How OSINT can uncover the biggest secrets.

By Roger Davies / 10 March 2013 / Intel Analysis, Intelligence 101

There’s fascinating and detailed article here about a nerdy, inquisitive truck driver who methodically uncovered the key secrets of the Manhattan project. Although the article is five years old now, I think it stands out an an example of how OSINT techniques can be used to uncover astounding information, and wade through decades of obfuscation. John Coster-Mullen used some pretty interesting techniques associated with OSINT:

  • A lot of correlation between multiple sources, many redacted in different ways
  • Some excellent MASINT, both of real objects and photographs
  • Lots of HUMINT, (by attending reunions of scientists, even though he wasn’t of their age or with scientific qualifications)

Coster-Mullen also learned a lot of science along the way and became a subject matter expert.  But there’s also an interesting back story. One of the key features of the secrets he uncovered was the counter-intuitive way the “Little Boy” atomic bomb was made up. This relates to the male and female “components” of a gun type nuclear weapon and which are projected towards the other.   Coster-Mullen wrote a book and then tried to contribute to wikipedia to correct the description of  Little Boy bomb, but failed to convince the other wiki editors. Eventually he and some colleagues won the day, and there’s a discussion of this here, that raises more interesting issues about how new intelligence has to overcome a prevailing view and also the role of wikis in terms of presenting intelligence.  IMSL are doing some exploratory work to use wiki structures as a mechanism for presenting intelligence and this is a really thought provoking aspect.


The little boy with the odd female part

One comment on How OSINT can uncover the biggest secrets.

  1. John Coster-Mullen

    Please don’t overlook the most important process of all, ASKINT.


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