[ISN] Commentary: Bulletin board for terrorists

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Apr 18 06:06:35 EDT 2005


By Arnaud de Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
April 18, 2005 

Washington, DC, Apr. 15 (UPI) -- The 15 intelligence agencies that
John Negroponte, President Bush's nominee for national intelligence
director, will oversee employ just under 100,000 people. Most turn
their noses up at anything that isn't stamped with a secret
classification, preferably "TOP SECRET." Tongue-only-half-in-cheek,
one veteran intelligence analyst conceded, "I'm not interested in
anything unless I know it's been stolen."

But there is now a recently discovered open source gold mine with rich
nuggets the intelligence community still hasn't figured out how to
exploit. At the beginning of the year, the exploding blogosphere was
estimated to contain about 10 million weblogs, or online journals.  
Last week, according to National Security Agency and Defense
Information Agency experts, there were more than 180 million blogs all
over the world. The bloggers are frustrated would-be editors,
journalists, private detectives and a multitude of others craving
recognition for their special knowledge in a wide variety of subjects
and specialties. A blog and an attitude are the only requirements to
become an instant pundit with a worldwide audience.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, prodded by the NSA, is
now trying to figure out how to vacuum clean these electronic-bulletin
boards for coded messages in seemingly innocuous phrases. Blogs would
greatly facilitate the coordination of terrorist acts at the same time
in different parts of the world. The cyber Hoover would be a super
google.com that already processes information with giant databases and
super computers capable of several trillion operations per second.  
(One trillion seconds ago was 29,000 years before Jesus Christ.)

Dan Gillmore in his book, "We the media," argues bloggers are the
direct descendants of revolutionary pamphleteers, such as Tom Paine,
spreading dissent, holding those in authority accountable and
encouraging citizens to participate in a newly emerging public sphere,
or global village.

Bloggers relentlessly hounded three media stars and eventually knocked
them off their lofty perches while the mainstream media was panting
for breath trying to catch up. The powerful executive editor of the
influential New York Times was the first to bite the dust for ignoring
a wayward black reporter who had been faking exclusive stories. Next
"blogged" was Dan Rather over the veracity of documents on which CBS
had based a story on Bush's service in the National Guard. Rather
stepped down early from his evening anchor chair, but still managed to
salvage his berth at "60 Minutes II." Three others took the fall

CNN's top news honcho Eason Jordan was next to crash. Liberal
orthodoxy took it on the chin. But this was not a victory for
conservatives. It simply telegraphed bloggers would hit whenever and
wherever they spotted dishonesty and hypocrisy. Conventional wisdom is
now the target.

MSM -- shorthand for mainstream media -- was taken by surprise. Its
agenda-setting power was going the way of the dodo. Bloggers build
their own agendas, brick by brick, reinforcing one another with cyber
pats on the back. Important tidbits exchanged by two Washington
insiders on the shuttle between Washington and New York and overheard
by a blogger will span the globe faster than conventional e-mail.

Last summer, both the Republican and Democratic conventions accredited
bloggers alongside MSM. The blogosphere had come of age.

But no one foresaw where it would take us a few months later. When
anyone who's anyone in Washington goes out to dinner, he/she must
decide what part of his/her life is on or off the record.

Blogger monitors say the lines between public events and ordinary
social interactions are being erased, changing the way we do
everything, from dating to working, and just plain living.  
Futurologists can see the emergence of global participatory democracy
that will force national politicians to make the environment a
priority for global governance. Think tanks are studying models of
global governance for global heath problems -- and the bloggers are
forcing these issues out in the open.

Reporters Without Borders, the journalistic watchdog group, argues
this new form of blogging journalism is the ultimate in freedom of
expression. The World Editors Forum is more circumspect. It advocates
a barrier between MSM and blog publishers with a code of ethic for the
bloggers. The Blogger Social Media Group fires back by arguing a blog
is not a one-to-many relationship, but a many-to-many medium.

Bloggers say they are a collective intelligence, which is preferable
to a single reporter and his or her editor. The MSM process is opaque
and oblique, say the bloggers, whereas "ours is the ultimate in
transparency." Bloggers also compare their cyber product to market
research information. "The bloggers act as fact checkers and we always
need fact checkers," says Bertrand Pecquerie of World Editors Forum.

Some major corporations have started company blogs. Trouble there is
disgruntled employees can add embarrassing bullets at the drop of an
altercation with a supervisor.

Whatever the arguments, the majority (52 percent) of a general public
survey said bloggers should have the same rights as traditional
journalists, while 27 percent had no opinion. Newspapers are losing
circulation and advertising to the blogosphere. Instapundit.com ramped
up to 100 million pages to become the second most-cited blogger on
technorati in a few weeks.

Technorati alone logs about 40,000 new blogs a day. The number doubles
every five months. South Korea, a country of 50 million, already has
12 million bloggers.

The average Internet user is now spending three hours a day on line --
and 1-1/2 hours watching television. That's 4-½ hours a day! Blogs are
bound to increase the daily average. Sex is still the favorite topic
for online journals. The very private has never been more public, said
one wag.

More information about the ISN mailing list