Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Flexible Support Ship Absalon in town

Even though it is not much fun going for a Sunday walk without your girlfriend, it sometimes have some benificial side-effects. While strolling briskley, as we do in these parts, down to the Thames and Eastwards to Tower Bridge, my eyes fell on a big ship mooring alongside HMS Belfast.

It turned out to be the Royal Danish Navy's new flexible support-ship Absalon. What luck! Just the other day I had been to the Royal Defence College to get some primers for writing about, well, the new Danish flexible support-ships and diplomacy.

I had a very interesting tour around the ship that is in town on a promotion tour.

And had Ernest & Young not build their big skyscraper right by the Thames, I could have looked down on the deck from my room.


Get off your OSINT and get out there

Today The Independent has a front page story about the actual people abused in the recent British Iraq scandal (They haven't published it on their website yet, as the final sentences against the soldiers is being put forth only today in Germany). The UK Military Police said they couldn't find the victims of the abuse and therefore these crucial witnesses haven't been used in the trial. Kim Sengupta, Independent's star reporter in Iraq, said he found the men in 48 hours.

This is, I think, an illustration of how military systems could be enriched by journalistic methods and personas.

Whether the MPs really REALLY tried hard or not, it seems to me that journalism has got some procedures (such as always wanting to show the victim) and an aura that proves it a very effective tool for critical OSINF gathering. Of course there are plenty of examples of journalists turning spies, and examples of how the two professions are related.

But the point here is that journalism in essence is radically truth- and change-seeking in a more or less partisan way (good journalism, that is).

This involvement and to a certain degree, partisanship is the driving force for getting relevant, timely and high-grade OSINF. Intelligence services could learn something from that it seems to me.

Grey and snow-white litterature

With London being drizzled by occasional showers of cold snow and me sitting inside with a lot of work that hasn't been done, what better pass time than to drink strong coffee and read a lot of books.

And a litterature extravaganza it is:

Open source intelligence:

First of all I have discovered GreyNet. "Grey" litterature is open source information OSINF, but of the kind you will have to know where to look for - the kind that is hidden away in dusty libraries and won't be found by Google. I had instant luck, finding a thesis from Fort Leavenworth on "The Danish Perspective on Baltic Security". It will be useful for my current work and the next two essays that I'll start out on next week.

Another online resource for grey litterature is Highbeam Research. Here I found an otherwise unaccessible article on Scandinavian Intelligence after the Cold War. It is a pay-site, but you get a free trial which was enough for me.

My friends om Amazon in the US just sent me a bucketfull of books that arrived today:

The principal thinker on OSINT Robert Steel's books "On Intelligence. Spies and Secrecy in an Open World" (Aristotelian inspiration - look below) and "The New Craft of Intelligence. Personal, Public, & Political".

Furthermore I got the RAND study "Reshaping National Intelligence for an Age of Information" by Gregory F. Treverton and "Intelligence Analysis - A Target-Centric Approach" by Robert M. Clark.

Keep on truckin'.


My british affiliates in Amazon send me another parcel, as they would say:

Kenneth Burke's "A Grammar of Motives": I have long wanted to struggle with Burke's congenial writing. Now I got 530 paperbacked pages to have fun with.

Aristotle's "On Rhetoric" (Just for the record: He was here first and came up with that way of making good book-titles Mr. Steele and Clausewitz) in George A. Kennedy's lauded translation. It actually looks better on a first glimpse than my old worn copy of Thure Hastrup's Danish translation.

So another monthly salary poorer I can now stuff my bookshelf. Hopefully I will also get to read some of them soon...


Defining "Revolution": Info-War in Kyrgyzstan

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports on the run-up to elections in Kyrgyzstan. The contry is deemed by many to be ready for a popular uprising along the lines of Georgia/Ukraine - but it seems as if there is an information war brewing behind the scenes.

The word "Revolution" is used by government officials to label the opposition. The opposition is trying to avoid the term, as it has been negatively loaded. A spokesperson says:

"We're not talking about a revolution, but about the peaceful, calm, and constitutional transfer of power in our country."

Of course they are. But "transfer of power" just doesn't have the same ring if you have to mobilize public support and gain foreign media attention.

This shows the persuasive power of finding a symbol that can act as a prefix to "revolution". The Czech Republic had its "velvet revolution", Georgia a "Rose Revolution" and Ukraine's was "Orange". The oversimplification is not much different from the one that parties in UK and the rest of the western world uses - Roses, donkeys, elephants, roosters, torches.

This way of wrestling over symbols is a form of branding - but sometimes it is not planned in advance and just grows out of the situation. So I predict that the transfer of power in Kyrgyzstan won't come until that kind of branding has been done successfully by the opposition.


The Grevil-case: one year today

Today it is one year since the "Grevil"-case started, by the publication of an article in the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, where an anonymous analyst claimed claiming that the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS) had only been a rubber stamp for US-UK intelligence reports.

Later it was revealed that the analyst was Frank Grevil, a major and chemical engineer employed by the DDIS. He was recently sentenced to six months in prison, but has appealed the case.

The case is quite interesting as one of the very rare glimpses into the intelligence service's ways.


More funding for Maritime Security

A report in NYT is mentioning a renewed focus on Port security in the Homeland Security drive to preempt terrorist attacks.

The the megaport-city hub is identified by many as an achilles heel in global trade:

"Ninety-five percent of all international commerce enters the United States through its roughly 360 public and private ports. But nearly 80 percent of that trade moves through only 10 ports, with the biggest loads passing through Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland in California and New York. That is why the nation's biggest ports are seen as particularly attractive as terrorist targets. Severely damaging one would not only cause deaths, injuries and property damage, but could also disrupt the flow of many basic goods into and out of the country, port officials say."


Open Source Intelligence Terms

A paddle in the Alphabet soup of Open Source Intelligence:

"Open Source Data (OSD).
Data is the raw print, broadcast, oral debriefing or other form of information from a primary source. It can be a photograph, a tape recording, a commercial satellite image, or a personal letter from an individual.

Open Source Information (OSIF).
OSIF is comprised of data that can be put together, generic information that is usually widely disseminated. Newspapers, books, broadcast, and general daily reports are part of the OSIF world.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
OSINT is information that has been deliberately discovered, discriminated, distilled, and disseminated to a select audience, generally the commander and their immediate staff, in order to address a specific question. OSINT, in other words, applies the proven process of intelligence to the broad diversity of open sources of information, and creates intelligence.

Validated OSINT (OSINT-V).
OSINT-V is information to which a very high degree of certainty can be attributed. It can be produced by an all-source intelligence professional, with access to classified intelligence sources, whether working for a nation or for a coalition staff. It can also come from an assured open source to which no question can be raised concerning its validity (images of an aircraft arriving at an airport that are broadcast over the media)."

From the NATO OSINT Handbook v1.2.


The googlization of OSINT

While scurrying the net for various useful government budgets (yeah, for an upcoming essay, not just for fun) I just came to think of a technological development that might have some effects on intelligence services' efficiency:

In the next version of Apple's Mac OS X - Tiger operative system they include a feature called "spotlight" that lets you find anything on your computer as quick as you search the internet.

That will put ordinary people and intelligencers alike in a position to actually utilize those great amounts of knowledge in the form of PDF's and DOC's on shared networks that, as it is, is often gathering dust because you never remember that little reference to "Norwegian Defence Budget", "OSINT", "Wonderful Cookies" etc.


Apart from Protocol - who invited me to the Maritime Security Status Conference - it seems that there are more private security consultancies in Denmark.

I just came by - SHIELD Group that seems much more like some of the companies here in London like Control Risks Group, more focused on actual "force protection" and probably made up of former military SF's.


Party on down, Anders

I might be old and sentimental or I might be an expat glorifying the mother-land. But the Danish general election just reassured me in democracy, even though the result might not be to everyones liking. The parties on the wings had success, as well as De Radikale, the liberal-left midlle-party. The liberal incumbent party Venstre and Statsminister Anders Fogh Rasmussen lost 4 seats, the conservative gained 3 and the old elephant the Social Democrats lost a staggering 5. shows a nice overview.

It seems to me that this will perhaps make Danish politics more pluralistic in the four years to come, as well as shake up some old parties to get up to speed with the looming challenges.

I'm still not too happy about foreign policy not being on the agenda - and my mother is as well I tell you... But hopefully it will be now.


The Bloody Class - Lessons learned in Iraq

I have just found a gold-mine on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Anthony H. Cordesman's "The Lessons of the Iraq War: Main Report" is readable like a novel, encompassing like a, well, an encompas-equipped marathon-runner and long as a freight-train.

And then its free!

I read through chapter XVI on MILITARY LESSONS RELATING TO CONFLICT TERMINATION, PEACEMAKING AND NATION BUILDING. A lot of trouble was sown in the first days of the peace. Intelligence and psycholgical warfare seems to play an important but largely overlooked role in this.

For example:

* the Coalition's inability to silence the Iraqi media - do you still remember the cult-like figure of the Iraqi Information Minister?

* the Coalition's inability to push any messages on a strategic level, reassuring the Iraqi people and their anxious neighbours that the invasion was for their own best and not for oil.


Security is what you make of it

Everybody agrees that the face of war-fighting must change as the West's armed forces are finding new battlegrounds. A very interesting article is written by a former PhD from the Department of War Studies, Alice Hills.

Using a post-structuralist approach she shows how "Security" is central to all parts in the recent invasion of Iraq, but also how it is an "empty signifier" - a term that will mean different things to different people.

This is pretty interesting - because it makes a very explicit link between word and deed. If invasion-forces aren't capabable of backing their declaration of "security" (e.g. "Basra is secure") up with providing the population with a feeling of security (e.g. by stopping looting and violence) the declaration will only work on one audience, namely the western, but will sow the seed of prolonged insurgency in the town itself.

As the prospects of Urban Warfare grows, so does the need of developing doctrines and tactics that will make an integration of warfighting/counter-insurgency and talking about security to various audiences.

HILLS, ALICE, ?Basra and the Referent Points of Twofold War? in Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol.14, No.3 (Autumn 2003), pp.23?44


Tough cookies as diplomatic bargaining chips

I have been a bit curious about US's renewed drive at Iran under the new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Why this renewed vigour? Especially seen in the light of the very limited Iranian meddeling in the Iraqi situation?

I got a bit wiser however while reading Rice's 2000 article in Foreign Affairs 'Promoting the National Interest'. Here she might give an important clue to her negotiation stance:

"Sometimes tough, competent diplomacy in the beginning can prevent the need for military force later." (54)

Let's hope that is the case for Iran as well.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Rice urges 'united front' on Iran

Insurgent: Don't toy with the internet

My recent posting on the video of a Hercules crash pointed out that whether the video was a fake or not, it showed a capacity and will for media warfare.

But it can be over-done.

Say, if you took an action figure and made a nice little diorama, complete with black "alluh-akbar" flag and cropped the picture so that another action figure of a Iraqi insurgent could stand just outside of view, only showing a little plastic rifle. You want to scare your enemy, right? Don't underestimate him then. He has after all played with action-toys all his childhood. Read the story(CNN) and reconsider my words on hyper-reality.


Battlefield Intelligence Units

An interesting twist to the US Intelligence Community (that I didn't get around to when the news came out) : Rumsfeld's Department of Defence has fielded its own intelligence operatives, working in conjunction with SFs in counter-terrorism operations, The New York Times reports.

This is allegedly done to strengthen HUMINT capabilities. But it is also the latest spark to fly of the DoD - CIA infight:

"intelligence experts say creation of unit is latest chapter in turf battle between Defense Dept and CIA; battle has intensified since 9/11 comnmission [sic!] recommended creating job of national intelligence director to oversee all intelligence programs; CIA is concerned that expanded Pentagon role in intelligence-gathering could escape strict Congressional oversight".

This infighting is not only an American phenomenon; however it seems to me that the trend is that the armed forces have a certain disdain for the Ministry of Defence related intelligence services.

In Britain Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) is rumoured to be seen as aloof and incompetent and the Danish Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) has had the same criticism levelled at it (the two not being comparable when it comes to assets and capabilities, mind you).


The Chatham House Rule

I have had the good fortune to participate in some very interesting meetings during the week, with some very interesting people and in interesting places.

This led me to bring upThe Chatham House Rule - a concept that I hadn't encountered before I started studying at the Department of War Studies. It is basically a gentleman agreement not to relate any of the interesting knowledge you get from all those interesting meetings. It might not really be of interest to other academic meetings, but I could imagine that a lot of spindoctors in Denmark would have liked the rules to apply when they spill their beans in the Copenhagen night-life...

Latest chapter in the debacle

An interesting Lessons-Learned from one of the people behind

It seems as if the desire for a 5th power-structure in society is genuine. And so is the fact that even students of rhetoric or communication are only able to criticise what they see and have a knowledge about - and in my opinion much of the spin going on is a question of power and the use of it.

Another article on Kommunikationsforum is dealing with the lack of knowledge on how effective spin and PR actually are. And how PR-people lacks self-irony because they lack confidence in themselves and their methods. Rhetoricians might not be as hit by that criticism because of an anchor-point in humanism and not i social sciences - but effect is still quite a mystery to them.

In the next election race it would be okay to talk some content as well. (And here I sin against ol' Jørgen Fafner, by seperating form and content...)

Analysis: Video of missile-attack on Hercules

As speculation over the downing of a British Hercules transport air plane grows, the video itself is a testament to the effectiveness of the insurgency groups.

They launched the video right after the attack, which shows both that a video production unit is in place (no big deal on a laptop, however it might not be a common commodity in Iraq as of today) and that there is a clear understanding that this kind of attack has most effect when it can be documented. For if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

The video involves footage that is deemed very likely to show remains of a C-130 Hercules, which means that they might have had a man with a video camera handy. However, if the plane was really flying in 15.000 feet (which it might not if it should have been shot down with a MANPAD) it would crash in a considerable distance from the firing-site.

The footage of the missile in the video however is very likely to show some other kind of system. That means that the producers of the video have some kind of stock photography - unless of course they have found it on the internet, which again would prove it false.

That a considerable amount of effort has been put into execution, production and distribution of the video overshadows the actual attack from my point of view (all respect to the dead). Because even if the plane fell down because of tired pilots or because of the 40 years on its tail, the insurgent group still scores points on releasing the video. It shows their capacity to stage scenery not naturally found on the battlefield - and they thereby begin to play a game very like in nature to western media control - read my post on hyper-reality here.

And how are you going to fight fiction?

Watch BBC's clips from the video here.