As mentioned and posted earlier (here), there have been so many events that happened that it’s hard to pick out topics. However – one of the things that stands out is the rise of OSINT or “open source intelligence”:
[…] is the collection and analysis of data gathered from open sources (covert sources and publicly available information [PAI]) to produce actionable intelligence.Wikipedia on OSINT
One of the groups using OSINT and became famous for it, is the group Bellingcat (main page): a group of independent journalists and private citizens that rose to the limelight because of their excellent MH17 research (Bellingcat link to their MH 17 investigations). One thing that Bellingcat did really well was filtering raw data into factual information.
Bellingcat did this so well, that their investigation provided a good roadmap for Dutch prosecutors (link to Bellingcat’s evidence of Russian BUK – PDF). Through the use of available photos, social media post Bellingcat concluded that:
Based on the information above, it can be concluded that on July 17, 2014 a Buk missile launcher, originating from the 53rd Brigade near Kursk, Russia, travelled from Donetsk to Snizhne. It was then unloaded and drove under its own power to a field south of Snizhne, where at approximately 4:20 pm it
launched a surface-to-air missile that hit Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew over Ukraine. On the morning of July 18, the Buk missile launcher was driven from Luhansk, Ukraine, across the border to Russia.
Prosecution and trial started in The Netherlands in the month of June of 2021 – focusing on 4 Russian defendants. While all four of them were absent during the trials, 3 of them were sentenced to life imprisonment (official prosecution pages and Reuters article). Russia has refused to extradite them.
A lot of groups have tried to emulate Bellingcat’s successful investigation by using similar techniques. The danger of OSINT is that, currently (and specifically, lately), it’s hard to separate ‘fake’ stuff from the real deal. I’m curious what Bellingcat’s thoughts are on the flood of disinformation that has been leaking on the internet since, say Trump’s campaign and presidency.