CIA's 'Vengeful Librarians' read mood of foreign streets using Twitter, Facebook

It's not 'Burn Notice' but the intelligence it gathers is often more accurate than espionage

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It must be traumatic for the majority of CIA employees who operate desks rather than networks of covert assets in foreign countries to shift their self image from the suavely violent Michael Weston, to what the AP reports are the "affectionately" nicknamed "vengeful librarians."

The AP story is an exclusive and the revelation that CIA analysts look at as many as 5 million tweets, blogs, Facebook updates and other social-network postings per day is a little disturbing.

CIA analysts have been doing the same thing with newspapers, magazines, radio and TV broadcasts, the text of speeches and every other source of public information they could get from or about foreign countries ever since the agency was founded.

The Vengeful Librarians' group is relatively new – formed at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which noticed that the CIA didn't predict attacks anything like the thoroughly planned, highly coordinated four-plane hijacking and Kamikaze mission al-Queda had been working on for years.

Of course, there are a lot of things the CIA could have predicted, but didn't: the Korean War, much of anything useful about the Vietnam war, the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of Communism in the Soviet Union or, more recently, the persistence, extent and sources of the insurgency (not to mention the imaginary WMDs) in Iraq following the U.S. invasion.

Major errors are inevitable in international intelligence gathering and analysis, many experts argue.

The CIA, and most other intelligence agencies, is divided into Operational groups that gather intelligence through local assets (spies and traitors), and departments focused on analyzing that data to figure out what it means and what else the United States needs to know.

It's not hard to figure out which parts are still missing from the schematics of a new Russian fighter jet, or to ask Operations to see if someone can't pick those up and fax a copy over.

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