Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

April 28, 2004

by J

Spooks and Blogs

There's an article making the rounds that talks about how intelligence agencies may be monitoring weblogs.
As a result, some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others, even with the knowledge that the accuracy of what's reported in some blogs is questionable.

Still, a panel of folks who work in the U.S. intelligence field - some of them spies or former spies - discussed this month at a conference in Washington the idea of tracking blogs.

"News and intelligence is about listening with a critical ear, and blogs are just another conversation to listen to and evaluate. They also are closer to (some situations) and may serve as early alerts," said Jock Gill, a former adviser on Internet media to President Clinton (news - web sites), in a later phone interview, after he spoke on the panel.
I have mixed feelings about this. However, I will make two observations. First, weblogs are 'open source' data - they're not email, or phone conversations, or even travel patterns. It's all material posted that is meant for public consumption. Second, there is a class of webloggers who like to run around yelling about how they're the new, improved journalism. Intelligence agencies have long monitored news sources for data and information. If you're one of those "because I'm a weblogger, I'm a journalist" types, don't start bitching about the spooks monitoring your site. It comes with the territory, doesn't it?

Now, there are obviously subtler and more complicated discussions to be had about this, but we've put the intelligence agencies into an impossible situation and it's hard to blame them for tryinig to find as much legitimately-accessible data as possible to work with.
Posted by J at April 28, 2004 07:11 AM

I have no problems with being "monitored" (also known as "read") by intelligence analysts. They read the paper, too. Not all intelligence is factual in nature; some of it is an estimate of how people will react to certain situations, and blogs can provide clues to that. Also, intelligence analysis requires putting facts together in creative ways, just like blogging. I hope, for example, that some analysts responsible for Iraq are reading Juan Cole, even though they have access to much of the same factual info he does, since he presents an informed perspective on the situation.

Posted by: Mithras at April 28, 2004 11:38 PM

I don't have a problem with it per se. But, I'm wary at the same time. While I don't have a blog... yet, I do know from the hit counter on my site that I've been visited a few times by some counter terrorism agency that I'd never heard of until I backtracked the hit out of curiosity. But, just because someone on a computer in that agency visited my site doesn't mean they weren't just surfing during a break or something. I've had a few hits from NASA computers too. And I don't think they're in the intelligence business in the sense that we're talking about here. LOL

To my way of looking at it, just reading political blogs and websites is one thing. There are valid reasons to be doing that. If they're compiling files on citizens who are politically opinionated and haven't broken any law or haven't advocated breaking any law then that'd be over the line IMHO.

Posted by: Kevin@TIV at April 29, 2004 12:28 AM

If they're compiling files on citizens who are politically opinionated and haven't broken any law or haven't advocated breaking any law then that'd be over the line IMHO.


Posted by: J at April 29, 2004 06:50 AM

Recommended Reading:

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir
The Politics of Truth... A Diplomat's Memoir

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

LIES by Al Franken
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

The Great Unraveling
The Great Unraveling

The Great Big Book of Tomorrow
The Great Big Book of Tomorrow

Clinton Wars
The Clinton Wars

Blinded by the Right
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

Living History

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

John Adams

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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