Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Russia-Georgia Conflict Brewing? (Multiple Sources)

The Russians are objecting to a series of low-scale NATO Exercises scheduled to begin in early May at an airbase outside of Tbilisi, Georgia.

Such diplomatic maneuvering would be within normal limits if it weren't for the disturbing news regarding the forward deployment of troops, tanks and artillery reported yesterday by Reuters and the sortie of the Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol reported yesterday by the armchair admirals over at the Information Dissemination blog.

Add to this the possibility of Russian funding for the protests against Georgian President Saakashvili that began last week and a worrisome pattern begins to emerge. In fact, the Jamestown Foundation puts these exact pieces together in a recent report while the Caucasus Analytic Digest claims that NATO doesn't have the stomach for a fight in Georgia.

Georgia's Foreign Minister, on the other hand, thinks nothing will happen and even decided to poke the bear a bit: "...Russia would be afraid to undertake a new military aggression against Georgia because it would be entering in confrontation with the rest of the civilized world." (Hey, buddy, are we talking about the same Russia?)


I don't have a background in this area and so am unqualified to comment on the news or the reliability of the sources. On the off-chance that this region of the world is going to heat up in the next couple of weeks, though, I thought I would put together some good open sources to help new analysts get started:

History/Future of the Conflict:
Wikipedia on the 2008 South Ossetia War. Very detailed, comprehensively sourced with a truly outstanding map.
NATO After the Georgian Conflict. A recent Polish Institute Of International Affairs Study (in English).

The Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Military:
The unofficial Black Sea Fleet Website. Good pictures, info and history.
Wikipedia on the Black Sea Fleet. Amazingly comprehensive site.
Warfare.RU. I did not spend much time on this site but I found what I did see to be pretty good stuff on the Russian military. Tons of pictures. The guys who write this site are also referenced in Google Earth through the Google Earth Community (all of the "i's" in the image of the Sevastopol navy base to the left).

News and Other General Information Sources
Information Dissemination. These guys are watching the naval part of this and will likely have some good armchair analysis if it progresses.
UN Observer Mission In Georgia. Probably the best one stop shopping place for current, detailed news in English from inside Georgia.
EU Monitoring Mission In Georgia. Not as current as the UN site but has some good maps and background data.
ReliefWeb on Georgia. ReliefWeb is a UN effort of consolidate news and info from a number of sources into a single place for NGOs. It usually has the best, most current open source maps available as well.
Reuters AlertNet. Reuters has done a good job of consolidating news and background info into a single site.
The Institute Of War And Peace Reporting, the International Crisis Group and the International Relations and Security Network. All three organizations maintain special sections on the crisis in Georgia.

Do you have another source of interest? Drop it in the comments...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lessons In HUMINT Reliability For Intelligence Professionals (Thesis)

It is that special time of year again; when theses begin to bloom! That's right, as usual, our grad students here at Mercyhurt are busily writing and defending a whole new crop of interesting theses on a variety of topics relevant to intelligence and intelligence analysis.

The first up this season is one by George P. (Pat) Noble titled, Diagnosing Distortion In Source Reporting: Lessons For HUMINT Reliability From Other Fields. Pat states, in his abstract, that his intent is to explore "how source reporting can be distorted at each stage of the human intelligence (HUMINT) process within the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) and how that distortion may impact perceptions of source reliability."

Pat takes a hard look at not only the distortions but also how practitioners in fields as diverse as journalism and medicine, jurisprudence and anthropology, correct for these issues. He pushes his analysis one step further, though, and seeks to generalize these lessons learned for the intelligence collector, analyst, editor and consumer.

Pat is an intelligence analyst for the FBI with a lengthy resume and quite a bit of experience in a variety of fields. He came to us from the FBI on a sabbatical a few years ago to get his Masters and is now back with the FBI. He says he can be found on Intellipedia and A-Space for anyone who is interested.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Following The Month-long Elections In India (Link List)

Beginning tomorrow, India is going to take a month(!) to decide the new composition of its Parliament, the Lok Sabha. 700 million voters will decide on about 500 seats in a series of elections that begin on April 16 and end on May 16, 2009.

We spend an awful lot of time in this country talking/worrying about China but for my money, the real player over the next 20 years is going to be India. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, India is definitely going to be important and watching the Indian political process unfold and estimating the future trajectory of India's policies based on the results makes a good bit of sense.

It is going to be a complex operation, though, and, in the past, these votes were marred with all sorts of bribery and other shenanigans. Fortunately, there are a number of online tools that will allow Indians to more actively take part in (and the rest of the world to watch) these elections.

I would start with the Wikipedia article on the elections. It provides a nice overview with a massive number of links and other data. Particularly interesting is the discussion tab on the Wikipedia page. It gives some insight into a number of the behind-the-scenes issues and arguments with respect to this election. Another good general overview comes from the BBC in their special report on the 2009 elections.

The University of Maryland's (Baltimore County) Ebiquity Research Group has also put together a very nice website that will track news and other data emerging from the elections as they take place. Likewise, the blog Google Maps Mania points to a joint Hindustan Times/Google effort to track the elections as well.

Google Maps Mania also points to my personal favorite: Vote Report India. Using the innovative Ushahidi platform, Vote Report India will allow people all over India to email, text, tweet or otherwise report violations of India's electoral code. The site is already active and already getting hits (See image below for recent reports of violence).

This tool has the potential to provide an unparalled transparency to the electoral process. While it will inevitably have many of the flaws of any "tip" line, it also holds out the promise of some really interesting HUMINT on the elections.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How To Detect Deception, Using Second Life In The Classroom And Sister Wikis (Link List)

New Mexico DesertImage by a4gpa via Flickr

Just back from the high desert and busy catching up. Here are a few links that caught my eye:
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