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Write Right: Caveat Scrutator (Or, 'But I Saw It on the Internet!')

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DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL (U) Write Right: Caveat Scrutator (Or, 'But I Saw It on the Internet!') FROM: of the Reporting Board (S12R) Run Date: 07/27/2006 (U//FOUO) Once again we must don the mantle of old-fogeydom and nip a new practice in the bud. SIGINT product reports have been found in the ANCHORY data base that contain the phrase "According to the Wikipedia web site..." in referencing unclassified collateral*. Information-Sharing Services has sent out a policy statement declaring that this is not a sufficient or appropriate reference for supporting material, especially in this day of close official scrutiny of our sources. Wikipedia should be a starting point for research, not an end-point. (S//SI) It is true that the HUMINT-like nature of many targets (such as counterterrorism) and techniques (such as denial and deception) makes the Internet a very valuable source of collateral information. In these cases analysts will naturally include their evaluation of the information in the text of the report, in a Comment (see the May column ) - without that evaluation, the information is much less useful to the customer and could be misleading. Such a report would not use "According to the Wikipedia web site..." without explanation. (U//FOUO) The reports we noted above, however, used straightforward, verifiable information that would have been readily available from official government or research-institute sources, such as "this [the date of a significant occurrence, which was the subject of the report] is a local holiday in the Zendian province" and "this chemical can be used in the manufacture of..." In such cases, Wikipedia entries can tip a reporter to the existence of more appropriate sources to cite. (U//FOUO) We appreciate the enthusiasm of those analysts who have taken to heart the push to use more open-source collateral, but the guidelines of USSID CR1400 (old 300) still apply. Section 6.4 contains examples of acceptable unclassified collateral sources and general guidance on use of unclassified collateral, and the Advanced Intelligence Research Service (AIRS/S202A) library web site has an excellent article on tips for evaluating a Worldwide Web search. Another useful article appeared in the May 2006 issue of The Worthwhile Web; we draw your attention to the paragraph on "Questions of Validity and Reliability." (U//FOUO) The nature of Wikipedia makes using the site itself as a reference tantamount to saying, "I read it on the Internet" -- a citation unlikely to be found acceptable the next time the Legislative Affairs Office needs to brief Congressional committees on our sources. (U//FOUO) Thanks to intrepid researcher of the AIRS library for the correct Latin for "Let the researcher beware" (Caveat scrutator)! *(U//FOUO) Note: SERIES: (U) Write Right '06 1. Write Right : Grab Bag 2. Write Right : Frequently Asked Question: Where Do I Go for Help With USSID SP0018 Issues? 3. Write Right : The Style Manual vs. USSID 300 -- er, USSID CR1400 4. Write Right : The Paperless Society 5. Write Right : Is That Collateral, or Is It a Comment? 6. Write Right : What's a URS Center? 7. Write Right : Caveat Scrutator (Or, 'But I Saw It on the Internet!') 8. Write Right : Seven Things Not To Do in a SIGINT Report 9. Write Right : Breaking an Old Reporter's Heart 10. Write Right : Where Does It Say I Can't? 11. Write Right : Urban Myths of SIGINT: 'I Can Just Mark It ORCON' 12. Write Right : Loaded Words: Don't Politicize Reports

Unclassified collateral is non-SIGINT information intended to support, enhance, or refute the SIGINT facts. "(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)." DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL DERIVED FROM: NSA/CSSM 1-52, DATED 08 JAN 2007 DECLASSIFY ON: 20320108

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