To open source advocates, up to 95% of intelligence sought by governments is freely available — if you've got the time and expertise and know where to look. It's less cloak and dagger, more mouse-click and blogger. It's a revolution US agencies have responded to, with the creation in 2005 of the Open Source Centre, based at CIA headquarters. Its analysts don't just search and translate traditional open sources such as news media, journals and published reports.
"Old spies say that if you didn't steal a piece of information or get it by secret means, it's not intelligence."
They are looking at YouTube, which the centre's director, Doug Naquin, says "carries some honest-to-goodness intelligence".
"The problem with spies is they only know secrets."
Former CIA officer Robert Steele
They're entering chat rooms, and looking at citizens and social media like MySpace and blogs. They were the first to discover the value of blogs in understanding developments in Iran, for instance.
"We have one person … who we've actually hired to blog on terrorist internet messaging," Naquin said.