Luke Harding has a new book coming out, so The Guardian, where he is a reporter, has a teaser article.
That article starts with a writeup on Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat, the organization he built. I watched from the start too. His use of open-source intelligence to figure out what was happening in Libya and then Syria was impressive. Some of it dovetailed with my interests in chemical warfare. [Disclosure: I write occasional pieces for Bellingcat.]
The focus of the article is Bellingcat’s identification of the two GRU agents who poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter, before law enforcement agencies managed to.
Harding argues that this shows the decay of the GRU’s spycraft. They left documentary evidence essentially lying around for Bellingcat to find.
Open-source intelligence can do a lot, and states haven’t fully come to terms with it. That said, there are big downsides to what has become a parody of open-source intelligence: the misidentification of innocent people by social media mobs.
Bellingcat is careful to keep its information about people to itself until it has a positive identification involving multiple documentary sources. What it is doing is utterly different from the Twitter request to find a particular person. Bellingcat will toss out a photograph of a bomb fragment or other equipment for crowdsourcing an identification, which is quite a different thing.
Anyhoo, take a look at the Harding article. It’s a long read, but if you only get halfway through it, you’ll have learned about Higgins and Bellingcat.