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Spy Agencies Turn To Online Sources For Info

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the i-spy-with-my-little-internet dept.

The Military 140

palegray.net sends us to US News and World Report for an article about increased spy agency use of online sources. Turning to well-known destinations such as NPR and Wikipedia, folks in the intelligence world are increasingly filling their reports with information gleaned from the public domain. "A few days ago, a senior officer at the Pentagon called his intelligence officer into his office. The boss had heard a news report about China while driving to his office and wanted some answers. It wasn't a tough assignment, given the news coverage, but there was a hitch. 'There was plenty of information in the public domain about the topic,' recalls the intelligence officer, a 10-year veteran. 'And yet, if there wasn't some classified information cited in my report, the boss would never believe it was accurate.'"

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140 comments

Online sources are usually pretty accurate (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25018643)

Just ask United Airlines.

How naive can people get? (3, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018657)

Spy Agencies Turn To Online Sources For Info

How naive can people get? Even I spy on my friends and neighbors this way and have done so for years. Professionals have been doing it for much longer.

Re:How naive can people get? (4, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018963)

Seriously. Most spying is not covert at all. Most of our spies work openly, either here or in embassies in other nations, simply reading the local press and other local public information. This is called "official cover", but the spies aren't in any way covert (it now US law that if a memebr of, say, the CIA has ever been posted overseas with official cover, they can never do covert work - because CIA managers tried to get cute and lots of people died).

The one thing a CIA employee will never do is directly collect secret information from a forieng government - they're not sneaking into government buildings at night photographing secret documents with tiny cameras, or planting bugs, or etc. Overt agents just read the press (and get the mood on the street). Covert agents recuit trusted locals to do any sneaky stuff (often posing as a memebr of some other nation's covert intelligence arm - whatever nation the source is sympathetic to).

There was a time when the overt data colection would get you executed as a spy, so there's a historical reson for our overt agents to pose as State Department officials, but it's not exactly a secret these days (anyone in an American embassy is just automatically assumed to be a spy), and most useful and trustworthy information comes this way.

Re:How naive can people get? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019275)

Actually one of the more interesting bits i've run into concerning modern espionage is based exactly on what you're describing there. Between the restrictions on covert operatives and the restrictions on us "officials and ambassadors" usually the actual black-mask stuff is outsourced to a foreign power. This allows the US to state they did not authorize whatever it was, deny that their agents had anything to do with it (carefully), and also show that they didn't break the statute that US officials and ambassadors cannot bribe foreign nationals.

Funny thing is, all that takes is getting someone else to do the actual spying/bribing. Also interesting, it's thanks to this exact situation that is why canada has some of the best covert ops and communications interceptions people in the world.

Re:How naive can people get? (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020139)

Actually one of the more interesting bits i've run into concerning modern espionage is based exactly on what you're describing there. Between the restrictions on covert operatives and the restrictions on us "officials and ambassadors" usually the actual black-mask stuff is outsourced to a foreign power. This allows the US to state they did not authorize whatever it was, deny that their agents had anything to do with it (carefully), and also show that they didn't break the statute that US officials and ambassadors cannot bribe foreign nationals.

Amazing how that works, isn't it? This is a completely hypothetical scenario: If you kill someone, you are charged with murder; if you contract a thug to kill somebody for you ... you are charged with murder. If you're a US official and you conduct the "black-mask stuff", you are breaking the law. If you're a US official and you conduct the "black-mask stuff" by proxy, why, that's fine and good and you get to enjoy doing so with impunity. Isn't that wonderful?

I seem to be in a tiny minority because I believe that government officials should be held to a stricter standard and punished much more severely when they break the law, because when they do it and especially when they either get away with it or receive a slap on the wrist, it's a threat to the entire concept of rule of law. The fevered egos who want political power are easily replaced -- if any are legally removed from power by means of due process and convicted of a crime, there are plenty more where they came from. The concept of rule of law is not so easily replaced.

Re:How naive can people get? (1)

adpsimpson (956630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022723)

Replying to remove my accidental 'Redundant' mod - was meant to be 'insightful.' Oops!

Re:How naive can people get? (3, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022985)

Sometimes laws need to be broken.

(Before the mods get snarky - look at copyright and patent laws.)

The very idea of covert acts means, generally, violations of someone's laws.

I see this sort of stuff on /. all the time and, well, I guess I'm old. One minute we'll sit here and yell that information wants to be free. The next minute we'll sit here and yell that our private data must remain private when we just got done saying that all information wants to be free.

It just doesn't hold up. I have been just as guilty of this.

I think it is my military (Marines) background that triggers it on conversations like this. There are times and places where the law must be broken. It is against the Geneva Convention to use a shotgun in combat. If I am in combat and the only weapon I have available is a shotgun then, yeah, fuck that convention.

Am I attempting to justify the acts of corrupt officials? No. When a person in power fails I think they should be held to higher punitive damages than your average citizen simply due to the fact that they were an officiate. But, and here's the kicker, I think that there are times when extreme actions must be taken for the benefit of society as a whole. I'd suggest watching a really retarded example of this to see where I am coming from. Download, buy, rent the movie, 'Remo Williams, The Adventure Begins.'

"Would you watch your child die in a house fire or attempt to rescue your child knowing that you will die in the attempt?" If you answer that you will attempt to rescue your child in hopes that the slim chance will allow them to live and you to die or both of you to live then welcome to the human race. If you answer with the choice to watch your child then congratulations, you will make a good leader.

Just so you know, I am of the 'attempt to rescue my child' group so I have my doubts as to how well I'd lead. Sometimes I lie to myself and think I'd do the logical thing that minimized risk while maintaining my ability to continue to procreate and further the human race but, really, I don't know and suspect I'd try to rescue my child.

As an aside, I think the majority of our current crop of elected officials in the United States of America are from a separate group, those who are cowards and would not make a choice but would hide and, well, do nothing.

There are times when violating a law is a requirement for a variety of reasons. Civil Rights leaders accomplished a great deal by encouraging people to disobey the laws that they felt were unjust. In *my* state you are ENTITLED to drive as fast as you would like if you are an elected representative and are not on time for the assembly. On the other hand, if you are too slow in getting there, they can and will send out the state police to get your ass to the assembly via escort.

There is a time and place to allow people to violate the law. Some laws are just fucking stupid. I think that in ALL cases of law violation the matter should be judged effectively and without bias while looking to ensure the greater good for the society as a whole.

The above paragraph's words were chosen carefully. Many people think that their societal rules should apply to the world in general and I think that ruins cultural diversity. I say "the society" because our views don't represent that of the world. The majority of the world lives in what we would view as a repressed state. If we were a democracy, world wide, we would be in the minority. That should probably clue people in as to how skewed our thinking is. To me, if a society has chosen to treat women as second class citizens, use slaves, or force something we consider inhumane on their citizens it is not our place to judge them as long as they keep what they believe within the confines of their spaces. We, as a Western Culture, have decided that our views are the only acceptable positions. We here on slashdot have taken that a step further and decided that our small segment of views (and we can't agree on them) is the only view that works and without evidence we often not only insist that it will work but insist it is the right way.

In closing, I'm all sorts of in favor of letting those who have climbed the highest fall the furthest. At the same time I'm of the opinion that we need to have some sort of trust (which we haven't got now) and the capacity to trust the officiates to perform their duties and the freedoms to do them without fearing being hassled over trivial matters that were impeding them from accomplishing their jobs. I think the reason we are in the mess we are in now is because there are too many people who simply want to complain about any trivial matter they are offended with and that prevents people from actually accomplishing anything.

Re:How naive can people get? (2, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022501)

I remember hearing about an interesting little scheme that the US / UK axis used to perpetrate. This is back when it was illegal for the US government to wiretap its own citizens, and the same in the UK. So instead the British eavesdropped on Americans' calls, and the Americans eavesdropped on Britons' calls, and then the two intelligence agencies simply compared notes.

Re:How naive can people get? (1, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023045)

canada has some of the best covert ops and communications interceptions people in the world.

I've never trusted those goddamn Canadians.

Their in it with the gays - building landingstrips for the aliens.

-

Re:How naive can people get? (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019749)

There was a time when the overt data colection would get you executed as a spy,

Where have you been hiding? China imprisons such people even when they are clearly not working for anyone outside China. Many Middle East countries will certainly execute people that are reading the newspapers a little too closely.

When was the last time that an American was imprisoned or executed? It has been a while, at least back to the 1980s or so.

Re:How naive can people get? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020045)

This is called "official cover", but the spies aren't in any way covert (it now US law that if a memebr of, say, the CIA has ever been posted overseas with official cover, they can never do covert work - because CIA managers tried to get cute and lots of people died).

And if the deceased who passed away due to the CIA managers' mistake were government employees, then at least no innocent life was lost.

Re:How naive can people get? (1)

dubner (48575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020427)

Yeah, there's nothing new under the sun -- it's been going on for years. When I was in the USAF in the late 70's and 80's, Squadron Intelligence got their data on the foreign powers and briefed aircrews based on articles in Time Magazine.

Re:How naive can people get? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021381)

For those interested in some further reading on the subject, might I suggest the following: Class 11: Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class [amazon.com] . The book elaborates upon, among other things, the differences between clandestine and covert operations, the training of CIA case officers for domestic and overseas assignments, different types of cover (official and otherwise), and basic spycraft techniques employed by case officers. It was an interesting inside look at an often misunderstood agency of our government and definitely worth a read if you want to know more about what the CIA and other intelligence agencies do and what it might be like to work for them (should you dare to apply).

Re:How naive can people get? (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022575)

they're not sneaking into government buildings at night photographing secret documents with tiny cameras, or planting bugs, or etc.

That's so passé.

Covert agents recruit trusted locals to do any sneaky stuff

Like that network connected windows office PC or smartphone sitting on the desk there. The one with the cute animated LOLcat screensaver. With the built-in microphone and camera.

M$ (and almost certainly the US government with a secret "security letter") have complete access to every network connected Windows box, and possibly many Linux boxes, on earth. It's too easy.

Given the history and current paranoia of the US government you are foolish if you use US made "smart" products when competing with US interests. And no, network sniffing is not going to help you when the network traffic uses steganography [wikipedia.org] , pretends to be a new virus if necessary and is only enabled selectively.

---

Anonymous company communication should be highly illegal. Company legal structures require visible accountability.

Re:How naive can people get? (0, Offtopic)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019085)

Even I spy on my friends and neighbors this way and have done so for years

I think this is the first time I actually experienced "lolwut?"

Re:How naive can people get? (0, Offtopic)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019357)

"lolwut". I had to look that one up. LOL! And you can ignore this sentence, it's just to pass the time so /. lets me post.

Re:How naive can people get? (1)

stanjam (1057588) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021089)

Ya, this is not new, nor should it be Earth Shattering news. What would be news is if spy networks didn't use the internet for data collection. It works both ways though. There is a lot of information out there that isn't accurate or is purposely misleading. You may find information on the net, but verifying those leads can be the real bear I would imagine.

The name for this... (4, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018661)

Interestingly, the name for intelligence derived from analyzijng public information (rather than spying) is "open sources".

Note the trailing "s".

Re:The name for this... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019033)

Errr... no, it's not. OSINT is just plain "open source", no 's'. Check Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for more information.

Re:The name for this... (4, Informative)

xyzzy (10685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019089)

Not sure what you're trying to imply. Open Source intelligence predates open source software by probably 30 years.

Re:The name for this... (1)

dynamo52 (890601) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021931)

Interestingly, the name for intelligence derived from analyzijng public information (rather than spying) is "open sources".

Note the trailing "s".

Not sure what you're trying to imply. Open Source intelligence predates open source software by probably 30 years.

I think what he was saying is that to qualify as "intelligence", that it has to be widely reported from many perspectives if it is coming from the public domain.

I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25018693)

Can you imagine if they got into an edit war with Osama on Wikipedia?

better than using "curveball" (3, Insightful)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018727)

Truly everyone researches online, why would intelligence agencies be any different?

Re:better than using "curveball" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019631)

It comes down to trust.

If you think everyone should trust what they read on the Internet, then God help you.

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (5, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018915)

If they use Wikipedia, I wonder what they'll make of edits like the following:-

"Osama Bin Laden is generally considered to be one of the leading inspirations of global terrorism AND MR SMITH IS HIS BOYFRIEND LOL!!!!! ALSO KIM SMELLS and a leading component of the so-called "axis of evil".

"Sir, it appears that Osama Bin Laden is associated with previously unknown figure called 'Mr. Smith'. Further investigations reveal that Mr.Smith is Michael James Smith, an English teacher at Buttfuck Middle School, Illinois."

"Excellent work... have him arrested as soon as possible, and don't let him get away. He may have valuable information on his homosexual lover Bin Laden, or even be a part of the conspiracy himself. Also, find out who the fuck this mysterious 'Kim' girl is."

"Rumour has it that she's an adversary of the person who contributed this information anonymously via a Buttfuck Education Board IP address, and that she may be one of three girls between ten and thirteen years old."

"I'm beginning to suspect that this information might not be quite as reliable as we'd hoped."

"So you suspect that Kim doesn't smell after all?"

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020099)

Look at Youtube and Liveleak; there are dozens of terrorist training and recruiting videos, as well as videos of Islamic attacks against American troops. There are posters that post pro-Islamic statements on those websites as well. Now, many of those are trolls, but if the NSA tracks these people and put a web together, they probably could get a good idea of how things work. Abrogation of civil rights? Sure. The worst thing the Bush Administration ever did? Not the least.

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021155)

How is tracking information which is in the public domain an abrogation of civil rights?

Next thing you'll be telling me is that it's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed. If you're stupid enough to implicate yourself, there's absolutely nothing that says the authorities can't take advantage of it.

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (1)

dynamo52 (890601) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021977)

Next thing you'll be telling me is that it's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed

It's wrong for cops to pay a visit to those retards who post pictures of themselves on facebook, posing beside a pound bag of weed. This isn't because they are not retards violating a law in a public way. The question is why the hell are the police wasting valuable public resources pouring over facebook to find idiots who are merely violating a pointless and ill-conceived law. Unless there is an active investigation of a crime that involves actual victims, I believe law enforcement has no business in researching the lives of ordinary citizens.

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020281)

Insightful? Really?

Re:I wonder if they use Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25022521)

I thought you were actually quoting... until I realized I'd TOTALLY remember if there was a town in my state called "Buttfuck".

Though, there IS a Normal, Illinois.

I have a super secure method to protect me (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25018695)

It's called robots.txt

incompetence (0, Troll)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018703)

With all the resources the DoD, CIA, FBI, etc. have at their disposal, this shouldn't happen. Sure, occasionally the MSM or a blogger will scoop the military, but with the hundreds of thousands of people we pay with our tax dollars to do this, it shouldn't be very often.

Incompetence has taken hold of our government like never before, and we have been experiencing the effects since before 9/11.

Re:incompetence (0, Redundant)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018781)

Incompetence has taken hold of our government like never before

You mean reality isn't like all the cool spy movies? I'm shocked!!
Of course, paranoid as I am, I believe they're only *faking* incompetence for their own devious aims.

Re:incompetence (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018841)

With all the resources the DoD, CIA, FBI, etc. have at their disposal, this shouldn't happen. Sure, occasionally the MSM or a blogger will scoop the military, but with the hundreds of thousands of people we pay with our tax dollars to do this, it shouldn't be very often.

Hundreds of thousands? I have a hard time believing that. Perhaps if you count all the janitors, catering, and minimium wage earners. But not in the analyst section.

And to some degree, I'd rather the simple, easy to verify, stuff do come from the public domain rather than know the government wasted my tax payer dollars to confirm the name of the president of Russia or a map of Estonia. Let them spend those dollars and the think tank time on figuring who is hiding nuclear testing/refining facilities and the like.

The real question is how much fact checking are they doing on these sources and how much of it is being taken on faith?

Re:incompetence (0)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018935)

between the four branches of the military, the CIA, the FBI, the state dept., the DIA, DHS, ICE, and the DoD itself (and of course all the secret apparatuses we don't know about)...between all of those...you don't think we have hundreds of thousands of analysts???

what do you think they do?

oh yeah, and I also forgot the civilian contractors that we pay 3x as much to do the same thing the gov't used to do only MORE incompetently!

Re:incompetence (3, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019131)

between the four branches of the military, the CIA, the FBI, the state dept., the DIA, DHS, ICE, and the DoD itself (and of course all the secret apparatuses we don't know about)...between all of those...you don't think we have hundreds of thousands of analysts???

No. I don't. We might have hundreds of thousands (actually millions) people working in those groups, but the vast majority of them are not analysts. The vast majority are the paid thinkers but the do'ers and the ones who maintain the infrastructure to support the do'ers. I'd be surpirsed if 10% of them were analysts in the sense we are speaking of regarding this article.

And while some Captain in the Air Force might have to write reports for his bosses on the performance of his squad and suggest plans of attack on the upcoming mission, those aren't the same level of intelligence gestalting reports that we are talking about here.

Re:incompetence (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019165)

The vast majority aren't the paid thinkers but the do'ers and the ones who maintain the infrastructure to support the do'ers.

Whoops, fixed that for me?

Re:incompetence (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019589)

Correct.

With military intelligence, you you have 4+ different groups. Without any of them, the unit fails it's mission.
Collection
Analysis
Communications
Support

I say 4+ because you may also have Dissemination, and support, the largest group, can be broken down even further:
Command
Supply - (Food, Ammo, Equipment, Transportation, Mail, Parts....)
Maintenance - (Basic Equipment, Vehicle, Collection Equipment....)

Your intelligence unit may also have electronic warfare capabilities thrown in to boot. Yep, not only do those units collect the info, the also disrupt hostile communications, broadcast propaganda....

I was an electronics tech that got to fix a lot of the toys.

Re:incompetence (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020933)

Oddly enough, the contractors are in fact not incompetent, they know exactly what they are doing. For example when it comes to profitability the three different natures of intelligence, good, bad and none, lead to three different levels of profitability. Good intelligence, answer provided no further intelligence required (no additional contracts), no intelligence no answers found agent bad (no additional contracts), bad intelligence more answers required (more contracts).

With bad intelligence, the threat is often amplified and or misstated or even a complete fabrication, this ensure further intelligence activities are required and as it is covert no conflicting covert intelligence is provided to ensure the lie is accepted. Now when this intelligence is vetted by political appointees who have been specifically placed for their political allegiances rather than their competence, the answers will often be what they want them to be, rather than what in reality they are.

The catch with this is of course full time professionals, specifically not contractors, who tend to hold their allegiance to the country rather than any political party, they tend to be targeted, denied promotion, reassigned or tied up politically motivated secrecy ie. buried under national in-security requirements.

Understanding and disentangling the vested intrests and their motivations is the best way of gleaning the hidden truth from the published lie.

Re:incompetence (1)

bhiestand (157373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020987)

oh yeah, and I also forgot the civilian contractors that we pay 3x as much to do the same thing the gov't used to do only MORE incompetently!

oh yeah, and I also forgot the civilian contractors that we pay 3x as much to do the same thing the gov't used to do only competently!

There, fixed that for you. Why do you feel the need to post on this subject when you obviously don't know what you are talking about?

are you joking? (4, Insightful)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018897)

It would be incompetent for them NOT to use the public domain resources available. The military is not and should not be in the business of "scooping" the media. Are you seriously suggesting that the military should ignore what is published in the media about a subject and only focus on private databases?

Re:are you joking? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019867)

We read slashdot too.

Re:are you joking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25022323)

I'm quite surprised how open some people are posting; maybe they don't value their clearance anymore.

Re:are you joking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25022473)

I got rid of that thing years ago, and don't want it back.

Re:are you joking? (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020147)

The media in most industrialized nations is hypersensationalized, faulty or even just wrong. Once you admit that traditional media outlets are often biased and have agendas of their own, you can come to the realization that there are things the media wont print even without censorship.

In short, the media self-censors to it's own preservation.

Re:are you joking? (1)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021187)

Certainly, but you can't make a blanket statement that all members of the media are terrible at their jobs.

As with every field there are competent, hard working members and there are those that simply do the bare minimum to get by.

Re:are you joking? (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021549)

My perception seems to be that local news on non-political subjects is a lot more accurate and unbiased than national news.

For example, I trust my local TV stations to very accurately portray local news such as house fires and violent crimes. However, I do not trust national media to accurately portray most international news such as wars and diplomatic actions.

It's not that I think people in media are terrible at their jobs. In fact, the lower you go in the organization tree, I think the more honest people are. However, as with many organizations, the higher you get the more influential the bad people can be. Even the "embedded reporters" in Iraq were all likely doing a great job, but they were only reporting on what they were allowed to see and the output of their reporting was all filtered to show only what management wanted you to see.

Consider this: recent figures estimate the Iraqi death toll to be 10x as high as our own. How many dead Iraqis have you seen on TV? How many dead Americans? I'd bet both numbers are extraordinarily low. The reason is the media filters out that kind of content, knowing that if you saw the true cost and effect of the war that your support for it might wane.

Re:are you joking? (2, Insightful)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023043)

As are non-traditional media outlets. Everyone on the planet is biased. *gasp* Find me ONE media outlet, traditional or non-traditional, that only offers factual information and offers all the facts pertinent to the story without any commentary.

Go on...

I'll wait...

Re:are you joking? (1)

extrasolar (28341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021203)

Exactly. The tricky part is determining credibility, but that is exactly the sort of thing that spy agencies ought to specialize in.

i don't understand (1)

globaljustin (574257) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021301)

why the -1 "troll" mods? i'm not posting to piss people off...i really think what I said is relevant and needs to be said...I don't want to rant, 1. b/c I already did [slashdot.org] and 2. b/c I don't want this comment downmodded either.

my point is, is there a GOP backlash of modding on /. lately? have the neo-cons taken over this board?

Official Report 3999 (4, Funny)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018751)

"Due to increased intelligence gathering online, we have come to believe fighters in Iraq have developed some sort of animal growth hormone, capable of increasing fertility exponentially. What they plan to do with it is unknown, but the fact stands, the elephant population in Africa has tripled over the past six months!

Trivia:
* African elephants are not normally found all over Africa
* Elephants have been in many films, and tend to be used as trucks"

Re:Official Report 3999 (1)

tygt (792974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019941)

More trivia:

* African elephants are not normally found in Iraq
* Iraq is not normally found in Africa

Re:Official Report 3999 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020433)

Trivia:
* African elephants are not normally found all over Africa
* Elephants have been in many films, and tend to be used as trucks"

Fact:
* Trucks have been unsuccessfully used as elephants

Well duh! It's not sexy (5, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018807)

"I pulled facts from the public domain and fit them together into a well-researched report with accurate citations". Booooring.

"I'm presenting this report because I know you're cleared, and I believe you have the need to know. It's TOP SECRET, Compartmentalized, Code Fushia". Sex-ay!

Re:Well duh! It's not sexy (3, Funny)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019701)

Hate to be a language usage/spelling nazi, but fuchsia is spelled that way, and the phrase you're looking for in your sig is "For all intents and purposes" - whether or not the purposes are intensive is irrelevant.

Re:Well duh! It's not sexy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020597)

It's a troll signature, and you fell for it.

Re:Well duh! It's not sexy (1)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021213)

Hate to be a language usage/spelling nazi, but fuchsia is spelled that way, and the phrase you're looking for in your sig is "For all intents and purposes" - whether or not the purposes are intensive is irrelevant.

Unless those uses of "whom" are also classified and code fuchsia. Intensive times call for intensive use of the word "whom." Sieg Heil!

Re:Well duh! It's not sexy (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023069)

It's starting again!
When I mistakenly used this phrase on slashdot it led to over a hundred posts of pure pedantry.

Re:Well duh! It's not sexy (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023089)

"I'm presenting this report because I know you're cleared, and I believe you have the need to know. It's TOP SECRET, Compartmentalized, Code Fushia". Sex-ay!

Ok... calling Code Fushia sexy has got to be on the top-ten list of Clues You Might Be Gay.

-

Holy wiki batman... is it just me or..... (0, Redundant)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25018859)

Does it sound to you like the intelligence agencies are a bit late to the game? Isn't big brother supposed to be watching everything we do? Carnivore and all that? Something sounds fishy about this, like a false flag kind of thing. You know they have been monitoring the intarwebtubes for child porn and anything else they can find. To hear someone say they are having trouble presenting information from the Internet is like saying NASCAR mechanics just found out ways to cheat using fuel additives.

Seriously, nobody here believes this bs do they?

Re:Holy wiki batman... is it just me or..... (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019073)

The government is not as omnipotent as you think due to policies that make little sense. US Intelligence comes in for a lot of criticism due to a lot of it being done by people that fly in and out, don't even speak the language, and get everything from some form of remote sensing that removes context or tip offs from petty criminals which removes context. The British method was to have people living in the place for years that spoke the language and were completly loyal instead of a temporary bribe.

The major problem with US Intelligence from what we can see on the outside is the incredibly large number of unskilled political appointees and the ridiculous amount of petty infighting. They also took the fall for outright fabrication of intelligence that made the USA a laughing stock at the United Nations. I would not be suprised if most of the competant people left in disgust after that.

Re:Holy wiki batman... is it just me or..... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019227)

Most of the competent people were fired by Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, that meant that only the incompetent political hacks were left. It will take the rest of my lifetime for that to be fixed.

Re:Holy wiki batman... is it just me or..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25021075)

Most of the competent people were fired by Jimmy Carter. Unfortunately, that meant that only the incompetent political hacks were left. It will take the rest of my lifetime for that to be fixed.

This person actually knows what he or she is talking about.

Fellow Anonymous Coward, please replace my boss.

It's classified! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019021)

The advantage of using "classified" sources is that when your report suggests to do political action X, and opponents of that action ask you what's your basis for argumentation, you can say "highly reliable sources which you can't peer review or challenge because they are classified".

Re:It's classified! (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023083)

Err... We are talking about a situation in which the person they are reporting to has as high a clearance or greater a security clearance as the person giving the report. There is no confidential in this situation except when it is released to people of lower security clearance.

"Open Source" Intelligence can be an issue as well (1)

Chayak (925733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019025)

We all know not everything you read on the internet is true, shocking I know. Things like this cause issues when some individual reads something on a blog and then cuts and pastes the contents of said blog into a classified report without confirming the information within or finding multiple independent sources. That said report then causes a snowball effect that has people crying wolf and running around and gives the actual skilled analysts problems as they're now fighting an uphill battle with their well researched multisource information supported by classified sources because the first report said differently. Just because it's a classified report doesn't mean the information inside isn't bullshit if the single source is bullshit.

Re:"Open Source" Intelligence can be an issue as w (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022533)

Things like this cause issues when some individual reads something on a blog and then cuts and pastes the contents of said blog into a classified report without confirming the information within or finding multiple independent sources. That said report then causes a snowball effect that has people crying wolf and running around and gives the actual skilled analysts problems

Things like this cause issues when some individual reads something in a minor journal of Middle Eastern affairs and then cuts and pastes the contents of said paper into a classified report, pausing to make a few edits like changing 'aiding opposition groups' to 'supporting terrorist organisations'. That said report then causes a snowball effect that has people crying wolf about weapons of mass destruction and starts a war.

No new news (4, Interesting)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019067)

This is not news. Intelligence gathering has been from two types of operations. Covert is the stuff spy movies are made of with wire taps, break-ins, etc. Less glamorous is the overt gathering of info which is still a huge part of any intelligence operation. This is classic observation of publicly exposed information. Overt intelligence is still kept under wraps as it is not a good idea to reveal just what you are looking for.

Overt intelligence includes reading local newspapers, picking up over the air radio traffic, including encrypted (who and how much traffic is important even without breaking the code) and simply watching train, ship, truck traffic. A train load of military vehicles doesn't need covert operations to notice. The fact you noticed is often classified. A fishing boat using lots of encrypted radio traffic is of interest for example, but watching ports and keeping track of where it visits is an overt operation, but what is found out is kept under wraps from the public for good reason.

Watching train watchers, and other sets of eyes online is the only new angle in addition to picking up local newspapers and watching trains arrive and leave. It saves on manpower and may pick up something of interest.

Understanding what happened to the nuclear core of the Trogan Nuclear plant does not require covert ops to know the core was loaded on a boat and shipped up the Columbia River. If it headed out to sea instead, it would have been noticed without covert ops.

Re:No new news (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021361)

>Less glamorous is the overt gathering of info which is still a huge part of any intelligence operation.

So IOW they get billions to google Bin Laden?

Re:No new news (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021839)

I'd only say, supporting your view that the objective of any intelligence agency or military is (paraphrasing) "To Protect and Serve". Whatever means are used to accomplish this, I don't really care as long as it truly helps the mission even if the information is public and not guarded at all. I've the impression that this has been the case all along. Analysis depends on understanding politics, geography, biology, chemistry, economics, math, yada yada. Are they going to re-write everything just to make it sound all fany? No. But they do hire experts in their own fields. They're going to use valued and trusted textbooks. They don't need to re-invent the wheel just to make it covert or classified.

That explains it (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019087)

Now we know why the CIA etc has been so often completely off base -- they've been getting their information from Slashdot!

Re:That explains it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25021405)

It's all my doing. I, Anonymous Coward have been misleading them for years with useless, false, and out of date information as part of a masterfully executed campaign of disinformation. It is all part of my grand design I tell you! Soon I will control the entire world unless I am paid a ransom of....ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Re:That explains it (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25023113)

If it were 1,000,411.18 USD then I'd believe you were the real Brain.

What are we going to do tomorrow night?

Protect our secrets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25019553)

I propose that we vandalize Wikipedia in the interest of National Security! We must prevent other nations from gathering any useful information from Wikipedia!

Blame Wikipedia! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019643)

So now the truth comes out - some anti-iraq cheerleader edited the wikipedia article on Iraq to say that Hussein had massive amounts of WMDs and the spy agencies plagiarized wikipedia and with no actual agents in iraq they just took it at face value.

Upon further investigation it seems the the IP address of the edit that put those claims of WMD in the article on iraq is the same as the one for the Project for the New American Century. [newamericancentury.org]

Re:Blame Wikipedia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020165)

I'm not sure what to make of this [encycloped...matica.com] The real deal? Bunch of bored teenagers' junk? Bit of both?

That's their excuse (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019685)

"Er, um, yeah, boss."

"I had to check out that Goatse site for possible terrorist activity. You don't want then sneaking up behind us when we're not looking. Do you?"

public domain? (0)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 5 years ago | (#25019751)

What makes them think that material from Wikipedia and NPR is in the public domain?

Re:public domain? (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020493)

What makes them think that material from Wikipedia and NPR is in the public domain?

Don't be daft.
"Public domain" does not only mean "no longer under copyright".

When intelligence agencies say "public domain" they mean "not-private" or "not confidential".

Re:public domain? (1)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021257)

"Public domain" does not only mean "no longer under copyright".

When intelligence agencies say "public domain" they mean "not-private" or "not confidential".

... or "stuff we don't have to kill someone to get at."

China's interest in manipulating the public domain (3, Insightful)

PhoenixHack (1032194) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020253)

I hardly find it surprising the senior officer wanted a second opinion to "news" derived from the official spin put out by Chinese government officials.

Horrendously dangerous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25020405)

This is horrendously dangerous. There's enough falsehood and urban legendry creeping through wikipedia and the like. Respectable mainstream news sources go through rigorous fact-checking, Wikipedia lacks NPOV on too many vital articles and the editor who gets the last word in the edit war is usally the one who gets to decide the outcome.

Its called open sources (2, Informative)

fishtop records (910593) | more than 5 years ago | (#25020407)

The spools have always used open sources (newspapers, radio stories, etc.) to agument their clandestine information. They have been doing this at least since WW2, and probably since the Romans.

No news here, move along.

DUH! (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021013)

And yet, if there wasn't some classified information cited in my report, the boss would never believe it was accurate.'

DUH!

That's what separates you, backed by billions of dollars and the latest, greatest, technology, from me sitting in my boxers pounding snacks and hammering google!

Does this even require common sense? I think this shows a severe deficiency in the intelligence community. If they're using wikipedia and other websites as sources, then why do they need billions of dollars a year to do their jobs? The CIA is supposed to gather information from human sources, which they're supposed to cultivate through interaction. I'm sorry, but gathering intelligence on wikipedia is fucking weak. That's not intelligence. It's what everyone already knows.

Re:DUH! (3, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021465)

That's not intelligence. It's what everyone already knows.

Obviously you have never worked in the intelligence business. The public domain is the first source of information for any intelligence agency and it generally contains a lot of useful information. As you yourself have said, a great deal of information can be gleaned using basic search techniques, cross-checking, and comparison of publicly available sources and it is relatively cheap too. So before you devote time, money, and resources to developing more information on a particular subject by non-public means, wouldn't you want to devote some time to reading Google news and checking basic facts with a few well placed queries? At the very least it would help you to decide what cases merit the time and effort of a more thorough investigation. Even the most powerful and pervasive intelligence gathering agencies do not have unlimited resources after all.

Pretty much all the news and daily info i need: (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021423)

NPR, BBC, PRI, APM, MC Lehrer Ndws Hour, TOTN, TTBOOK, Science Friday...

Using the Internet as a reliable source of info? (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#25021671)

Huh? How stupid can one get to use the Internet as a reliable source of information? As I and many others have written It it is on the Internet it must be true! [uncyclopedia.org] as a joke for many that do fact-checking over the Internet.

Those that "fact check" over the Internet become known as Uncyclopedia Brown [uncyclopedia.org] and will believe any wild far fetched conspiracy theory [uncyclopedia.org] and do political attacks on vice-presidental candidates based on fictional stuff someone wrote on a blog [youtube.com] like Sarah Palin believes that dinosaurs existed 4000 years ago and turned into oil. Not just liberals do those false rumors, the conservatives once said that Barack Obama is a Muslim [youtube.com] and that was spread all over conservative blogs.

Sorry but Wikipedia is not a reliable source of information either, Wikitruth [wikitruth.info] debunks their articles and shows a left-wing bias and corruption of admins and editors of making false or misleading information. PBS is not that much different from Wikipedia [sitnews.us] and has false and misleading information as well as management is corrupt in dealing with it.

So basically saying you use the Internet and Wikipedia and PBS to do fact checking is laughable at best. It is like trying to get accurate historical facts from Hollywood movies like "The Lord of the Rings", "Star Wars", "Forrest Gump", "Pulp Fiction", "Rambo" as the way things really were in the past based on those movies.

Sometimes Slashdot is that way, I know Ars Technicia and other sites like Kuro5hin, IWETHEY, The Daily Kos, Red State, Little Green Footballs, Conservapedia, and others are false and misleading as well and sometimes written as a troll.

You pay your money, you take your chances. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Read everything with a grain of salt and use critical thinking, logic, and check for fallacies and personal attacks before you believe anything written on the Internet.

This Old News Is Disinfo (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#25022345)

Most of "spy" work is done by intel analysts compiling all the public sources of info, and indexing them, then making connections.

Of course there's much more public info every day than the secret info even the best spies can find out. And of course all the public info must be dealt with, because otherwise anyone could have an advantage in that blind spot. So simple logic shows how there's vastly more public sources for intel services than secret info.

This basic fact has been known to anyone serious with any interest for a long time. This story is obviously disinformation.

But such a disinfo story is no great feat for our huge, $50B+ annual spy budgets. What it really shows is that even after (pretending to) cover a global Terror War for most of a decade, our journalists will still just publish whatever claptrap the spooks tell them, without bothering to even think about it.

Or to look at the many public sources of info that say this story is the oldest news. So how much of their stories about secret info are even more made up?

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