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Michael Smith

Mr Michael Smith

Research Student

Project Title: A View To OSINT's Utilities in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism


Research interests

Mr. Smith's research interests include the following topics:

  • Terrorism and Violent Extremism
  • Radicalization and Terrorist Recruitment
  • Extremists’ Uses of Social Media
  • Salafi-Jihadists’ Online Influence Operations
  • Contemporary Intelligence Operations
  • Intelligence Errors, Failures and Successes
  • Counterterrorism
  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
  • Anticipatory Intelligence Analysis
  • Security Policy
  • Multinational Intelligence Collaboration
  • The “Special Relationship”
  • Intelligence History and Education

Project Title

A View To OSINT’s Utilities in Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism


Like participants in other social movements, Salafi-Jihadist groups engage in a variety of public relations activities to cultivate awareness of and encourage adherence to the ideology that informs their violent agendas. With the rise of the Internet and social media in particular, al-Qa’ida and ISIS have realized expanded capabilities to wage global influence operations aiming to build and reinforce support for their agendas—including support furnished in the form of terrorist attacks perpetrated here in the West. During recent decades, the overt nature of much of this activity has increased the potential utilities of open source intelligence (OSINT) in efforts to anticipate, detect and mitigate threats posed by al-Qa’ida, ISIS, and their supporters. Yet, despite increased investments in OSINT capabilities since 9/11, there are indications that OSINT’s full potential utilities in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) initiatives have not been realized by the United States and its closest allies.

With this PhD research project, Michael S. Smith II is examining OSINT’s past, present and potential future utilities in P/CVE initiatives. He is conducting historical and primary source research to explore ways the OSINT discipline and OSINT products have been, and can be used by governments of United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia to manage threats posed by the Salafi-Jihadist movement. While conducting this research, Mr. Smith is considering factors that may influence the extents to which OSINT has been and could be utilized in P/CVE initiatives other than its theoretical and practical applications. These potentially relevant factors include perceptions of the OSINT discipline and the value of OSINT products relative to other intelligence disciplines and products within decision-making echelons in government agencies, as well as among policymakers providing oversight of these agencies’ operations.


Photo taken in the Locarno Suite just before Smith served as the keynote speaker for a Global Coalition conference (March 2017) 

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