In today’s wired world fully equipped with high-tech criminals knowing the news first can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Fortunately, the security world has also changed, and the people behind the computers may surprise you.
Established in 2009, Fairmont State University’s Open Source Intelligence Exchange (OSIX) is the laboratory and applied research component of the university’s National Security and Intelligence (NSI) program, which is the only program of its kind at a higher education institution in the state.
“The National Security and Intelligence program at FSU is such an exciting program for undergraduate students like me, because we get to ‘be First’ every day, either in the classroom or the workplace,” said Nick Oliveto, a senior Political Science and NSI major and a member of OSIX.
“The program offers me a chance to be first every day at OSIX. When I enter the lab, I don’t know what I might find or who will be using the intelligence I produce – which is part of the intelligence business – but I know it will be something no one else in the intelligence community has seen or knows. That makes me excited to come to work. I think that makes the NSI program at Fairmont State University as ‘first’ as it gets.”
The NSI program provides the necessary background for students to pursue careers as intelligence officers, diplomats, law enforcement professionals, foreign affairs specialists, and private sector competitive intelligence analysts.
“The goal of OSIX is to give students hands-on experience producing intelligence assessments for real customers in the national security and law enforcement communities. OSIX intelligence products have been provided to the CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, and Department of State, as well as to state and local law enforcement agencies in West Virginia,” said OSIX Program director and faculty mentor David Abruzzino.
NSI students are handpicked and rigorously screened to participate in OSIX. Student intelligence analysts working in OSIX leverage emerging information technologies and new media to identify and assess national security and law enforcement threats to provide real products for the local, state and federal law enforcement and security intelligence agencies.
“I’m in a class right now where we write policy memos making recommendations on major issues affecting the United States and debate our recommendations in class as though we were participating in a Cabinet-level meeting,” the Honors Program student said.
Abruzzino detailed a recent occurrence that has evolved into a potential revenue generating project for the group and the university.
The students of OSIX participated in U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the memorial service in Beckley, West Virginia, for those lost in the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in April 2010. The team of 11 students supported the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center during the visit. Through their monitoring of the web and social media, they were able to provide useful information to the Fusion Center that was passed on to the Secret Service.
"I provided top level director support, but at the end of the day the students were responsible for getting the work done and for taking care of the management of tasks. The Fusion Center told us that at least one of the reports we provided caused the Secret Service to say, ‘Wow, we didn’t know that.’ Working with students and the level of enthusiasm they bring is remarkable," Abruzzino said.
Through the NSI program and OSIX, FSU students have the opportunity to learn from faculty experts in their field.
Dr. Gregory P. Noone, Director of the NSI program, has been an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Law at FSU since 2007. Noone is currently a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was the Commanding Officer of the Navy JAG International and Operational Law reserve unit. He was mobilized to become the Staff Judge Advocate for the Department of Defense’s Office for the Administrative Review of Enemy Combatants at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Base, Cuba. He is now the Commanding Officer of the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies reserve unit, where over the past fifteen years he has trained senior military, governmental and non-governmental civilian personnel in over 40 countries (and has traveled to about 75 countries total). Most notably, he trained members of the Iraqi National Congress, the post-genocide government in Rwanda, the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan, civil society in the Sudan and members of the Russian government.
Abruzzino came to FSU in January 2010 as the director of OSIX and a faculty member in the NSI program. He has served in several positions within the national intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.
"Professor Abruzzino is an incredible addition to the fastest growing major at Fairmont State," Noone said.
OSIX students continue to provide valuable intelligence on topics such as pro-democracy movements in the Middle East, terrorists’ use of the Internet and online money laundering. OSIX students will continue to move FSU and West Virginia forward as national leaders in next-generation, knowledge-based industries.