Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Bin Laden Speech Archive discontinued

Two and a half year after the last update, it is hardly a surprise for anyone that I discontinue updating my complete list of Bin Laden speeches. I simply haven't been concentrating on the issue for a long time. Furthermore, others, like NEFA Foundation and MEMRI have been a bit better at systematising their coverage.

Initially, when I started the archive in 2004, I used it to be able to make a good comparative analysis of Bin Laden's evolution as a speaker. It has served that purpose on some occasions and has been used by others as well.

But besides being an indication of my shifting interests and my lack of attention to the blog, I also think that this is indicative of the decline of importance that Bin Laden is experiencing. I had the thought that should he actually start to appear with full interviews and talks-show apperances on Al Jazeera and CNN tomorrow, this wouldn't influence the direction of international Jihadism. His role is a historical one now, and without being a jihadism expert, I think his role as main inspiration for Islamists is largely over. That might be good, some would think, but actually I think that the war now has a thousand fathers and inspirators.

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Danske droner: TV til taliban?

Wired's eminente blog Danger Room har fulgt afsløringerne af hvordan den amerikanske hær opdagede at videosignalerne fra deres ubemandede fly (droner) blev hentet ned af irakiske oprørere. Opdagelsen blev gjort da hæren gennemsøgte huse og fandt bærbare computere fyldt med videooptagelser af oprørerne - vel at mærke lavet fra deres egne droner.

Een af de mest sårbare droner er typen "Raven". Det danske forsvar har denne type droner, som grundlæggende bare er en lille håndholdt, fjernstyret flyver. Ravnen, som den danske udgave hedder, sprøjter ubekymret radiosignaler i alle retninger og alle og enhver der kan fange dem, kan se dem - med mindre de altså er krypterede. De amerikanske Ravens var ikke og det bliver der nu arbejdet på højtryk med at rette. Men hvad med de danske? Efter fiaskoen med Tårnfalken er Ravnen den mest udbredte UAV i Forsvaret og den bliver brugt i Afghanistan.

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The power of collaborative intelligence?

Ever so often, a little development shows how the internet is increasingly powering collaborative intelligence efforts. The increasing number of "sensors" out there (mobile-phones, etc etc) and the many specialist corners of the internet makes for more and more value in the open intelligence "production" on the internet. And compared to closed intelligence productions, the free flow of debate, rhetorical "anti-logos", makes for much more nuanced analyses in the end.

The latest of such anecdotes is that the US Airforce has just disclosed a hitherto secret drone project it was working on. The french newspaper Liberation's Secret Defence blog had pictures of a mysterious drone over Afghanistan, brought a picture snapped over Afghanistan, by god-knows-who, a grainy photo of a flying UAV. This unknown model was circulated and processed in a lot of specialist blogs and a pretty credible explanation was arrived at. At the same time, new pictures surfaced. And voilá! If you secret is safe with everyone on the internet, why not go public as the US Airforce did. Read more here.

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Danish Defence doing black psyops - against Denmark

I have been out of orbit on the blog for quite a while. But an escalating scandal here in Denmark just needs my two cents.

Basically, one employee in the very top of the Danish Defence has produced a fabrication to influence the Danish public by shaping the narrative of a controversial case. That is exactly the type of disinformation operations that the Soviets were masters at, also known as black (hidden) psyops.

The problem here is twofold: First of all, the most obvious, this is of course a disheartening action by a high ranking officer in a democratic country. Luckily he was found out rather quickly. But secondly, the fabrication and its dissemination was utterly unprofessionally carried out and then brought on by a number of top Defence employees, ending at the Defence Minister, with no simple technical questions asked until later. This might hint a structural dyslexia of the mechanics of public relations - and consequently information operations, which is an increasingly important part of modern war- and peacefare.

The case
* A former Jægerkorps soldier (Special Forces) was about to publish a book about his time in the forces. The book was a typical example of a secret operative who wanted to get some overdue glory and was unnecessarily full of technical details. The Defence Command moves to get the Court to restrain it on 14 September, stating that it contains unspecified knowledge that can be used by current enemies of Danish soldiers. Having read it, I understand why the Defence Command thought this.

* Seeing a potential limit to the freedom of expression, the newspaper Politiken quickly published the entire book as a section in their newspaper 16 September. The book had most likely been explicitly given to the paper by the publisher for that purpose, although the publisher banged the litigation drums. The same day the book is published on WikiLeaks.

* The Defence's IT executive translates the book via Google Translate, pastes it into a word document and says he found it on a torrent download site. This is then quickly brought through the ranks, sent to a newspaper on 23 September and repeated casually by the Defence Minister on a press conference 24 September. The paper, however, quickly establishes that the translation is Google gobbledygook and the Word file specifies that it is created by the Defence Command.

* In the coming days, the Defence Minister and the Defence Command's press relations executive both deny that the translation should be made by the Defence itself. They can't, they say, identify who sent the translation to the newspaper.

* On 1 October the IT Executive steps forward and is relieved of command immediately. On 2 October, the Defence Command's Press relations executive admits that he sent the book to the newspaper. The Minister's personal press relations employee has also sent it to a journalist at the state television DR.

* On 4 October the Chief of Defence steps down.

What it means
Trying to plant fabrications to sway a public against a case is something that has been done very often by militaries around the world. During the cold war, this was a common pastime for various intelligence agencies. The Soviets, for example, was supposedly behind the rumour that AIDS was developed by US scientists - a claim you will still hear in various corners of the world. Later, the Russians under the newly elected president Putin went to the second Chechen war after buildings were blown up in Russia, alledgedly by Chechen terrorists, but later doubted by a number of independent researchers. Putting out a "meme" in written or physical ways to sway a public, is wildly influential if done with thought. Most countries, however, have laws explicitly forbidding its military to target its own population with "propaganda" and disinformation. In a globalised world, however, controlling the flow of falsifications is impossible.

In this case, the system worked: Sceptic journalists uncovered that something was amiss, politicians and more journalists continued digging until Danish Defence Intelligence started an internal investigation which made the culprit and the disseminators confess before their computers had even been scanned.

A few years back I looked at the Danish Defence's capabilities and prospects of taking up "information operations" (a label for a number of different communication capabilities, ranging from press relations to cyber war and psyops). Being a small country with limited resources, information operations was a force multiplyer that the Danish Defence couldn't live without, in my opinion. There were some structural and organisational difficulties, but nothing that couldn't be overcome if the Danish Defence's heart was put into it.

But this case shows that the involved, high-ranking officers, were rather naïve about what you could get away with. I don't blame the IT executive for thinking that you could trick a journalist, generally some of the most tech-unsavy people around in my experience. But concocting something a Wednesday afternoon and then unleashing it to prove a point, that's just plain stupid of a man you would put in charge of a frigate - or the entire Defence's IT systems.

The real consequence of this, apart from the heads that will roll, is that the people in the Defence who work hard and earnest to use information actively in warfare and towards publics in the world, will be put even further back as the Defence most likely will cramp up in fear of allegations of working with "propaganda. This will mean that information operations will not be prioritised and the Defence will try even harder than it admittedly already has to be seen as a fair and earnest media outlet.



International terrorisme og kontraterrorisme

Jeg har tidligere prøvet mig med kurser of forelæsningrækker på Folkeuniversitetet. Nu bliver det til noget med et kursus om International terrorism og kontraterrorisme. Det bliver sjovt!:

International terrorisme og kontraterrorisme(forelæsningsrække)

Ved forskningskoordinator, ph.d. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen og cand.mag., MA Nis Leerskov Mathiesen.

Forelæsningsrækken har to formål. Det første er at bibringe deltagerne en
forståelse af den internationale terrorismes baggrund, udvikling og nuværende
væsen. Terrorismen har været blandt os i et par tusinde år, og den vil
naturligvis ikke forsvinde igen. Tværtimod synes den inden for de seneste par
årtier at have udviklet sig i en meget voldsom retning. Blandt årsagerne er
ændringer i teknologi og kommunikation, men der har muligvis også været en
idemæssig radikalisering, som gør, at de moderne "superterrorister" forsøger
at gøre så megen skade som muligt.
Det andet formål er at drøfte de værktøjer, som er nødvendige for at kunne
tage stilling til forskellige former for kontraterrorisme. Hvis vi i dag står
over for "superterrorister", er det måske på tide, at vi tager nye og
skrappere metoder i brug for at forsvare os selv. Ønsket om sikkerhed har
fået de fleste stater til at begrænse den enkelte borgers frihed. Men hvor
langt skal vi egentligt gå?
1. Hvad er terrorisme? (FSH)
2. Terroristernes mål og midler (NLM).
3. Kontraterrorisme (FSH).
4. Terrorindustrien (NLM).
5. Et kig ind i fremtiden (NLM/FSH).

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Let the students pull the cart

During my time as a graduate student at both King's College London and the University of Copenhagen, I always was a bit puzzled why established academians wouldn't utilise the vast resource of student brainpower and work-eagerness that was tappable, right at their feet.

Usually, when you are a student, you choose courses on what you think is either a)interesting or b) can be beneficial to your future. This in turn means that in institutions with a high number of focused and bright students (KCL fitting the description best of the institutions I frequented), you will have a mass of devoted brains gathering around a subject that the professor is often himself deeply interested in.

Why not, more often, solicit papers to some or all of the students, to further your own research? Why not put a class of eager students in front of your own cart and let them pull you a bit, while showing them that their work is used for something other than just grading, and then - degrading in your basement till you have to move house at some point.

The Strauss Center at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs has done just that. Putting a number of MA students in a class and letting them research for an excellent report on the Hormuz Strait and it's strategic implications for oil flows out of the Gulf.

As a general introduction, with spats of in-depth analysis - it is a perfect example of open source collaboration. If I ever get a fat university position, I'd like to work with students in this way.

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The fear of a Terror Gang Planet

The Small Wars Journal presents an article by Robert Killebrew on the merging of gang warfare and terrorism. He points out that this is a latent risk, which is not publicly acknowledged at the moment, but poses a great danger to national security.

I have had the same musings regarding the illegal firework networks in Copenhagen. But the concern that Copenhagen's criminals might aid terrorists is so much more underscored by the recent wave of shootings taking place between immigrant gangs and bikers. I, for one, just need to turn the corner and look at the bullet holes in the nearby net café that was sprayed the other day.

It is remarkable that we fear terroristic attacks on Danish soil every day and only have had a few aborted plots to show for it - but that with a few days of provocations, suddenly the streets are awash with weapons and shots are being fired at random.

Imagine if you were able to energise this criminal activity in way of terrorist activity. That would be a nice solution for someone wishing to conduct a low cost, low signature terrorist attack. The glaring unprofessionalism of the Danish immigrant gangs is probably both an advantage and a disadvantage in this case. Stupid people make stupid decisions.

However, it isn't so likely. Criminals and terrorists are two different species. One is fueled by economic incentives, the other by a more intangible altruistic/ideological drive. Thus the real danger is not a convergence of the two categories, but of the practical utility. If criminals are to gain from terrorists or their sponsoring networks, why not use some of that energy on something else rather than the bikers?

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