Since I jumped straight into the substance with the blog, thought I’d now take a step back and give a bit more background on myself and the ‘why’ of this blog.
My professional background is in the tech industry, where I worked for nearly 20 years, from hands-on software development to system architecture, product ownership to process development. I had the good fortune of working with Nokia and Microsoft, seeing (and living through) the major transformations both companies went through.
I’ve had a long-budding interest in intelligence, and have been reading up on the subject since the early 2000s. One reason is that I found the theoretical discussions on analysis, such as the impact of cognitive biases on decision making, to be equally relevant in the business world. Analytical techniques also have applications beyond national security.
Somewhere around the summer of 2013, after another round of corporate restructuring, I found myself thinking about where I wanted to go next with my career. Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile device business in late 2013 put those thoughts on hold, as I wanted to see what that change would lead to — I had been working on Nokia-Microsoft collaboration since 2008, and had developed a good relationship with the folks in Redmond.
Concurrently, events in Ukraine started unfolding. I was following the events unfold on social media from AutoMaidan in late 2013 into the 2014 ouster of Yanukovich as a consequence of the popular movement. The military intervention by Russia caught me by surprise, and in Finland, we follow Russia’s treatment of its neighbors with keen interest. What struck me from the onset was how the conflict could be seen play out on social media, in great detail and near real time. I started paying attention to the unit designations and equipment of the so-called rebel formations in East Ukraine.
In the summer of 2017, the downing of flight MH17 caught my attention immediately. I served in Finnish Army’s air defense, and based on the experience in anti-aircraft fire control, I got interested in what brought down the airliner, and why. I started piecing together what could be found on social media related to the event and analyzing that, soon together with a group of people that formed the early Bellingcat investigation team. As Bellingcat released it’s first big report into the downing of MH17, we started getting various requests to talk about our methodology. To me, it became apparent that as a group we were pioneering the methods for social media investigations, and that there was not a lot of research done on the subject.
Again through Twitter, at the same time, I noticed a professor from the Finnish National Defence University advertising their Doctoral program. In early 2015, I created a research plan about the use of social media for increasing situational awareness, using open source intelligence (OSINT) as the conceptual anchor. The University accepted me into their program in the fall of 2015.
In May 2016, Microsoft finally pulled the plug on mobile product development in Finland, so I took the opportunity to finally make the career pivot I’d thought about for a while already. Since September 2016, I’ve been working as a researcher at the Finnish Defence Research Agency, in the area of strategic analysis, peering into the future. (To be clear, this blog is not affiliated with my day job.)
For my academic research, I’ve compiled the usual pile of literature as a basis. But, in the field of intelligence, I felt the need to also tie the work into what types of intelligence products could social media information feed into. That’s why the CIA archive has been quite useful. There are several types of products available, as well as guides for intelligence production. These are quite useful to supplement the research, but also helpful for educational purposes, as I’m now also teaching open source intelligence at the University of Jyväskylä.
Since the CIA archive went online, I’ve been posting the document finds on my Twitter timeline. However, during Christmas break, I realized I don’t remember half of the things I’ve posted, and found it hard to find the stuff anymore, if I hadn’t saved them locally. Because I wanted other researchers to be able to use the materials, it felt like the right time to start the blog to organize the document finds.
So, I’m now posting my CIA archive finds from the past year, but I will also be talking about present-day OSINT later in the blog, as I mentioned in the launch post. I’ve also done some other physical archive dives, so may get back to that theme at some point, too.
On a personal note, I may digress to aviation and military-themed museums as well. Because, damnit, they’re fun.
I also expect students to be reading this blog at some point, so in general the writings here will be done in an accessible manner. So, if you’re a student, welcome! If you’re a hard core intelligence researcher or analyst, you’re also welcome, but please bear with what may seem obvious.