Tuesday, March 10, 2009

List Of 300 Alleged Iranian Intelligence Officers (Necenzurirano.com via Opensourcesinfo.org)

Open Source Info has recently published a translated (and abbreviated) version of an article by a Croatian blogger/journalist writing at Necenzurirano.com which purports to "out" 300 Iranian intelligence agents who received visas from the Bosnian embassy in Tehran to travel to Bosnia.

What makes the article particularly interesting is that it makes the list of 300 "agents" publicly available for download (the good people at Open Source Info have also uploaded the file to EmbedIt so you can view the 21 page document online). The screenshot below gives you a feel for what the document actually looks like. It is a real eye chart which is why I strongly recommend you download it or view the EmbedIt file if you are interested in actually being able to see the content.

With apologies to my Serbian and Croatian teachers, the first column appears to be some sort of internal tracking number, the second column is the name of the person, the third column is the date of birth, the fourth column is the place of birth and the fifth column is the country of birth. The sixth column is a "PI" number -- maybe a passport number -- and the seventh column is the "agreement number" (whatever that means, though it may be date related). Column 8 is the type of visa issued while column 9 is the dates the visa is valid from and to. The final column is the place the person either entered or intended to enter into Bosnia (the context is unclear to me).

The source of this data is un-named (of course) but the author implies that the source knew that the people listed in this document are agents travelling, the author claims, as "athletes, scientists, writers, [and] cultural workers."

My own experience with the press in the Balkans suggests that this is either spectacularly right or spectacularly wrong -- with special emphasis on the word "spectacle". Sometimes the stuff that comes out of southeast Europe makes the Weekly World News sound tame. At the same time, Iran and Bosnia share a complicated history dating back, at least, to the Balkan Wars of the 1990's.

From my perspective, it is a good case study in the strengths and weaknesses of open sources. Such a document would never have had such a wide dissemination without the internet but the mere fact that it is on the internet has to give one serious pause as to its authenticity.

As an interesting side experiment, I decided to use Dax Norman's work on evaluating the credibility of a website to see what a more objective analysis might come up with. I was very conservative in my scoring and the site scored as one with low credibility. Had I been even a bit more liberal with my scoring, it would have come in at the medium level. I recommend the experiment to anyone who is interested. You can find the tools to do it and the research to back it up on Dax's website.

1 comment:

Suki Fuller said...

Kris - You are truly fabulous. This is great and how very funny since, I am in the middle of reading Dax's thesis.