Syria’s charged and contentious political and paramilitary environment, populated
by many disparate groups, made verification of open sources especially challenging. To overcome this, we enabled the swift sharing of material between analysts working on the same issue across different angles and languages.
The transient nature of the open-source material available was a further challenge. Given the rapidly changing political situation, selected open sources were only available for a short time before being deleted, edited or otherwise becoming inaccessible. As access to original sources was a critical requirement of the client brief, we carefully recorded and stored all material to be archived for future use.
Another key consideration in our interrogation of open sources was how to identify and derive value from ‘bad’ sources – those that were unreliable or partial. Through nuanced analysis and considered appraisal, we were able to discern and extract information and insights of value to our client from these sources, enhancing the overall assessment.
Our team were aware that our work was part of a wider assessment that also drew
on client-supplied, privileged information. This situation affected the level of detail
the client was able to provide in the initial brief.