In an anonymous industrial park, CIA analysts who jokingly call themselves the "ninja librarians" are mining the mass of information people publish about themselves overseas, tracking everything from common public opinion to revolutions.
The group's effort gives the White House a daily snapshot of the world built from tweets, newspaper articles and Facebook updates.
The agency's Open Source Center sometimes looks at 5 million tweets a day. The analysts are also checking out TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms — anything overseas that people can access and contribute to openly.
Naquin says the next generation of social media will probably be closed-loop, subscriber-only cellphone networks, like the ones the Taliban uses to send messages among hundreds of followers at a time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those networks can be penetrated only by technical eavesdropping by branches of U.S. intelligence, such as the National Security Agency — but Naquin predicts his covert colleagues will find a way to adapt, as the enemy does.