Sunday, August 31, 2008

Puttin' The Open Into Open Source: MCIIS Innovation Challenge Team Looking To Do Some Collaborating!

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, 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:

  1. Instances of documented conflict between Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and other al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist groups.
  2. Instances where ties with Bin Laden’s al Qaeda existed but terrorist groups were documented as autonomous and conducted independent acts of terrorism.
  3. Instances of terrorist groups taking Bin Laden’s al Qaeda propaganda techniques and adopting them for their own purposes.
  4. Instances of self radicalized terrorists forming independent self generated terrorist groups (other than the London and Madrid bombers).
  5. 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.
  6. Links to quantitative lists of attacks by al-Qaeda and affiliated groups/splinter groups etc.
  7. Differences in standard operating methods and tactics between Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and splinter groups.
Many readers of this blog are already working on their own entries, I know, but if you are one of those people who got closed out of registration or aren't going to get to go to the conference for other reasons, you can still play by helping the students out (they will give full credit to everyone that submits something). If you can't help but you know someone who can, don't hesitate to refer them to this post.

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...


Jay@Soob said...

Damn. Interesting question and bit of thought.

In terms of their physical ability to coalesce and form a command and control environment I'd say it's dicey at best. AQ's history is replete with nation state fostering turned bad. Consider Sudan or better yet the Taliban's Afghanistan, who's leadership generally found bin Laden a distasteful sort that was as likely to bring the wrath of the western world down upon them as anything else. From what I've read it was only through the insistence of Mullah Omar that AQ held their command in Afghanistan. And, lo and behold the worries of his ministry came to be after the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban regime was smashed from power.

Of course there is the matter of eastern Pakistan, it's "lawless" regions and the remanifestation of Taliban resistance. Perhaps this or the horn of Africa will be the next real fountainhead for AQ given their effective defeat in Iraq.

Additionally, consider the ideological spread of AQ beyond it's own principles. The Philippines Abu Sayaff is an example, a band of effective marauder's that operate under the, shall we say, lose ideological confederation with AQ and yet not within the strict adherence of AQ's own Wahabbist agenda.

My opinion? AQ is scattered and suffering the nationalistic agenda's of it's previous allies. The Taliban, the Sunni tribes in Iraq, etc. are much more concerned with their own local political struggles to pay much heed to AQ's global jihad ideals.

Anonymous said...

Regarding instances of tension and a lack of direct control between AQ Proper and its AQ in Iraq franchise, see the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi. Zawahiri criticizes Zarqawi for his focus on attacking Iraq's Shiite population and the Shrine of Ali, tells Zarqawi to use bullets instead of beheading captives, and criticizes Zarqawi's lack of concern over AQ's public image.

Anonymous said...

Go to and check out all their resources. I've downloaded a few of their free reports on OBL and his cronies. They have a timeline of messages & attacks as well as a map of the organization. They have a lot of free based reports that I am sure are loaded with good info.

Anonymous said...

I fould this too. With the message/attack timeline, run that against CBS's internet terrorism monitor.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I am Princeton