Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Intelligence agencies monitoring blogs?

A reader emailed Rantingprofs this article about "Blog-Tracking May Gain Ground Among U.S. Intelligence Officials".

And so they should.

The privacy issue is a non starter here. Bloggs by their very nature are public and available to anyone, including foreign and domestic intelligence agencies.

Intelligence gathering uses all manner of "sensors" to gain information. From spies, satellites in orbit, mobile phone communications, email, the internet and right down to the old spy favorite - chalk marks on a tree. Since blogging is part of the internet it has always been a "source" or "sensor".

Money is a big issue in intelligence gathering. Intelligence agency budgets while huge are not nearly big enough to do the job. There are only so many "sensors" you can afford. Likewise, media organizations, whether television or press, have limited budgets. They can only afford so many reporters and cameramen. By contrast the Internet, including blogs, is a huge sensor largely paid for by the public. No matter where in the world, if something important happens and there is a blogger nearby, you can bet it will be on the net soon. As a result of budgetary constraints intelligence agencies use all available sensors to them; their own as well as others.

Validity and accuracy are other big issues facing the intelligence community. Can you trust the "source" and how accurate is the information. These are the same bogey men that have plagued the intelligence community since spying began. Disinformation has played a vital part in all wars and today is no different. One thing that is certain is that intelligence agencies does not "rely on" a single source for primary reporting. Many techniques are brought to bear on a particular problem.

Speed is also a very important factor for the intelligence community. Getting the information, analyzing it and getting it into the proper hands so the proper decisions can be made is vital. Pearl Harbor and 911 are prime examples. The internet is on 24/7 around the entire world and is cheaply available, sometimes free. This "chatter" we hear so much about used in terrorist warnings, some of that is undoubtedly from blogs.

Money, validity, accuracy and speed - the intelligence juggling act.

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