We use multiple news sources to:
- Enable comparative analysis for facts, descriptions, tallies, order of events, etc
- Establish congruencies in reporting and incident credibility
- Evaluate whether information presented is biased, deceptive or in error
- Determine attack methodologies, context and probable intent
- Assess known or inferred precursor activities relative to the chain of events
- Assess claimed and probably responsibility
- Uncover exploited security gaps and vulnerabilities
- Glean insight into terrorist capabilities, plans and trajectories
News source variety is critical as a number of major news groups and governments employ politically-motivated omission in their reporting. Sometimes the most credible witness to a terrorist act is the unfiltered on-scene observer relaying information via social media or the ethical local journalist with a justice-only agenda.
Limitations of Open Source Information
As with any emergency-oriented incident reporting, aspects of the initial message are often inaccurate. This is certainly true of open-source intelligence. Though the general nature of the attack is often reported with some confidence, details – for example – such as the type of explosive device used; the exact location of the device; the triggering mechanism; targeting; casualty numbers; and responsible agents are often collected in a fragmentary manner. Now and then, initial reports are close to the mark. This particularly true in countries where terrorist acts are repeated on a near-daily basis.
To minimize open-source reporting errors, Trenchant cross-references news stories via multiple news groups including foreign news and independent media.
Major incidents are often followed-up with relevant news updates and formal post-incident reports are reviewed to corroborate previously published information. We also occasionally make use of local editorials to corroborate attack progression patterns, unmask political skew, expose aggregate societal impact and gain a clearer perspective on purported statistics.
Open-source reporting is significantly impacted by a country’s developmental status, particularly its new agencies, as well as by internal security policies. For example, it is widely known in news circles that deaths and injuries related to terrorist acts are often underreported by governments in North Africa and over-reported by Islamist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Open-source reporting is susceptible to misinformation, disinformation and propaganda as much as any other reporting medium. We’ve long noted omission patterns by more than one major news group when it comes to descriptors tying religious or ideological affiliation to mass murder. Headlines, for example, have repeatedly been written that marginalize an incident as a somewhat innocuous car bombing—burying its suicidal nature and carnage in bottom or lower paragraphs of a story. At other times, we’ve witnessed news sources ignore attack attribution altogether—even when claimed by a specific terror entity with photos, insider information or other rational evidence.
Those news sources who repeatedly report in a politically biased fashion are shunned by Trenchant, and if used, are only used to account for relevant facts missed by other news agencies.