The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Open Source Center (OSC) provides collection, analysis, research, and information technology management, making it accessible to all government employees and contractors. The open source officers who work within this CIA department are experts at collecting and analyzing publicly available foreign information.
Open source officers, who are also often called foreign media analysts, are called upon to review and assess any number of foreign-based, publicly available information, such as websites, social media, magazines, newspapers, and other traditional press sources.
These CIA analysts apply their foreign language proficiency, area knowledge, and/or specific subject expertise to assess open source information. Then, along with a number of OSC experts, including cyber specialists, data scientists, librarians, and geospatial analysts, they identify specific trends and relationships that may provide unique insights into issues regarding our national security.
Open sources officers usually have a subject area or language of expertise. As such, their work may require them to study open sources in a specific country, region, or area of the world, or within a certain field of study, such as:
- Cyber security
- Science and technology
- Emerging technologies
The OSO also employs a number of foreign contractors within the United States and overseas.
The Value of Open Source Intelligence
Open source intelligence is information received through any publicly available sources. Therefore, open source intelligence may include a wide variety of sources, such as:
- Academic literature: Professional associations, academic papers, conferences, etc.
- Geospatial data: Atlases, navigation data, aeronautical data, hard and softcopy maps, boundary marker data, spatial databases, etc.
- Media: Websites, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, etc.
- Observation and reporting: Satellite observation, worldwide satellite photography (Google Earth), etc.
- Public data: Government reports, legislative debates, press conferences, speeches, etc.
- Web-based communities: Social media sites, video sharing sites, blogs, etc.
The collection of open source information has been found to be valuable for a number of reasons:
- The threats of today require the Intelligence Community to quickly and easily understand foreign countries, their cultures, and related social and economic information.
- Open source information often lays the groundwork for understanding classified materials (fills in the gaps of classified information).
- Open source information can defend classified information and eliminate the need to compromise classified sources.
Requirements for Open Source Officer Careers with the CIA
Individuals who want to pursue a career as an open source officer with the CIA must be a United States citizen, and they must possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s or master’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Although a specific college degree is not a requirement for a career as an open source officer, candidates must be able to demonstrate, through their education and/or previous life or work experience, a strong interest in foreign affairs.
Other requirements for this career include strong writing and analytic skills, excellent Internet research skills, and excellent communication and English language abilities.
Although not a requirement, many open source officers with the CIA have lived in their particular region of interest or have formally studied the history or politics of the foreign region.
Foreign language proficiency is an important component of a career as an open source officer. The CIA seeks individuals with fluency in:
- Central Eurasian dialects
- Eastern European languages
- Two or more Western European languages
The pre-employment process for open source officer jobs with the CIA includes:
- Language proficiency tests
- Analytic writing tests
- Medical examination
- Psychological evaluation
- Background investigation
- Polygraph examination