An in-depth Associated Press report reveals a specialized team in the CIA's Open Source Center is following up to five million Tweets a day, as well as Facebook posts and other open internet media. The end goal is to help predict if or when a region may become destabilized and to take the pulse of citizens after a major event, like the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
This team consists of analysts located in one of Virginia's many CIA offices, as well as in US embassies in countries around the globe. They're referred to as the "vengeful librarians," and it's not just a silly nickname — the best analysts have masters' degrees in library science. Founded following the 9/11 Commissions' recommendation to focus on counter-terrorism, the analysts were prompted by Iran's Green Revolution in 2009 towards social media monitoring. Since then, the "vengeful librarians" have tracked a wide variety of topics and regions, and used their intelligence to predict the recent revolution in Egypt (though they didn't know exactly when it would happen).
As for where this information ends up, it goes all the way to the top: President Obama's daily intelligence briefings. While this gives off a bit of a "big brother" vibe, the AP's article specifically noted they were monitoring open communication — it appears anyone's private Twitter or Facebook accounts are safe and secure.
Image credit: zigazou76 (Flickr)