Open Source, Trusted Information Network for Counterterrorism

The Power of Outreach

The Trusted Information Network (TIN) project seeks to improve the understanding of transnational terrorism via outreach to nongovernment expertise.

In 2004, CSIS’ Transnational Threats Project (TNT) launched an effort to improve understanding of transnational terrorism through enhanced access to open source, non-governmental expertise.  To this end, TNT successfully operated a “Trusted Information Network” (TIN) in 2006-2007 that examined violent extremists in Europe.  Comprised of 12 men and women from eight countries and four continents, the TIN discussed a series of questions designed to draw out new knowledge on several facets of the terror threat in Europe.  Simultaneously, the TIN illustrated one approach to managing diverse, non-governmental expertise across time zones and cultures.  In order to sustain the momentum from this initiative, CSIS convened a second TIN (TIN-2) in 2008 to analyze extremism and its connections to transnational crime in Southeast Asia and Australia.

TIN-2 was an online network of 14 highly respected, non-governmental experts from a range of disciplines with deep and richly varied perspectives on these topics.  Among this group were scholars and specialists from—and who have done extensive field work in—southern Thailand, Singapore, southern Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Israel, Myanmar, and the United States.  TIN-2 members commented on a series of questions and discussion topics posted to a custom-developed online workspace.  Tom Sanderson, Deputy Director of TNT, moderated the discussion, adding substantive input where appropriate.  Some of the questions included:

  • Which extremist groups concern you and why?
     
  • What happens as extremist groups splinter/re-form into new and different groups?
     
  • What is the nature of foreign extremist influence on Southeast Asian groups?
     
  • How does the competition between local and global agendas play out among different groups?
     
  • What are the underlying conditions and drivers of extremism in the region?
     
  • Are criminal and extremist groups cooperating with one another?
     

CSIS published the insights from TIN-2 in April 2009 which includes an analysis of how open-source networks can help the intelligence community and recommendations on how the United States Government can expand outreach to non-governmental experts.