Friday, November 4, 2011

CIA's 'vengeful librarians' monitor Facebook, Twitter

In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following Twitter and Facebook in an effort to stay ahead of America's enemies.

CIA operatives used Twitter to gauge public opinion in Pakistan after the death of bin Laden.

At the agency's Open Source Centre, a team known affectionately as the "vengeful librarians" also pores over 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 centre'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...

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