Open Secrets: Ukraine and the Next Intelligence Revolution

Article by Amy Zegart: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a watershed moment for the world of intelligence. For weeks before the shelling began, Washington publicly released a relentless stream of remarkably detailed findings about everything from Russian troop movements to false-flag attacks the Kremlin would use to justify the invasion. 

This disclosure strategy was new: spy agencies are accustomed to concealing intelligence, not revealing it. But it was very effective. By getting the truth out before Russian lies took hold, the United States was able to rally allies and quickly coordinate hard-hitting sanctions. Intelligence disclosures set Russian President Vladimir Putin on his back foot, wondering who and what in his government had been penetrated so deeply by U.S. agencies, and made it more difficult for other countries to hide behind Putin’s lies and side with Russia.

The disclosures were just the beginning. The war has ushered in a new era of intelligence sharing between Ukraine, the United States, and other allies and partners, which has helped counter false Russian narratives, defend digital systems from cyberattacks, and assisted Ukrainian forces in striking Russian targets on the battlefield. And it has brought to light a profound new reality: intelligence isn’t just for government spy agencies anymore…

The explosion of open-source information online, commercial satellite capabilities, and the rise of AI are enabling all sorts of individuals and private organizations to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence.

In the past several years, for instance, the amateur investigators of Bellingcat—a volunteer organization that describes itself as “an intelligence agency for the people”—have made all kinds of discoveries. Bellingcat identified the Russian hit team that tried to assassinate former Russian spy officer Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom and located supporters of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in Europe. It also proved that Russians were behind the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine. 

Bellingcat is not the only civilian intelligence initiative. When the Iranian government claimed in 2020 that a small fire had broken out in an industrial shed, two U.S. researchers working independently and using nothing more than their computers and the Internet proved within hours that Tehran was lying….(More)”.