OSINT: Losing Credibility

At one time, .gov, .org, .edu, and many .com sites were considered acceptable sources for research and analysis for both finished and raw intelligence. They might not always have been neutral, but their biases were generally discernible and could be filtered from the final product. But the trustworthiness of publicly available data has eroded.

The recent example of how the news media handled the origin of COVID demonstrates an unhealthy trend. Reportedly, because the theory of a lab leak was put forth by persons that print and social media deemed untrustworthy, they dismissed the theory outright, and impeded the publication of any evidence that might support it. If the news media judges truth based on its biases, not journalistic ethics and standards, then its value is compromised.

While I continue to recommend OSINT, I’m going to add a figurative asterisk at the end of that recommendation. Approach all reporting with a healthy amount of skepticism, and firmly adhere to IC analytical standards regardless of pressure.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind as you conduct your research:

  1. Get as close to the original reporting as possible. Even if a fact comes from a generally “reputable” site, take it to the next level. For example, if a source cites a fact from the FBI, try to find it on FBI.gov, or in official testimony.     
  2. The posting date of an article can help narrow your search for the original source.  
  3. Seek corroboration; read the story from multiple sources.    
  4. Forums and discussion sites can enrich your research, but cite them judiciously and use caveats.  
  5. Watch out for the occasional satirical site whose content appears real.  
  6. Be aware of opinion pieces that are not clearly delineated as such.  
  7. First reporting is often incorrect; facts are tempered by time. 

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