The ODNI's Open Source Innovation Challenge set off a brief wave of excitement here at Mercyhurst late last week. There were a lot of pumped up students ready to take on the two challenge questions (Really -- they live for this kind of thing). Then everyone realized that you had to have a registered conference attendee on the team to submit an entry and registration was already closed...
The students set up one team anyway (under the sponsorship of Bob Heibel, our only registered attendee) and have been hard at work on their submission since then. Realizing that there was a ton more good open source info out there than they could possibly get at in a week, and taking full advantage of the rule that sets no size for the teams, the students have adopted an "innovative" approach to the problem: crowdsourcing.
They have asked me to help them get the word out that they are looking for anyone with anything relevant to the Al Qaeda challenge question: "Using the best open sources to inform your answer, is Al Qaeda a cohesive organization with strong and centralized control, intent and direction?"
You can send any info you think might be relevant to firstname.lastname@example.org, their group account, but they need the info ASAP as they have to submit their final report by 5 SEP 08.
Specifically, they are looking for reliable open source information from any source (academic studies, think tank reports, social network analyses, first hand observation, whatever...) that is relevant to the question of AQ and the level of centralization in its command and control. They have a few specific collection requests as well for anyone out there who might have something or know of something:
- Instances of documented conflict between Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and other al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups.
- Instances where ties with Bin Laden’s al Qaeda existed but terrorist groups were documented as autonomous and conducted independent acts of terrorism.
- Instances of terrorist groups taking Bin Laden’s al Qaeda propaganda techniques and adopting them for their own purposes.
- Instances of self radicalized terrorists forming independent self generated terrorist groups (other than the London and Madrid bombers).
- Instances of groups that had sworn their allegiance to Bin Laden’s al Qaeda shifting to pursuing their own agendas that may have even run contrary to the wishes or mission statement supported by Bin Laden and al Zawahiri.
- Links to quantitative lists of attacks by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups/splinter groups etc.
- Differences in standard operating methods and tactics between Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and splinter groups.
Win or lose, they have also agreed to let me post their final product here on SAM when the results are in, so stay tuned...