Robert David Steele Vivas (July 16, 1952 New York City), is known for his promotion of open source intelligence (OSINT). He is a former United States Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer for twenty years and was the second-ranking civilian (GS-14) in U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence from 1988–1992. Steele is a former clandestine services case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. He is the founder and CEO of OSS.Net as well as the Golden Candle Society. Steele also was a member of the Adjunct Faculty of Marine Corps University in the mid-1990s.
He spent his early years, two decades, in Latin America and Asia as the son of an oil company executive. Steele has an BA in Political Science; an MA in International Relations; and an MPA in Public Administration. He resigned from the military in 1993.
He is commonly associated with the open source intelligence movement and coined the terms "virtual intelligence" and "information peacekeeping". He argues that U.S. intelligence reform is needed, and that the private sector can perform a high percentage of U.S. open source intelligence needs and reduce cost to the U.S. government. He advocates "collective intelligence" or "the wisdom of the crowd" (what Howard Rheingold calls "smart mobs") and for hackers as a national resource.
Steele, an international proponent of OSINT, argues that both reports, while recent, still ignore his decades of advocacy for a proper national focus on OSINT from 1988 to date. He further argues that the CIA has refused to take open source information seriously for decades, and should not be charged with developing new capabilities that are totally outside its existing culture of secrecy.
Books self-published by Steele
- On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World (AFCEA, 2000).
- The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political (OSS, 2002).
- Peacekeeping Intelligence: Emerging Concepts for the Future (OSS, 2003). Contributing editor with Ben de Jong and Wies Platje.
- Information Operations: All Information, All Languages, All the Time (OSS, 2005).
- The Smart Nation Act: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest (OSS, 2006).
- Steele is prominently featured in the 2007 documentary American Drug War: The Last White Hope.
- He also appeared in two French documentaries: Les Hackers (English translation: Hackers), on the National Geographic Channel, CIA Guerres Secretes (By William Karel) and Le Monde selon Bush (English translation: The World according to Bush by William Karel), on the television channel Paris Première.
Robert Steele presented the Keytone address at Gnomedex, 2007.