The Internet is a potentially lucrative source of intelligence useful to national security services. This intelligence can include: a) reports on current events; b) analytic assessments by politically astute observers on or near the scene of those events, many of whom offer unique insights; and c) information about the plans and operations of politically active groups.
Beside being used to gather information on developing conflicts or the beginnings of new global trends or "sea changes," the Internet can be used at the opposite end of the spectrum: to obtain pinpoint information about specific matters of interest. Networks of human sources with access to the Internet can be developed in areas of security concern and these sources can be oriented to seek specific needed information. Constructed and managed correctly, such systems can be much more responsive and efficient than the current complex, unwieldy intelligence tasking and collection processes. Cultivating the capability to perform strategic reconnaissance "by modem," may never replace official intelligence collection systems or services, but will be a useful adjunct.
Individual analysts in intelligence agencies should routinely monitor Internet traffic (that is readily accessible to the general public) related to their responsibilities. Agencies should establish high volume internal outlets to provide them with this traffic, subject to appropriate relevance filters.
A great deal of the message traffic on the Internet is idle chit-chat with no intelligence value whatsoever, a veritable "Tower of Babble." Monitoring of that traffic would need to be supported by automated filters that pass through for human analysis only those messages that satisfy certain relevance criteria.