Commanders admit Libya tweets are part of overall intelligence picture and help choose missile strike targets, subject to corroboration.

Dory Carr-Harris, PSFK
  • 16 june 2011

Powered by
This article titled “Libya air strikes: Nato uses Twitter to help gather targets” was written by Richard Norton-Taylor and Nick Hopkins, for The Guardian on Wednesday 15th June 2011 14.52 UTC

Nato is using information gleaned from Twitter to help analysts judge which sites could be targeted by commanders for bombing and missile strikes in Libya.

Potentially relevant tweets are fed into an intelligence pool then filtered for relevance and authenticity, and are never passed on without proper corroboration. However, without “boots on the ground” to guide commanders, officials admit that Twitter is now part of the overall “intelligence picture”.

They said Nato scooped up all the open source information it could to help understand Gaddafi, who is constantly changing his tactics and concealing himself – and his forces – in places such as schools and libraries.

“We take all sorts of information, but we can’t act on a single source,” said a Nato official. “It helps draw our attention to certain areas of the country where we see Gaddafi forces.[That] allows us to take action.”

The official suggested the sheer size of Libya made it difficult to get a full picture of what was happening across the country.

He said the organisation monitors Twitter feeds from Tripoli and other places for “snippets of information”. These could then be tested, corroborated or not, by Nato’s own sources, including direct lines of communication with the rebels, and imagery and eavesdropping from Nimrod spy planes. Nato is also aware that Gaddafi might be using Twitter to feed false information. “We have to be careful it is not used for propaganda [by Gaddafi’s forces],” the Nato official said.

Wing Commander Mike Bracken, another Nato spokesman, confirmed Twitter was being monitored.

“Any military campaign relies on something that we call ‘fused information’,” he told a briefing. “So we will take information from every source we can. And if we get information from a press conference in Rome or we get information from somebody passing secondhand, we’ll get information from open source on the internet, we’ll get Twitter, you name any source of media and our fusion centre will deliver all of that into useable intelligence.

“The commander will assess what he can use, what he can trust, and the experience of the operators, the intelligence officers, and the trained military personnel and civilian support staff will give him those options. And he will decide if that’s good information, I’m going to act on it. Where it comes from, again, it’s not relevant to the commander. He will use all that is available to deliver his mission.”

Nato, he said, was being astute and would “take information from any source it can. The role of the intelligence officers and the personnel who work in headquarters here and in the other Nato headquarters is to fuse all of that information together and then provide the commander the best situation awareness he can be given.

“Let’s be quite clear, Nato does not have boots on the ground.”

The Ministry of Defence said it was normal military practice to gather all sources of open source information and that tweets from people in cities such as Misrata and Benghazi would be thrown into the intelligence mix.

“All this material is brought together and the intelligence analysts then have to decide what weight to put on them,” said a spokesman. “You would never act on one single source of intelligence, but Twitter can contribute to the overall intelligence picture.”

The Guardian reported earlier this month that former SAS soldiers and other western employees of private security companies are helping Nato identify targets in the Libyan port city of Misrata. Special forces veterans were passing details of the locations and movements of Gaddafi’s forces to the Naples headquarters of Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Canadian commander of Nato forces, official sources said. The targets are then verified by spy planes and US Predator drones.

“One piece of human intelligence is not enough,” a source said. “The former soldiers are there with the blessing of Britain, France and other Nato countries, which have supplied them with communications equipment.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Dubai And The Future Of Humanitarian Design

Design & Architecture
Technology Yesterday

Concept Camera Designed To Only Take Unique Photos

Camera Restricta is tool that prompts photographers to only capture one-of-a-kind images

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Fragrance Will Release The Smell Of Data If Your Private Information Is Being Leaked

The device is designed to create a physical cue for the potential dangers lurking online


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Yesterday

LYNK & CO Is A New Auto Brand That Promises Mobile Connectivity On Wheels

Online access and mobility sharing are driving the company to disrupt the auto industry

Travel Yesterday

Become A Citizen Of The First Nation In Space

Asgardia is a new concept for a floating society above Earth

Entertainment Yesterday

Speaker Displays Song Lyrics As Music Is Played

The device is able to generate the graphics on a translucent screen and retrieve the words from a connected database

AI Yesterday

Travel Assistant Scans Your Emails To Make Planning Easier

This AI add-on will sync with your inbox and sends reminders to make sure you don't miss anything important


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 20, 2016

Wearable Tech Expert: Designing Technology To Empower Connection To Ourselves

Billie Whitehouse, Founder of Wearable Experiments, shares her new vision for the quantified self

PSFK Labs Yesterday

PSFK Picks: Top 5 Performance-Enhancing Wearables

Our new report looks at innovations pioneering the future of performance through intelligent activewear and predictive analytics

Millennials Yesterday

FOMO Survival Kit Helps Millennials Cope With Social Anxieties

The satirical product is meant to be a playful diversion for people who feel like they are missing out

Food Yesterday

New York Restaurant Uses Tomato Sushi As Its Newest Meat Alternative

fresh&co is using sous vide Roma tomatoes to create a vegan option that has the texture and taste of tuna

Advertising Yesterday

Red Bull Converts Sao Paulo Payphones Into Data-Driven Bus Schedules

The booths allow city residents to check local transit times through a simple toll-free phone call

Work Yesterday

Health Expert: Nutritional Meal Replacements Are A Solution To Corporate Wellness

Ample Foods Founder Connor Young explains why supplements are the next food trend coming to the workplace

Retail Yesterday

Why Experiential Events Could Replace Trade Shows

Marketers are seeking creative and impactful new ways to connect with influencers

Children Yesterday

Modular Kit Teaches Kids How To Make Their Own Robots

MODI features magnetic modules and a platform for programming to encourage experimentation

Infants Yesterday

Work Table Doubles As A Baby Seat

Designer Kunsik Choi created the furniture to facilitate emotional communication between between parents and their children

Technology Yesterday

Album Turns Into Something New Each Time It’s Streamed

Bill Baird's new album explores the relationship between time and music through a website crafted by design team, One Pixel Wide

No search results found.