Friday, September 26, 2008

Evaluating HUMINT Source Reliability (McGill Research Blog)

Prof. Will McGill points to a recent paper in Law, Probability and Risk on assessing the competence of human sources. The authors of the journal article, David Schum and Jon Morris (of George Mason University and the CIA, respectively), argue that there are four major categories of questions one should ask to determine the reliability of a human source. According to Will's excellent summary of the article, the fours big categories are:

  • Competence (or is the source qualified to the provide information?)
  • Veracity (or does the source believe what he/she is saying?)
  • Objectivity (or was the source’s belief based on the evidence obtained by the source?)
  • Observational Sensitivity (or how good was the evidence obtained by the source?)
Underneath each of the main categories there are a variety of different questions that should be asked to determine the overall evaluation for each category. Will breaks these down as well in his blog post.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Abu Sayyaf Counterterror Model Unlikely To Work Globally (ISN)

Mercyhurst alum and freelance intel analyst (a job she is pretty much inventing), Diane Chido, has an interesting article on ISN today regarding the prospects for using the so-called Abu Sayyaf model of combatting terrorism to other parts of the globe. Diane is not sanguine: "Abu Sayyaf has been contained thru anti-terrorist measures as part of the war on terror, but this is due to several factors unique to this group – factors that do not make this process a model for successful application in other regions." Read the entire article here.

Related Posts:
Chinese Repression Of The Uighurs

What Kind Of Intelligence Job Are You Looking For? (Poll)

In addition to this blog, I also manage (with significant help from one of our work-study students -- Thanks, Aleksandra!) several sites on Squidoo. If you are not familiar with Squidoo, it is an easy, web-based tool for pulling together data that resides in various places on the internet into a more or less coherent package on a specific topic.

Several years ago, I put together a "lens" on intelligence jobs, internships and job hunting tips. I did this because students were routinely asking me for advice and I was routinely giving out the same answers, so such a one-stop shop made sense to me.

One of the things I posted to the lens (almost as an afterthought) was a poll asking "What kind of intelligence job are you looking for?" I don't check the site very often but was surprised to see today that some 383 people had answered the question. You can see the results below:

A couple of thoughts jump to mind. The first is that these results track very closely to the kinds of jobs our seniors and second year grad students actually get. Virtually everyone who comes into the intelligence studies program at Mercyhurst has dreams of working for the CIA or FBI. This changes over time, however. The exposure to some of the alternatives (through coursework and internships) encourages many of the students to look beyond these two agencies and at some of the interesting alternatives offered by businesses, law enforcement organizations and other intel agencies. In the end, about 60-70% of any given class goes to work for a government intel agency (or a contractor that supports such an agency) and the rest go to work in law enforcement agencies (other than the FBI) or in business or competitive intelligence -- tracking very closely the results of the poll.

My other thought concerns the consequences that this poll might have for intel studies curriculum decisions. While I suspect that most of the respondents to this poll are related to Mercyhurst somehow, the site is available for anyone to find and I have received a number of comments about the site from non-Mercyhurst students. To the extent that this poll represents a random sample, then, there would appear to be a significant demand for business and law enforcement intelligence coursework and programs. We have always taught all three "branches" of intel here because we think there are synergies between them (e.g methods in one area that translate nicely into another area). Another reason, which this poll suggests is equally valid, is that intelligence studies programs should teach all three branches because students want education and seek jobs in all three areas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"It's The Filter, Stupid!" And Other Links Of Interest (Link List)

Too many fascinating things crossing my desk today...

Lifehacker is carrying a video (see below) of Clay Shirky's brilliant speech at the recent Web 2.0 Expo in New York on information overload and filtering. I know, I know; it sounds like it is about as much fun as exploratory surgery, but once you start to watch I think you will be (as I was) riveted. Shirky puts an entirely different spin on information overload and then makes a compelling case for his point of view. It made me look at the issue from an entirely different perspective.

The "filtering problem" that Shirky discusses is about to get bigger if Technorati's 2008 The State Of The Blog report is any indication (Check out the graphic below -- click on it to go to the report). They will be releasing it in bits and pieces. So far they have put out the Intro and their section on "Who Are The Bloggers?" The answers will surprise you, I suspect, as the blogosphere continues to not only grow in terms of numbers but also to broaden in terms of appeal.

One of the possible solutions to filtering is known as the "semantic web", where the computer and user can understand each other in more natural terms. Thomson Reuters has just released its semantic application, Calais, into the wild to see what people do with it (Thanks, Krishna!). See the promo video below:

The Institute For The Future (wouldn't you love to work there?) is putting together its own what-could-be-called filtering solution in the form of a predictive game called "Superstruct". The game doesn't go online until 6 OCT 2008 but it looks a good bit like Impact Game's "Play The News" which I think is a fantastic (and sometimes humbling) learning tool. The video below gives you some idea of the type of scenario they will be examining but you really need to go to the site to get the details