Gathering OSINT


A great opportunity for preparedness is the ability to gather and analyze information, so that you can make informed decisions based upon that information.  In the military realm, that’s called gathering intelligence.  When the information is gathered from information freely available, it’s called “Open Source” intelligence or “OSINT”.

In the beginning, OSINT wasn’t considered as important as other methods, because it consisted mainly of seeking out newspaper articles or academic thesis papers.  The arrival of the internet and the explosion of social media has now thrust OSINT to the forefront of intelligence gathering, and there is an entire multi-million dollar industry centered around the gathering of OSINT.

One of the first steps you should do in preparedness, is conduct an area study.  Area studies rely heavily on OSINT.  For example, most local police departments post crime data maps on the internet.  Using that to study crime trends is OSINT.  

Another OSINT tool is researching your local news website archives for gang, drug, or criminal stories in your area.

Check local, county, and state government websites and you’ll be amazed at how much OSINT information is available from land use to court records to voter registrations, governments are putting more and more information in the public realm, as long as you know how to find it.

Social media is where the OSINT gold is, for day-to-day information gathering.  Individuals and groups post an insane amount of activity about their daily lives and plans for anyone to see.  We all have that one friend or relative, you know who you are, who posts every minute detail of their life on social media.

It’s important, from a security standpoint, to understand where social media came from and it’s original (and, if we’re honest, current) purpose.  The Defense Advance Research Projects Activity began Project LIFELOG in 2003, which sought to gather and store all of a persons activities, relationships, movements, travels, credit card purchases, phone calls, and emails, so that they could predict future behavior or build a picture of anyone.  They claim to have shut the project down in 2004, citing a libertarian backlash, but do you think that really happened?  Ask yourself, when did social media begin?

The Bird is always listening

All that happened was they moved the project from the public sector to the private sector.  This allows them to have third parties collect the data, which they then buy.

My friend Sam Culper at coined a phrase once during a podcast that has stuck with me:  “We should farm social media, but never plant”.  What this means is that while we are using Social Media to gather OSINT, we should be incredibly careful about what we post, or allow others to post about us.  

The Ultimate Tactical Handbook of Life also says this same thing:

Buy the truth and do not sell it.

Proverbs 23:23a

For our purposes of being prepared in our current environment of protests and unrest, how can we use OSINT to our advantage?  Well, groups organize protests on social media.  Learn what groups are most active in your area and begin daily monitoring of their planned events.   Knowing that a protest is planned in your area could alter your daily plans.

Another area is gathering OSINT for longer term planning and preparedness.   A membership at Forward Observer (I get nothing for this from Sam, other than his thanks) will get you a daily email with information on planned protest activity and potential world conflict flare-ups.  It’s well worth the minimal cost.

Another way to gather to gather long term intelligence is gathering information that groups put out.  Knowing what they are doing long term can help you plan.

Again, our Ultimate Tactical Handbook has advice:

By their fruit you will recognize them. 

Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

Matthew 7:16

In other words, people will tell you what they are going to do.

In my research, I came across an e-zine titled “Anarchy In The Burbs”, put out by a collective of left wing protest groups in California.  This crossed my desk because national-level organizers are pushing the manual as a how-to for the rest of the country. 

Here are a few takeaways for our preparedness, that we only got through OSINT by reading their material:

  • They complain that last year’s protest were NOT VIOLENT ENOUGH.  That’s right.  
  • They state that non-violence accomplishes nothing, because no one listens unless there is violence.
  • They admit that they made a mistake in targeting downtown areas and economically depressed areas, as these areas don’t contain the people the want to target.
  • They want to adopt the right-wing tactic of car caravans, because they can disrupt a larger area at one time.
  • They want to take the fight to the suburbs, where people live, and target shopping centers and warehouses.  
    • The targeting of warehouses, either with strikes or arson, they feel, will slow the movement of goods and raise the impact.
  • They feel that suburbs also have fewer law enforcement resources like armored vehicles and helicopters to counter them.
  • Rather than joining large groups, the manual suggests organizing in smaller, trust-based groups to prevent law enforcement infiltration.  These smaller groups can then band together for larger actions.
  • One central theme throughout is to never submit to mediation or negotiation.  They intend to stage a violent insurgency resulting in the complete abolition of government.  They do not want reforms.
  • They are encouraging increasingly violent attacks, rather than just protests.
  • They point out that “democrats” are not far left enough and should be treated the same as right-wing people.
  • They are seeking safe houses for militants to stay in when pursued.
  • They are becoming obsessed with security and demand their members stop recording on their phones or live-streaming.
  • They recommend people commit acts of sabotage, roadblocks, squatting in businesses, and other violent direct actions

There is a lot more in the document, but the point is that without gathering the information, you wouldn’t know that an even worse summer of violence is being planned, regardless of the outcome of the Chauvin trial.

The best thing you can be doing now is gathering OSINT on the agitators and groups in your area; not so that you can take action against them, but so that you can be aware of their plans and thereby avoid getting caught up in any of it.

Stay safe by staying informed and staying away.

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Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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