Archive for September, 2008

The Fundamental Traits of Intelligence Analysts

The intelligence community (IC) can’t agree on what intelligence is or isn’t, but they generally agree that analysis is a process that can be taught. Right now, it’s fashionable to emphasize the nearly endless number of trendy “though processes” that people have dreamed up. Apparently – or so the theory goes – the more one becomes aware of thought itself, and the more one thinks about thinking, the better one becomes at analysis. Personally, I think this is a dangerous policy, because – from my perspective – the emphasis seems to be on codifying thinking strategies as a means to supporting and adding legitimacy and credibility to analytic products. Given my admitted skepticism about some of these trendy thought processes, I can’t help but feel that analysts are being prepped to “dazzle with bullshit”, if you will. “How did you come by these estimates?” “Through a collaborative process of six-hat, mind-mapped systems analysis.” “Wow. Okay, good job!”

I know it’s a necessary evil we all have to live with, but I can’t help but feel that many of the skills being taught have more value for playing politics than they do for actual analysis.
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on September 30th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

More to Israeli Radar Than Meets the Eye?

Amid reports today that an American radar system is being set up in Israel, it’s hard not to suspect that there’s more to the story than meets the eye. The Israeli news, like Haaretz, are describing the system as being “meant to augment Israel’s defenses against Iranian ground-to-ground missiles”. The BBC, likewise, emphasizes the added protection Israel receives from Iranian missiles.

I don’t want to sound too cynical, but I think Israel’s enhanced protection is just, frankly, a lucky side benefit of the system’s real purpose, and is being “spun” to make the installation more palatable to the Israeli public. Why? Well, it all has to do with the radar system itself…
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Published in: General, Security | on September 29th, 2008 | 2 Comments »

Somali Piracy

The situation in Somalia involving a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks and other weapons seized by pirates last week is continuing to develop in interesting ways; the U.S. Navy presence seems to be growing – as the Voice of America reports, there are now an “unspecified number” of both destroyers and cruisers on site. My educated guess is that that “unspecified number” is “one of each” – the destroyer “USS Howard” (DDG 83) and the cruiser “USS Bunker Hill” (CG-52), which is known to be a part of Combined Task Force 150. At the same time, at least one Russian warship is headed to the area, according to reports – the frigate Neustrashimy.

An English-language television interview with one of the captured crewmembers can be seen below; the footage of pirates appears to be from encounters earlier this year. Of particular interest to me is the pirate seen wielding a samurai sword:

Published in: General, Security | on September 29th, 2008 | Comments Off on Somali Piracy

Coast Guard on Bloggers as Journalists: No!

The U.S. Coast Guard this week listed its criteria for considering individuals or organizations as “journalists” – at least for the purpose of Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, fees. Perhaps surprisingly, at least to some, they take a fairly hard-line approach to the issue, and do not automatically equate “media” with “journalist”. What this means is that – among other things – bloggers aren’t automatically “journalists”, at least to the USCG.

As a blogger myself, you might think this would upset me. You’d be very wrong.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 24th, 2008 | Comments Off on Coast Guard on Bloggers as Journalists: No!

OPSEC Fail, Revisited

A couple days ago, I pointed out some farcical attempts by the USAF to conceal the location of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, who are deployed at “an undisclosed air base in Southwest Asia” – actually Al Udied, in Qatar. I believed – and still largely believe – that this secrecy is a really badly misguided attempt at operational security, or OPSEC. A reader, however, contacted me and suggested an interesting aspect to the whole thing: The Air Force, he or she says, are concealing their presence in Qatar so as to not draw unwanted pressure from other Arab nations onto their host country, who are, perhaps, not as enthusiastic about having a permanent American air base on their soil as they could be.
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Security | on September 24th, 2008 | 1 Comment »