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


Cheney's Law

Cheney's Law, a PBS documentary available online, looks at the effort to expand the US presidential powers during wartime. Looks very interesting.

Labels: ,



If you have a secret, don't put it on the internet. That seems to be a very reasonable advice, but of course it is never heeded by anyone, as secrets are only worth something if they can be spread in a controlled manner. A recent leak of the Osama Bin Laden video illustrates the strengths and perils of the internet. But lets look at OPSEC first.

OPerational SECurity is the concept of keeping your secrets in a controlled manner. OPSEC is about protecting your own operations secret so that others can't harvest useful intelligence from them. Basically, it is eliminating your own "emission" so there is less for others to interpret on. In intelligence, OPSEC is for example not to reveal yourself when doing surveillance.

This concept is very relevant on the internet as well. Every month I can go to Google Analytics and have a report on who has visited my site, what they looked for and where they came from. This forms the basis of my own "intelligence" where I can get a crude overview of who are interested in what, what military, government and private companies look for what and so on.

Now for the case: The internet private intel service SITE that monitors jihadists on the Internet and usually has an edge in getting the newest before everyone else, recently obtained the Osama Bin Laden video through an Al Qaeda "Intranet", a web of sites on the internet that is used for internal AQ communication. They shared this with the US government and told them to keep it a secret until it was released through the actual websites. This didn't happen and suddenly a lot of medias had the video before AQ thought they had released it. This of course meant that the AQ intranet closed down, shutting SITE and others out of the loop. A parallel would be if the Germans had found out that the Allied knew their Enigma codes in WWII. Read about the case here.

Labels: ,


Perish the Global War on Terror

New US Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen wants to get rid of the phrase "War on Terror" and has issued an order for the US forces not to use it.

This is an important step in the symbolic struggle against, eh, what should we call it then...? The thing with all the Islamist radicals vs. liberal democracy, you know.

Removing the catch-phrase makes it harder to put to the wall in one sentence, but might also make room for much needed reconceptualisation in the thinking on how we navigate in an environment of intensified struggle and radicalisation. It might even open up for treating this as a criminal problem, not a military one.

Labels: ,

Semantics of the bomb

Recently, Russian television showed the testing of a new thermobaric bomb, allegedly four times more effective than the US equivalent MOAB [Nicknamed "Mother of All Bombs"]. But recently the veracity of the Russians' claim has been questioned. Technically it seems that there is something rotten in their claim, namely how it was deployed from a high-speed bomber but clearly is designed to be dropped from a slow-moving cargo plane.

This suspicion is backed by a funny semantic word-play for those who knows Russian (from Wired) and is a good example of how the arms community develops its own genre and discourse that obscures it to outsiders (just like any other trade, be it plumbers or rhetoricians):

The Russian term for the Father of All Bombs, "Kuzkin otets," translates literally as "Kuzkin's father." The phrase itself makes no sense. But to "show you 'Kuzkina mat,'" "to show Kuzkina's mother," is one of the most famous Russian idioms. It equates roughly with the English-language threat "we'll show you." Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev forever cemented "Kuzkina mat" in the Russian lexicon in 1962, during a period of escalating tension that preceded the Cuban missile crisis, and described a reportedly successful test of a 50-megaton H-bomb, the most powerful weapon ever.

The kicker? Khrushchev's H-bomb itself was mostly a demonstration of might rather than a serious attempt at fielding a practical weapon. The H-bomb was too big and unwieldy for day-to-day carriage on Soviet bombers, so only the one test model was ever built.