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Dozier reports: "In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets - up to 5 million a day. At the agency's Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the 'vengeful librarians' also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms - anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly."

The CIA is actively monitoring open source social media like Facebook from the confines of an anonymous-looking suburban building. (photo: Gawker)
The CIA is actively monitoring open source social media like Facebook from the confines of an anonymous-looking suburban building. (photo: Gawker)

CIA's 'Vengeful Librarians' Monitor Twitter, Facebook

By Kimberly Dozier, AP

05 November 11


n an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets - up to 5 million a day.

At the agency's Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the "vengeful librarians" also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms - anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly.

From Arabic to Mandarin Chinese, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in native tongue. They cross-reference it with the local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House, giving a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.

Yes, they saw the uprising in Egypt coming; they just didn't know exactly when revolution might hit, said the center's director, Doug Naquin.

The center already had "predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime," he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press at the center. CIA officials said it was the first such visit by a reporter the agency has ever granted.

The CIA facility was set up in response to a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission, with its first priority to focus on counterterrorism and counterproliferation. But its several hundred analysts - the actual number is classified - track a broad range, from Chinese Internet access to the mood on the street in Pakistan.

While most are based in Virginia, the analysts also are scattered throughout US embassies worldwide to get a step closer to the pulse of their subjects.

The most successful analysts, Naquin said, are something like the heroine of the crime novel "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," a quirky, irreverent computer hacker who "knows how to find stuff other people don't know exists."

Those with a masters' degree in library science and multiple languages, especially those who grew up speaking another language, "make a powerful open source officer," Naquin said.

The center had started focusing on social media after watching the Twitter-sphere rock the Iranian regime during the Green Revolution of 2009, when thousands protested the results of the elections that put Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in power. "Farsi was the third largest presence in social media blogs at the time on the Web," Naquin said.

The center's analysis ends up in President Barack Obama's daily intelligence briefing in one form or another, almost every day.

After bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in May, the CIA followed Twitter to give the White House a snapshot of world public opinion.

Since tweets can't necessarily be pegged to a geographic location, the analysts broke down reaction by languages. The result: The majority of Urdu tweets, the language of Pakistan, and Chinese tweets, were negative. China is a close ally of Pakistan's. Pakistani officials protested the raid as an affront to their nation's sovereignty, a sore point that continues to complicate U.S.-Pakistani relations.

When the president gave his speech addressing Mideast issues a few weeks after the raid, the tweet response over the next 24 hours came in negative from Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, the Persian Gulf and Israel, too, with speakers of Arabic and Turkic tweets charging that Obama favored Israel, and Hebrew tweets denouncing the speech as pro-Arab.

In the next few days, major news media came to the same conclusion, as did analysis by the covert side of US intelligence based on intercepts and human intelligence gathered in the region.

The center is also in the process of comparing its social media results with the track record of polling organizations, trying to see which produces more accurate results, Naquin said.

"We do what we can to caveat that we may be getting an overrepresentation of the urban elite," said Naquin, acknowledging that only a small slice of the population in many areas they are monitoring has access to computers and Internet. But he points out that access to social media sites via cellphones is growing in areas like Africa, meaning a "wider portion of the population than you might expect is sounding off and holding forth than it might appear if you count the Internet hookups in a given country."

Sites like Facebook and Twitter also have become a key resource for following a fast-moving crisis such as the riots that raged across Bangkok in April and May of last year, the center's deputy director said. The Associated Press agreed not to identify him because he sometimes still works undercover in foreign countries.

As director, Naquin is identified publicly by the agency although the location of the center is kept secret to deter attacks, whether physical or electronic.

The deputy director was one of a skeleton crew of 20 US government employees who kept the US Embassy in Bangkok running throughout the rioting as protesters surged through the streets, swarming the embassy neighborhood and trapping US diplomats and Thais alike in their homes.

The army moved in, and traditional media reporting slowed to a trickle as local reporters were either trapped or cowed by government forces.

"But within an hour, it was all surging out on Twitter and Facebook," the deputy director said. The CIA homed in on 12 to 15 users who tweeted situation reports and cellphone photos of demonstrations. The CIA staff cross-referenced the tweeters with the limited news reports to figure out who among them was providing reliable information. Tweeters also policed themselves, pointing out when someone else had filed an inaccurate account.

"That helped us narrow down to those dozen we could count on," he said.

Ultimately, some two-thirds of the reports coming out of the embassy being sent back to all branches of government in Washington came from the CIA's open source analysis throughout the crisis. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+10 # Barbara K 2011-11-05 15:38
It's hard to believe that 40 years ago, we could not have fathomed being spied on by our own government. It just goes to show how much things have changed. It is good in that it probably keeps us safer, but it is sad that we have to give up privacy for safety. Guess we should just not do anything we wouldn't want to be seen doing. lol.
+44 # Adoregon 2011-11-05 17:00
Oh, Barbara, you devil. There are no secrets. Relax and enjoy the ride.

Forty years ago and ever so much longer, "our" government was spying on its own citizens. The only thing new is the ease and efficiency with which the spying is able to be done today.
+4 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-05 22:15
I could forty years ago I remember what my parents told us of McCarthy, Hoover. Then when Peace Movement happened the paranoid Government has kept tabs on people.
But we know they have drug and mental problems that is why they do what they do.
Very sad that we have so many losers as Librarians.
+70 # Erdajean 2011-11-05 16:05
How about if our "library" spies pay a little more attention to the Prime Centers of Danger to Americans -- Capitol Hill and Wall Street? If any of us had anything left to bet, we'd go with the sources of REAL harm -- not on foreign blogs and cellphones but in the chambers of Congress and the glass offices of U.S. Corporations. But then we toy with the Sacred! We could get ourselves in bad trouble -- just ask the WikiLeaks guys --
+42 # Ryguy913 2011-11-05 16:51
Ah, but if it weren't for the long legacy of wealthy crooks on Capitol Hill and Wall St. the C.I.A. wouldn't exist. They've always been part of the same ethos. They've never been focused on protecting the American people so much as American interests overseas, like opening U.S. - friendly economic markets in South America (see: Chile, 1973).
+47 # Annalois 2011-11-05 17:03
No Dear, the CIA does NOTHING to keep us safe. The CIA are dangerous to our Democracy
+32 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-11-05 17:03
I posted the first comment on Alter Net's "The Eight Worst Governors in the U.S." story about a year ago. In the comment, I spoke of asking my dear old friend, a retired, brilliant doctor who lives in Florida, how the folks in Florida could have honestly elected such an awful governor. Her reply had been that in Florida, no one knew if anyone was honestly elected.

Replies to my 'best liked' comment flowed in, all concurring that election fraud is rampant in the U.S. today.

Suddenly, the icons began flashing, warning me that I might not be able to access sites such as Alter Net, Care 2, MoveOn, and here on Reader Suppoted News. And, thereafter, difficulties I had and still have this day. As my computerman told me, after ruling out virus infusion: "I've never seen anything like this."

Then, last Nov. I traveled back to Boston to attend the Media Matters and Free Press national conference. A big concern among real McCoy journalists and their supporters is loss of the internet.

I spoke of all the surveillence and infusion by govt. operatives I'd witnessed here in Colorado Springs, the super fusion center of the nation, and mentioned the flashing icons. My reply to folks who asked if I was undergoing warrantless surveillence was "Who knows?Hope I bore them to death, if that's what they're up to."
+9 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-05 22:17
I witness the people who are in voting area behind people while they are voting...nice huh! We should demand to go back to booths and let them find out the hard way. Diebold Corruption can happen in privacy of booths.
+30 # Helen 2011-11-05 17:35
I hope this means that along with the center's daily analysis, President Obama is seeing videos of the Occupy protests, which are doubtless also being viewed abroad, a good example of how well our "democracy" is now working. As Paul Krugman said just the other day, our Congress has become a forum for legalized bribery.
+7 # Ilyan 2011-11-05 18:05
Do not knock the CIA. They told a President (Bush?) they would not obey him.

They make available to you for free on their website a manual that teaches you how to think properly and accurately, clearing out of your mind the prejudice and garbagge it has been clutterd with. I think their excellent manual is "The Analysis of Intelligence... .." Everyone should study it and apply the lessons to their own thinking.
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-05 22:20
Intelligence/Go vernment I do not think so.

Paranoia...CIA and others spoke of Meth used by Hitler...well what is their excuse?

I was asked to be in sixties, but I didnot think much of snitches, I was a good person and didnot believe either FBI or CIA would know what to do with someone with a conscious.
+28 # walt 2011-11-05 18:11
The citizens of the USA were cleaned of their rights under Bush and his Patriot Act. His sole cry was always "terrorism" and he and his evil cronies used it to manipulate everyone and everything. The time has come to demand an end to it. And while we are at it, we need an investigation into the Iraq invasion, torture, and more. Don't think we can count on Obama, but with the current public outcry and protest happening, it could be a forced issue if people stand up and be counted. We need to demand a guarantee to privacy!
+14 # Doubter 2011-11-05 19:49
How long before they start sending bee sized drones to spy on us at home and blow us up if they don't approve of us?
It might be a 'little' paranoid, but I wonder if maybe all TV's aren't already equipped with a little camera and mike that keep constant track of all of us?
+8 # futhark 2011-11-05 23:14
If you are watching TV on cable or satellite, you are sure to have your programming choices logged by the government, so go easy on the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Too bad Michael Moore doesn't still have his TV show!

Meanwhile, load up on dystopian literature at your local library. Ira Levin's "This Perfect Day" is one of my favorites, along with the classics "Brave New World" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four". In all cases, we are seeing fact outstripping the fiction of just a few years ago as insidious threats to what some of us remember from our childhood as the archaic concepts of liberty and the sovereignty of the People multiply. I haven't gotten to "The Bar Code Tattoo" or "The Bar Code Rebellion", yet, but will be putting them on my library wish list soon.

Let's face the fact: the American people are NOT to be trusted and need a "Big Brother" to monitor them constantly for their own security. ;-)
+8 # Doubter 2011-11-06 01:34
When I was a kid in Florida my Jr. High math teacher turned me in for reading Mine Kamph from the school library. And she was my neighbor! (I don't remember or never knew how she found out)
+16 # michelle 2011-11-05 23:41
Remember, you aren't paranoid if they are out to get you.
+17 # DaveM 2011-11-05 21:43
There's no need to put hidden cameras in TV sets (or anything else, for that matter). The vast majority of the material that would be captured by such cameras would be of less interest than any "legitimate" webcam site, of which there are who knows how many. Meanwhile, virtually every one of us who uses the Internet is putting a concise snapshot of ourselves in front of the entire world on a daily basis.

George Orwell, of course, famously portrayed a world where TVs were fitted with cameras and all were observed by the Thought Police. He could never have imagined that we would all line up to essentially turn ourselves in.
+6 # KittatinyHawk 2011-11-05 22:21
Interesting I give my finger to all!
+10 # jon 2011-11-05 21:59
Kimberly Dozier, this makes me even more grateful that you survived your horrific war correspondent injuries.

Keep up the good work.
+13 # wrdpntr 2011-11-05 22:02
I am ashamed to share professional credentials with these vigilantes. Every librarian I know is proud to uphold our Constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, and most importantly, confidentiality with regard to materials read or checked out from a library. What a dreadful waste of an education.
+13 # Henry 2011-11-05 22:38
"At the agency's Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the 'vengeful librarians' also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms - anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly."

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!! "Anything OVERSEAS?"
+12 # Bob-Investigates 2011-11-05 23:04
If you want to see something really scary, take a look at the movie (in black and white if I remember correctly), of the book "1984." There is a giant TV camera hidden until it is discovered in the house! I'll never forget that part of that very scary movie. Now the cameras are so small they can be hidden in a button hole!
+6 # RCW 2011-11-06 11:15
Greetings, Bob-Investigate s. There are two film versions of '1984,' an earlier one (1958)in b/w and a later (1984)one in color, which I believe is better because of the cast. However, that said, reading the book itself is even better than both.
+4 # wwway 2011-11-06 12:38
The guy who invented the cell phone said on a 60 Minutes inerview that privacy is gone. If you have a cell phone or a computer privacy is no longer a right you can claim. What scares me most is the vuneralbility. The CIA and other powerful entities can manipulate our information like Murdock's news group did to a murdered girl's cell phone messages. That is scary.
+5 # David Starr 2011-11-06 13:31
Interesting how the "venegeful librarians" painstakenly research & absorb information & cross-check it for accuracy. The CIA has been doing this for years, but ironically has in turn used & abused accurate info to put out false &/or distorted "info," i.e., disinformation, to the worldwide public in the name of the U.S.'s imperial foreign policy. Add to this its clandestine, violent actions (terrorism) against governments & local populations of other countries. And, yes, no doubt they're observing us in the U.S.; indeed, one can immediately think of Orwell's book, 1984, despite its story being symbolic of the consequences of Stalinism.
+4 # bbraham 2011-11-07 11:21
Please, please, please DO NOT call them librarians. I am a librarian and we are in the forefront of protecting freedom of speech and led the fight against the so-called Patriot Act. I don't believe these people are real librarians. We are the 99%!
+3 # badbenski 2011-11-07 11:58
On one hand it's the CIA's job to do what they're doing but in the post 9-11 atmosphere of Total Information Awareness (by the government) one cannot help be be mistrustful of government motives relative to it's own citizens. The majority of those manning the buttons and screens of our intellilgence apparatus are just our fellow citizens trying to be of service to their country. However, it's some of their bosses that worry me. Perhaps they should be concerned as well.
+1 # Bruce Gruber 2011-11-08 06:57
Wouldn't it be wonderful if this technological and humintel froth was an enlightened effort to understand what the active citizenry perceived and felt? Then government would have a democratic baseline understanding of what people needed or cared about to help set priorities.
Rather, I fear, paranoid defense against civil expression and communication dictates that consolidated power be protected at any cost. Ultimately Rome was forced to adopt the 'new' humanity of the prophet. Of course, they co-opted the message and movement by establishing a traditional structure, misdirecting the masses.

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