Friday, August 5, 2016

Spy gadgets aren’t about exploding cigarettes anymore...

James Bond and Mission: Impossible (the original TV show and the movies) have colored the way we think of spy tech. Watching old spy movies, one would think intelligence gathering hinged on cigarette rocket launchers, courtesy of Q Branch, or impossibly lifelike masks.

And that’s not completely wrong — if a bit overboard. Intelligence tools are often subtle and creative. But modern intelligence gathering is simultaneously less gaudy and far more effective than what’s seen on the screen.

This was readily apparent at the 2016 Department of Defense Intelligence Information Systems (DoDIIS) Worldwide conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 1-3, where officials from DoD, the intelligence community and the private sector gathered to share the latest in intelligence tech.

Conference Coverage: DoDIIS Worldwide 2016

Instead of “spy gadgets” seen in the movies, modern intelligence tools are more about processing large amounts of data in real- or near-real-time to give operatives on the ground as much information as possible during missions.

For the CIA, this change has been a natural response to a shift in the way intelligence is gathered, according to Sean Roche, the agency’s associate deputy director for digital innovation.

These days, open source intelligence — information gathered by culling publicly available sources — “is as valuable and more valuable everyday as the information we get clandestinely. The old story is that open source was always doing good things. But unless a paper was marked ‘top secret,’ it didn’t seem to have the same weight. We know that not to be true today.”

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