Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogging as an intelligence tool


On December 3, 2006. Clive Thompson provided a long article in The New York Times Magazine, p. 54, “Open-Source Spying: … Will blogs and wikis really help spies uncover terrorist plots?” This piece traces the inefficient information sharing and searching among intelligence agencies, whose search tools in 1995 would be dwarfed by search engines today. The intelligence industry has always been very formal, with cumbersome fail-safe procedures for passing around information, as well as for clearing people to have it. The new film from Universal, "The Good Shepherd," with Robert De Niro, will document these points (Hollywood style). The early days had a somewhat oppressive culture of conformity.

An important intelligence sharing system is Intelink. The Mr. Thompson the idea that spies and agents could blog (or make open-source wiki entries as in Wikipedia) to stir up chatter and attract tips. One obvious side-effect is that amateur bloggers (like me) sometimes could attract important tips. (This has happened with me.) Obviously this development challenges Cold War, even McCarthy era paradigms about top secret security clearances, and views openness as a possible asset. Another possibility for bloggers is conflict of interest. As one can see from other references on this site, blogging by agency employees or contractors would have to be supervised or approve of in some systematic (and bureaucratic) way, and that itself could create a problem.

This NYT Mag story could be compared to The Washington Post, Dafna Linzer, "Seeking Iran Intelligence, U.S. Tries Google: Internet Search Yields Names Cited in U.N. Draft Resolution," Dec 11, 2006. The report concerns Project 1-11. There is still a question of "justifying" intelligence gathered this way, but in the "new world" of cyberspace, amateurs and unconventional sources can stumble onto things. Story is at this link.

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