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The Storming of the US Capitol

A Failure in Open-Source Intelligence?



As we watched the inauguration of a new president, few of us would not have been affected by the events in Washington DC last week. Post event analysis will no doubt identify many lessons learned for the agencies responsible for the security of the Capitol and its environs.


Perhaps most concerning though, is the widely reported fact that at least one agency had prior warning of the likely course of events. The assertion that prior knowledge of the intention of some individuals to storm the Capitol was freely available on open-source media will be deeply concerning for many, particularly as little was seen to be done to prevent such activity.





What are the key lessons for the security and agency professionals of this Intelligence Failure?


  • We must understand the importance of open-source analysis – The use of the internet as a means of mass communication is widespread in the modern age. Although much is private and therefore protected, a significant amount is in the public domain, particularly on social media forums where the aim is to enable mass communication. Many individuals and groups use the internet to publicise their views, intentions and activities on open-source media. Whilst most use is legitimate, some is not, with perpetrators hoping to retain the anonymity that comes with the size and complexity of the internet. As reported, agencies were alerted to the likelihood of last week’s events in Washington. But the generation of this intelligence is only possible if agencies are looking for it. Therefore….


  • Agencies must allocate resources to the generation of intelligence from open-source analysis – However, agencies are generally constrained by resource and budget and the size of the internet, and the volume of information that is distributed over it, is vast. The number of dedicated open-source analysts available to most agencies will therefore be limited. Therefore ……


  • Open-source Analysts need to be selected, trained and provided access to the necessary analytical tools – Open-source analysis has long been commonplace in business, particularly to support marketing and a range of techniques, tools and best-practice is available. Agencies can utilize much of this to augment their analytical capability to ensure that their resources are efficiently targeted and used to best effect. However, no matter how good the intelligence generated from open-source analysis, it is no use unless it is made available and acted upon. A cursory examination of the events of last week shows the plethora of agencies involved in securing the Capitol and, it appears, that intra-agency communication either failed or was procedurally not possible. If such organisational issues cannot be rectified, say because of the need to retain jurisdictional boundaries, then….


  • Agencies will need an ability to generate and utilize available open-source analysis in house – key to this will be ensuring that the output of open-source analysis is routinely provided to decision-makers and planners in a timely and appropriate manner as part of other briefings and reports. For it to be most effective, those who use intelligence gleaned from open-source analysis need some understanding of how it is gathered, as well as an appreciation of its strengths and weaknesses. This will need a process of general education for the user, as well as specialised training for the analyst.


What open-source analysis training is available?


A google search of the words ‘Open-Source Intelligence Training’ or ‘OSINT training’ will give you a huge choice of OSINT training courses varying in price from little or nothing to $1000’s of dollars.


How do you know which course is the right one for you?


The key features of a good OSINT course are:

  1. It is based on Ethical and Legal Principles
  2. It explains the difference between data, information and intelligence
  3. It teaches research methodologies and analytical skills
  4. It provides a safe environment to practice OSINT skills and techniques
  5. It provides an accredited programme of learning, utilising subject matter experts


Kapsuun Group Training, in partnership with Ulster University, are currently running a unique University accredited OSINT course which has all these features and more. For more information click on the course overview below:



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