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CIA and NSA first sought to exploit commercial databases in mid-80s

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is the least famous, least exciting, and most prevalent form of intelligence, covering any sources that are theoretically open to anyone, such as newspaper articles, published books, or social media posts. With the ubiquity of the internet, the use of such commercial databases is beyond routine for both the Intelligence Community and the government at large, but there was a time, however, where the mere interest was not only cutting edge, but problematic.

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In the early 80s, CIA showed little interest in “supercomputer” craze

In 1983, cybermania would grip the nation: The movie WarGames is released over the summer, becoming a blockbuster hit for the time and intriguing President Ronald Reagan enough to summon his closest advisors to help study emerging cyberthreats and ultimately pass the first directive on cybersecurity. But according to declassified documents, made fully public thanks to MuckRock’s lawsuit, one intelligence agency made a hard pass on the computer craze.

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PRINT “BYE” - The FBI’s investigation into Johnny Cash’s BASIC threats

As we mentioned in our earlier write up, the FBI’s files on outlaw icon Johnny Cash are surprisingly tame. Well, once you get past that part where he burned down a national forest. After that youthful indiscretion, the file consists mainly of investigations into various death threats the House of Cash received over the decades - including one that stands out due to the odd choice of medium, and the even odder investigation.

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ANCHORY, the NSA’s intelligence catalog database of the ‘90s

Back when the National Security Agency still measured data in megabytes rather than by the square mile of servers, the agency took it upon itself to catalogue the output of the Reuters newswire service and publications of the wider intelligence community.

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