In those Cold War days, listening to and translating news items into English from Radio Moscow and satellite states’ broadcasts from Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, Bucharest, East Berlin, Sofia, Beijing, Pyongyang, Havana and, yes, even Tirana, proved invaluable to the agency, the White House and the rest of the intelligence community.
President Kennedy learned that the Soviet naval vessels were being turned around and would not attempt to cross the Cuban blockade from a news “flash” on Radio Moscow in 1962.
It used to be that intelligence gathered from public sources would be put into a report and the report marked classified. Nowadays the classification system is a little more pragmatic. The practice of gathering information from public sources and analyzing it for strategic significance is known as Open Source Intelligence, or its acronym, OSINT. We are going to be hearing much more about this.