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Links to Pre-War Information

I've done a lot of raw research concerning the build-up to the war in Iraq for my film that I haven't published yet. This post aggregates some information that I just formatted as well as points to some other raw data that I already had aggregated.

237 Statements from Bush Administration on Iraq
On March 16th, 2004 Henry Waxman published a database called "Iraq On the Record," but it was eventually taken offline.

I had archived all of it into my timeline, and I just reformatted all of the statements, color coded them, and put them all underneath one URL:

White House's Pre-War Talking Points
I've also aggregated the White House's Talking Points from 9/18/02 to 3/19/03 onto one page:

They call these talking points the "Global Message of the Day" that were carefully crafted and coordinated by the White House Iraq Group.

These messages of the day correlate pretty well with the public record content, and it's a great way to see the overall trends of their pre-war communication strategy and to isolate specific shifts.

I've digested the highlights of their PR strategy to sell the war here:

Selling the War through Anonymous Sources
Often times politicians will speak off the record when they don't want to be held accountable for what they're saying, and so I compiled 5 months worth of ABC and CBS reporting that was based upon anonymous sources.

It's pretty evident that the Bush administration went a lot further in their off-the-record statements, than their on-the-record ones.

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Community Audio: Micah Sifry, Open Source Politics

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A discussion about Open Source Politics with Micah Sifry, who was the eCampaign director of the Andrew Rasiej Campaign for Public Advocate and is the executive editor of

Sifry wrote up a lengthy post-mortem on their attempts at conducting a network-centric political campaign, and I responded to it here. I had pitched their campaign with an idea to remix one of my video blog posts about balancing top-down control with bottom-up participation, but they didn't have the time to carry it through.

But I wanted to follow up with Sifry to find out how open source, collaborative media could interact with open source politics. This was one of the important insights from our conversation:

I think campaigns may be the last place where the innovations are going to start. Because the pressure of doing a campaign is so intense and there really are so many conventional ingredients that people feel that they have to do. And the innovations are going to come -- in the political arena -- they're going to come from the edges, and they're also going to come from, I believe, from ongoing issues. Organizations that work on issues or new organizations that are being create to work on issues because they have a longer life span. And they can be incubators for new ways for doing things that in some cases campaigns, you just don't have the time -- or at best, you have time to try one or two new things and then keep going.

So in a traditional politial campaign, by the time you've gathered together the professional instincts from the fundraising team, scheduler, field team, communications team, web team, campaign manager and pollsters, then there really isn't a lot of room left for thinking outside of the box.

Most of the radical innovations for network centric advocacy will probably come from long-term, issue-based campaigns and from organizations who are able to bring together existing networks to collectively scratch the same itch at the same time.

I hope that The Echo Chamber Project can provide some new ways for collaborating and communicating with rich media.

Sifry is also interested in having someone explain why Drupal is such an interesting platform, and to explain the practical needs of the developer community to the larger audience of the political technology community at Personal Democracy.

(70:55 / 22.6 MB / Subscribe to Community & Technology Audio)

Click here to listen to the MP3

(Photo Credit: Culture Kitchen)

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Migrating Open Source Intelligence Insights Into Participatory Journalism

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I have argued before that the field of Intelligence Analysis can provide many insights for how journalism could do a better job at discovering, discriminating, distilling, and disseminating knowledge.

It seems as though Open Source Intelligence advocate and founder of Robert Davis Steele has also been suggesting that there be a migration of these analytical insights into the public domain:

Because the policymaker is inundated with contradictory information lacking methodical evaluation, a critical priority must be the transfer of the proven methods of classified intelligence analysis, to the world of unclassified information.

Steele calls it a "critical priority" to transfer these advanced analytical techniques and methodologies into the hands of ordinary citizens. This is part of Steele's larger vision for creating an open source network of NGOs, academic institutions, international organizations and potentially individual citizens that could tap into the wisdom of the electorate and create the "possibility of revolutionizing governance by revolutionizing what government can know, how it knows it, how it decides, and how it communicates both its decision and supporting information."

Steele suggests creating a public intelligence "skunk works" that would "focus on creating public intelligence sources, softwares, and services that elevate the utility of all information to all citizens all the time."

There are many unanswered questions for how Steele's vision will be implemented by the coalition of private corporations that he's building, and how much government support and cooperation he will eventually receive. But I would argue that the press should have some role to play in this type of coalition because it sounds very similar to the public interest mandate that the field of journalism aspires to fulfill.

The press is facing an economic and credibility crisis as they attempt to reinvent how they create and deliver their information products. Wall Street pressures are moving the newspaper industry towards implosion by forcing cutbacks and diminishing the amount of available resources for journalists to gather the news -- let alone introduce even more complexity to how they analyze and make sense of the endless stream of facts. But the industry is at a cross roads, and they must change or die.

There happens to be many similar dot-connecting challenges facing the US Intelligence agencies where reform has been hindered by an obsession with secrecy as well as the business models of vested interests that are more focused on "esoteric collection systems" than figuring out how to make sense of the hoards of collected data.

This post is intended to explore the parallels to these challenges and how solutions to all of these challenges can be found through the converging trajectories of Open Source Intelligence and Participatory Journalism. As Steele says,

It is essential that operational, logistics, acquisition, and other information be managed as a coherent whole, not in isolation from classified intelligence. Sharing and sense-making, not hoarding and secrecy, are the watchwords today.

The opposite of information hoarding is collaborative participation, and the opposite of secrecy is transparency. Blogging is pushing journalism to be more participatory and transparent while Steele's Open Source Intelligence initiatives are doing the same in the national security domain. In both cases, the cooperative principles of Open Source holds the keys to unlocking these potentials of the wisdom of the crowd and the trust of the electorate.

The post looks at the following issues...


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Community Audio: Yeast Radio Interview with Kent Bye

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Madge Weinstein interviewed me last week about the Echo Chamber Project, and I thought I'd send it down the Community Feed since it is a great encapsulation of the project so far.

Wired featured Madge's Yeast Radio show, which was picked up by Podshow Network that is broadcast on SIRIUS radio.

(53:00 / 34.6 / Subscribe to Community & Technology Audio)

Click here to listen to the MP3

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Community Audio: Chris Messina, Applying Open Source Strategies

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A broad discussion about how open source principles could be applied to media, politics and national security with open source advocate Chris Messina. I also give an brief update with where I'm at with The Echo Chamber Project.

Messina and I met in Portland, Maine over Thanksgiving break, and we recorded 80 minutes of our conversation.

Chris and I also previously had a 50-minute Skype discussion a few weeks ago, but there were some audio issues that I believe stemmed from Messina's microphone.

Messina has been involved with, Flock, CivicSpace, Drupal and the Barcamp conference modeled after open space.

(78:55 / 22.6 MB / Subscribe to Community & Technology Audio)

Click here to listen to the MP3

(Photo Credit: dmc500hats)

Also, I had an earlier conversation with Chris, but be warned that the audio is a bit low due.

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Can Open Source Intelligence Be a Non-Violent Alternative to War?

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Chris Messina and I were talking about how open source principles could be applied to national security and defense issues, and I mentioned that there was an effort for Open Source Intelligence.

I also speculated that eventually information could be used as a non-violent alternative for war. At the time, I was basing this prediction on my own observations for how information could be used for non-violent conflict resolution. I hadn't really come across a strong intellectual argument for how this new media revolution & advances in communications technologies could actually help bring peace and security to the planet.

But then I discovered a draft of Robert Davis Steele's book that will be titled "INFORMATION OPERATIONS: All Information, All Languages, All the Time" when I was checking up on the latest news from Steele's Open Source Solutions website.

This book was written by Steele, who is a former Marine Corps and CIA intelligence official -- and someone who has been advocating for Open Source Intelligence for the last 17 years. Steele writes, "information-sharing, exploiting all sources in all languages all the time, is the central tenet of defense in the age of information."

Steele argues that the United States is at a strategic dead-end with funding Cold War era war machinery...

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Blogosphere Reporting on Forged Niger Docs: Will this be the Left's Rathergate?

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The liberal blogosphere has been way out in front of investigating the origin of the forged Niger documents that may have been deliberately used to help sell the war in Iraq. I've come across a lot of insights from investigative bloggers who have been connecting the dots using information from the public record -- as well as doing some original reporting.

These forged Niger documents were publicly discredited as being "not authentic" by Mohamed ElBaradei on March 7th, 2003 before the war began 12 days later, but it has always been a bit of a mystery as to who forged them -- as well as how they ended up being used by the Bush Administration to help create the impression that Saddam Hussein was actively seeking to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program.

The cultural right has their takedown of Dan Rather under their belts, and if it turns out that the forged documents originated from the United States and can be tied to the Bush Administration, then that would certainly not bode well for Republicans in the next election cycle and could ultimately result in impeachment hearings with a Democrat majority in Congress.

The liberal blogosphere would certainly take this as an unprecedented victory if this plays out to how Steve Soto describes it:

Get some more popcorn folks. Once you tie Chalabi and people like Ledeen into the forgeries, you tie Cheney’s office into this crap as well. And if that connection is made, it is game, set, and match.

The Patrick Fitzgerald investigation, the FBI investigation into the forgeries, Congressional action, and the mainstream media would inevitably put the final nails into the coffin, but there has been a lot of work by liberal and anti-war bloggers in aggregating what has been already reported on this story overseas -- as well as pushing the story forward.

For example, it looks as though blogger Josh Marshall may have had a role in shining a spotlight to the fact that the FBI may have never even interviewed one of the couriers of the forged documents.

At least until late in 2004 the FBI had never interviewed the man who tried to sell the documents, Rocco Martino -- despite the fact that he came to the United States twice in the summer of 2004.

The FBI now says it concluded its investigation in July of this year. So did the FBI interview Martino before making its determination?

This may have caused the Senate Intelligence Committee to ask the FBI to reopen it's case.

Those findings concerned some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee after published reports that the FBI had not interviewed a former Italian spy named Rocco Martino, who was identified as the original source of the documents. The committee had requested the initial investigation.

It appears as if the FBI tried to whitewash the investigation, but they were called out by Marshall -- and potentially others in the media -- to give the Senate the ammunition they needed in order to call their bluff. So it's good news that the press can still play a watchdog function, and this LA Times report could help open up the floodgates for other news organizations to start digging into material that some liberal bloggers have already been exploring:

After talking with committee members, FBI officials decided to pursue "additional work" on the case, likely exploring the origins of the forgeries and whether the documents had been created specifically to help make the case for ousting Saddam Hussein...

Federal officials familiar with the case say investigators could examine whether the forgeries were instigated by U.S. citizens who advocated an invasion of Iraq or by members of the Iraqi National Congress -- the group led by Ahmad Chalabi that worked closely with Bush administration officials in the buildup to the war.

There is quite a bit of detailed information on this already from the blogosphere, and I'd thought I'd do a quick brain dump of what's passed through my radar screen in the following sections below:

Investigative Blogging from Marshall and eriposte on Niger Docs
State withheld forged Niger Doc from IAEA
John Bolton involved in withholding documents from IAEA?
La Repubblica: Niger forgeries -- New Revelations by top French Spymaster
Clarridge, Wolf & Ledeen implicated by Italian Parliament for Forged Documents

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Propaganda versus Open Source Intelligence


The LA Times and Knight Ridder have done stories this past week on how the Defense Department has been paying Iraqi newspapers to run US propaganda.

At first I was surprised to see that there were conservatives who were defending the use of propaganda since it seems a bit hypocritical to publicly advocate for democracy while privately paying for propaganda.

Some of the arguments are compelling within the context of a traditional war. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find some even more compelling arguments for using information as a non-violent alternative to military force made by Robert David Steele. Steele has been advocating for Open Source Intelligence for the last 17 years, and I quoted his statements to counter some pro-propaganda arguments in this blog post.

There is a compelling argument for propaganda during war, but Bob Steele makes an even more compelling counter argument for modern information operations (IO) which is the following:

"Modern IO is not about the old messages of PSYOP, but rather about empowering billions of people with both information tools and access to truthful information. It is about education, not manipulation. It is about sharing, not secrecy. It is about human understanding to create wealth and stabilize societies, not about the threat of violence and the delivery of precision munitions. IO substitutes information for violence."

Education would be to accurately represent the merits and disadvantages of BOTH sides of any argument.

You don't get this with Propaganda. You only highlight the benefits of your idea and the disadvantages of the other idea while suppressing the disadvantages of your idea and the advantages of the other ideas.

And so it is an issue of proportionality and emphasis that makes propaganda deceptive and manipulative.

So while you may be able to gain some short-term advantage with propaganda as a communications strategy, in the long-run it's a losing battle in winning the hearts and minds of the people as well as empowering them with the critical thinking skills necessary to be able to govern themselves as a viable democracy.

There's also a lack of transparency that eventually makes your strategic message less credible as soon as people realize that they are being propagandized and not educated.

In war, you could make an argument that the benefits of that short-term time period are critical to the mission. And that may be true.

But as soon as you reach a critical mass of Iraqi citizens who realize that they're not getting a full picture of reality, then the messenger really starts to loose credibility.

In an online draft of his book called "INFORMATION OPERATIONS: All Information, All Languages, All the Time" Bob Steele advocates that Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) should be the backbone to any type of Information Operations (IO) -- and that Strategic Communications has to be based upon this "ground truth."

"IO content can be thought of in two parts: Strategic Communication (the message) and OSINT (the reality). The first cannot be effective without the second. It is not possible to craft the right message, nor to deliver that message to the right person at the right time in the right context, without first understanding “ground truth” at a sub-state level of granularity (tribes, villages, neighborhoods). OSINT is the horse seeing the path, Strategic Communication is the cart carrying the message. One before the other."

The problem with propaganda is that is prioritizes strategic communication above and beyond the ground reality.

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Volunteer Opportunities

Yeast Radio's Madge Weinstein just interviewed me about the Echo Chamber Project, and it was a very good encapsulation of where I'm at and where I'm going.

This will hopefully help drive some volunteers to the site, and so this post should serve as a launching pad for what you can do to get more involved.

The most immediate thing to do is to subscribe to one of my RSS feeds. I am trying to build out my support network, and this is one of the simplest ways to help build some momentum for the project. This will show that I have people listening, and I'll be able to have more influence and get more things done as the community grows.

So for anyone already subscribed to my old blog feed, then please switch to my new "All Media" feedburner feed -- which now includes my daily links as well as all video and audio enclosures.

I've also created separate video and audio feeds. My vlog feed is still the same, but I've added two new audio feeds with interview audio and audio from technical conversations about building up the collaborative technology.

As my "Interview Audio" audience grows, then I will start releasing more and more audio from these 76 interviews.

Another really easy thing to do is to sign up as a user on this site. That way I can get your e-mail, and you'll be set to get more involved as the project progresses.

If you can code PHP, and want to help create the open source Drupal modules for collaborative media production, then please send me a direct e-mail at This is vital because these PHP coders will be able facilitate even more people getting involved down the road, so please help spread the word to your technologist friends and bloggers.

I'm also on the lookout for any business-minded people who want to help produce the film and put together a business plan for open media production.

Also -- if you would like to help transcribe small chunks of interviews, then this page has more information: Help Transcribe These Interviews. I'm hoping to recruit a swarm of volunteers who can help transcribe 3-minute chunks of audio. The bulk of the transcription has been completed, but I have a lot of short interviews that I'm starting to release -- So these are very small-scale and doable transcriptions.

I'd like to eventually be able to quickly produce a transcript for an hour interview by having 20 people transcribe 3-minute chunks simultaneously. And I'll probably need a team of around 40-50 available volunteer transcribers in order to achieve this.

This type of distributed transcription will be key for collaborative investigative journalism -- at least until automatic transcription comes along.


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Thirteen Interview Transcripts Posted

I spent a lot of the last week proofreading a number of transcripts, and I just posted these following 13 interview transcripts:

* John R. MacArthur, Harper's Magazine, Publisher
* Pamela Hess, United Press International, Pentagon Beat Reporter
* Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Host
* Robert Dreyfuss, Investigative Reporter, Nation, American Prospect, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone
* Jack Nelson, Los Angeles Times, Retired Washington Bureau Chief
* Lawrence Grossman, NBC News & PBS, Retired President
* Tom Rosenstiel, Committee for Concerned Journalists, Director
* Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media, Contributing editor
* Susan Moeller, University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, Associate Professor
* Todd Gitlin, Columbia University Professor, Graduate School of Journalism
* John Prados, National Security Archive, Senior Fellow
* Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Fellow
* Karen Kwiatkowski, Retired Pentagon Policy Analyst, Near East South Asia

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