Tagwar

DARPA’s New Crowdsourcing Initiative to Target Pets

DARPA dog

Right now, only 1 percent or so of America’s population contributes to the country’s defense and offense. In its new budget, Darpa announces a $25 million effort to build tools that’ll rope in the other 99 percent. Doesn’t exactly explain how. But think crowd-sourcing, plus a touch of machine learning to pair peeps up. The program is called “Unconventional Warfighters,” and the idea is to tap three pools of potential contributors.First, Darpa is looking to plug in “futurists, inventors, hobbyists and tinkerers who approach military problems from an unconventional perspective.” Then, the agency would like to call upon “military Veterans, including disabled Veterans, who have deep knowledge of the missions and the operational environment.” Lastly, Darpa wants those veterans’ pets.“Animals are another class of potential contributors,” the agency explains in its budget. “This is not a new idea, as animals possessing special abilities such as dogs and dolphins have been used before to perform military tasks such as mine detection. The new aspect to be examined under Unconventional Warfighters is the potential for creating new sensor, processing, communication and actuator systems specially adapted to enable animals to execute tasks beyond their natural capabilities.”

Darpa’s New Recruits: You, Your Grandpa and Your Dog

(via Arkenberg)

DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military

DARPA

The military is decentralizing its networks. Here’s a piece I wrote for ReadWriteWeb about it:

DARPA contracted Ratheon in 2009 to build the “Mobile to Ad-Hoc Interoperable Network GATEway” (MAINGATE), a mobile network that both military and civilian organizations can use to communicate using any radio or wireless device. The agency announced last month that the system has now been tested for video, voice and data by both high bandwidth and low bandwidth users.

A key component of MAINGATE is Network Centric Radio System (NCRS). According to Defense Industry Daily, NCRS provides: “1) a backbone radio architecture that enables IP versatile networks and 2) a radio gateway that enable legacy analog and digital communications systems to be linked together.” NCRS provides a self-healing ad-hoc mobile network that enables seamless communication between nearly any radio.

Defense Industry Daily reports that MAINGATE also features disruption-tolerant networking to cope with disruptions caused by line-of-sight issues, spectrum access, congested radio frequencies and noisy environments.

ReadWriteWeb: DARPA and Raytheon Building New Ad-Hoc Mobile Network for the Military

Previously: Douglas Rushkoff: Abandon the Corporate Internet

Are we starting a full-out war on the Internet?

WikiLeaks is the perfect storm for all past issues on the net, but I’m afraid it also will draw us into a future that I’ve believed was coming and didn’t want to talk about. We don’t like to think about how much our civilization depends on the proper running of computer networks, and how vulnerable they are. Whoever it is that attacking Mastercard and Paypal are anonymous. They could be teenagers (that’s what we hope) but they could also be professionals working for foreign governments, or even the US government.

I watch my friends root for the attackers and think this is the way wars always begin. The “fighting the good fight” spirit. Let’s go over there and show them who we are. Let’s make a symbolic statement. By the time the war is underway, we won’t remember any of that. We will wonder how we could have been so naive to think that war was something wonderful or glorious. People don’t necessarily think of wars being fought on the net and over the net, but new technology comes to war all the time, and one side often doesn’t understand.

Are we starting a full-out war on the Internet?

This is as good a time as any to re-iterate my anti-vigilante stance.

However, that cyberwar is breaking out largely between non-state actors (in response to actions by state actors, but still).

Get Your War on Returns

get your war on

NY Magazine is running an all-new Get Your War On, the title’s first post-Bush strip.

NY Magazine: Get Your War On

(via Cat Vincent)

Did the FBI Thwart Its Own Plot in Oregon?

I was out of state when this happened, otherwise I probably would have covered this sooner. As usual, Glenn Greenwald delivers the goods:

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction. Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary. […]

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Salon: The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the FBI agent’s recording gear malfunctioned or that someone made an honest mistake in configuring the equipment, as anyone who has worked with recording gear can tell you. But from a strictly legal standpoint, it seems like that should be a big strike against the FBI. Unlike Greenwald, I’m not a lawyer, though, so I don’t know.

From what little I know about the case, it does seem that Mohamud was motivated to commit violence. But the specific plot and access to weapons was furnished by the FBI. Even taking the FBI at its word, its difficult to see Mohamud as a great threat on his own. Still, it’s clear that there are some angry people in this country willing to do violence to our citizens, and as Greenwald points out, there’s relatively little discussion as to why. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no friend to Islam, but it’s clearer every day that US foreign policy is a bigger driver for terrorism than religion.

Update: My friend Johnny Brainwash has taken a look at the affidavit and has a post on it:

The specific notion of a car bomb was Mohamud’s, but he had no clue how to go about it. Not a single operational detail would have happened without the FBI. He did buy some of the bomb components, sure, but with money and a shopping list provided by the feds. He also provided some Google Maps images and a disguise, both also at the request of undercover agents. Beyond that, he couldn’t even get to Portland if the FBI didn’t give him a ride.
This alleged plot, like nearly every alleged jihadi plot in the US, amounts to nearly nothing. Not that the kid is blameless or should get off scot-free, but he wasn’t much of a threat. Not compared to people who have committed genuine terrorist acts on American soil in the last couple of years, and certainly not enough to justify the feramongering that has gotten an added boost out of this. The story isn’t “OMG America under attack!!1!” It’s more like “look, another dumbass with fantasies of jihad- at least this one didn’t set his nuts on fire.”

He adds in the comments:

I don’t necessarily ascribe such specific intent to individual FBI’ers, or to the agency as a whole. It’s their job to catch criminals, and their budgets and prestige depend on it, so they’re going to catch them even if it takes some wishful thinking to create them. I think lots of law enforcement types, like lots of other folks, buy into the narrative of terrorists lurking under every bed, and so they don’t always realize when they’re going overboard.

I think others of them probably do realize, though.

I’m sort of leery of ascribing intent these days, preferring to describe observed behavior. Remarkable how it untangles things sometimes.

See also Mr. Brainwash on who is and isn’t a terrorist.

Why War? Biological vs. Cultural Explanations

Fighting

John Horgan, writing for Scientific American, asks the big question: why do humans wage war? He’s previously rejected the “demonic males” theory, and has found Margaret Meade theory more satisfactory:

Many scholars solve this problem by combining Darwin with gloomy old Thomas Malthus. “No matter where we happen to live on Earth, we eventually outstrip the environment,” the Harvard archaeologist Steven LeBlanc asserts in Constant Battles: Why We Fight (Saint Martin’s Griffin, 2004). “This has always led to competition as a means of survival, and warfare has been the inevitable consequence of our ecological-demographic propensities.” Note the words “always” and “inevitable.” […]

The best answer I’ve found comes from Margaret Mead, who as I mentioned in a recent post is often disparaged by genophilic researchers such as Wrangham. Mead proposed her theory of war in her 1940 essay “Warfare Is Only an Invention—Not a Biological Necessity.” She dismissed the notion that war is the inevitable consequence of our “basic, competitive, aggressive, warring human nature.” This theory is contradicted, she noted, by the simple fact that not all societies wage war. War has never been observed among a Himalayan people called the Lepchas or among the Eskimos. In fact, neither of these groups, when questioned by early ethnographers, was even aware of the concept of war.

In discussing the Eskimos Mead distinguished between individual and group violence. Eskimos were “not a mild and meek people,” she noted. They engaged in “fights, theft of wives, murder, cannibalism,” often provoked by fear of starvation. “The personality necessary for war, the circumstances necessary to goad men to desperation are present, but there is no war.”

Mead next addressed the claim that war springs from “the development of the state, the struggle for land and natural resources of class societies springing, not from the nature of man, but from the nature of history.” Here Mead seems to invoke Marx as well as Malthus. Just as the biological theory is contradicted by simple societies that don’t fight, Mead wrote, so the theory of “sociological inevitability” is contradicted by simple societies that do fight. Hunter–gatherers on the Andaman Islands “represent an exceedingly low level of society,” but they have been observed waging wars, in which “tiny army met tiny army in open battle.”

Scientific American: Margaret Mead’s war theory kicks butt of neo-Darwinian and Malthusian models

(photo by Polina Sergeeva)

(Thanks Bill!)

NSA and Raytheon Team-Up for Cybersnooping Project

Nuclear Power Plant in  Limerick, Pa.

A piece I wrote for RWW today:

The Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources, that the NSA is launching a program to help protect critical infrastructure – including private enterprises – from cyber attacks. According to the paper, defense contractor Raytheon has received the contract for the project, which would rely on a series of sensors to detect “unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack.” This follows the Lieberman-Collins bill passing committee in the Senate.

The Orwellian nature of the name was alledgedly not lost on Raytheon: The Wall Street Journal claims to have seen an internal Raytheon e-mail saying “Perfect Citizen is Big Brother.”

ReadWriteEnterprise: Do Private Enterprises Need the NSA to Protect Them From Cyber Attacks?

John Robb interview by Chris Arkenberg at Boing Boing

Los Zetas

How big of a domestic threat is there from the narco-insurgency in Mexico and the growing power of Latin American gangs in America?

Very big. A threat that dwarfs anything we face in Afghanistan (a useless money pit of a war). It’s not a threat that can be solved by conventional military means, since the problem is that Mexico is a hollow state. Unlike a failed state like Somalia (utter chaos), a hollow state still retains the facade of a nation (borders, bureaucracy, etc.). However, a hollow state doesn’t exert any meaningful control over the countryside. It’s not only that the state can’t do it militarily, they don’t have anything they can offer people. So, instead, control is ceded to local groups that can provide basic levels of opt-in security, minimal services, and jobs via new connections to the global economy – think in terms of La Familia in Michoacana.

The real danger to the US is that not only will these groups expand into the US (they already have), it is that these groups will accelerate the development of similar homegrown groups in the US as our middle class evaporates.

Boing Boing: John Robb interview: Open Source Warfare & Resilience

My comment, left there:

Robb’s work continues to influence my own thinking. However, I would like to see him answer the criticism presented here: http://reason.com/archives/2008/02/18/open-source-warfare

(If he hasn’t already)

A thought: will legislation (such as that in Arizona) and anti-Latin sentiment lead to alienation that drives the process Robb’s talking about in the US?

To expand a bit: I’m not sure whether Robb’s dire prognosis for North and Latin America is exaggerated or not, but it’s not hard to imagine escalated violence between Latin “gangs” and white “militias” if Latin people are excluded from mainstream culture while the power and influence of Latin drug cartels is increases.

U.S. Military Turns to NFL for Surveillance Technology

drone surveillance

Reporting from Washington — As it rapidly expands its drone program over Afghanistan, the U.S. military is turning to the technology that powers NFL broadcasts, ESPN and TV news to catalog a flood of information coming from the cameras of its fleet of unmanned aircraft.

U.S. military archives hold 24 million minutes of video collected by Predators and other remotely piloted aircraft that have become an essential tool for commanders. But the library is largely useless because analysts often have no way of knowing exactly what they have, or any way to search for information that is particularly valuable.
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To help solve that problem, the Air Force and government spy satellite experts have begun working with industry experts to adapt the methods that enable the NFL and other broadcasters to quickly find and show replays, display on-field first-down markers and jot John Madden-style notations on the screen.

LA Times: U.S. military turns to TV for surveillance technology

What Afghanistan Looked Like in the 50s and 60s

afghanistan

Amazing photo essay from Foreign Policy. A real eye opener.

Foreign Policy: Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…

(via Dangerous Minds)

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