Showing posts with label Intelligence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Intelligence. Show all posts

June 28, 2019

Rubik's Cube On Speed

A regular, traditional Rubik's Cube is 3x3 by 6 sides. 

That's a total of 54 moving squares to order by color on each side. 

This Rubik's Cube On Speed is 7x7 by 6 sides.

 So this cube has 294 squares to figure out. 

(I did find another cube on eBay that was even larger, 15x15, called "Professional Level" selling for $384.40)

I'm sure there are some real whiz kids out there that can do these puzzles. 

And probably in under 3 minutes...

For me, I admire the dexterity and spatial skills. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 28, 2018

PM Netanyahu Deals Iran's Nukes Another Blow

 Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "Blowout of Iran's Nukes.

As Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapons program and sponsor terrorism around the globe, as PM Netanyahu promised, Israel and the U.S. are on to them, and they will not let it happen! A little more than 70-years after the Holocaust that murdered 6,000,000 Jews, Iran will not be allowed to pose an existential threat to Israel and a danger to the entire world."

Hopefully, the good people of Iran can change their tyrannical leadership, otherwise the blowout at the UN yesterday will be only the beginning. :-)
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August 27, 2018

How Do You Lock A Tree


So this is one of the craziest things in Washington, D.C. 

There is a tree with a lock on it. 

Yes, with a Master Lock on it. 

Hidden in plain sight. 

It has letters and numbers or symbols on each button. 

Have you ever seen anything like that before?

Uh, what do you think that is:

- A lock to prevent the tree from being stolen?

- A Maxwell Smart (shoe) phone?

- A surveillance device in the tree bark or along the limbs?

- A secret compartment?

Hmm, is there something locked in the tree?

What could it be?  ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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April 30, 2018

Iran--and Obama--Lied



The Iranian Nuclear Deal has been definitively proven to be based on lies and deception. 

G-d has once again helped Israel achieve a miraculous intelligence coup against Axis of Evil, Iran!

The real proof is in the archive (not the fake news echo chamber).

Iran has a clear path to nukes, and they have been working feverishly towards this maniacal end for decades!

This has put Western Civilization at grave risk at the hands of the fanatical Mullahs who endlessly call for death to America, Israel, and even Sunni civilization. 

The only thing the Iranian deal was good for was as a deceptive political ploy by Obama to gain a fake win and to support dangerous Iranian global terrorism, extremism, human rights violations, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 

Now we know the real reason certain people couldn't say the words "Islamic Terrorism."

Iran lied, but so did Obama. 

I can hear our bombers revving their engines and see the smart bombs being loaded into their bays.

It's well past time to make things right and conduct the necessary preemptive strike to foil their evil plans and destroy their wicked weapons of mass destruction before they can use them on you know who. ;-)
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May 18, 2017

Classified Nuts

Something about this advertisement seemed perfect for this week:

"I didn't realize these nuts were classified."

So said the chipmunk.

This was posted the same week that intelligence about ISIS was shared with the Russians from the oval office.

The Prez is entitled to share whatever he wants and maybe he didn't realize "these nuts were classified." 

My bet is this was all sort of innocent, but either way we don't want to jeopardize critical intel sources and methods in our fight against our enemies and terror. 

It's their nuts that should be on the line and not ours. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 31, 2017

Born Or Forged To Lead

So are we born to lead or are we forged to greatness through adversity and lots of hard work?

Some people definitely seem to have innate leadership characteristics:

- Charisma

- Integrity

- Decisiveness

- Passion

- Determination

- Agility

- Intelligence

- Inspirational

- Confident

- Articulate

Other people maybe weren't born with it, but they learn to become great leaders through:

- Hard Work

- Willingness to learn

- Continuous improvement 

- Motivation to advance

- Finding a meaningful mission 

- Belief that they can make a difference

- Faith that G-d is guiding them

Like with most things in our life, it's a combination of nature and nurture. 

Good raw material starts us off on the right track and then forging it with fire and a hammer and polishing it off into a great sword with hardness, strength, flexibility, and balance. 

As Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazine says:
"I'm an overnight sensation 30 years in the making."

Birth is just the beginning... ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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January 11, 2017

Bombs But No Strategy

So the good news is that we have killed about 45,000 ISIS terrorist fighters.

The bad news is two-fold:

First, there are still roughly 15,000-30,000 remaining and more being recruited all the time. 

Second, it took us 49,315 bombs dropped over two years to do this. 

So we are averaging less than 1 kill per bomb!

Sure, we are also hitting other targets like oil and gas infrastructure and tankers.

But about 20,000 of the munitions dropped are GPS precision-guided (e..g Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Small Diameter Bombs, and Hellfire Missiles) and have cost $2 billion!

That comes out to a cost of around $45,000 just for just 40% the bombs to kill each and every ISIS terrorist, and doesn't even include all the extensive military infrastructure, planes, intelligence, and people. 

And this is just a super tiny drop in the bucket compared to the $4-$6 trillion that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, after 9/11, has cost just through 2013

--That represents between 20-30% of our our entire $20 trillion national debt!

At this rate, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the other terrorists may simply be able to cause irreparable damage and even bankrupt America.

How long can we afford to fight these extended and expensive wars against terrorism and never seem to even win--what's the strategy here? Is there one? 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to vaXzine)
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August 9, 2016

With Creation, The Intelligence Of Even A Worm



Some of you may think at first glance, oh how lame.

Did Andy just take a video of a worm?

But there is something more amazing here than initially meets the eye.

Look carefully at what this simple little worm is doing.

It is inching forward with its sprawling body over the dirt, and it is dragging with it...a feather!

Watch how it moves its body and then see at the top, the sudden pull of the feather behind it--and again and again. 

Clearly, this is not an accident, but this worm wants this feather.

Who would think that a worm has the brains to identify, claim, and take with it, a feather. 

There are probably a lot bigger brains out there that can't even do half that much.  ;-)

(Source Video: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 10, 2016

Success Is Not A Silver Spoon

So there is a disappointing editorial in the Sunday New York Times Review Section today. 

It is by Christopher Chabris and Joshua Hart in "How Not To Explain Success."

They attempt to dispel the explanation of 2 Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld that various ethnic and religious minorities (e.g. Cubans, Jews, Indians, etc.) "had achieved disproportionate success in America" because of three things:

1) "A belief that their group was inherently superior to others"

2) "A sense of personal insecurity"

3) "A high degree of impulse control"

But Chabris and Hart claim this is falsehood and instead attribute the success to the people's innate higher intelligence and superior socioeconomic background.

In other words, Chabris and Hart would have us believe that the ethnic and religious minorities they speak of were somehow "born with a silver spoon in their mouths"-- which is complete NONSENSE.

While Chabris and Hart (of Union College) themselves claim vastly superior empirical evidence from their survey of a whopping 1,258 adults, they dismiss others' arguments such as Yale University professors, Chua and Rubenfeld, as mere "circumstantial evidence."

Well I and many of my family and friends that I grew up with must be part of that silly circumstantial evidence, called PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.

You see, we are part of the generation of Holocaust Survivors and Children Of Holocaust Survivors, who came to America, as my grandmother said "without a chair to sit on" or a dime in their pockets. 

My father worked long, hard hours in a factory eventually becoming its manager and he and my mom provided for our family. Both my parents lost most of their education due to the War and the need to "go out and earn a living."

Similarly, one of my best friends grew up also the child of survivors. His father came from the Holocaust and ended up working blue collar work as an electrician, eventually owning his business.  

Neither family started with much--I ended up managing technology in some awesome agencies for the Federal government and my friend as an executive in the cruise industry.  

Virtually, the entire generation of Jews who fled to America as refugees from the Holocaust came with nothing...yet the people and their children worked hard, very hard, and they were blessed, and become successful. 

So, I have no surveys to back me up, but I do have my life and that of almost an entire generation of real life facts from people's lives--not made up of speculative survey questions and their interpretation of results.

So from my perspective, it is Chabris and Hart that are 100% WRONG!

You see they don't know from where we came and under what horrible conditions and how we arrived here as immigrants with nothing but our faith in G-d Almighty and the love of our families and community. 

And for the record, Chua and Rubenfeld are right:

Point #1, we were clearly taught a sense of superiority--but not what people mistakenly think--it is not based on intelligence, looks, or on physical strength, but rather based on that we were Biblically expected to behave differently as Jews and live more stringently. 

And that goes clearly to point #3, which is impulse control...the Jewish religion is based on 613 commandments--we are expected to eat a certain way, dress a certain way, keep Shabbat and holidays a certain way, raise a family a certain way...there is a huge amount of impulse control involved and in fact, not all of us are successful meeting all those stringent requirements--but it is a precondition upon which many of us grow up. 

Finally, in terms of point #2--personal insecurity, I am not sure how much more insecure you can be when your people just got slaughtered in the Holocaust, the world's worst genocide ever known, and you are one of the survivors who has to rebuild--Yes, that is an incredible motivator!

If Chabris and Hart believe that we made it here based on pure intellect or positive socioeconomic factors--they are either complete idiots or sickly delusional.

While people's personal success is highly subjective for them, as a whole group though, I most certainly believe that G-d blessed the Jewish people after the horrors and unbelievable suffering of the Holocaust. 

No level of intelligence or falsely perceived socioeconomics can explain what only G-d's infinite mercy can endow. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 25, 2016

Terrified Of Terrorism

Sure there are terrorism scares that are just hoaxes, and generally-speaking, we feel quite protected by our nation's values, wealth, and entrepreneurial spirit, by Homeland Security, and by being surrounded with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and our friendly neighbors Mexico and Canada. 

So we can be very assured--no fear, right?  That's what we need and want to function normally in every day life.

But perhaps behind the veil of daily bravado is a not-so subtle fear about something really bad happening again--whether a 9/11 or a San Bernardino or a Boston Bombing or anything in between or even possibly more extreme, including attacks on our critical infrastructure (via kinetic means, cyber attacks, or EMP weapons) or even attacks with WMD (from anthrax to nukes in suitcases)--there is certainly plenty of attack vectors, means, and bad actors. 

It was interesting-scary, the other day, there was a video circulating on Facebook of a "radical Muslim"-like character with a turban or something distinctive (I can't really remember) and carrying a backpack. In scene after scene, the character goes up to innocent bystanders and throws his backpack in their direction. The people didn't know him or what was in the backpack or why he was throwing it in their direction. Yet, over and over again, the people jumped up hysterically in fear running for cover like there was very possibly no tomorrow. 

Similarly, we watch on the news almost daily of terrorist attacks around the world--school attacks, beach attacks, restaurants and cafe attacks, theater attacks, grocery store attacks, house of worship attacks, funeral attacks, ambulance attacks...and there literally is no end to this list of what and who is considered a legitimate target by terrorists--we all are.

In the last couple of weeks, there was surveillance captured of Muslim women visiting a number of synagogues in Miami around the same time and asking questions suspiciously--could they have been staking these out for possible future attack, similar to the attack on a Jerusalem synagogue with butcher knives, axes, and guns that massacred people praying and in devotion to their maker?

In the last half a year, we have seen terrorism morph in Israel from volleys of missiles indiscriminately shot at cities, tunnels to attack and abduct, and suicide/homicide bombings to become up close and personal butcher knife attacks in the throat, chest, and back of victims old, young, man, women. Everyone who is available to kill is being called to martyrdom, even the most little children being indoctrinated to slash and thrust a knife into any unsuspecting victim. 

So as we listen and watch the goings-on in the world and we say to ourselves those attacks happen in Paris and London and Turkey and Ukraine and Libya and Tunisia and Nigeria and Yemen and Lebanon and Syria and Iraq and Kuwait and Pakistan and Afghanistan and India and Indonesia and and and...but not [so much] over here. 

We say it, and we hope it, and we pray it, but in the back of our minds we instinctively fear otherwise. 

So while panic is certainly not helpful, perhaps phony bravado is not what is really needed either, but rather a renewed focus, investment, and commitment to our security--with more gates, guns, guards, intelligence, and advances in technology to stop the next attack(s). ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Irina Slutsky)

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August 28, 2014

Talent = f {Intelligence, Energy, Integrity Squared}

I really like this quote from Warren Buffet. 

Three traits to look for in recruiting the best people:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Energy
  3. Integrity

But what good are the first two without the third one?

So Integrity first (or squared for emphasis)...then intelligence plus the energy to use it plentifully and you have yourself an organizational winner!

Related to this, I saw someone on the train today with a tee shirt (from Sweet Green...not sure why this is their slogan) that said:

Passion 

   X

Purpose

This seemed like a good motto to me define the energy (#2) in Buffet's top 3 items for recruiting. 

With a clear intent plus the compelling feeling to achieve it, you got energy to apply.

The resulting function: 

Talent = f {Intelligence, Energy (or Passion x Purpose), Integrity Squared}

Now that's a recruiting formula we can all follow--thank you Mr. Buffet. ;-)

(Source Photo: LinkedIn)
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June 1, 2013

Why People Spy

There is an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (31 May 2013) about why people spy.

The former CIA case officer, who recruited others to become traitors and wrote the article says, it comes down to MICES:


- Money: "We give you cash, and you steal secrets."


- Ideology: The person no longer believes in their system of government or has been abused by the system.


- Conscience: Someone who is looking to atone for the crimes/sins of the system or of themselves. 


- Ego: This is a person who responds to stroking of their self-esteem and sense of purpose.


- Sex: A fifth powerful motivator is sex or a relationship that may address people's feelings of isolation or loneliness. 


Thinking about the motivation for spying in terms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I have connected the five techniques to turn someone with their basic needs, making the Pyramid of Spying:


- Money fulfills people's base physiological needs.


- Ideology appeals to someone who has been abused and hates the system and thus is tied to motivations for safety and security.


- Sex/relationships has to do with social needs.


- Stroking someone's ego fulfills his/her esteem needs. 


- Spying for reasons of conscience (e.g. what some would consider becoming enlightened) is driven by the need to self-actualize. 


The reason that I turned the pyramid/hierarchy upside down for the motivations of why people spy is that being "turned" and becoming a traitor to one's country is such an unnatural and abhorrent concept to normal people that they would generally not do it just for the money, revenge, or sex (lower-level needs), but rather they ultimately would need to be driven by reasons of conscience and ego (higher-level needs).


Of course, sprinkling in the money, ideology, and sex makes acting the traitor that much more appealing to some--and helps "grease the wheels" to go outside the bounds of what a normal person does and feels towards their nation--but those are not the primary drivers for committing the ultimate crime against one's country. 


Again, normal people are not motivated to be treacherous and treasonous, but given the wrong dose of motivations, people are turned--this means we know how to use the tools of the trade to our nation's advantage, but also to be mindful and watchful of those who motivations are being acted on. 


(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 15, 2013

The Counterterrorism Calendar


The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) "leads our nations efforts to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort."  The NCTC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). 

Not since the playing cards used in the 2003 Iraqi invasion with the most-wanted identified on the cards have I seen the employ of such a common tool for sharing such important information--until now with the development by the NCTC of a Counterterrorism Calendar

Typically, pin-up calendars have been devoted to beautiful models, Dilbert cartoons, and areas of personal interests and hobbies--such as cars, sports, aircraft, boats, or whatever.

I was impressed to see this concept used for sharing counterterrorism information; really, this is something that we should be mindful of every day--it's about our safety and national security.

The counterterrorism calendar has both a website and a PDF download

The website has an interactive timeline, map, and terrorist profiles--so you can learn about terrorism by time and space and those who commit the atrocities. 

Timeline--you can view by month and day the major terrorist acts that have occurred--and many days have more than one terrorist act associated with it--and only seven days out of the whole calendar year have no terrorist acts listed--so for those who are focused on just 9/11, there is a whole calendar waiting for you to view. 

Map--the map allows you to see the home base and geographical sphere of influence of many terrorist organizations--17 of them--along with a profile of each of those terrorist groups. There is also a button on the bottom of the page to see all the countries impacted with victims from 9/11--there are 91 countries shown with victims from this single catastrophic event alone.

Terrorists--the site has a list of terrorists with their profiles, identifying information, what they are wanted for, and amount of reward offered, or whether they have already been captured or killed. There is also a list of the 10 most wanted off to the right side of the page--with a rewards of $25 million listed for the #1 spot for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The downloadable calendar has this information in a 160 page color-calendar--with a wealth of information for a calendar format like this--it is so large, I don't think you could actually hang this calendar because no regular push pins could actually hold it.

So if you can pull yourself away from the stereotypical Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar, then you may actually be able to learn a lot about what our counterterrorism efforts are all about. ;-)

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March 31, 2012

Which Big Brother

About a decade ago, after the events of 9/11, there was a program called Total Information Awareness (TIA) run out the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The intent was develop and use technology to capture data (lots of it), decipher it, link it, mine it, and present and use it effectively to protect us from terrorists and other national security threats. 

Due to concerns about privacy--i.e. people's fear of "Big Brother"--the program was officially moth-balled, but the projects went forward under other names.  

This month Wired (April 2012) reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has almost achieved the TIA dream--"a massive surveillance center" capable of analyzing yottabytes (10 to the 24th bytes) of data that is being completed in the Utah desert. 

According to the article, the new $2 billion Utah Data (Spy) Center is being built by 10,000 construction workers and is expected to be operational in a little over a year (September 2013), and will capture phone calls, emails, and web posts and process them by a "supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes."

While DOD is most interested in "deepnet"--"data beyond the reach of the public" such as password protected data, governmental communications, and other "high value" information, the article goes on to describe "electronic monitoring rooms in major US telecom facilities" to collect information at the switch level, monitor phone calls, and conduct deep packet inspection of Internet traffic using systems (like Narus).

Despite accusations of massive domestic surveillance at this center, Fox News (28 March 2012) this week reported that those allegations have been dismissed by NSA. The NSA Director himself, General Keith Alexander provided such assurances at congressional hearings the prior week that the center was not for domestic surveillance purposes, but rather "to protect the nation's cyber security," a topic that he is deeply passionate about. 

Certainly new technologies (especially potentially invasive ones) can be scary from the perspective of civil liberties and privacy concerns.

However, with the terrorists agenda very clear, there is no alternative, but to use all legitimate innovation and technology to our advantage when it comes to national security--to understand our enemies, their networks, their methods, their plans, to stop them, and take them down before they do us harm.

While, it is true that the same technologies that can be used against our enemies, can also be turned against us, we must through protective laws and ample layers of oversight ensure that this doesn't happen. 

Adequate checks and balances in government are essential to ensure that "bad apples" don't take root and potentially abuse the system, even if that is the exception and not the rule. 

There is a difference between the big brother who is there to defend his siblings from the schoolyard bully or pulls his wounded brother in arms off the battlefield, and the one who takes advantage of them.

Not every big brother is the Big Brother from George Orwell's "1984" totalitarian state, but if someone is abusing the system, we need to hold them accountable. 

Protecting national security and civil liberties is a dual responsibility that we cannot wish away, but which we must deal with with common sense and vigilance.  

(Source Photo: here)

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July 30, 2011

Sensors, Sensors Everywhere

Three_surveillance_cameras

Sensors will soon be everywhere--waiting, watching, and working to capture information about you and the environment we inhabit.

Every sensor is an opportunity to collect data and use that data for making better decisions.

Of course, we see sensors deployed first and foremost from our military overseas, in Iraq and Afghanistan, which uses drones to spy on and strike on our adversaries. The drones are really flying platforms of sensors and in some cases with weapons at ready. According to the New York Times (20 June 2011) "From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars..the pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones...[and] has asked for nearly $5 billion for drones for next year." These drones are providing "a Tsunami of data" from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The change to drones is so significant in our military that the Times reports that "already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined."

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal (5 July 2011) reports that another type of sensor--surveillance cameras--are being deployed big time in China with a new surveillance network in Chongqing of 500,000 cameras (Beijing already has 280,000 cameras in its system) "that officials says will prevent crime but that human-rights advocates warn could target political dissent." While this project is significantly larger and more aggressive than other cities have deployed, China is certainly not alone in deploying surveillance cameras in their cities--Chicago has 10,000, New York has 8,000, and London has over 10,000. According to the WSJ, the overall market last year for surveillance-equiptments sales, not including networking gear or software totaled $1.7 billion! So smile, you are on camera--and it's candid, indeed.

A third article ran in Government Computer News (July 2011) on a more innocuous type of sensors to be used--this being the mass deployment of mobile sensors for the National Weather Service (NWS) on vehicle fleets such as Greyhound buses etc. Beginning in October, "2,000 commercial vehicles will be equipped with sensors...and will be sending data to NWS in near real time. We will be rolling out coverage on the national level." The mobile sensors will be taking 100,000 observations daily--every 10 seconds, about every 300 meters--measuring temperature, humidity, dew, precipitation, and solar information." In the future, we are looking at the potential of a "a sensing probe in every car"--for collecting information on hazardous roads, traffic patterns, and preventing accidents. Other applications for mobile sensors could be for "monitoring chemical and biological agents," nuclear and radiological ones, or CO2 and Ozone and more.

While sensors can collect data that can be used to analyze situations early and often to help people; certainly, they can also be misused to spy on one's citizens and suppress freedom. It can be a slippery slope. Perhaps that why Wired Magazine recently ask (July 2011) who's "Watching the Watchers" making the distinction between:

1) Surveillance--the monitoring of events by those above, the authorities--with CCTV etc. and monitoring events from control rooms, potentially from anywhere around the world.
2) Sousveillance--the monitoring of events by those below, the citizens--with everyday smartphones, cameras, and videocams and posting the digital images and sound bytes to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on for the world to see.

With IPV6 providing enough Internet address for attaching sensors to every atom on the surface of the earth and sensors becoming smaller and more imperceptible, we can soon monitor and report on everything, everywhere all the time. Some of the biggest challenges remain ensuring the information monitored is kept secure, private, and used legally and ethically and sifting through all the data to identify the truly meaningful information from what's just noise.

(Source Photo: here)

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August 1, 2010

A Peek at The Future of Information Search, Analysis, and Visualization

I am not endorsing any vendor or product, but here's an impressive video on what Recorded Future is doing with what they call a "Temporal Analytics Engine" to analyze open source information on the web as well as structured data sources.

This goes way beyond search as we do it today--this is a look into the future of iterative search, link analysis, information visualization (both temporally and spatially), and predictive analytics.

The video shows an example of how the technology can be used in counterterrorism efforts to "connect the dots" on the bad guys and protect our nation and its people.

Envision many other applications across government (including law enforcement), business, academia...check it out.


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January 9, 2010

Architecting A Secure Society

Once again, we are confronted with the basic security question of how much is the right amount?

It’s a classic catch-22 that requires us to architect security to meet opposing ends: we expect security to be as much as necessary to stop the terrorists, but as little as possible to ensure efficient travel and trade and maintain people’s privacy and equality.

In the last decades, we have behaved schizophrenically, calling for more security every time there is an attempted attack, only to withdraw and demand greater privacy protections, speedier security processing, and only random checks when things cool down.

The Wall Street Journal reported in the January 9-10, 2010 edition that the U.S.’s handling of security nowadays is an ever-losing proposition. The article calls it a virtual game of “Terrorball,” in which we cannot win, because there only two perpetual rules:

· “The game lasts as long as there are terrorists who want to harm Americans; and

· If terrorists should manage to kill or injure or seriously frighten any of us, they win.”

Based on the above, I believe that we can only win the game by changing its rules. Rather than being reactive to every terror scare, we are prepared with one approach—one that delivers an optimal level of security based on the current level of risk.

I recall when Michael Chertoff was Secretary of Homeland Security. During that time, he was a strong advocate for a risk-based approach that was multilayered, strong yet flexible enough to accommodate changing circumstances. From that perspective, which I think made a lot of sense: security decisions are made on the basis of objective criteria. These include technical feasibility, maximum effect, cost-benefit analysis, and so on.

A risk-based approach, or what I call “optimal security,” clearly makes a lot of sense. Yet it is tempting, when a security situation actually occurs, to let emotions get the better of us. On the one extreme, sometimes hysteria takes place and everybody seems a potential threat. Other times, we get angry that anyone at all is subjected to scrutiny or questioning.

In order to save the most lives and change the terror game, we have to decide to become more rational about the threat that faces us. This doesn’t mean being cold and calculating, but rather rational and proactive in developing a security architecture and governance that seeks to protect the most with the least negative impacts—but not trying to plug every possible hole at all costs.

In optimal security: sure, there is the ideal where we want to protect every American from every possible threat. However, there is also the reality where, because of competing priorities and scarce resources (to address everything from the deficit, health care, education, social programs, energy, science, defense, and more) we cannot—no matter how much we genuinely want to—prevent every terror instance.

So the terror playbook can and should be transformed. We can recognize there will always be terrorists—enemies of the state—who want to harm us and given enough attempts, no matter how optimal our security, they will occasionally get a sucker punch in on us—and we must be prepared for this. Moreover, rather than “freaking out” about this the terror threat, we can grow and commit to doing the best we can and accepting that we will increase security when information is there to support that need, and we will relax when that becomes possible.

Bottom line: We must move away from hysteria and any other factor that prevents us from being objective and make rational choices to deploy protections that are most effective and simultaneously safeguard our liberty.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” captures the security debate well. We want to safeguard lives, but at the same ensure liberty and we want to be happy and not afraid all the time.

To accomplish this balance, our optimal security realization should be based on highly effective intelligence, supported by the very best technology, and a security platform that adjusts to threats in real time.

While our intelligence continues to strengthen and our technology continues to improve, the greatest challenge is our ability as a nation and as individual human beings to cope with the distress caused by terrorism.

We are ambivalent emotionally about the threat and what needs to be done to combat it. However, once we look inside and understand the emotions that this issue raises, and come to terms with reality we face, we will as a nation be more at peace and less likely to jump from one extreme to another in terms of our demands and expectations from those who protect us every day.


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January 3, 2009

Embedded Systems and Enterprise Architecture

Information technology is not just about data centers, desktops, and handheld devices anymore. These days, technology is everywhere—embedded in all sorts of devices from cars and toaster ovens to traffic lights and nuclear power plants. Technology is pervasive in every industry from telecommunications to finance and from healthcare to consumer electronics.

Generally, embedded systems are dedicated to specific tasks, while general-purpose computers can be used for a variety of functions. In either case, the systems are vital for our everyday functioning.

Government Computer News, 15 December 2008 reports that “thanks to the plummeting cost of microprocessors, computing…now happens in automobiles, Global Positioning Systems, identification cards and even outer space.

The challenge with embedded systems are that they “must operate on limited resources—small processors, tiny memory and low power.”

Rob Oshana, director of engineering at Freescale Semiconductor says that “With embedded it’s about doing as much as you can with as little as you can.”

What’s new—haven’t we had systems embedded in automobiles for years?

Although originally designed for interacting with the real world, such systems are increasingly feeding information into larger information systems,” according to Wayne Wolf, chair of embedded computing systems at Georgia Institute of Technology.

According to Wolf, “What we are starting to see now is [the emergence] of what the National Science Foundation is called cyber-physical systems.”

In other words, embedded systems are used for command and control or information capture in the physical domain (like in a car or medical imaging machine), but then they can also share information over a network with others (think OnStar or remote medical services).

When the information is shared from the car to the Onstar service center, information about an accident can be turned into dispatch of life-saving responders. Similarly, when scans from a battlefield MRI is shared with medical service providers back in the States, quality medical services can be provided, when necessary, from thousands of miles away.

As we should hopefully have all come to learn after 9-11, information hoarding is faux power. But when information is shared, the power is real because it can be received and used by others and others, so that its influence is exponential.

Think for example, of the Mars Rover, which has embedded systems for capturing environmental samples. Left alone, the information is contained to a physical device millions of miles away, but sharing the information back to remote tracking stations here on Earth, the information can be analyzed, shared, studied, and so forth with almost endless possibilities for ongoing learning and growth.

The world has changed from embedded systems to a universe of connected systems.

Think distributed computing and the internet. With distributed computing, we are silos or separate domains of information, but by connecting the islands of information using the internet for example, we can all harness the vast amounts of information out there and in turn process it within our own lives and contribute back information to others.

The connection and sharing is our strength.

In the intelligence world, information is often referred to as dots, and it is the connection of the dots that make for viable and actionable intelligence.

As people, we are also proverbially just little dots in this big world of ours.

But as we have learnt with social media, we are able to grow as individuals and become more potent and more fulfilled human beings by being connected with others—we’ve gone from doing this in our limited physical geographies to a much larger population in cyberspace.

In the end, information resides in people or can be embedded in machines, but connecting the information to with other humans and machines is the true power of the information technology.


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June 21, 2008

Fusion Centers and Enterprise Architecture

An important way to share law enforcement and intelligence information in a physical setting is through fusion centers.

Government Technology’s Emergency Management Magazine, Spring 2008, states “the ultimate goals of any fusion center is to prevent terrorist attacks and to respond to natural and man-made threats quickly and efficiently.”

“Data fusion involves the exchange of information from different sources—including law enforcement, public safety, and private sector—and with analysis, can result in meaningful and actionable intelligence and information…The fusion process allows relentless re-evaluation of existing data in context with new data in order to provide constant updates.”

Fusion centers bring together federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector subject matter experts to share information, provide risk and threat assessments, and provide a coordinated response.

“Nearly every state now has a fusion center to address gaps in data sharing.” In the fusion center, there is real time video monitoring that can be panned and zoomed, GIS mapping capabilities and the ability to amalgamate information. The advantage of the fusion center is that all participant organizations have the potential of seeing and hearing the same thing at the same time—although local authorities “cited difficulties accessing federal information systems.”

Not all fusion centers are permanent; some only are formed to deal with special security events like the Olympics and so forth. But those that do function 24x7 hone the skills of the participants by having them work together in a steady ongoing fashion.

While you would think that technology would do away with the need for fusion centers, since the information can be shared virtually, and therefore participants would not need to be co-located, there are benefits to having people deal with people from other organizations face-to-face.

As a User-centric enterprise architect and one who believes strongly that the human capital perspective is under-appreciated or neglected altogether, I appreciate the need for fusion centers, joint operations centers, interagency coordination centers, and the like to share not only information and technology resources, but to actually work together, cooperate, coordinate, and build stronger ties across functional and organizational silos. This is really what “enterprise” architecture is all about—breaking down the silos and building a unified, more effective and efficient organization.

The fusion center solution acknowledges that the challenge of law enforcement, intelligence, and counter-terrorism efforts needs to go beyond pure information technology initiatives. We can’t afford to just have siloed agencies and organizations working out of their own “corners.” There is a need for people to come together and collaborate in a face-to-face environment.

As architects, there is an erroneous tendency to focus on technology solutions. This is suboptimal. We need to look at business process improvement and reengineering, the introduction of new technology, and continuing to build an ever more skilled, innovative, and cohesive work force. This User-centric EA approach ties to a three-pronged approach of people, process, and technology.

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