Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The World's Most Expensive Newspaper

In 2006 technology writer Clive Thompson wrote an article about "Open Source Spying" for The New York Times. At the Gov 2.0 Expo panel with the same title and some of the same informants, many lamented that little had improved when it came to the use of collaborative technologies to speed and streamline information gathering.

For example, Lewis Shepherd talking frankly about the "glacial pace" of change in the intelligence community despite the enormous amount of taxpayer dollars invested. In generating threat reports or what has been called "the world's most expensive newspaper," the many writers and analysts working in the intelligence community are failing much like actual journalists are to adapt to technological change. When a questioner in the audience complained of being presented with a panel of white men to represent change, Lewis quipped that "we express our frustration, Caucasian or not." (Later several noted that many of the senior leadership positions in the intelligence community were occupied by women, a fact that my own interactions with these government agencies has confirmed.)

Chris Rasmussen described the efforts of those who worked on Intellipedia and Intellipublia, but complained of resistance from a "finished intel 3-ring binder culture" in the federal government. He also complained of the "it's always Nigeria" problem in which technical tools are never tested with high-risk, high-value intelligence operations, because of anxieties about "stopping the mail" and disrupting existing systems with established workflows that never have a down season like that experienced by the IRS. The "product-centered" approach invariably supported what invariably became for Rasmussen a "theological argument" in which invoking the soldier for patriotic purposes and his close engagement in the field obfuscated the advantages of aggregation at a distance by drawing on multiple sources.

Matthew Burton joined the chorus to express his frustration with censorship of the dissemination of new organizational ideas by public affairs people who don't want to see policy debated in the pages of Federal Computer Week. He also noted that analysts with ideas about collaborative technologies were often reduced to finding "microwave towers all day long" rather than using systems like Intelink to make change.

During the Q and A for the session there were questions about the other meaning that "open source spying" could have in a world in which much intelligence could be gathered from the open web in a world with sixty million Twitter users. I didn't take Rasmussen's advice to "put 'Facebook' and 'OPSEC'" in the title of a blog posting in order to garner a million hits.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home