What a nightmare for Vladimir Putin. When Russian-backed militants shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine in 2014, killing almost 300 innocent people, the Kremlin defaulted to its usual muscular disinformation tactics and media operations to confuse and cloud the issue. But who stepped forward to bring accountability and facts, they didn’t see it coming.
Eliot Higgins is the founder of the open source intelligence intelligence (OSINT) collective known as Bellingcat. His group, with the contributions of hundreds of volunteers, was able to track down and verify videos and cell phone data, Google Earth satellite images, and other sources to verify, confirm, and indict Russia for its responsibility in this heinous act. From there, they have moved onto conflicts and crises worldwide, providing intelligence in a popularized, non-government manner.
Higgins’ latest book, “We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People,” tells the story his organization’s rise, and what OSINT means for the future of democracy, conflicts, and humanitarian crises when increasingly the duty falls to citizens, not government agencies, to critically examine information and provide the factual accounts necessary for accountability.