Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dax Norman Just Passed Away And That Is An Enormous Loss. Here's Why.

Dax Norman died on August 20, 2017.  My deepest sympathy goes out to his family.

I called Dax a friend but, as happens sometimes, we had not had a chance to speak for quite a few years.  

I do know, however, he was a good man.  Don't take my word for it; just check out the many comments that have already been added to his obituary.  All the things that people say about him - that he was a gentle man, that he was kind and generous, that he willingly gave his time, that he was an excellent teacher and mentor - are all true.

For those of us who teach and think about intelligence analysis, however, he was more.  He was one of the best thinkers I knew on how intelligence should work.  

I met Dax shortly after I got out of the Army in 2003.  He was looking for a University to do some unclassified research on technology trends and Mercyhurst wound up with the contract.  While not a huge contract, it was large for us back then.  It also started a multi-year relationship with the US government that helped many students test and hone their skills as junior analysts.  Any Mercyhurst grad who ever spent any time on one of the so-called "summer projects" owes that experience either directly or indirectly to Dax.

Dax made innumerable contributions to our national security in his decades working for the government.  One of these contributions that I always found most significant is the work he did on open source credibility back in 2001.  Facebook did not even exist back then and Dax was one of the few thinking about the problem that we call today "fake news".  More than just think about it, though, Dax came up with a rigorous system for evaluating the credibility of online sources long before anyone even thought that they needed such a thing.  His work is still online for anyone who is interested.  For Mercyhurst students, of course, it has been modified and enshrined as the much beloved (?) online source evaluation sheet that accompanies each and every online source used in our reports.

I have more stories, of course, and others will tell theirs as well.  The long and short of it all is that Dax was one of the good ones.  There aren't enough Daxes in the world and he will be missed.  

If you knew him, you can post your thoughts or memories on an online sympathy wall.  If you are in the DC area there will be a service on 6 SEP.

Monday, August 28, 2017

RFI: Looking For Descriptions Of The Intelligence Process

I am looking for relatively recent, short descriptions of the intelligence process from as many different sources as possible.  An example (from US Joint Publication 2) of the kind of thing I am looking for is in the image to the right.  

I am NOT looking for images, just descriptions.  My first preference would be from official (public, obviously) documents but I will accept anything that has been published.  

I don't care what language it is in.  In fact, I would LOVE descriptions of the process from other countries or disciplines (e.g. Law enforcement or business).  You can attach the sources in the comments to this post or send them to me at my university email (kwheaton at mercyhurst dot edu). Please do not hesitate to share!


Monday, March 13, 2017

Learn IMINT? Stop Looting? Yep, It's Been A Good Day!

Can you see the signs of antiquities looting in the picture to the right?

I think I can.  Left of the main road there appear to be three looting pits.  I also think I see some more pits to the right of the road at the base of the first row of small hills.  They might be vegetation but the shadowing and the distribution suggest looting - at least to me.

How did I learn to spot looting pits?  I joined the GlobalXplorer Project!

Here's how National Geographic's GlobalXplorer Project describes itself:
"GlobalXplorer is an online platform that uses the power of the crowd to analyze the incredible wealth of satellite images currently available to archaeologists. Launched by 2016 TED Prize winner and National Geographic Fellow, Dr. Sarah Parcak, as her “wish for the world,” GlobalXplorer aims to bring the wonder of archaeological discovery to all, and to help us better understand our connection to the past. So far, Dr. Parcak’s techniques have helped locate 17 potential pyramids, in addition to 3,100 potential forgotten settlements and 1,000 potential lost tombs in Egypt — and she's also made significant discoveries in the Viking world and Roman Empire."
In order to accomplish this mission, the GlobalXplorer Project puts you through a brief  tutorial that teaches you how to spot looting of archaeological sites.  It then unleashes you and other members of the project onto a dataset of thousands of satellite photographs of Peru like the one above.  

Your answer to the question "Is there looting going on in this picture?" is then compared with hundreds of other answers from different people looking at the same picture.  Pretty quickly the crowd forms a consensus that allows project managers to focus scarce local enforcement and preservation resources.

GlobalXplorer, like the Satellite Sentinel Project and other non-profit efforts, takes advantage of aerial imagery and imagery analysis techniques formerly familiar to only highly trained intelligence professionals.  In so doing, GlobalXplorer also creates an excellent tool for exposing intelligence studies students to some of the tradecraft of the modern imagery analyst.

I recently used the project in precisely this way in a class I am teaching called Collection Operations for Intelligence Analysts.  The course is designed to expose analysts to the difficulties inherent in many modern collection operations.  My hope is that by knowing more about collectors and what they do, the students will become better analysts - and maybe catch a few grave robbers in the process!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Another Color of Hope - Chapter 2 Now Available (Free!)

Another Color Of Hope, for those of you who missed it the first time around, is a "choose your own adventure" style intelligence training game that I have been developing.  I use a free development platform called Twine to create this work of - as it is known formally - interactive fiction.

I have been wanting to design a game to teach or, at least, introduce a particular intelligence analysis method to my students for quite some time.  Interactive fiction seemed to be a good way to create a more engaging environment for learning this particular method.

I am being a little coy here about which analytic method I am trying to teach on purpose.  Part of what great games do is teach without teaching.  Much of the learning is baked into the the gameplay in such a way that the student/player doesn't necessarily know they are being taught.  Much of my research into game-based learning suggests that this is far more difficult to do than you might expect but I thought this experiment was worth the effort (I do think it is pretty obvious which method I am trying to teach by the end of Chapter 2, though...).

If you have not played Chapter 1 you can access it here:

Another Color Of Hope (Chapter 1)
(And you can leave a review of the chapter here.)

And you can access Chapter 2 here:

Another Color of Hope (Chapter 2)
(And you can leave a review of it here!)

Don't hesitate to share both chapters with others and feel free to use them in class if you think they are helpful!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Free Google Spreadsheet ACH Template!

Mercyhurst grad student, Sam Rosenthal, recently accepted my challenge to build a tool that had all (or most) of the features of the famous PARC 2.0.5 desktop software for doing Analysis Of Competing Hypotheses in a Google spreadsheet.  You can see what it looks like below and make a copy of the template for yourself by clicking on the picture.

Richards Heuer's method is widely taught but, despite several attempts, no one (to my knowledge) has ever succeeded in creating an ACH tool that made collaboration easy ("Easy" being the operative word here).  The Google suite of tools, including Google Docs and Sheets, has solved much of the collaboration problem, though.  Up to 50 people (!) can work on a single document simultaneously.

Having done this with as many 20 people, I can tell you that it is a pretty trippy experience.  Documents don't so much "get written" as "grow" when you have this many people writing and editing and formatting at once.  Everyone who participates in one of these massively multi-writer online experiences (MMOEs?) comes away amazed at how fast the process is and how analytically solid the final products turn out to be.

As good as this tool is, there are still some limitations.  First, it is a Google product and comes with all the usual baggage, caveats and idiosyncrasies of any Google product.  Second, to add more evidence or hypotheses you will have to cut and paste empty rows or columns.  Also, while many people can work on the spreadsheet at once, there is no way (yet!) to capture, aggregate and display the level of consistency or inconsistency with any given piece of evidence based on input from multiple users (other than using an analytic modifier such as Nominal Group Technique to come up with a collective answer for each piece of evidence).  Sam is working on integrating Google Forms into the spreadsheet such that this becomes a possibility.  He hasn't yet figured out how to make days last 28 hours, though, so I don't know when we can expect this update.

Instructions for saving a copy of the spreadsheet: 
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people will be looking at this spreadsheet over the next few days. DON'T start playing around with it until you make a copy! Click on the picture or link above and, when the spreadsheet opens up, go to the "File" tab on the spreadsheet (top left) and click on it. Then click on the "Make a Copy" link. This will let you make a copy to your personal account so you can play with it as much as you want.

Finally, don't hesitate to share but just give Sam credit for the good work!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Entry-level Analyst Hiring Report For US Intel Community Is Out!

(Ed. Note:  This majority of this report is based on a survey of individuals within the US National Security Intel Community that have direct or significant indirect knowledge of hiring plans for the next year with regard to entry-level analysts (only!).  We took the survey after the election but before the hiring freeze.  Right now, we are hearing a lot of confusion regarding the freeze but we think it is likely that it will end or, at least, be better defined before the end of 2017.)

Executive Summary
Despite the recent presidential election and concerns over a federal hiring freeze, it is likely that overall hiring of entry-level intelligence analysts within the US Intelligence Community (IC) will increase over the next 12 months. Cyber intelligence hiring is highly likely to significantly increase, while other specific positions are likely to either increase or remain the same. Results of a survey of hiring professionals within the intelligence community taken after the election but before the freeze varied on if the election of President Trump will positively influence hiring, providing no definitive conclusion. Finally, results disaggregated by only respondents with direct hiring knowledge show slightly more caution, but support the estimate of increased hiring

Superstar grad student Ross Hagan compiled the report.  For all of his findings with all the charts and data, go here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Intelligence In Business Is Booming! Afraid Of Missing Out? Here Is The Conference For You!

Intelligence In Business (as opposed to Business Intelligence...) is growing in virtually all sectors.   From competitor to security to supply chain to regulatory/compliance to strategic analysis, the need for more analysts is obvious everywhere you look.

It is with this in mind - and the changing skill set it implies - that Mercyhurst will hold a one day virtual symposium called Issues And Opportunities Across Industries on 21 MAR 2017 beginning at 0800 EST.  Conducted in coordination with the association of Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, the symposium will feature speakers from companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Ernst and Young and Erie Insurance.

Professor Shelly Freyn, the Program Director for Business and Competitive Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University wants the conference to appeal to a broad range of interests and industries:
"This symposium is designed for any organization that is doing research and intelligence. We have tried to bring in speakers that could discuss the hot buttons that firms are facing from internal training of analysts to being secure in an interconnected world and the Internet of Things. We also will feature several strategists and their take on intelligence with insights applicable to any industry."
You can register here and the early bird cost is $50 (good until 1 MAR 2017).  The funds will go to support the symposium, of course, but is also a fundraiser for the Mercyhurst students to provide them an opportunity to attend the annual SCIP conference and continue to network and learn in the business community.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Another Color Of Hope: A "Choose Your Own Adventure" Intelligence Training Game

Click to play Chapter One of "Another Color Of Hope"
I have played around with "choose your own adventure" (known formally as "interactive fiction") gamebooks before but it is a real pain to do manually. 

Enter Twine.

Twine makes it dead easy to create interactive fiction.  It keeps track of virtually all of the administrivia that makes writing these type of books so difficult.

I recently used Twine to create the first chapter of a training game that I have been thinking about for the better part of a decade called Another Color Of Hope.  Without further ado, click on the picture to the right (or the link above) and it will take you to the game.

(Oh!  And in case you were wondering, I'm not going to tell you what I am trying to teach - 'cause that's part of the game!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How Many Entry-level Analysts Will The US IC Hire In 2017? (Survey)

Good question, right? 
If you have direct knowledge of information that might help answer the question in the title or you have indirect knowledge that is relevant to the answer to the question in the title, please take 2 minutes to complete this survey. 
What do I mean by direct and indirect knowledge?
Direct knowledge means that you know personally or have good information concerning the hiring plans of your agency or organization (or at least your section or division).  You might work in HR or be a manager with hiring responsibilities. 
Indirect knowledge is information that is relevant to the question that is not due to your direct responsibilities.  You might have spoken with an HR manager or have been involved in meetings where this issue was discussed. 
We are NOT looking for opinion based on purely circumstantial information.  If you are not involved in the hiring process either directly or indirectly, please DO NOT take this survey.  Please DO forward the survey to someone in your organization who IS involved in hiring.

Why are we interested?

Every year, other disciplines announce hiring projections for the year:  "This year's hot jobs are for engineers and chimney sweeps."  That sort of thing.  Entry level intelligence analysts who are searching for a job, on the other hand, receive no such guidance.

We hope to change that.  Working with one of our hot-shot grad students, Ross Hagan, we put together this survey to get a better feel for the the job market for entry level analysts for the year ahead.

Once we get enough survey data, Ross will compile it and combine it with the macro-level, mostly qualitative data that we already have and put together a "jobs report" for the year ahead.  I will publish it here once we are done.

We understand that there are some legitimate security concerns here so we have tried to frame the questions such that they are focused on broad developments and general trends.  We are not interested in the kind of deep details that might compromise security.

Finally, we intend to follow this study up with similar surveys of the law enforcement and business job markets for entry-level intelligence analysts as well.

Thanks for your participation!