[Air-l] back to 1984

Sam Tilden tildensam at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 5 10:27:48 PDT 2006

Et Al,
  This is not a new phenomena. The NSA, CIA , Defense Intelligence, State Department Intelligence agencies and the bulk of the world intellengence organizations have been examining written documents (books, newspapers, news broadcasts, and scholarly papers) for decades. In fact there is a  60s movie on the subject starring a young Robert Redford called the "Day of the Condor"
  As a recent graduate and a Marine officer I was an analyst for the CIA decades ago.
  I also agree with the sentiments of Alex.

Alex Halavais <halavais at gmail.com> wrote:
  I seem to be missing something here. Of all of the things a government
could do that would be objectionable, using tools to aggregate and
help analyze open source intelligence surely cannot be that evil. I
presume that you don't object to governments reading what others have
to say about them--this isn't "mind reading," it's "reading." And
while analysis of texts certainly requires interpretation by the
researcher, I see no particular reason to believe that making use of
computer tools to assist in that analysis would necessitate poorer
interpretation. I seem to recall a discussion at some point that spoke
in fairly positive terms about nVivo, another tool used in open source

If you are worried that poorly thought out actions may result from
good intelligence, that is another issue. It seems that there is a
significant breakdown in the process of communicating intelligence
analysis. But I think that comparisons to the Total Information
Awareness project are extraordinarily counterproductive. I think
making use published, open material is an important line of defense
for any nation or police force. It is only a "thought crime" if the
writers are persecuted for stating it. Otherwise, it's called
"listening." Indeed, I see no reason they should limit their analysis
to foreign newspapers.

Sure, I would love it if they would open up their analysis for public
consumption. But besides the closed nature of the results, is there
any reason that this should be different from text analysis systems
being used to help people keep up on the web today. For example:

Google News: http://news.google.com/news
Google Zeitgeist: http://www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html
Technorati: http://www.technorati.com/pop/news/
Blogpulse: http://www.blogpulse.com/
Global Attention Profiles: http://h2odev.law.harvard.edu/ezuckerman
We Feel Fine: http://wefeelfine.org/

Not to mention the dozens of products designed to map texts (e.g,

I'm not convinced that providing tools for a government to better
understand public discourse is automatically a bad thing.


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// Alexander C. Halavais
// Social Architect
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