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


Covert Ops: The New AIR AMERICA

Today New York Times has an interesting story about Aero Contractors Ltd.

Using interviews and aerospace industry and regulation records they uncover a CIA operated air company. Aero Contractors seems to have taken over from the fabled Air America, that operated in Asia around the time of the Vietnam war.

NYT shows how Aero has had flights every time a known Al Qaeda operative was apprehended, terminating in an airport very close by. Furthermore it underbuild claims that Libyan intelligence officials have been to Guantanamo.

On my note: This is quite a powerful example of OSINT. Of course the well-connected journalists from NYT might very well have gotten a hint about the story, but they have been able to assemble a pattern off databases available on the internet and in hardcopy.


Information Operations Textbook

The other day I bought the most recent textbook on Information Operations (IO) which is the topic of my dissertation.

Armistead, Leigh (Ed.), Information Operations. Warfare and the Hard Reality of Soft Power, (Dulles: Brassey?s, 2004)

I haven't quite decided if I like it yet, as it balances on the delicate edge of banality (the figures are ripped right out of power-point presentations, complete with corny Word98 clipart). In its places however it is certainly an authority and the writers behind it are very knowledgeable.

But now I just discovered it in a draft version on the Internet - in keeping with all the prophesies in the book about Information Revolutions... Read it here before you buy - it seems as if it is the same version as the book.

Information Operations. The Hard Reality of Soft Power (PDF). Notice the strange rerouting over Google.


Beans for brains

A beautiful concentration of rhetorical figures is to be found in the The Observer today. Concerning itself with how to boost the brains performance (among one of the tips are that infamous breakfast of British students: baked beans on toast) the text quotes science writer Lyell Watson for saying:

'If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn't.'"

A chiastic parallellism that is also a paradox.


DOD Strategy for Open Source Intelligence

In a paper I recently mused over the Danish Defense Intelligence Service's (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste) possible use of Open Source Intelligence. My final findings were that OSINT presented itself as an obvious path to send more explorers down for a small country such as Denmark.

Apparently others think the same way - on USA. The House of Representatives urge for more focus on OSINT.

'With the Information Revolution, the amount, significance, and accessibility of open-source information has exploded, but the Intelligence Community has not expanded its exploitation efforts and systems to produce open-source intelligence.'


Volunteers needed

King's College's mailing lists are a flurry of invitations to participate in medical experimentations. Some of it is quite funky. How about being subjected to pressure drops at the RAF training facility or getting your brain worked over by a huge magnet?

Apparently not all can help science advance. Today I recieved a mail with the following statement:

"Females are excluded from the study to allow unbiased comparisons across participants."


Open Source and the Hive Mind

Open Source Intelligence in its most extreme conception is a form of hive mind where everybody contributes. We're not that far yet when talkin defence intelligence.

But meanwhile I enjoy myself in the Open Source Software. My latest toy is Audioscrobbler, a database that track what music you hear and then compiles lists, gives you suggestion for artists like the ones you like etc. Alas! The hive-mind at work. Now my listening to music (around the clock) can contribute to the great sum of music-listening around the world.

As a tacky side-effect I have included my real-time updated playlist in the side-bar. Not very beautiful, but quite fun...

Chapter VI 1/2 peacekeeping

Today that good ol' paper New York Times has an article on U.N. Peace Keeping in Congo. The UN is beefing up its peace missions from 'keeping' to 'enforcement' which means much more agressive missions.

Compare this with the U.N. mission in the Balkans:

'As they root out the insurgents who prey on Ituri's population, United Nations soldiers in the east have at their disposal tanks, armored personnel carriers, Mi-25 attack helicopters, mortars and rocket-propelled grenade launchers - all of which are getting heavy use.

"It may look like war but it's peacekeeping," said Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal, the force commander in Congo, of the largest and most robust of the 18 United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world.'


OODA loops and Hermeneutics

The US Colonel John Boyd has devised a nice model of decisionmaking, called the OODA-loop (for Observation, Orientation, Decision and Action). It was deviced for military use and, as it often is, inevitably became a part of business syllabus as well.

In military use it is a good metaphor for how one can outrun the enemy and 'intervene in his loop', thereby deciding what he does before he does it. Using deception by dummy tanks, false radio traffic etc. are examples of this.

But as a rhetorician it is impossible not to think about the concept of hermeneutics when studying the OODA loop. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation (and I think I mentioned in this blog before but I can't find it now) and begun as a clerical discipline to interpret the bible but found its modern form with Hans-Georg Gadamer. It basically employs itself with how perception is a cycle that keeps influencing itself.

Much of what Boyd finds about the OODA loops has been described in Hermenutics. And thus it could be interesting to find out if the two areas could be combined by someone with a lot of time on their hands.

One of the most interesting aspects by my first glance is that OODA and military thinking is very focused on effect which can be likened to Aristotelian rhetoric, whereas some of the newer rhetoric is focusing on audience.


School is out for summer...

I almost forgot. Exams are over now. Dissertation pending. Summer in London with this view:


Cyber war

An interesting take on cyber-war from PBS, filmed in 2003. Watch it here.


'Democracy' doesn't come in a can

As I have been writing on these pages before, there is an argument that goes 'The US is perfect at selling cultural and consumer goods. This ability should be transferred to selling America'. This argument is especially in play towards the public in the Middle East, where a Gallup survey has shown that up to 66% percent of the population is against the US.

But the argument is flawed as I pointed out.

And now I have found some more excellent reasons at the bright people of the Rand Corporation. In the free downloadable paper Public Diplomacy. How to think about and improve it they list three reasons why the argument is flawed:

1. It conflates private goods with public goods. Marketing for the first evokes private feelings and everybody can try it out and judge for themselves. But public goods such as ?freedom?, ?liberty? etc. are construed together with other and it is not up to the individual to decide on alone.

?Realization of individual benefits from them depends on their collective adoption (consumption) by all.?

This is the difference between the consumer and the constituency. Private choices doesn?t impose on others, but public goods needs to be adopted by all.

2. Misunderstanding of American values is not the problem, it is rather the rejection of elements in the American values.

3. US policies have been, is and will be a major source of anti-Americanism. Especially the support for Israel.


Learning from history can be bad

Using history for contemporary purposes as I just described below is central when considering intelligence failures and how to eliminate them.

Brady paraphrases Tocqueville when he says:

'Misapplied lessons from history may be more dangerous than ignorance of the past'

Brady, C., ?Intelligence Failures: Plus Ca Change?? in Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 8, No. 4 (1993)

Bring out your truth

Today the Danish Right-wing party Dansk Folkeparti will raise a question in parliament about the alledged cooperation between then-primeminister Scavenius' girlfriend and the Germans during World War II.

This is the latest development in an ongoing discussion about the Danish policy of cooperation with the Germans 1940-43. Dansk Folkeparti has been turned down on an earlier suggestion about starting a 'Truth Commission' along the lines of the South African one to get to the bottom of the Cooperation Policy.

It seems that they have left out that the Commission in S.A. also has another purpose, namely that of 'Reconciliation'. That commission is meant to heal the country, not widen the gap. This is certainly not the case in Denmark. It reeks more of 'we were right, you were wrong'.

It is an interesting case to show how violent history is never forgotten, but also to show that (modern) politics can be obsessed with an ideologic battle of sorts still.

And in that aspect the present Prime Minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen has unleashed the hounds himself as he used the Cooperation Policy in his legitimation for a new and more activist Danish Foreign Policy.



Dammit. I know I should have been more pushy. While writing essays for my History classes a couple of years ago I explored the notion of 'post-democracy' - democracy in a postmodern age.

Today Der Spiegel has a very good article on British Politics (in English. In German here) and therein I see that some guy has gotten all the fame for the term:

'Post-democracy, a term coined by sociologist Colin Crouch, has long managed to survive without content, without party platforms and even, to be exact, without political parties. All that remains of the party is a brand name completely devoid of a core, a label that can be shifted when necessary, as Tony Blair and his New Labour strategists have demonstrated.'

Unfortunately I haven't got the essay here in London so my counter-offensive for academic fame and glory gotta wait...



I confess. besides checking the news, this is the place I get wisdom from: Wulffmorgenthaler

Love is not a word, it's a sign.