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Value from the fringe: "committed" collectors and investigators


Those familiar with our analytic work know that we treasure good "time sequences" of properly described events as a means of pattern detection, evidence of trend growth or attenuation, changes in underlying assumptions, and the emergence of new players or vulnerabilities. As it usually falls to us to build these time sequences, I am pleased when we find them in the wild.

As a good sequence requires significant research to make it viable, or for that matter any effort or cause not tracked by the shifting "lens of the news" of the major trade and popular press, I have learned to look to the "committed," i.e., those who have a passion to search out and document what would be obscure or tedious work for the rest of us. Oxfam, ACLU, SPLC, FAS, and various UN relief agencies are good examples of what I call "committed" investigators.

It is also important to note that you might not place the same interpretation on the events in a sequence compiled by a committed group, or agree with the conclusions and recommended action items of the sequence. What is important is to judge the collection process, i.e., what gets captured from what source, what gets excluded, any consistency in the data which would indicate bias, and the accuracy of each individual datum in the sequence. Even a partial sequence in whole or in part can often make a good starting point for building one's own sequence.

One such committed collector is the Center for Cooperative Research, which in its plea for support notes that it takes in less $300 per month. Such collection is driven by a passion greater than money.

In the sense of full disclosure, the Cooperative Research website presently consists of four projects: the Complete 911 Timeline, the Inquiry into the Decision to Invade Iraq, the Inquiry into the Removal of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the History of US Interventions. (Remember, it is not a requirement that you agree with the conclusions or the title. It is what you can do with its data.)

Cooperative Research has a great number of timelines and the one that has my interest at the moment is one of four under the group titled US intelligence, the sequence titled Advance information on kind of attack.

Paul Thompson has compiled 118 events from 1993 to September 2002 that leave me with a sinking feeling of missed opportunities and structural collection and dissemination flaws. One learns, for example, that the 11 September hijackers were not so tight lipped or unaware of their fate as some other news items would have it.

It is worth a read. And let there be more committed collectors.

Center for Cooperative Research

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Infrastructure Defense Public  


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