note, he also expressed that the proliferation and growth of open source creates stiff competition for the intelligence community, while taking the IC into the thicket of civil liberties and legal issues. These challenges, he said, will require strong leadership, cultural change, and constructive oversight from Congress.


Additionally, Mr. McLaughlin's remarks addressed what he sees as the four major challenges of OSINT and offered his perspective on the ways in which OSINT could be better integrated to best serve the IC. To conclude, Fran Moore, former CIA Director for Intelligence and current Senior Advisor for the Analysis & Resilience Center and President of FPM Consulting, moderated a Q&A session with Mr. McLaughlin. 

Following the keynote, The Hon. Ellen McCarthy, former Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, moderated a panel discussion focused on issues of policy and culture surrounding the use and application of open-source information. Specifically, the panel discussion touched upon the use of open-source intelligence in maintaining effective sanctions policies; civil liberties concerns, constraints, and priorities; how private industry is implementing OSINT; and the culture that has produced a “superiority complex," in which IC agencies show preference to classified information. Key themes of the panel's discussion included society's trust of the government when it comes to utilizing publicly available information and treating open-source information like all other sources of information collected in the IC. 

  • Brad Ahlskog, Chief, OSINT Integration Center, DIA
  • Daniel Flaherty, Sanctions Coordinator, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State
  • Ben Huebner, Chief, Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Office, ODNI
  • Ryan Young, Assistant Director, Directorate of Intelligence, FBI 
  • Dr. James Mulvenon, Director, Intelligence Integration, SOS International 


"We're not just figuring this out as a federal government, but we're also figuring this out as a society. We're really thinking what the right role of the government is in this space."
- Ben Huebner, ODNI


April 8 | Emerging Technology and the Future of OSINT 

Starting off day two, Major General Kate Leahy, USA, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2, delivered keynote remarks, outlining the ways in which the Army is capitalizing on OSINT and the related initiatives that it has put in place. 

Emphasizing the importance of international partnerships to mission success, General Leahy referenced the ABCANZ [American, British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand] OSINT Program, "a dedicated endeavor to reduce the gap in common understanding across the armies, accomplished by each nation sharing its OSINT capability," and Project Northern Raven, which connects the U.S., Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and the United Kingdom. The Army has also teamed up with industry partners to make information and data science more accessible across the Army, Defense, and Intelligence communities.


General Leahy concluded by fielding audience questions in a moderated Q&A session with INSA's Executive Vice President, John Doyon. 

The second half of the program featured a panel discussion moderated by former PDDNI, The Hon. Sue Gordon. The discussion addressed the need for developing a skilled OSINT workforce; the role of automation (AI/ML) in OSINT collection; creating more efficient collection and analysis processes; and the impact of misinformation and disinformation on OSINT. Although most of the conversation focused on technology, panelists could not avoid talking about the role that culture and policy play in the realm of OSINT, reiterating the views of their colleagues from Day One. 

  • Leo Garciga, U.S. Army Director of Information Management, HQDA-DCS-G2
  • Nancy Morgan, Assistant DNI for Information and Data and IC Chief Data Officer, ODNI
  • Adam Lurie, President, Federal Solutions, Exiger
  • Dr. Don Widener, Director, Advanced Analytics Lab; CTO, BAE Systems


"While I can't share all of it with everyone, I need to figure out how to work through and understand what do I know at what level, what other insights do I have, and how do I get that threat and warning information to those partners...faster. So, we've got to figure out how to shrink that timeline to move information seamlessly." - Nancy Morgan, ODNI


In the Media:

Thinking Outside the SCIF: US Army Announced OSINT Journey Moving Forward (ClearanceJobs)

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Caroline Henry


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