Friday, May 21, 2004

Tech guru Richard Stallman briefly discusses "Pentagon Spy and Me" in blog

Free Software Founder, MIT Professor extradordinare, Genuis Award winner, and all-around tech guru Richard Stallman (RMS) comments briefly on "The Pentagon Spy and Me" in his political blog (here).

I don't think it's surprising the article would interest from the IT community, as these are the people who understand what I mean when I talk about data-mining and social network analysis, and other techniques discussed in the article. They know this technology is real, and they've been following mainstream press articles documenting the Pentagon's continued controversial interest in these technologies. (The rest of society glazes over when I talk about these things, unfortunately.)

Another concern for the free software community, of course, is that they clearly a target. The government contractor, with his flower child uniform, claimed (once got around to revealing he worked for DOD) that he was part of a group in DOD military intelligence that wanted to do things in a more open way. They were interested, for example, in free software.

(The same way that his"flower child" uniform suggests they are interested in monitoring pro-peace organizations, their disingenous appreication of free software and the "open" way of doing things suggests the free software movement may be another target.).

He claimed to have no interest in secrecy or security clearances. I confronted him on this, pointing out that someone without a security clearance is a nobody in intelligence circles. He eventually managed to convinced me (I won't say how) that he had a rather good security clearance. So much DOD's interest of going "open" on intelligence matters!, a blog compiling Internet information, theories, and outright disinformation on intelligence also links us (here), but with a little joke: "Citizens! Ready your tinfoil hats for: The Pentagon Spy and Me."

I suppose I'm now in a position to confirm that Pentagon does not use anything related to tinfoil hats, although the government contractor in question had doctoratoral-level training in a psychology-related field.

The defense intelligence contractor ("spy") had all sorts of ideas about using technology to influence people's minds. Not only email disinformation techniques, and social network analysis, but active "intervention." Which might take a variety of forms (most likely a physical visit by an operative, or worse, in the case of Iraqis, where this was also intended to be used).

He had other ideas about using common technology to facilitate DOD snooping, although these were more plausible for use mainly in Iraq, so I won't describe them here --- I'm mainly used about misuse of these technologies to inhibit democracy by spying on people that might disagree with official Administration police.

He did express an interest in brainfingering printing for use by marketing people, and forwarded me an article showing the use of MRIs by marketing people to determine how different people respond to different advertisements.

I recently saw an article in mainstream media on how the Republicans were now using MRI and brainfingerprinting technologies to analyze how "Democratic" and "Republican" "brains" respond differently to Republican ads for George Bush, in the hopes of optimizing these ads so that people respond better to them.

So these type of ideas are floating around between the Republicans, the DOD, and defense intelligence contractors spying both in the US and Iraq.

No tinfoils though --- MRI and brainfingerprinting are well established, open technologies, as are data-mining, social network analysis, and the DOD Total Information Awareness program.

People that understand these technologies are more likely to appreciate my admittedly highly technical posts on questionable DOD activities.

That's perhaps another danger of Rumsfeld's Transformation program to moderinize the US military --- necessary, perhaps, to keep DOD up to date, but dangerous new technologies may also be potentially confusing and cryptic to those entrusted with regulating our military.