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Secret Information In Plain Sight

David Martin speaks with CIA director for open source intelligence Elliot Jardines.
CBS
Inside CIA headquarters, a high-tech monitoring operation scores an intelligence coup, obtaining a close-up photo of an Iranian nuclear facility.

The source: an Iranian blog discovered in the vast labyrinth of the Internet, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

Elliot Jardines is this United States' first director for open source intelligence, an unusual job in a business that keeps its sources secret.

For Jardines, useful intelligence lies in plain sight.

"I am of the view that pretty much anything we need is available through open sources," Jardines says.

Despite the secrecy most intelligence operations work under and the necessity to steal information from foreign governments, Jardines' department is different because the information his team finds is publicly available.

Jardines adds that Web pages, books, periodicals, TV news, radio, blogs, graffiti and bumper stickers yield useful intelligence.

Douglas Naquin runs the day-to-day monitoring of everything from Arab satellite networks to the latest from Cuba. Naquin tells Martin that he can access 500 stations at any one time and 20,000 total.

The department has three video libraries, a total of 24,000 tapes and DVDs. They include all the hostage and execution videos that terrorists put up on the Internet.

Jihadist Web sites are not likely to give away the whereabouts of a wanted terrorist like Abu Musab al Zarqawi or Osama bin Laden, but they do reveal other things about them.

"There's a lot of interest in 'Is Osama bin Laden losing market share?' if you will. How is he playing vis-a-vis Zarqawi," Naquin says.

He adds that, "Osama bin Laden hasn't said anything for months and so Zarqawi seems to be really taking up the mantle."

Even a T-shirt that depicts British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush beneath a "Wanted: Dead of Alive" sign can indicate trends in the Muslim world, Martin reports. Naquin says that the shirt, which has the phrase "No. 1 Muslims Enemy" written beneath the pictures, sold heavily in parts of Indonesia.

In an agency of spies, the notion that intelligence doesn't have to be stolen to be valuable takes some getting used to.

"One of the challenges that I have is to change the culture to value open sources more," Jardines says.

Jardines agrees that the prevailing feeling throughout the agency is that if information was not stolen, it cannot be valuable. "That's very much the old attitude," he says.

Intelligence is still a job of connecting the dots, but more and more of those dots are hiding in plain sight.