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Joshua Rovner

Political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East after 2011 was facilitated by new social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. These platforms enabled political activists to rapidly mobilize protesters, who could then provide real-time reports via their own social network accounts. The result was a staggering burst of information from thousands of new sources, all offering their own perspectives on complex and changing events. According to some news reports, the US Intelligence Community struggled to make sense of this flood of information, and its apparent failure to do so raised questions about its ability to provide policymakers anything useful beyond what the new media provide. Intelligence agencies also face new challenges from an expanding number of think tanks and private sector analysis firms. These outfits often portray themselves as quasi-intelligence organizations, and some actively recruit government analysts to bolster their credentials. While social media have created an explosion in new sources of information, the rise of private sector intelligence has intensified competition for policymakers’ attention. This chapter analyses how both these issues raise important questions about whether and how traditional intelligence agencies can remain relevant to policymakers and contribute something useful to the policy process.