In the U.S., the criminal activity of child trafficking is an ongoing law enforcement vexation. Some child predators have been so bold as to commit kidnappings in broad daylight, even in front of their parents. One child safety advocate has repeatedly exhibited just how easy it is to kidnap a child (and it is even easier to do when the parents have their vision transfixed on their smart-phones):

Naturally, concerned parents have taken up defense against such predators by keeping close watch over their children and organizing neighborhood communities that are vigilant of suspicious activity. These are good measures to take in response to child trafficking. But what might yield additional security benefit for families is to mitigate informational indicators that cue predators in on potential targets.

What is an indicator? Any bit of information which when collected allows for inference on the nature or disposition of a given target. For example, one indicator a child predator might look for, to identify homes housing children, would be the presence of toys in the yard. By learning to mitigate these indicators, you increase your security.

Notice that this concept of indicators need not only apply to deterring child predators. By coming to view the world through a lens that colors everything as information which may be collected, manipulated, and exploited, one can begin to identify what potential inferences any type of threat may make about you.

Ask yourself, if someone were to ‘case’ your home, what informational indicators might you have left around the exterior that could work against your security (be the threat a burglar, armed invader, or nosy neighbor)? You may suffice an answer by taking a step outside and viewing your home while imitating malicious and/or investigative thought processes. Ask questions such as:

What do your lawn decorations say about you? Do you have flags? If so, of what? What do they imply to others? My wife and I often play a game of estimating the political bent of a given home’s occupants just by these sorts of things as we casually stroll in different neighborhoods. Putting the occupants of a home on the left-right spectrum is as easy as viewing a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag or colorful “Obama” bumper-sticker. Understand the advantage and disadvantage of flaunting such things. Once you do, the greatest deceptions/ false facades can be devised to your benefit (i.e. Don’t own a gun but want extra security? Post up a bluff, “Beware Trespassers Will Be Shot”. But hope hardened felons looking for guns don’t come your way).

Is your home well-maintained? Might one infer your socio-economic status by the site of it? Cracked side-walks, litter in the yard, peeling paint, and a rusty automobile give you a pretty good idea of the social status an occupant holds. From a criminal perspective, high-dollar cars in a lot adjacent to a beautiful three-story mansion is an obvious indicator of wealth and hence a burglar’s potential target.

If someone wanted to break-in, what are the obvious entry points? I have taken time walking the exterior of my home to identify the easiest ways in.

Do you want your home to stand out or blend in with the motifs of other homes? If so, it is important to start paying attention to the informational indicators of all neighboring homes to gain a base template.

Overall, it is important to recognize how we present ourselves to the world. Only by learning to view yourself through the eyes of others can you learn to truly deceive for your sake or that of your loved ones.

Truth is hidden by deception, and an apparent truth might conceal deceit.

This principle is extraordinarily useful…

 

 

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Out of curiosity I once submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter to the FBI and CIA requesting files in their databases attached to my name.

I did so after reading an article about Barton Gellman, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist associated with the Snowden disclosures, whose FBI FOIA requests for files concerning himself were denied.

Gellman’s interest in files on himself related to his project of writing a book about how government agencies track and monitor reporters and their activities – a project reflective of Gellman’s notoriety for his work on National Security Agency surveillance which won him the Pulitzer prize. And so, in light of the FBI’s decision to withhold FOIA files that would inform his book, a suit had been filed this time last year, Gellman v. Department of Homeland Security et al.

As of yet, I have no knowledge of what came of this casebut dredge it up to make the point that the “deep state” (the shadowy complex of high-level security clearances, black operations, and the intelligence community’s will to keep untoward things quiet) is alive and well.

The American public needs to be paying attention to what is going on with the current atmosphere of intelligence revelations, for it is saturated with example after example of how the government keeps tabs on its own citizens.

History is replete with examples as well. The former CIA director Allen Dulles once remarked that some (if not all) state-run intelligence networks of history were constructed with the intent of keeping an eye on “subject” populations in order to discern any “signs of revolt” (Dulles, A. The Craft of Intelligence. p.6) The Okhrana, for instance, was a “security” establishment of Russia characterized as an institution of dissident oppression and censorship which kept a watchful eye on soviet citizens, the author Tolstoy, and even the revolutionary Lenin.

This “big brother” function betrays the notion of intelligence networks acting only in the interests of the public.

It must be understood that certain intelligence networks only serve to maintain the status quo (paraphrasing Webster Tarpley, oligarchy seeks to perpetuate oligarchy).

During earlier days intelligence was collected through the senses of an agent, but the advent of modern collection methods contrasts significantly with those of the sense-mediated. Cameras, computers, satellites, and specialized personnel equipped with a variety of other technological edges afford intelligence communities an unprecedented collection capability.

For example, the ARGUS-IS (Automated Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imagery System) of BAE Systems and DAARPA is a Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance (WAPS) system which boasts a remarkable capacity for unmanned aerial surveillance from a predator drone. The 368 cameras used on ARGUSIS collectively possess a 1.8 gigapixel imagery capability that allows for adequate resolution of a 6 inch object from an altitude of 3.78 miles (20,000 feet) and can survey a land area of 25 square miles at a time! The raw data captured from the ARGUS-IS is then fed into a super-computer at ground station where personnel can monitor 68 individual points of interest of the surveyed area simultaneously – far beyond from what an ancient scout could do.

And your computer data? Well, William Binney, a former NSA contractor turned whistle-blower, has repeatedly stated that your every digital action is being recorded and collected, even Facebook data.

“[T]hey don’t realize that’s being captured.”  -William Binney

With whistle-blower revelations abounding, I can’t help but type this message out for those who have an interest in privacy, but do not have even a rudimentary understanding of the nature of intelligence communities. You are being spied on, and you can only begin to change that by bringing this fact to a crystallized awareness.

Admittedly nothing interesting came of my FOIA inquiry to the FBI (I am not an interesting person). The bureau’s response indicated that a denial or admission of records on myself would not be forthcoming without following other legal conduits riddled with legal exemptions. Still, the idea that “watch-lists” exist and that average citizens may inadvertently find themselves on one is an intriguing subject, and one might wonder if these lists may expand beyond the scope of legitimate threats to domestic security by twisting the legal definition of the term terrorist.

Former navy admiral John Pondexter’s post-9/11 Genoa concept was the jumping off point for the enhancement of DAARPA’s TIA concept.

Genoa was originally conceived as a network of classified computer databases which would serve to identify potential terroristic activities through the acquisition of torrents of information on nearly every citizen in the U.S. as well as many abroad.

Among the TIA programs collaborating with this vision was the Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery (EELD) program, directed at aggregating “as much electronic information about people as possible – not just terror suspects but the general American public.”1

The informational targets under the scope of EELD would come to include “phone records, computer searches, credit card receipts, parking receipts, books checked out of the library, films rented”, virtually anything that could be of value in assisting the mission of TIA – to identify and obstruct potential terrorists .2

Other programs linked into DAARPA’s TIA concept were Scalable Social Network Analysis (SSNA) which monitored electronic communications, and Activity and Recognition Monitoring (ARM) would observe and assess, through many cameras and advanced facial recognition systems, the behavioral patterns of populations in order to determine whether their activities were outside of specified parameters – parameters which “remain classified”.3

As related by Annie Jacobsen, who covers much of DAARPA’s history in her book The Pentagon’s Brain, “[a]rtificially intelligent computers were the twenty-first century’s atomic bomb.”4 – a notion that attests to the novelty, sophistication, and secrecy of TIA. The Total Information Awareness program was seemingly gutted and disposed of in 2003 following the proliferation of news detailing its existence as an apparatus of public surveillance (which it was) that would cost in one year alone an estimated “$586.4 million”. But as reported by Jacobsen, the program continues to live on in the offices of the NSA, DHS, and CIA.5

Notes

  1. Jacobsen, A. (2015). The Pentagon’s Brain. p.340-350
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. ibid.

Did the Russians hack the election?

MSM (Main-stream-media) would have you believe the incoming Trump administration is negligent in its duties to assess ‘actionable intelligence’ that, we are assured, paints Russia as an enemy.

But this implication of negligence only stands if ‘actionable intelligence’ pointing the finger at Russia truly exists.

Tentatively, we can reasonably assert that evidence of Russia’s involvement is not forthcoming. In fact, the latest report out of the Director’s Office of National Intelligence alleging Russia’s involvement enunciates that their report:

“does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.”

Curiously enough, the report maintains that the evidence accrued by the intelligence community can only be presented in a classified context.

I find it strange how heads of state can openly threaten Russia with retaliatory cyber-attacks (Joe Biden), but cannot disclose to the public, or Russia for that matter, their evidential basis for said attacks.

It seems to me that if Russia did indeed hack the elections, it would not much damage U.S. national security to simply release the classified details of the IC report. In truth, the IC needs to do this in order to garner public trust. Especially in light of the Snowden revelations.

“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.”

Is that so? Just wait a minute. How many foreign elections have the U.S. rigged in the name of ‘national security’, thwarting the entrance of candidates deemed hostile to U.S. interests?

Look to the books or Google the question. Whether you opt to scour the internet or turn the pages of Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA Legacy of Ashes, this is the answer – the U.S. has manipulated many elections, therefore there is no moral basis for objecting Russia’s alleged hack of the U.S. election.

But is there a ‘national security’ basis?

What is implied by the ICA report is this: Donald Trump should be replaced by Hillary Clinton.

If Russia indeed perceived Clinton as a threat, I cannot reprehend them. Who could trust such a person? But alas, the IC report seemingly defends her:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

Undermine public faith in the democratic process? Well, yeah. The DNC hack and emails exposed concerning Clinton kind of supply the public reason to distrust the democratic process. Go back to the situation with Bernie Sanders. Why wasn’t he considered a viable candidate for office? Oh yeah, because the Democratic party was set on Clinton from the get-go.

Come now people. Should you trust this intelligence entity that cannot be frank enough to supply an inkling of detail which would ascertain without doubt Russia’s involvement? I wouldn’t.

And by the way, I don’t support Trump. I don’t support any candidate. I merely want the truth.

The 25-page IC report titled ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’ was released yesterday and can be found in its entirety on Public Intelligence.

 

It is a documented fact of history that the intelligence agencies of the U.S. have repeatedly interfered with the democratic process of elections abroad. Here are a few examples:

In 1948, the CIA co-opted the Italian elections with bribe money to insure their plan of keeping communist powers in check. Their plan worked, allowing the anti-communist Christian Democrats to seize power. Weiner, T. (2008). Legacy of Ashes. p.31

In 1953, the agency succeeded yet again in undermining the ideals of democracy, sending millions of dollars to their Tehran station to facilitate the overthrow of the democratically elected (via popular consensus) Prime Minister of Iran Mohamad Mossadeq:

“They bribed senators, senior military officers, editors and publishers, goon squads, and at least one member of Mossadeq’s cabinet.” Weiner, T. (2008). Legacy of Ashes. p.96

Guatemala, Peru, and many others have been targets of CIA meddling in their respective political processes – an activity carried out for the sake of an interior agenda of the intelligence community.

The common public had not voted for the CIA to launch such operations. The CIA was acting in the interests of the state, that is, the interests of those in power.

Their covert wars are shadow-like, hardly ever giving the public a true understanding of what they seek to accomplish until many years after the fact. Nowadays, with 4th generation warfare in full-swing, one must presume the existence of secret plots, on the part of our nation or another, in shaping the sociopolitical, and economic facets of any given nation.

So why should we be up in arms with the possibility that Russia influenced the election of Donald Trump? Shouldn’t we expect such things?

Shouldn’t we consider the likelihood that our own intelligence community continues to operate in accordance with its own, unpublicized agenda?

But no, the banter between media pundits misses the critical point – there are unseen forces of unknown nations carrying out covert activities against one another every single day, and to assume we know the nature of such activities is speculative at best.

Did the Russians hack the DNC?

The FBI Director James Comey says yes, but this is an appeal to authority. The President of the U.S. Barack Obama says yes, but this is an appeal to authority. NBC news says yes, while citing the testimony of two UNNAMED intelligence officials, so for lack of substantive evidence, this is also an appeal to authority.

The point of elucidating these logical fallacies (appeals to authority) is to make clear that the public has not been provided a single shred of evidence that the Russians did anything –but this is not to say that they wouldn’t.

Those holding the contention that anything covert is afoot should bring forth their actual data instead of expecting the public to rely on blind-faith in public officials, a practice that doesn’t tend to work out well for anyone.

Both nations, the U.S. and Russia have a track record for inuring its people to propaganda and outright lies, so before you post up any memes or links respecting this important issue, make sure they are backed by real evidence.

(see related post)

Here is a clip of former Deputy Director of the CIA, Mike Morell, straight up admitting he wishes to wage a covert war against Russia and Assad.

It was already reported by William Binney that the DNC hacks were likely the result of a disgruntled intelligence worker.

Now Politico is carrying a story that conveys the same notion as former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has come forward to state the hacks may have been a “false-flag operation”.

Yes, he really used those words.

Bolton goes on to say that he believes “the intelligence community has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”

In October, we explained the motivations for blaming the Russians for the DNC hacks, teaching the following in light of Biden’s explanation for a CIA led cyber-attack against the Russians in ‘just’ retaliation:

“Here are a few items of pertinence respecting the DNC hack. First of all Putin has denied the hacking allegations (though he heartily finds the hack to have been for the public’s good) and secondly, NSA whistleblower William Binney has countered the claim that the Russians were responsible when reported instead that the hack was the work of a “disgruntled intelligence worker” (though this claim is just as tenuous as the counter). But what did the DNC hack expose anyway? Oh yeah, that Sanders was going to lose the Democratic Party’s nomination from the get-go.

So either way you look at it, the notion that we should play the tit for tat game with Russia because of the DNC hack is ludicrous, childish, and insensitive to notions of justice and democracy. Would you punish someone for exposing the flaws of our “democracy”? It is in view of the above that I find the CIA development of cyber-attack against Russia unjustified.”

See more here

Modern cell-phones are extremely convenient, providing timely access to the web of things in tandem with basic communications capabilities. But the convenience of these devices are overshadowed by the security issues intrinsic to their functionality. Malicious apps can steal user information with ease, and the phone properties (such as an onboard GPS, cell-tower signaling) comprise a metaphorical ‘double-edged sword’ that may work against the privacy concerns of the individual.

While it is no surprise that each smart-phone can convey the user’s location at any given moment, the question of who or what is keeping tabs on the cell locations may stir up concern (any stranger with access to certain applications, the NSA, GCHQ, etc.).

Phone-Number Mediated Tracking

Many applications and services on the market afford a customer the capability of tracking any cell-phone given he/she possesses the phone number. This means that all that is required for a stranger to engage in malicious tracking of your phone is your phone number. Once someone has that, a simple demo or full subscription to a service like life360.com will allow them to pinpoint your location via your smart-phone.

Malicious App-Mediated Tracking

There are a number of malicious applications and services that advertise cell-tracking, some even go so far as to provide ‘espionage’ services that, when installed on the targets phone, will convey cell-location, text messages, phone call history, and pretty much anything else. Hoverwatch is one such app that, when installed on the target’s phone, will supply a comprehensive overview of the cell-user’s activity – including browsing history, social media interactions, SIM card monitoring, and records of phone-calls along with call content.

With a system-backup and recovery app called DDI Utilities, a would-be ‘spy’ can pretend he/she owns your phone and download all pertinent information including videos, photographs, messages, etc.

For your security, it must be noted that installation of any application carries risk of infection with various spyware and malware (be weary of what you use).

Remote Activation of Smart-Phone Microphone and Camera

Yes, it is totally feasible to hijack the on-board properties of a smart-phone including the microphone and camera. The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expounded in an interview with Panorama in Russia on the nature of spy tools known as ‘smurfs’: “Nosey Smurf is the ‘hot mic’ tool can turn the microphone on and listen to everything that’s going on around you – even if your phone is switched off because they’ve got the other tools for turning it on.”

Other ‘smurfs’ such as “tracker smurf” and “dreamy smurf” can track your location and turn your phone on, respectively.

 

Using Your Own Smart-Phone as a Spy-Tool

Thus far we have covered how your own phone can be used against you, but with other applications, you can turn your own phone into a spy-tool to your benefit. For example, with an inactivated smart-phone that has been loaded with certain applications, a user can requisition the device as a portable microphone or camera for home surveillance. Just be sure to have a method of storing all the acquired data.

Conclusion

Be aware of the benefits and risks to your security in carrying a smart-phone. As IT continues to develop, there are sure to be increases in how your devices can be exploited for malicious purposes, whether committed by governments or criminals.

CCTV

Closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) are among the most common surveillance devices available to public and private entities. While the basic elements of a CCTV system have not changed, it is imperative to note that modernization of CCTV systems has resulted in the availability of a wide-variety of system modifications or perks –from facial recognition software to automated surveillance programs.

Facial Recognition/ Biometrics: Biometrics is a security oriented system of identifying individuals through analysis of nodal features of the face, fingerprint, retina, or other characteristically unique feature of the human body. New electronic applications use biometrics for a variety of reasons.

For example, Findface is a novel smart-phone based application recently introduced to the consumer base of Russia. This biometric analysis application allows users to identify, with up to 70% accuracy, the identity of a randomly selected individual through cross-comparison of a single photo of the target with information derived from social media.

As noted by Marketwatch, this application is already creating quite the controversy as users vanquish anonymity of virtually anyone, from porn-stars to strangers on the sub-way. But Findface isn’t the only decimator of anonymity. As far back as 2008 patents have been issued to Microsoft for automated advertisements similar to those out of the sci-fi thriller Minority Report. One such patent details a modality of targeting customers according to individual profiles which have been derived from information compiled by a display: “A variety of sensors and sensing systems (e.g., face recognition, pattern recognition, proximity sensors, audio sensors, light sensors, and transaction recognition) can be employed to glean as much information as possible about a potential customer or group of customers within close proximity to a particular display device.”

A more recent patent (2015) issued to Socure Inc. employs facial recognition systems for the deterrence of identity theft. It incorporates the storing of user identity images in a database which will then be used for cross-comparison “against at least a portion of image data stored in at least one database” for authentication purposes. In other words, once you input images to the database, chances are they stay there permanently.

As many are now aware, the popular social media platform Facebook has also been issued patent rights for facial recognition systems that sift though user uploaded photos and video for indexing purposes. The indexed images will then serve cross-reference checks for identity verification in the future: “In particular embodiments, a user may capture photos and/or video that includes real-time facial recognition with respect to the people in their social network. As each image in a video clip or a set of related images is processed, faces are detected and tracked. For a given face in an image, different potential candidates for identification of the face are selected (if available) from the user’s social network.”

Other patents, such as one issued to Honeywell International Inc. (2012) detail the act of capturing images of an individual and subsequently identifying that individual with adept software in real-time.

To be continued…

Wide-Area Persistent Surveillance (WAPS) systems operate in the atmospheric domain or space and typically consist of two primary components – a high pixel density camera(s) with multispectral capacity and some form of aircraft or satellite.

Note: The term ‘multispectral’ refers to a number of differing electromagnetic frequencies/ wave-lengths represented in an image such as infrared, microwave, visible light, etc.

The aircraft used for WAPS can vary from small, commercially available drones, to massive multi-million dollar gliders. For example, the ARGUS-IS (Automated Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imagery System) of BAE Systems and DAARPA is one such WAPS system which boasts an unprecedented capacity for unmanned aerial surveillance from a predator drone. The 368 cameras used on ARGUSIS collectively possess a 1.8 gigapixel imagery capability that allows for adequate resolution of a 6 inch object from an altitude of 3.78 miles (20,000 feet) and can survey a land area of 25 square miles at a time. The raw data captured from the ARGUS-IS is then fed into a super-computer at ground station where personnel can monitor 68 individual points of interest of the surveyed area simultaneously.

Deployment of WAPS systems affords law enforcement and military personnel the capability of acquiring a target ‘after-the-fact’ or after a crime has been committed by simply reviewing the previously captured imagery – hence the ‘persistence’ of the acronym. For example, in a documentary video of a WAPS system utilized by the Baltimore police department, a mugger was apprehended after initially evading police when surveillance personnel reviewed the incident through WAPS feed. The feed was rolled back to the time and place when the mugging occurred and thereafter surveillance personnel simply rolled the feed forward, following the muggers movements to a getaway car some length down the street. The transit of the getaway car was then monitored which gave way to the suspect’s location. This is the power of WAPS systems of the aerial type.

Satellite WAPS Systems

Since 1955, the use of satellites for reconnaissance, surveillance, or espionage has captured the attention of the U.S. military.1 As one can imagine, the passage of time since 1955 has been marked with great advancements in satellite technology for a variety of governments. But, despite these advancements (and depending on the satellite type), the functions of satellites remain essentially the same – to gather information for the generation of intelligence.

The specific missions of deployed satellites have ranged from the detection of nuclear arms detonations and apprehension of enemy/allied/unknown radio signals, to radar tomography and photo/video surveillance. Respecting the question of capabilities present day surveillance satellites possess, it is worth appreciating the Gaofen-4 imaging satellite of the Chinese. The Gaofen-4 is a geo-synchronous satellite that can persistently survey an area of 49 million square kilometers (approx. 28 million square miles) which equates to about 10% the total surface area of the earth. Its photographic capabilities allow for image resolution of up to 50 meters and will provide data for an estimated 8 years until newer satellites slate it for obsolescence. The Gaofen-4 satellite launched and became operational December, 2015.

Satellites like the Gaofen-4 can be arrayed to provide comprehensive intelligence of weather, troop/ personnel movements, anomalous atmospheric phenomena, and a wide assortment of other missions significant to the governing body. It is important to note that the resolution capabilities of the Gaofen-4, touted as the world’s most advanced spy satellite, can, will, or already has been exceeded. Persistent surveillance technologies, when coupled with these satellite systems, can lead one to suspect that in the near future the whole surface of the earth will come to be under continuous watch from above.

The data garnered through the operations of these satellites will impart intellective derivatives that afford a comprehensive understanding of the earth, its peoples, and systems –even more so with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). CosmiQ Works, an organization largely associated with the CIA that specializes in exploring “how the U.S. government can leverage new and emerging commercial space capabilities against national security problems”, is currently working with Amazon and a satellite mapping group known as DigitalGlobe in an attempt to couple AI with global satellite surveillance.(2)

The ultimate objective of the project is to capture and store “60 million images” of geo-activity, both human and natural, which will subsequently be fed into an AI that can sieve through and analyze the imagery with “smarter algorithms” so as to “see and learn things from imagery about our planet that we simply cannot know today through manual techniques.” The images collected via satellite will be stored on Amazon’s Spacenet, which holds “approximately 1,900 square kilometers [of] full-resolution 50 cm imagery collected from DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 commercial satellite” which “includes 8-band multispectral data.”  The time-lapse collages such imagery espouses is revolutionary, as Digital Globe is apt to admit in consideration of its business associates who seek to form conclusions on the basis of its aggregated content. The question one should bear in mind though is whether such a surveillance platform will be utilized for nefarious purposes counter to popular consensus. Either way, the above mentioned is categorically a satellite-mediated WAPS system.

Wide area surveillance isn’t anything new. Police departments, such as Baltimore’s, have been actively utilizing cameras mounted to single-engine planes to record imagery of crime-related areas for their investigations, much to the public’s unawareness. However, the fact that these technologies are presently in use does not therefore make them welcome. It is up to the present generation to determine whether existence under the lens of a camera is acceptable, for as is evidenced, the technology of an Orwellian era us upon us.

1. Erickson, Mark. Into the Unknown Together – The DOD, NASA, and Early Spaceflight.

2. Hamilton, J. (2016). EYES IN THE SKY. CIA training artificial intelligence to spy on Earth from SPACE using ‘computer vision’ https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1673802/cia-training-artificial-intelligence-to-spy-on-earth-from-space-using-computer-vision/

Continued…

So where were we?

 

Oh yes, we were discussing the relevance of social network analytics (SNA) to psychological operations/ military information support operations (MISO) as expounded upon by the Dep. of Defense, Joint Chiefs, and the Dep. of Army:

“Human networks are tied together by certain quantifiable links: working together, kinship, friendship, financial transactions, and countless others. Of particular importance to PSYOP personnel may be the publically and commercially available data from social media platforms.”

The average person has no idea how social network analytics (SNA) operate, and in this particular deficit of knowledge, users are also unaware of the security risks posed by the information they post to social media platforms and the like.

Recall the scene in The Dark Knight when Batman resorts to illegally hacking the cellular signal transmissions of every citizen in Gotham to create a real-time, multilayered visual of the city in order to find the Joker and his hostages. The result of SNA is sort of like this.

By collating, analyzing, and integrating enough data from commercial and public sources, one can create an elaborate ‘map’ of the flow and spread of information through social media. This map depicts informational profiles of users as well. With SNA, one can also use the resultant map to target certain information nodes to either stop information from spreading through a network or propagate MISO critical messages.

In this present Part 2 of Cognitive Engagement, I aim to supply a condensed run-down of SNA, along with the explanations of SNA from source documents in hopes of conveying the essence of a novel, obscure notion of data-mining relating to human freedom and the evolution of propaganda.

To begin, we must know what the metrics of SNU are.

 

SNU Metrics

The document cited in Part 1 of Cognitive Engagement details the metrics of SNU.

These metrics are:

  1. Centrality: a centrality measure is any metric used to determine a social media user’s preeminence/ sphere of influence within a network.
  2. Degree: a centrality measure of a social media user. The rule of ‘degree’ is basic – he/she with many social contacts, say “200”, has a greater degree of influence than one with 20.
  3. Eigenvector Centrality: a nuanced centrality metric that is used to determine how connected a social media user is with users possessing a high degree of influence. “This index locates actors who are the top of hierarchies or are popular within the network.”
  4. Betweeness Centrality: used to determine “nodes” or individuals in a network that are “uniquely” connected to other users in such a manner that resembles information access control. Without these “betweenness” nodes, certain information ‘contagions’ will not spread.
  5. Key Player Centrality: used to identify what individuals of a given network possess the highest overall influence. “MISO teams can identify a set of well-connected actors to maximize the potential impact of a message and spread it through a given network influencing a given number of nodes with minimal overlap. This algorithm can also be applied to determine which set of nodes, if removed, would fragment a network the most and damage its ability to spread information or other resources.”

In synergy with the above metrics, a comprehensive understanding of a network can be derived with “community-detection algorithms” (CDA) such as the Girvan-Newman algorithm which detects and identifies “sub-groups” of a given network. It is also “used to great effect to identify cleavages within groups, which are not easily recognized, even by those within the group themselves. PSYOP teams could use this method to increase identification of cleavages to better tailor messages and understand the topography of their intended audience.”

Utilizing these components, along with suitable information technology, it is possible to modulate, disseminate, or block critical information from spreading through a network. Understandably these analytics can be put to reasonably justified uses such as monitoring and deterring terrorist cells, but where things get dicey in relation to human freedom is the monitoring of potential extremists.

 

 Who is Targeted and Why

As explicitly stated in the document, targets of MISO influence include the broad category of ‘potential extremists’. As we covered in a former post, the criteria for classifying one as a terrorist is not exactly perfect and may serve to label individuals in order to justify the deployment of SNA unwarrantedly:

“As related by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Sec. 802 of the U.S. PATRIOT ACT provides for the justification of legal pressures against civilian populations who hold to ideologies counter to established U.S. policies. In other words, if you happen to detest and protest a certain policy of the U.S., that very action may be interpreted as a form of domestic terrorism and therefore individuals participant in such protests may be deemed ‘terrorists’.”

 

It should also be noted that certain components of an individual’s world-perspective (ideology) may falsely betray one as a ‘potential extremist’. For example, a DHS document conveys the sentiment that a belief in a conspiratorial ‘new world order’ is radical. This implies that free-thought may be under attack in our society (or already has been for years).

 

 

No. The belief in a new world order is not kooky and it should not serve as a metric in determining one’s susceptibility to radicalization.

To be Continued…