The West Has Forgotten How to Keep Secrets

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Mathematical Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 8-8-2022

Publication Title

Center for European Policy Analysis (Washington, D.C.)

Document Type



Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) has had an extraordinary moment in the spotlight thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Viewers have been able to see the effects of antitank weapons and the dreadful realities of war in close to real-time.

But OSINT, like all other intelligence, cuts both ways — we look at the Russians, and the Russians look at us. But their interest is almost certainly in freely available material that’s far from televisual — the information a Russian war planner can now use from European Union (EU) states goes far, far beyond what Europe’s well-motivated but slightly innocent data-producing agencies likely realize.

Seen alone, the data from environmental and building permits, road maintenance, forestry data on terrain obstacles, and agricultural data on ground water saturation are innocent. But when combined as aggregated intelligence, it is powerful and can be deeply damaging to Western countries.

Democracy dies in the dark, and transparency supports democratic governance. The EU and its member states have legally binding comprehensive initiatives to release data and information from all levels of government in pursuit of democratic accountability. This increasing European release of data — and the subsequent addition to piles of open-source intelligence — is becoming a real concern.

I firmly believe we underestimate the significance of the available information — which our enemies recognize — and that a potential adversary can easily acquire.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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