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Pentagon steps up special ops monitoring of social media sites


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(NaturalNews) U.S. military special operations forces are elite commandos who are sent on high-risk, high-reward missions all over the world, on a regular basis. As such, they have increasingly turned to a method of open-source intelligence collection that is becoming vital to the success of their missions: The monitoring of social media and other Internet-based outlets that can provide crucial information and data.

"Social media is another component of unconventional strategies, and the security environment in general, that is playing a central role in recruiting individuals to causes," Army Gen. Joseph L.Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in recent days.

As such, he added, "We must therefore develop our ability to interact with key influencers through this medium, or else risk blinding ourselves to this important conduit of information and influence in unfolding crises."

'Social media sites are not 'our' networks'

Over the past decade terrorists have increasingly turned to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to conduct their business: Communicating with each other, recruiting new members and to broadcast propaganda. In addition, traditional nation-states including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran have also increased their use of so-called "nonkinetic information warfare" to advance their own interests, the Washington Times reported.

"We all must view this space as a routine operational area: It is redefining how humans interact. Our success in leveraging these tools will be determined by how well we cultivate the networks in which we participate," Votel said.

Social media sites are "not 'our' networks - the very nature of these relationship tools is decentralized and participatory, rather than centrally controlled," he continued. "We require new thinking on this subject."

He also said that any effort the military's intelligence apparatuses are putting into countering and deterring unconventional (often called "asymmetrical") information warfare should be combined with other government intel agencies who are also working to deal with the problem.

As the Times further reported:

Unconventional warfare is an increasing feature of the current security environment, and Gen. Votel called for holding an in-depth discussion on how to deal with the issue.

Gen. Votel also said that the 69,000 people who make up the elite U.S. special operations force are under stress from long and frequent deployments over the past 14 years.

In recent years, the four-star general testified, the average special operations troop has been deployed between four and 10 times; most, he said, have been deployed on the higher end. By comparison, conventional troops averaged just one deployment, the Times said.

Special forces operators also spent, on average, fewer than 12 months home, between deployments, which put additional stress on them and their families.

"High operational tempo has put a strain on both our operators and their families, and most, if not all, of our SOF operators have lost friends both overseas and at home," Votel said.

'OSINT' collection is a vital, low-cost method for national security

But, he noted, besides operating in conventional military environments, SOF troops are increasingly incorporating additional tactics to combat information warfare and cyber attacks.

The CIA notes in a paper discussing OSINT - Open Source Intelligence - that information does not have to be secret in order to be valuable:

Whether in the blogs we browse, the broadcasts we watch, or the specialized journals we read, there is an endless supply of information that contributes to our understanding of the world. The Intelligence Community generally refers to this information as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). OSINT plays an essential role in giving the national security community as a whole insight and context at a relatively low cost.

The OSINT discipline became one of the primary modes of intelligence collection for the great and regional powers once the Internet was more widespread and universally available around the world.





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