August 23, 2022

To defeat autocracy, weaponize transparency

This piece was originally published by War on the Rocks.

The gap between what governments know and what members of the public can discover is shrinking. The proliferation of high-quality, open source data and the diffusion of analytic tools and skills outside of government have democratized what were once unique capabilities held exclusively by national security institutions. This will require a paradigm shift in the way these institutions operate — one uniquely poised to benefit the United States and its allies, if they are willing to embrace it.

Democracies have a significant advantage in weaponizing transparency at scale to highlight autocratic activities that break international norms or inflict damage on local economies and populations.

Every government has its secrets, but some need them more than others. This is a fundamental difference between democracies like the United States and autocracies like Russia and China, and a tremendous source of American strength. A renaissance in open source data collection is forcing autocracies to expend significant resources to obfuscate their actions and retain control of the information space. In the years to come, the United States will have an opportunity to both harness and empower open source intelligence networks, especially as it pushes back against a rising China.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

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