To fix intelligence analysis you have to decide what’s broken

“More and more, Xmas Day failure looks to be wheat v. chaff issue, not info sharing issue.” – Marc Ambinder, politics editor for The Atlantic, on Twitter last night.

Marc Ambinder, a casual friend and solid reporter, has boiled down two likely avenues of intelligence “failure” relevant to the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his attempted Christmas Day bombing on Northwest Airlines Flight 253.  In his telling, they’re apparently binary – one is true, not the other, at least for this case.

The two areas were originally signalled by President Obama in his remarks on Tuesday, when he discussed the preliminary findings of “a review of our terrorist watch list system …  so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks.” 

Let’s examine these two areas of failure briefly – and what can and should be done to address them.

Continue reading

43 Gigabytes of Mobile Data per Day

Here’s a nifty infographic, created by Online Education with several striking statistics about “an average day on the Internet” and the volume of data involved in mobile talk and data, Twitter, blogs, wikis, email, news sites and the like. The numbers are staggering! Continue reading

Walled-Garden Wikis and Candlepower

Fact: Last night the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) announced it has “moved its C2Pedia Registry to the unclassified network enabling more potential users to access and edit the site, hoping it will ultimately improve the quality of data.”  C2Pedia is a MediaWiki-driven online knowledge base of information about Command and Control (C2), with specific information about more than 200 C2 systems used across the Department of Defense and the armed services.

Analysis: The profusion of wikis in official government circles is an interesting expression of the value of social media for enterprise knowledge management, but for the most part inside agency or network firewalls, denying access to the public at large and therefore incorporating only the wisdom of “the inside crowd.” The State Department’s Diplopedia sits on their intranet (ironically called “OpenNet”), as the New York Times pointed out in a story a few weeks ago (“An Internal Wiki that’s Not Classified“), implying a distinction (without a difference to my mind) between Diplopedia and the IC’s Intellipedia, which has an unclassified version as well – but it also sits on a firewalled network!

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, testified to Congress recently about the value of wikis and social media within enterprises, and pointed out the distinction between “within-the-agency” verticalized information sharing, a la Diplopedia, and horizontal sharing across organizations as exemplified by the IC’s Intellipedia, which as I mentioned has a firewalled unclassified version as well as its classified-network versions, all accessible from any of the intelligence community’s sixteen agencies and beyond.

Continue reading

Twitter Says LHC Fires Up, Earth Stubbornly Refuses to End

Fact: This morning’s press release from CERN: “Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning. This historic event marks a key moment in the transition from over two decades of preparation to a new era of scientific discovery.” (LHC background here.)

Analysis: Early this morning, Twitter alerted me that the Earth was still spinning. Below I explain how.

Continue reading

A-SpaceX, Google, and Virtual Tuesday

Yesterday I had a “virtual world vibe” going.  At 5:30 a.m. when my dog Jack woke me up offering to take me for a walk, the first thing I noticed on my mobile was a series of tweets from Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s social software guru, posted the night before.  Twitter is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one is the ability to snatch asynchronous stream-of-consciousness statements, from strangers and friends alike, as they pass by in the microblogosphere conversation.

Chris went on a tear about Second Life, with several hilarious observations and comments within the space of an hour, so here are several from his public Twitter feed:

Continue reading

“The Largest Social Network Ever Analyzed”

FACT: According to ComScore data cited in a story in Monday’s FInancial Times, “Facebook, the fast-growing social network, has taken a significant lead over MySpace in visitor numbers for the first time… Facebook attracted more than 123 million unique visitors in May, an increase of 162 per cent over the same period last year… That compared with 114.6 million unique visitors at MySpace, Facebook’s leading rival, whose traffic grew just 5 per cent during the same period… The findings mark the first time that Facebook, launched in 2004, has taken a significant lead in unique visitors, [and] come at a time of change inside Facebook, as the one-time upstart attempts to transform itself into a leading media company.

ANALYSIS:  This week several members of the Microsoft Institute met in Redmond with a visiting friend from government, and among other talks we had a very interesting discussion with Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft Research principal researcher and manager.  Eric’s well known for his work in artificial intelligence and currently serves as president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

We talked about one of Eric’s recent projects for quite a while: “Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant-Messaging Network,” a project which has been described by his co-author as “the largest social network ever analyzed.” 

Continue reading

Best Joke by a Supreme Court Justice

FACT: Chief Justice John Roberts said in a speech on Friday that he will increase the number of cases heard by the Supreme Court from two a day to three during the coming term beginning in October, according to an AP account of his speech. Roberts says that if the busier fall schedule lightens the caseload by next spring, he may be able to cut back then. 

ANALYSIS: When Roberts became Chief Justice in 2005, some Court observers wondered whether the younger Chief would begin burdening his colleagues with more work, increasing the Court’s caseload by granting more cases.  Now it looks like he may attack the issue in a slightly different way, hoping to cut a swath through the caseload issue with a burst of activity but not necessarily more cases overall.

Friday, the affable Roberts pointed out that the increase to three arguments each court day might put a strain on the Solicitor General’s Office, since it saddles the burden of arguing the federal government’s side in most of the cases.  But Roberts also pointed out that it’ll mean more work for the journalists who cover the Court – a small but tenacious crowd who like to pass judgment on the Court and its performance regularly.  Roberts then joked: “After careful reflection, I decided I didn’t care.”

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: