CIA CREST database and Geolocation

TitleRecently, to the delight of the OSINT community, the CIA updated its CREST digital library with the addition of upwards of 800,000 new files. While much of the credit for the agency’s initiative is due to the perseverance of journalist Mike Best (perhaps we should also spare a thought for the CIA employees who were likely on ‘scan and document’ duty
in the basement for their first few years of service), granting digital access to the 13 million pages is a welcomed act of compliance and transparency to researchers and citizens alike. Many of the documents made available date from the 50s through to the 80s and some contain guides on opening sealed letters and invisible writing, as well as reports stating the ‘total lack of evidence’ of UFOs.

Admittedly, it is quite fun to rummage through papers with titles worthy of an X-files episode; however, we endeavoured to find how such newly available information might be relevant to non-proliferation research today. This post will serve both to illustrate the type of valuable information the CREST database can offer, and to demonstrate some useful geolocation techniques.

Continue reading

Trident Test Failure: Does it Undermine the UK Nuclear Deterrent?

The failed test of a Trident II D5 missile by the British Submarine, Vengeance, as reported in the Sunday Times on 22nd January, has re-opened the British nuclear deterrent debate. This debate was supposed to be settled in July, where a Parliamentary debate to affirm the UK’s commitment, interpreted as a greenlight to continue procurement and planning for the Dreadnought class of submarines, passed with a sizable majority. Opponents of Trident are now trying to hold the Prime Minister accountable for withholding the information from Parliament.

Continue reading

Disinformation from the White House

For anybody who saw the remarkable unscheduled press conference of the new White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, it was an astonishing event and worth watching in full. Was it spontaneous and based on unfavourable reporting? Or was it a pre-planned part of the new administration’s media strategy?

The statement was a lecture to the media on inaccurate reporting. It began with the ‘deliberately false reporting’ of the removal bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval office by Zeke Miller, a Time journalist. This was not true and Miller corrected by deleting the original tweet and producing another tweet retracting it.  This is likely to be misinformation: that is misreporting due to bias/incomplete information. Miller’s explanation is that that the bust was obscured and he could not see it. His own biases made him more likely to believe that the new administration would remove it and with the low effort cost of a tweet he reported it.

Continue reading

What might Trump mean for the Korean Peninsula?

Post by Rebecca Story, Research Intern at ICSA

Whilst President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for East Asia are still largely unknown, his lack of foreign-policy experience and  intentions to renegotiate trade and defence deals have led some to suggest that his presidency may contribute to destabilisation across the region, and particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Negative consequences for the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) economy, uncertainty over defence and heightened tensions with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are all possible features of the ROK’s post-Trump future.

During his election campaign, Trump asserted that he would decrease US defence spending in the ROK and demand a greater ROK contribution to the shared costs of defence against the DPRK threat. With the cost-sharing agreement between the ROK and the US up for renegotiation in 2017, these remarks raise concerns that a Trump presidency will lead to a weakening of the alliance between the two countries and exacerbate instability on the Korean Peninsula. Continue reading

Facebook, Fake News and Verification

Facebook has a fake news problem. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States, the social network has come under sustained criticism for failing to prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Numerous articles have been written dissecting the phenomenon, the possible impact it had on the US election and what Facebook should be doing about it.

But what has been fundamentally missing from the discussion is the responsibility of users to verify the content they consume online; particularly on social media where content is shared by “trusted” friends and family. As an open source intelligence (OSINT) centre, our day-to-day work involves critically evaluating publicly available information to verify the accuracy, veracity and reliability of sources and content.  Continue reading