Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reader Comment 07-25-10 Open Source Intel

While I try to keep a pretty close eye on what DHS is doing, it is a very big organization and I probably don’t see but a very small fraction of what gets posted on their web site. Fortunately, I am not the only one watching DHS. An anonymous reader recently posted a comment to an earlier posting of mine; not a comment on the posting, but pointing me at an interesting new DHS document posted on the web. The document is a Privacy Impact Assessment for a new program being conducted by the National Operations Center called the Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative.

To explain this program I need to go back to my past and tell a war story (‘war story’ - a mostly true personal story about a military operation not necessarily involving combat). Back in March of 1981 I was working out of an office in the G-3 Operations Office in the Berlin Brigade. When President Reagan was shot the Commanding General’s secretary heard the news before the CG did because she was watching her soap operas and AFN-TV broke into the broad cast with a breaking news bulletin. The official message didn’t get to the CG until a couple of hours later. From that day forward the CG required us to have a TV on in the Emergency Operations Center so that the duty NCO/Officer could provide immediate information from that information source.

I’m sure that that wasn’t the first time that a news organization was the source of operational information to elements of the Executive Branch. It certainly wasn’t the last. In fact with more and more electronic communications bypassing the traditional means of distributing information on news stories, I’m sure that there are a number of organizations that are monitoring news casts, web sites, and any number of different Web 2.0 social communications sites to get access to timely open source information. The PASMMSAI (someone has got to come up with a better name/acronym for this) program described in this document is the version being implemented at the DHS National Operations Center.

Blog Listings

 The reason that my anonymous reader pointed me at the document can be found at the top of page 14 (the third page of a little more than five pages of sites being monitored). There can be found the name and URL of this blog. I am now an official, unclassified, and, unfortunately, unpaid intelligence source for DHS. I join a distinguished company that includes ABC News Blotter, Global Security Newswire, Stratfor, and Wikileaks. The NOC was even so kind as to include a listing of the keywords that they would typically be expected to use to search my blog (and all of the others) to help them “provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture” (pg 17).

If I was writing a search engine optimized blog I would certainly make sure that I would be careful to use as many of the words in their list as possible as many times as possible. For readers posting comments to this blog you can rest assured that DHS is committed to redacting any personal identifying information (PII) from your comments before they include abstracts from those comments in any intelligence report prepared and disseminated from this office. I can see now that my ongoing campaign to get commentors not to use the nome de guerre ‘Anonymous’ is in serious jeopardy.

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