Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: How Open-Source Investigators are Documenting the War in Ukraine

Jen Patja Howell, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Nick Waters
Thursday, March 17, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Open-source investigations—sometimes referred to as OSINT, or open-source intelligence—have been crucial to public understanding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. An enormous number of researchers have devoted their time to sifting through social media posts, satellite images, and even Google Maps to track what’s happening in Ukraine and debunk false claims about the conflict. 

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, we devoted the show to understanding how open-source investigations work and why they’re important. Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke to Nick Waters, the lead on Justice and Accountability at Bellingcat, one of the most prominent groups devoted to conducting these types of investigations. They talked about the crucial role played by open-source investigators in documenting the conflict in Syria—well before the war in Ukraine—and how the field has developed since its origins in the Arab Spring and the start of the Syrian Civil War. And Nick walked us through the mechanics of how open-source investigations actually happen, and how social media platforms have helped—and hindered—that work.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Nick Waters is the lead on Justice and Accountability at Bellingcat, one of the most prominent groups devoted to conducting open-source investigations.

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