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Thread: US Military -v- Internal blogging & Access to WWW

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Blogs are CENTCOM's New Target

    13 February St. Petersburgh Times - Blogs are CENTCOM's New Target by William Levesque.

    It begins almost imperceptibly, one lonely posting on a blog. It says that U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan use candy to lure children so they can be used as human shields.

    Patently untrue.

    But in an age when the lines between traditional media and the blogosphere are blurred, a dark rumor can spread like a kindergarten virus, unchecked and unchallenged.

    U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa is taking notice.

    Since 2005, CentCom officials have jumped into the blogging fray, facing the realities of a new electronic age in hopes of combating misinformation on the Web, or just getting its own news out.

    A three-person team monitors blogs - Internet journals with commentary from ordinary citizens and, often, links to news articles - that concentrate on CentCom's area of responsibility, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan...

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I've been noticing that the peace activists have been hitting places like Digg.com hard with video labeled one thing and showing other things. I won't go so far as to say that the "enenmy" is using digg/slashdot/myspace but it would be interesting to follow some IP's. A place like digg will get a couple hundred thousand page views an hour. If they have three people doing this they aren't taking it very seriously.
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    ....If they have three people doing this they aren't taking it very seriously.
    Three people monitoring full-time is plenty serious - if they know what they're doing, if at least one of them is a native Arabic speaker, and if they are supported with effective monitoring software....

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Three people monitoring full-time is plenty serious - if they know what they're doing, if at least one of them is a native Arabic speaker, and if they are supported with effective monitoring software....

    To monitor blogs and forums is going to take eye-balls. Just like you create and bring along a hum-int resource you have to work your way into blogs and forums. I guess it depends on what their actual mission or goals are, but just like the CIA reading news papers it would seem a better bet to spread the task over hundreds of people.
    Sam Liles
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    Monitoring blogs bears absolutely no resemblance to any aspect of recruiting and running HUMINT sources. It also does not require the manpower effort of the old FBIS daily translations of hundreds of foreign media sources. Let's not overblow the task.

    The key word is monitoring. It doesn't even require reading the entire contents of the blog/journal/forum. Software identifies and highlights new content for you (text, images, video), then all that is required is to gist through to find and follow up on the bits that are of value.

    For monitoring and data mining purposes, there is no "working in" required. Even where access requires registration and membership, most of the sites in question do not have levels of restricted access by post count etc. Simply register and you're in. The major difficulty is language - many sites where there is true value to be mined are not in English. And when dealing with the slang and abbreviated terms used in web postings by the indig, success in collection is far more likely when you have a native speaker working for you.

    Now, if the idea is to take a step further, along the lines of LE efforts to catch child predators by posing as young'uns in internet chat rooms, then yes, it will take a much larger effort tightly coordinated with other intel elements. That is another discussion entirely....

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    Default Cyber Warriors

    Three on duty is certainly a good start compared to none but a couple of years ago, a darn good start. I know the Jewish community has some top-notch 'nerds' that are really into and adept at tracking and keeping tabs on any number of radical sites. I wonder if such resources can be tapped as an adjunct? It seems at times as if the military and civilians are cloistered from each other and can only operate in rigid parameters that seem to entail passive flag waving, abject hatred and exploitive contracting on the part of civilians. It shouldn't be that hard to pull in some data bases and other such compilations with non-military sources in this ongoing cyber war. Which ever military element has command status wouldn't have to share with civilian counterparts, simply be recepticles for their data and assessments.

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    Now, if the idea is to take a step further, along the lines of LE efforts to catch child predators by posing as young'uns in internet chat rooms, then yes, it will take a much larger effort tightly coordinated with other intel elements. That is another discussion entirely....
    We'll have to agree to disagree then.

    From my perspective information warfare occurs on several levels. The political pundits and operational machinery in the last presidential election disseminated information via email to their constituents with daily messages to place in blogs, web forums, to be sent out in emails as a method keeping messages on track.

    This last weekend Senator Barak O'bama started an open social network and had thousands of groups set up within hours. His message, his ideas, and the mechanisms for putting that in front of people were well prepared prior to his social network going live. The knowledge, skills and technologies required to promote a particular view point are well developed.

    In the last election the machinery prepared by Howard Dean (and then used by John Kerry) utilizing the internet and social software based communities were able to infiltrate and create coordinated messages on everything from hot rod web forums to hunting forums. Realizing the scopes and message directions is not a task for a small group of individuals. Mapping the social network and the ideas being promoted within social networks is not a small task and it does use many of the same social networking mapping techniques that law enforcement has adopted for gang surveillance. The same tools used by anthropologists to map familial and tribal groups in ethnographic studies.

    Internal and external (to the United States) adversarial elements are no less coordinated than our own military and law enforcement agencies. To deny the cohesive coordination and technological sophistication of an adversary is a grave error. The scope and content of messages meant to derail or curtail activities (the lever of social will) are well coordinated. Internal debate of topics can be skewed quickly by the rapid movement of a message through the Internet. External sources can use our own technologies to their advantage with little to no cost or personal risk.

    The castigating remarks of bloggers irregardless of truth will have traction in the minds of people willing to accept that message. A retraction by the original blogger will have little to no resultant change in message and may be rejected by the readership especially if the military link is exposed. As an example look at the comments by people who see the mere presence of the military as an incursion on freedom of speech in the article and comments section.

    From reading the article it looks like the group at CENTCOM simply is looking at refutation of information and providing another view to the blogosphere. This is a Sisyphean task when you consider the number of targeted message organizations already coordinating their story placing their task in the role of stomping out hot spots while ignoring the forest fire.
    Last edited by selil; 02-13-2007 at 04:58 PM.
    Sam Liles
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    Selil, please take note of the series of "if's" in my initial response. My second response was a clarification of the nature of the efficacy if my "if's" were met.

    As you state, the current CENTCOM structure is not meeting any of that - it is not monitoring - in the intelligence sense of that term - nor does its "mission" seem structured to be anything more than a PR bandaid.

    However, if those who plan and decide on such things ever pull their heads out of their fourth points of contact, a small team of professionals will suffice. Once again - a trained intelligence professional, familiar with the types of 'net comms under discussion, will have no problem with effective monitoring - and that ties into the conduct of analysis in support of, and to exploit, that particular mission.

    Where a larger group becomes necessary is when the mission has expanded beyond monitoring and simple collection into the construct of false identities that are actively engaged in on-line elicitation - and other activities moving towards the dark side.

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    Default Efficacy Is Often In The Eye of The Beholder

    Regarding the 'muscle' of a primary blog and its many affiliates and attachments, Obama may have a mighty machine at play but I note he has already developed some serious political baggage with his recent comments about the KIAs in Iraq. One comment in a non-blog environment, transmitted in a non-blog venue and he has taken a serious hit. MSN is already starting to spin that comment. Howard Dean's much vaunted Deaniacs seemed all the rage and an awesome force to be reckoned with until he screamed like a banshee that time in a non-blog venue and it was transmitted in non-blog venues, like the National News and Newspapers and it crippled him. John Dean's campaign just now took a technical hit via Amanda Marcotte resigning. She was the prime blog mover-n'-shaker in his cyber campaign. She got considerable flak and pressure from the people she was attacking in non-blog venues via phone calls and letters and emails. Conversely, look at the PR hit Zaqawri took when he couldn't even handle a machine gun. Rember when some video was recovered showing him fumbling around and his aides burning their hands on the barrel? All it took was a couple of people (Monitors...) who instantly capitalized on it and wham! it spread and he became the laughing stock and his image of being a Saladin was insantly crippled. You bet - his cyber followers got to see al-killer unable to even handle a simple machine gun. Everything starts small and I find it most encouraging that our military is venturing into these uncharted waters.

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    Council Member sgmgrumpy's Avatar
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    On a little different note, but in the same field, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research is also conducting a study of blogs. It's a collection cell on steroids program in short. I think a few members here may know a little more

    Sounds like the CENTCOM purpose is to counter disinformation. They go as far as to even "ask websites to put a link to CENTCOM?"

    http://www.defenselink.mil/transform...ta062906b.html

    The Air Force Office of Scientific Research recently began funding a new research area that includes a study of blogs. Blog research may provide information analysts and warfighters with invaluable help in fighting the war on terrorism.

    Dr. Brian E. Ulicny, senior scientist, and Dr. Mieczyslaw M. Kokar, president, Versatile Information Systems Inc., Framingham, Mass., will receive approximately $450,000 in funding for the 3-year project entitled “Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information.”

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    I've done some work with semantic ontologies (few papers, presentations, boring stuff). Basically it sounds like they're looking at a new variation of machine translation. Might be interesting to see what they come up with.
    Sam Liles
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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    Regarding the 'muscle' of a primary blog and its many affiliates and attachments, Obama may have a mighty machine at play but I note he has already developed some serious political baggage with his recent comments about the KIAs in Iraq. One comment in a non-blog environment, transmitted in a non-blog venue and he has taken a serious hit. MSN is already starting to spin that comment. Howard Dean's much vaunted Deaniacs seemed all the rage and an awesome force to be reckoned with until he screamed like a banshee that time in a non-blog venue and it was transmitted in non-blog venues, like the National News and Newspapers and it crippled him. John Dean's campaign just now took a technical hit via Amanda Marcotte resigning. She was the prime blog mover-n'-shaker in his cyber campaign. She got considerable flak and pressure from the people she was attacking in non-blog venues via phone calls and letters and emails. Conversely, look at the PR hit Zaqawri took when he couldn't even handle a machine gun. Rember when some video was recovered showing him fumbling around and his aides burning their hands on the barrel? All it took was a couple of people (Monitors...) who instantly capitalized on it and wham! it spread and he became the laughing stock and his image of being a Saladin was insantly crippled. You bet - his cyber followers got to see al-killer unable to even handle a simple machine gun. Everything starts small and I find it most encouraging that our military is venturing into these uncharted waters.
    It's amazing how quickly, after that video surfaced, that Zarqawi went from being Al Queda's Right hand man and the leader of the true faith to a buffoon that none of the AQ folks had ever seen before, or even heard of.

    The distancing was done faster than the speed of light

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default US Military -v- Internal blogging & Access to WWW

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    Wow. The new reg is linked in the article: AR 530-1 OPSEC, dated 19 April 2007
    2–1. All Army personnel
    Operations security is everyone’s responsibility. Failure to properly implement OPSEC measures can result in serious injury or death to our personnel, damage to weapons systems, equipment and facilities, loss of sensitive technologies and mission failure. OPSEC is a continuous process and an inherent part of military culture and as such, must be fully integrated into the execution of all Army operations and supporting activities. All Department of the Army (DA) personnel (active component, reserve component to include U.S. Army Reserve, Army National Guard, and DA civilians), and DOD contractors will—

    (skip to applicable item...)

    g. Consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC Officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.

    (1) This includes, but is not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail (e-mail), Web site postings, web log (blog) postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or other forms of dissemination or documentation.

    (2) Supervisors will advise personnel to ensure that sensitive and critical information is not to be disclosed. Each unit or organization’s OPSEC Officer will advise supervisors on means to prevent the disclosure of sensitive and critical information....
    and then there's:
    (15) Because the Internet is a public forum, commanders will ensure that in addition to the OPSEC officer, a public affairs officer (PAO), webmaster/Web site maintainer, and other appropriate designee(s) (for example, command counsel, freedom of information act (FOIA) officer, force protection, intelligence, and so forth.) have properly cleared information posted to the World Wide Web, unclassified intranet, or Army Knowledge Online (AKO) in areas accessible to all account types. (Possible risks must be judged and weighed against potential benefits prior to posting any Army information on the World Wide Web. (See AR 25–1, para 5–10.)

    (a) The designated reviewer(s) will conduct routine reviews of Web sites on a quarterly basis to ensure that each Web site is in compliance with the policies of AR 25–1 and that the content remains relevant and appropriate.

    (b) The minimum review will include all of the web site management control checklist items in AR 25–1, paragraph C–4e(30) and appendix C. Information contained on publicly accessible Web sites is subject to the policies and clearance procedures prescribed in AR 360–1, chapter 5, for the release of information to the public.
    This has the potential to kill everything but official forums (i.e. BCKS, MCCLL) - after a select few have been identified and made an example of to others. Hell, even posting on AKO is now under review.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    What's really disturbing is that they are shutting down the most effective source of supportive information. Whoever put this out isn't thinking clearly.
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    Wow indeed.

    This certainly is a new monolith in the e-landscape, and a valiant attempt at getting some toothpaste back in the tube.

    I would advise all Army personnel to read and heed as they see fit, within the bounds of sanity and careerism vs. standing for something. I'm not sure if the Army will see its FOUO document posted to the world as further fuel for its righteous fire, clamping down even more aggressively on those pesky information-leaking units known as soldiers and humans. Or, perhaps, it is an indicator of the juggernaut they are trying to spin on a dime, as if by throwing some sacrificial canoes in the path of the supertanker.

    I have not had the chance to wade through all 79 pages of the document I'm not supposed to know about, but I hope there is more to the plan than wiping the sticky booger of enforcement and "responsibility" on the shirt of commanders who, having more important things to spend their excruciatingly limited time on but still hoping to pick up MAJ before they retire, will have to just lock up all the key boards and unceremoniously crucify a few "examples." Or perhaps that is the plan.

    Here's to the digital Yingling, just waiting to step forward.

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    Last edited by SWCAdmin; 05-03-2007 at 01:13 PM. Reason: Additions in italics to clarify sarcasm, not apathy.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I smell apathy brewing whre there was innovation. It would be worth while to put forward a better explanation - else all we'll grow are mushrooms.

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Now that I've had a chance to think about it - I think it brings about a good opportunity to discuss what was at the heart of LTC Yingling's argument - do we understand the fight we are in and are we adapting/innovating/organizing/promoting/assigning/equipping/educating to be successful? When you look at this it sounds allot like the 2 up 1 back, platoon in reserve, pre-planned targets MTC at the NTC / Defense from the BP of the 1990s and while that and information security of sensitive information which may cost success and lives are very important, they are not a sole substitute for developing skills and capabilities needed to prosecute this war and gain and maintain the initiative?

    This sounds allot more like a Super FOB IO strategy. We'll build these walls around us and communicate only on approved internal lines of communication with internal approval of approved internal discussions so that we can ensure we are discussing approved questions with approved solutions which we will then dissiminate at approved CTC and publications. The latency will be huge! The timeliness of useful information which can be placed in the correct context so that it can be applied will be largely neutralized. But we will be safe.

    OK - this may not have been the intent - but that may not matter if someone does not clarify the directive - remember perceptions are reality.

    I'd argue that while the enemy is prosecuting a very effective IO campaign and use of the Internet, we are tightening the chastity belt for fear of misuse. There probably has been some screw ups - but how do you measure the subjective value vs. risk? We are a quantitative bunch at heart facing a foe who is wlling to be subjective. Are we fighting the fight we have or wishing for the one we'd like? Is developinga real information warfare capability vs a better bank vault beyond us? I know people who sit on information for total fear they will be held accountable for its release - they are largely inneffective, but they are safe. They are not concerned about the mission any where near as much as they are self preservation andwill often use it as an excuse for lethargic behavior.

    While the risks must be known and mitigated / minimized, don't assume the enemy will operate under any restrictions. How much terrain does a defensive position control - only what it can see and reach - and these days that is very limitied given that the key terrain is Human.

    \
    Oh - did I mention AKO has retooled its email - again like so many things- form over function.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 05-02-2007 at 10:18 PM.

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    Default What the hell is the Army thinking?

    I've had this conversation with friends who are military before: there are security implications and security violators, I get it. Well, way to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In this war, for the first time, service members have been able to offer virtually real time critique of the press coverage of the war from the combat zone. It is impossible to measure what impact or influence that has had, but the military keeps saying it believes this is an information war, and keeps acting as if information is completely irrelevant to the conduct of the war or to the ability to sustain support for the war.

    Here's the reaction from one of the best known and best supported milbloggers: (no, I still haven't figured out how to embed links successfully, you'll need to cut and paste.) http://www.blackfive.net/main/2007/0...sec_regul.html

    For those of you near decent university libraries, at the risk of sounding as if I'm self-promoting, there's this cite:

    “Life in Wartime: Realtime War, Realtime Critique; Fighting in the New Media Environment,” in Military Culture, vol. 4 of Military Life: The Psychology of Serving in Peace and Combat eds. Thomas Britt, Carl Castro, and Amy Adler (Westport, Ct: Praeger Security International, 2006):180-210

    I don't know that it's that insightful, it's just the only piece I know of that's out there that traces the importance of the dern things.

    I am absolutely gobsmacked that the Army would take this step. And now of all times.

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    Default Here I am, Stuck in the Middle with You...


    On the Left - We Need to Start Winning this IO 'Stuff' -- On the Right - Shut Up and Toe the Line

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