Archive for February 9th, 2009

Dear David M. Hardy

Dear Mr. Hardy, how are you today? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that! Cheer up, the weather will get better eventually – I mean, right now it’s raining here in Minnesota, which is going to cause all sorts of problems once the temperature gets back below freezing this evening. It could be worse, is what I’m saying.

Listen, this isn’t a purely social letter, unfortunately. I know you’re a busy man, overseeing the FBI‘s Record/Information Dissemination Section, and indirectly in charge of the dozens of people who handle the thousands of FOIA requests sent to the Bureau’s headquarters every year, so I’ll make this short and to the point: You need to either get better underlings, or better train the underlings, minions, and lackeys you already have, because the Bureau’s handling of FOIA requests and most everything connected to them is, frankly, appalling.
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Published in: General | on February 9th, 2009 | Comments Off on Dear David M. Hardy

Every CRS Report Now Available Online

Wikileaks has, with little fanfare, made every CRS report available on their website, as well as at OpenCRS. The Congressional Research Service is a scrupulously nonpartisan research body which produces a voluminous quantity of accurate, timely, and reasonably idiot-proof research papers on a bewildering array of topics of interest – or at least potential interest – to the U.S. Congress. Despite being – of course – funded by tax dollars, the CRS’ products are not and have never been officially made available to the public – or, indeed, anyone outside Congress.

None of it is at all earth-shattering, monumental, or scandalous, but having all the reports made public, even unofficially, is a fairly remarkable feat of openness that’s been much too long in coming.

Published in: General | on February 9th, 2009 | Comments Off on Every CRS Report Now Available Online

Sharing the Wrong Things

There are plans afoot to establish “intelligence gathering centers” in countries around Somalia, to aid the ongoing international anti-piracy efforts. On the surface, this seems like it could, maybe, be a good idea – but the more I look into it, the more pessimistic I become.

The big problem, as I see it, is that nobody is apparently discussing even the possible need for more intelligence – merely how to get what little information exists into the right hands. That’s laudable, don’t get me wrong – I just don’t think the bureaucrats who came up with this scheme realize just how little real intelligence probably exists on this matter. My impression is that, to date, it’s a lack of raw information that’s hampering the efforts, rather than a shortage of dolled-up intelligence products or a lack of adequate distribution for the same.

Yes, it’s important to disseminate intelligence, and even raw information, to the right people, however you want to define “right”. But this seems like it’s being done completely wrong – “The 24 countries and five international bodies will be required to sign a regional cooperation agreement to participate in the efforts” looks, from here, like a bureaucratic minefield strewn with red tape. I have a bad feeling that one of the ground rules for participating in this operation will be a cohesive adherence to a single set of rules-of-engagement – inevitably, one of the toothless and impotent ROEs which have thus far prevailed, rather than the more effective – and pragmatic – policies of, say, the Indian Navy. End result? I’m afraid more information and intelligence will be shared between participants – which is never, in and of itself, a bad thing – but everyone will continue to do nothing about the actual pirates themselves.

Is it – and I say this only half in jest – time to bring back bounties for pirates? Rather than letting a legion of useless bureaucrats and politicians handicap anti-piracy efforts with their well-meaning but ill-conceived plans, might it not be better to make efforts to give the people at the pointy end of things incentive to stop piracy? Suppose someone – the International Monetary Fund, say, or whoever – offered up a monetary bounty for concrete, visible anti-piracy efforts? Say something like $4,000 USD for every crewmember of a ship that sinks, captures, or destroys a pirate boat; $2,000 USD for every crewmember of a ship that captures a pirate – per pirate captured – and an additional $2,000 USD per crewmember, per pirate convicted in Kenya or elsewhere. You want people to bring their A-game, make a 110% effort? Give ’em an incentive, tie the incentives to a performance metric that can’t be fudged or weaseled around, sit back, and see what happens. Hell, it might even work…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on February 9th, 2009 | 1 Comment »