China is using open-source intel gathering on Pentagon military operations: report

China’s intelligence agencies are investing in open-source intelligence that would allow them to gain crucial information on the US military, and how they would respond should a potential conflict arise. Recorded Future, a threat intelligence agency, conducted an analysis of China’s intent to collect public data from the Pentagon, various think tanks, and even private firms, per the New York Times.

As tensions continue to escalate between the US and China, both countries appear to be heavily investing in their intelligence-gathering apparatus. However, the report notes that China could have the edge, given that Beijing has investments in big data management, mining publicly available data that could provide important information about the US and its allies.

Recorded Future’s analysis notes that China has taken a special interest in open-source intelligence (OSINT), which they see “as an increasingly valuable source of military intelligence that can support decision-making and necessitates the new collection, processing, and analysis technologies, which the” People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “and China’s defense industry are actively developing.”

The Times makes an important distinction between China and the US, suggesting that Beijing’s autocratic governing style means that information is not always publicly available. However, with the US being a democracy, a significant amount of information is made available to the public about its military capabilities, doctrine, and planning, which China could, in theory, ultimately use in its favor.

Recorded Future also revealed some of the work that China is doing to assess publicly available details from the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s own think tank. The threat intelligence agency also explained how China has attempted to gather important information put out by the Naval War College, located in Newport, RI. 

Zoe Haver, a threat intelligence analyst for Recorded Future, said: “The US Naval War College has a China Maritime Studies Institute, and it produces a lot of open-source research on China. This is done in an academic setting, but ultimately foreign governments consider this valuable intelligence.”

It is not clear how much reach US intelligence has in regard to gathering information on China’s military involvements, but it appears that it would be more difficult, as Beijing does not publicize as much material as the US.


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