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Blog speed, visibility, deception, and counterdeception

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Blog speed

The National Security Archive produces excellent Electronic Briefing Books, "online access to critical declassified records on issues including U.S. national security, foreign policy, diplomatic and military history, intelligence policy." On 10 February, 2005, the Archive released Bush Administration's First Memo on al-Qaeda Declassified. A citation was on Australian news the same day, factoring time zones, possibly from AFP sources in DC. dKOS picked it up and had it out on a blog entry at 10 Feb, 2005 at 18:40:42 PST. The full memo PDF is here. Distribution would have occurred without dKOS, but slower.

Traditional journalists have rightly commented that some bloggers rush materials on-line without sufficient fact checking and that due process should reign, which means the journalists' due process speed and not the medium's speed. Rubbish says I, these people might as well be Xerxes flogging the sea. Highstreet press has acknowledged the trend by permitting/nudging their serving journalists to put their own blogs.

The key for an open source analyst as myself is identifying an accurate datum regardless of provenance:

Figures vary on the percentage of open versus covert sources, but 90+% figures consistently cling to the open source category. Yes, one must apply the same critical analysis as one would do with classified data, starting with validity of source and validity of datum from source, but the data is there and it is often free of a central overriding institutional filter.

The scouring, refining, and gathering of competent blogs is time-consuming, but it has become an essential component of our I&W (Indicators & Warning) process. Blogs are often mixes of personal and 'core subject' material that it is maddening at times, but in terms of Asia, Africa, and the Persian littoral, they yield a form of battlefield surveillance outside the control of governments that constrict the mainstream press - and offer an early warning ability that we used on occasion.

Blogs have become the tripwire equivalent to ProMED in medical circles. We say ProMED first, CDC, second, and WHO in the back of the bus. (This ranking is on an organizational response level as some CDC and WHO staffers are on ProMED.)

Blog visibility

Too many bloggers, both amateur and skilled, are unaware of, or forget, the archiving and caching capacity of the web that leaves their posts in perpetuity even when the author 'deletes' the original. Amazingly, those who exercise good data control - emcon, or emission control, in broadcast transmission terms - can park their minds when they move to pursue their personal passions, or are unaware that a third party has logged their actions, comments, or presence in a completely unrelated venue.

Personal blogs may identify the author so that one half of a communication is known. Context, especially context over a stream of posts, will often identify their surroundings, their firm, and those with whom they describe.  Even blogs that do not reveal the author's identity can be identified by the context in their posts. That contextual relevance can extend back years, so the more you say, the more places in which you say it, and the more specific the content of your posts, the greater the likelihood of identification.

Add to that the inexorable shift of data to the web and the increasingly automated search ability of both personal and institutional sources which should give one pause before they post, but often does not. Transparency can be close at hand when assaulted by aggressive open source analysis.

Blog spoofing

The common occurrence of usernames - avatars - on blogs that allow participants to mask their identity and, from that, all manner of mischief can arise. Short of evidence of criminal intent, materials, true or false, can be inserted without disclosure of their identities. users may use their anonymity to seduce, draw out, or expose the gullible.

A rumor smear effort on Baltimore's mayor by a longtime aide to Maryland's governor was exposed by what appears to a superb counterdeception effort, the transcripts of which were turned over to the Washington Post.

Uproar Brings Focus on Role Of Bloggers
By David Snyder and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post
February 11, 2005

Free Expression Can Be Costly When Bloggers Bad-Mouth Jobs
By Amy Joyce
Washington Post
February 11, 2005

Your Blog or Mine?
By JEFFREY ROSEN
New York Times
December 19, 2004
Has
scrolled to archive but can found here and as PDF here

Blog Interrupted
By April Witt
Washington Post
August 15, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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