Saturday, February 23, 2008

HUMINT: Counting Cash As A "Tell" (Metacafe via Asterpix)

A very interesting video came out a couple of weeks ago that purports to show how different regions of the world count cash. I wasn't sure if the info in the video was correct or not so I went on a bit of a snipe hunt to see if I could find still images of people in various parts of the world counting cash so I could confirm the assertions made in the video. Generally, the assertions appear correct (although there were some exceptions). You can see the video below and my comments after it.

(Note: I have taken this opportunity to also highlight another new service I found, called Asterpix. Asterpix allows you to take virtually any video on the web and annotate it. As you watch this video you will notice rectangular shaped boxes flashing weakly on top of the video. If you mouse over the box, you will freeze the action and you can read my notes and even go to the sources I found that I think confirm or deny the accuracy of the video. I found Asterpix to be drop dead easy (though I wish they had some sort of a bookmarking feature so you could easily go back to a place in the video you wanted to mark). Like, this is a production tool well worth knowing about).

It occurred to me while watching this video that the way a person counts cash could act as a "tell". In poker, a "tell" is a predictable but unconscious pattern of behavior that signals the strength of one's hand. For example, if you tapped your fingers every time you had a good hand without knowing that you did it, that would be a tell.

Perhaps counting cash is similar. While this video has been out there for some time, so I am sure the sophisticated operators are already planning on how to use this info to signal that are someone they aren't, there may be a number of places (on patrol in a marketplace, for example?) where it would be possible to use this kind of info to gain additional insight into the people around you or with which you are dealing. It is very interesting to me, for example, that the way Iranians and Iraqs count cash are, according to the video, very different. Perhaps this is something that the Army's Human Terrain Teams could confirm or deny...

Likewise, if anyone knows if any of the info in the video is true or false for a particular country, please leave a comment.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Effectively Deploying US Peacekeeping Forces, The Transformation Of Southeastern Europe And A New Strategy For Middle East Peace (

A few more from Fora:

Effective Deployments of US Peacekeeping Forces

Stephen Hadley offers the examples of Liberia and Sierra Leone as effective deployments of U.S. peacekeeping forces.
Program and discussion:

The Transformation of Southeastern Europe
The Transformation of Southeastern Europe: A Challenge for Smart Power with Dora Bakoyannis.
Program and discussion:

A New Strategy for Middle East Peace
Daniel Levy, President of Prospects for Peace, explains that Israel’s main strategies for peace have been unsuccessful and achieving peace in the Middle East will require a comprehensive agreement between the entire region – including Iran.
Program and discussion:

Must See TV On Recent NIEs, Intel Processes (

DDNI for Analysis, Thomas Fingar, in a 14 February speech in front of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, talks in detail about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq WMDs, the recent Iran Nuclear Capabilities and Intentions NIE and reform efforts in the intelligence community. While Dr. Fingar's pacing and rhetorical style takes a little bit of time to get used to, I consider it must see TV for any Intel Studies students.

A few of my favorite quotes and factoids:

Washington is a "political theme park surrounded by reality".

The current officials in the intel community have an opportunity to do what "42 studies and commissions failed to accomplish".

"The best way to get more money and more people is to screw up."

"We are dealing in a realm that can be likened to a thousand piece puzzle. You've got eight pieces and someone lost the box top with the picture."

"...the goal is not to make us smarter but to make policy better..."

"...roughly 55% of the community" has joined since 9/11.

The Iraq WMD estimate was like "having your yearbook photo taken on your worst bad hair day ever."

"We need to move beyond a federation of agencies coming together, to build a community of analysts. Analysts who don't pay any attention to the agency lanyard around their neck, that engage and mix it up."

"...I had learned long ago in Washington that there are only two possibilities. There are policy successes and intelligence failures."

On the Iran NIE: "...there were in excess of 100 people who worked on it..."

On the Iran NIE: "No need to deal with the substance of the product if you can have an ad hominem attack that discredits the product."

Intelligence Priorities: Terrorism, counterproliferation, cyberthreat, Iran, instability, military modernization of Russia and China

"Reputations matter" and then later, "We want people to have the equivalent of an EBay reputation."

"We're right most of the time...and that bothers me. Not because I don't like being right but because I think we ask too many easy questions."

The first two clips are excerpts on the Iraq WMD Estimate and the Iran Estimate. The third link is to the full speech and Q and A.

Flaws In the Iraq WMD Estimate

Iran's Nuclear National Intelligence Estimate

Intelligence Reform and the Iran NIE

Health And Future Of The US Military (CNAS And FP)

The Center For New American Security and Foreign Policy Magazine have put together an article and an index on the state of the US military. You can see the article here and download the questions and answers here. The article and index are based on the answers 3400 active and retired officers gave to a series of questions about the health and readiness of the US military.

Some highlights include (Boldface and comments are mine):

Would you say that the U.S. military today is stronger, weaker, or about the same as it was five years ago?
25% Stronger
60% Weaker
15% About the same

“The demands of the war in Iraq have broken the U.S. military."
8% Strongly Agree
33% Somewhat Agree
23% Somewhat Disagree
33% Strongly Disagree
2% Don’t know

“The demands of the war in Iraq have stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin."
52% Strongly Agree
36% Somewhat Agree
7% Somewhat Disagree
3% Strongly Disagree
0.4% Don’t know

Which country do you feel has gained the greatest strategic advantage from the war in Iraq?
19% United States
37% Iran
3% Iraq
22% China
13% Russia
4% Other, please specify

How well informed do you believe the United States’ elected leaders are about the U.S. military today?
5% Very informed
27% Somewhat informed
33% Somewhat uninformed
33% Very uninformed
1% Don’t know

Below is a list of things that could potentially assist the U.S. military in winning the Global War on Terror. Please choose the TWO most important things you believe the United States government must do to win the war on terror.
31% More robust diplomatic tools
73% Improve intelligence (Comment: Interesting that this is the single highest rated item by quite a large margin)
21% Increase the size of U.S. ground forces
19% Increase the number of troops with foreign language skills
38% Further increase the size of Special Operations Forces
13% Develop a cadre of operational, deployable civilian experts
14% Increase spending on economic development assistance programs

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

France Spying On The Brits? Quel Surprise! (Daily Mail)

According to the Daily Mail, a Tory Member of Parliament, Patrick Mercer, is claiming that he has been told by "senior security sources" that the French placed bugs in the office of a former Defense Procurement Minister, Lord Paul Drayson (Thanks, Justin!). Drayson resigned from his position, apparently unexpectedly, in November, 2007.

Whatever the truth of the story, the idea that the French are engaged in economic espionage is old news. I had a group of students look at CI threats to the US a few years ago (as part of a class project) and one of the threats they identified was from the French. According to one article they found (sorry, no hyperlink but the citation is: Blood, Christopher G., Holding Foreign Nations Civilly Accountable For Their Economic Espionage Practice, IDEA: The Journal of Law And Technology, VOL 42. No. 2, p. 231), the French bugged their business class seats in Air France flights in the early 70's. National Defense Magazine (a publication of the National Defense Industrial Association) cited a Public Administration Review article claiming that France was a "major offender" when it came to economic espionage.

The National Counterintelligence Executive used to publish annual reports to Congress on Foreign Economic and Industrial Espionage. The last available one, unfortunately, is from 2005 (download full text here) and it contains little about French activities (perhaps because there were none...). The most interesting chart in the context of the current story is the one on display below which shows that the French get fairly routine access to DOD facilities and to military industry in the US but are certainly not the only ones.

118 Days, On Average, To Get Clearance (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday (Thanks, Victoria!) that the average time it took to get a clearance had increased from 106 days last year to 118 days this year but that plans were in the making to shave 44 days from the process by the end of next year. The article also indicated that Pentagon employees receive their clearances in and average of 104 days while outside contractors take 151 days to complete.

DNI Mike McConnell has been complaining about the delays in processing security clearances since before he was the DNI and began his tenure as DNI with calls for reform in the process. In fact, modernizing the security clearance process is a core initiative of the DNI's 500 Day Plan. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (which the 500 Day Plan adopts as its metric) calls for the community to have 80% of its clearances complete within 120 days. The DNI has to be concerned that the trend is moving in the wrong direction and that there are still substantial, identifiable groups where the time frame is well outside the 120 day window (For a recent GAO report on progress in security clearance reform, click here).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Background Papers On Sunni Vs. Shiite, Wahhabism And Salafiyya, And Madrasas (CRS)

The Congressional Research Service has just produced a trifecta of excellent background papers on Islam (hosted by the Federation Of American Scientists via Docuticker). The first provides a very comprehensive look (in just six pages) at the differences and similarities between Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam (Download full text here) and includes the nifty map displayed below (at a much better resolution).

The second, by the same author, Christopher Blanchard, and also weighing in at just six pages, talks about the "The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya" (Download full text here). As with all CRS reports, it also clearly lays out why the topic is important to US decisionmakers.

Finally, Blanchard writes another informative six page backgrounder on Islamic religious schools, madrasas (Download full text here). The section on the current state of the madrasas is probably the most interesting. Coupled with the recent broadcast on the same issue, it is possible to come away with a much better understanding of the role and issues surrounding the madrasas in a fairly short period of time.