Administrative note: I have deleted the "Best of the Pest" material from the Box.net server. If you're looking for them, please contact me via e-mail.
Would like to say, "I'm back," but I'm not. As a matter of fact I am in the middle of the ride of my life this week. I won't be posting again for a few more weeks.
Have a great holiday weekend, folks.
A snapshot of the American political scene, late summer 2009:
Outside, a spillover crowd of protestors and counter-protesters shouted slogans at each other. A man in a Cato Institute T-shirt scuffled with a man wearing an Obama T-shirt, punched him in the face, and was shortly after kicked off the property by police officers.
You've probably noticed that I haven’t been posting “around the web” posts recently. A new job and a busy personal life have drawn me away from dedicated posting here at MSJ. I’ll continue to post here, but not as regularly as in the past. I know that – somehow, some way – you will survive, readers, especially since Tim is doing such a good job with his InfoBore posts. Meanwhile, I’m contributing to CTLab’s Current Intelligence blog.
Now, on to the post.
Report: "Understanding the Survival Mechanisms of Global Salafi Jihad" (via Drew)
Ahmed Rashid, via mp3
Easier analyzed than achieved
Data Challenges for the IC (also via Drew)
Registan’s Threat Assessment for Central Asia
Noting the obvious: the US doesn’t have enough Pashto speakers
Hudson Institute recently looked at the future of the MB
Thomas Rid has joined Kings of War
Reviewing Juan Cole
New (to me) Blogs & Sites of Interest
Summer is here. Nothing tells me it's summer more than the usual drop in traffic. Family trips, graduations, projects, etc will keep traffic low until September.
Since traffic has calmed a bit, I'll be doing a little "house cleaning" around the blog. Perhaps a new picture of my favorite mosque. Perhaps a font change. Don't know yet, really.
I do know that I'll be writing a booklet on OSINT. I'll also be catching up on some professional reading -- not intel analysis, librarianship. To be more specific, I'll be reading up on the latest research on information-seeking behavior and integrating any relevant lessons learned into OSINT information collection. This and jihad, of course.
Back in March 2002, I was working on an R&D project for Raytheon in a desolate industrial park off the Dulles Toll Road. It was a temporary job, designed to buy me time until I could find something more permanent. I was working on an emerging OSINT data-mining tool called Genesis. After telling the program lead that I was interested in pursuing OSINT in the intel community, she warned me to be prepared to be ignored. OSINT wasn’t taken seriously. My cynical response was something along the lines of: Hey, I’m a librarian. No one takes me seriously. I might as well be paid more to be ignored.
After fleeing an analytical position at the FBI in the summer of 2003, I landed a contract position at DOE. I was in part responsible for bringing more OSINT into the department’s small, specialized counterterrorism program. I consider myself lucky. The management was good, and they were opened to open source. I went on to work with OSINT in even greater depth in another DOE program. Yet, there were general problems that I saw across agencies that made my job more challenging than I expected.
When I began briefing my clients on emerging OSINT issues, particularly terrorist use of the internet, most of them had no idea what I was trying to explain to them. It wasn’t that the concept of forum or blog was difficult, it was the simple fact that practically all of these men and women had never used the Internet for more than e-mail and the occasionally Amazon purchase or <ahem> soft core <fill in the blank>. It may be a challenge to explain the significant role Forum A has on, say, an operational tempo in country Z. It’s a whole different animal when the decision-makers simply cannot conceive of what a forum is and how it works.
Add to that the omnipresent “terrorism” experts (geezers with experience in 70s-era Athens or 80s-era Belfast, given too much credibility and often possessing too much ego) who dismissed all jihadi media as “propaganda” and thus meaningless. The word "propaganda," conjuring up images of Mao posters, was used too often by people who had little to no experience with jihadi media. I was working in a toxic mix of ignorance and bad information that was nearly impossible to break through. Aaron and SITE Institute were the first to sound the alarm, and I was following their work closely at this point, because they were the only ones really integrating the jihadi virtual world with real world analysis. The first signs of awareness within the policy-making community came after Irhabi007 "hosted" jihadi material on the website of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. Then, and only then, did you have the first signs of intellectual life within the policy-influencing community.
It’s been slow going ever since; however, I’m heartened by what I see. Conversations are less clueless and rudimentary; conclusions are based on better information and more nuanced understanding of online dynamics. The recent blog discussions (example) on Andrew Exum’s TNR article lifted my sprits even more. There is finally a cadre of bright young (and not so young) analysts, familiar in the languages of the enemy, and with operational experience in both the physical and the virtual jihads.
I began this blog back in 2004 as a means of sharing primary source material – jihadi documents – with anyone who knew enough to appreciate it. I received practically no hits and no attention for the first three years. Granted, I didn’t keep track of my traffic, but last year I began tracking stats with Sitemeter. Recently, I noticed that my hit count passed 10,000 – it’s now passed 11, 000. It’s safe to say that the number only counts for the time Sitemeter has been working its magic, and that the actual hit count is much higher.
Though I’m not the best at analyzing user stats, I can tell you that a substantive portion of these 11,000 hits have come from regular readers who share my posts with others. I am grateful for each and every one of my readers, but particularly the regular ones.
Thank you, folks. And G-d bless you.
Hey, folks. I've taken my website down for the time being. Please don't read anything into this. I was just bored with it. I've always wanted my site to reflect my jihad media collection skills, but I have to admit with nearly 400 GB of media to choose from, I don't know what to share or how to share it.
In the meantime, I have a place holder on the site.
Blog content changes: I’ve edited the Reliable Sources links, and added a new link to the Essential Reading List on the left.
Please note, too, that my personal website will be taken down early in the new year. I will leave the material linked from the blog, but the rest is going away.
Reciprocity: it’s not just a Catholic thing.
An interesting topic for a conference (via Ubi)
What happens when the friend of a few convicted terrorists meets the FBI? Find out here: http://umarlee.com/2008/12/25/meeting-with-the-fbi-at-a-st-louis-masjid-over-the-actions-of-minnesota-somali-youths/
Abrahamic Alternatives to War (via USIP)
You read it here first, then in the LA Times.
At least I’m not the only one who thought this was absurd (via Ubi)
And more technocluelessness here.
BTW: you can tweet me @marisaurgo
I plan to share my CT “finds” through my twitter feed, and leave the blog for longer pieces. The same behavioral rules apply for Twitter that apply for my general e-mail account. All mean tweets will be ignored. All threatening tweets will be shared with authorities, even if they have no idea what a tweet is.
New book: Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World, by Bruce K. Rutherford . To read the entire book description or a sample chapter, go here.
New report: Al Qaeda in the West as a Youth Movement: The Power of a Narrative, by Olivier Roy. Found here.
New article: "Mumbai: a turning point for jihadism." (via Islamists2day)
And speaking of radicals in Yemen:
So what is "wacky," you ask. Well, here's one answer: http://www.scribd.com/doc/8974920/Mumbai-Was-a-Mossad-Operation
In the OSINT corner
Even the Russians have a hard time with it. Phew. I was getting scared there.
An example of how to do OSINT sans Google from the health and medical sciences.
If you’re looking for an example of how to do OSINT, you can’t do better than health and medical sciences. The dominance (innovation, effectiveness) of medical and biotech research (particularly in the US) lies in its reliance on information sharing. It is a culture of information sharing where doctors’ and researchers’ reputations are based on their professional productivity. At the center of all this is the ultimate OSINT database: Medline, the US federally funded research database of the National Library Medicine, probably the single most important source of medical and biotech innovation in the world.
Available online, for free.
And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year!
Watch this space -- and the website -- for a few content and design changes. Oh, and this is "social networking for Marisa" weekend.
I'm on twitter: @marisaurgo. And LinkedIn. And...any suggestions?
Blog update: the minor technical updates to the blog are complete.
Website update: you will notice nothing new about the website, folks. My web authoring software and my operating system were not getting along today. Lot's of painfully slow loading, crashes, etc -- very Windows-like behavior from a Mac.
I've been listening to a live broadcast of Tristan und Isolde, and now that the fat lady has sung and died so has my efforts to improve my website for now.
I've added a few new sources to the right, including Thomas Hegghammer's personal blog. There's a new volume (#7) of the Hudson Institute's Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. And a European Commission project called MicroCon:
I've added a new feature to the blog's busy right side: MSJ Clippings. I spend most of my day scanning and absorbing information even on my crack, er, iPhone. Newsgator gives me a chance to share with you some of the news articles and blog posts that catch my eye during the day.
Blogging will be lite over the next few days. I need to dedicate some time to non-stop writing. I have two new pieces being published over the next few months, and I want to dedicate some time to others. DC weather is going to cooperate by being hazy, hot, and humid, giving me a perfect excuse to sit in front of a computer and type, and type, and type.
With this brief note I've reached a 1001 posts on this blog, my lonely effort to share the tidbits of info and knowledge gained in my quest to know the enemy. I plan on being around for thousands more posts. My best is yet to come. At least I hope so. :-)
Thanks for sticking around, readers. Please keep in your prayers and your RSS browsers.
It was said in the old days that every year Thor made a circle around Middle-earth, beating back the enemies of order. Thor got older ever year, and the circle occupied by gods and men grew smaller. The wisdom god, Woden, went out to the king of the trolls, got him in an armlock, and demanded to know of him how order might triumph over chaos.
"Give me your left your left eye," said the king of the trolls, "and I'll tell you."
Without hesitation, Woden gave up his left eye. "Now tell me."
The troll said, "The secret is, Watch with both eyes!"
Gardner wrote the book in the late 1970s as a warning against the rise of post-modernism in art and criticism. It would, he said, make both trivial. This blog is dedicated to a different front against the forces of chaos, but the very same postmodernism is at work. It numbs our ability to identify, engage, and triumph over our enemies.
I hope the primary source material I post here helps some warriors and analysts watch and engage the forces of chaos with both eyes wide open.
I'm adding a few more categories in anticipation of new subjects I'm interested in exploring:
Economic Jihad -- exploring Al Qaeda's interest in influencing the regional and global economies
MSJ Around the Web -- just in case someone actually reads the blog