Highly abbreviated list due to deadlines, holidays, etc.

Listen to VOA on DC AM radio at WFED (AM 1500) Tuesdays and Thursdays. (h/t VOA, unofficially of course)

Al Jazeera reaches out via new media. (h/t KAE)

Still wondering how this upcoming USIP event can be titled Media as Global Diplomat when the only media (domestic or foreign and MTV doesn’t count) is the moderator and there are no non-US observers on the panel.

There’s a new website to watch: Building Peace. I’d subscribe but I can’t find an RSS for it… update: an RSS is now available

Virtual Briefing Pass

Briefly, check out State’s Facebook page eliciting comments on Sean McCormack’s Virtual Briefing initiative. As of now, there’s nothing there, but I expect comments to start appearing. Several of us were on a teleconference last week to share our thoughts on this with Sean. Look for more sooner than later.

Related, see ExchangesConnect Online Video Contest:

Enter your 3-minute video about what "My Culture + Your Culture" means to you for a chance to win an international exchange program!  The contest opens on December 1, 2008 and ends on January 26, 2009.

Also, see Assistant Secretary Goli Ameri upcoming (Jan 5) talk at UCLA titled The Challenges of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century. Ameri leads the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Ameri recently


“The U.S. government needs to resurrect the nonviolent practice of "political warfare" and create an agency to manage it. … Mr. Obama’s administration could use as a model the British Political Warfare Executive, which rallied support for the Allied cause behind enemy lines during World War II, or the U.S. Information Agency, which helped network opponents of communism and undermine Moscow’s intellectual appeal during the Cold War.” – “Information Warfare Matters: We need to confront the jihadist ideology directly” by Christian Whiton and Kristofer Harrison, two State Department employees writing in Wall Street Journal Asia. This Op-Ed sounds a lot like the need to return to the fighting a psychological struggle for minds and wills with all means available. The authors are asking to return to core roots of what became known as public diplomacy. Makes the upcoming Smith-Mundt discussion even more timely. See also “Information Warfare and VOA” at the VOA blog.

  “Discussing Special Operations forces’ information role in the "war of ideas" with Islamist terrorists, Vickers said during an appearance at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the "themes you emphasize, how well they resonate, the distribution mechanisms, who’s giving the message" are important factors.” – Walter Pincus of The Washington Post writing about Defense Department Sustains Focus On ‘War of Ideas’ in Anti-Terrorism Efforts. This doesn’t concern me. Why? Because both Special Operations and Public Diplomats have the same basic mission: operate by, with, and through indigenous people to prevent conflict. Both communities also share a similar lack of visibility and constituency in Congress to protect funding streams. On the specific subject of the news and information websites, this isn’t really new:,, etc.

“Let’s say we came up with four or five concepts of messages that we would want to send out. Potentially, those messages could even create second- and third-order effects. This guy does A, it causes this guy to do B. Well, tell me how you would rehearse prior to actually sending those messages out? How would you codify the potential impact of that message set before you sent it out?” – “Range Accelerates Information Operations Planning: Joint Management Office creates environment for exploring nonkinetic options” by Maryann Lawlor.

  “Once the coordinated attacks began, the terrorists were on their cell phones constantly. They used BlackBerries "to monitor international reaction to the atrocities, and to check on the police response via the internet…” – cited by Noah Shachtman in How Gadgets Helped Mumbai Attackers.

“Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.” cited by Andrew Exum at Abu Muqawama. Media is the oxygen of the terrorist. It is also the oxygen of the counterterrorist. We must be agile to negate and counter the attractiveness of terrorist, create alternatives from building local capacity to creating opportunities. Inability to function at speed in the global information environment will bring new meaning to the phrase the quick and the dead.  

“We can seldom match the speed of Taleban disinformation. but we can, in information terms, switch thebattle to ground of our own choosing….Information Operations must be at the heart of any counter-insurgency campaign, and the size, efficiency and prominenceof the relevant organisation ought to reflect this. … we need political leadership from Kabul of the information effort in Afghanistan.” – Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the UK Defence Staff, at UK Defence Forum Defence Viewpoints blogsite.

“It took the Bush Administration seven years before, as enunciated by Undersecretary Jim Glassman, it recognized that public diplomacy is mainly about “them” (empowering mainstream Muslims to compete with and defeat radical Islamists) and not about “us” (harnessing our best researchers, pollsters, and marketeers to improve the American brand).” – Robert Satloff at Middle East Strategy at Harvard on Kristin Lord’s Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

Event: International News Coverage in a New Media World

A joint Broadcasting Board of Governors and GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications event:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors and the GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communications in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights for a discussion of:

  • International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent and the Rise of the Citizen Journalist
  • Experts will examine the dramatic shift of traditional media away from foreign reporting, the growth of web-based citizen journalists, and their effects on coverage of international news and human rights issues.

Date: December 10, 2008
Time: 11:30 am – 1:15 pm
Location: George Washington University, Jack Morton Auditorium
  805 21st Street, NW
  Washington, DC 20052


11:30 – 11:50
Light Lunch

12:00 – 12:15
Welcome and Remarks by James Glassman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (invited)

12:15 – 1:15
Panel Discussion

Steve Roberts – J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University


* Sherry Ricchiardi – Senior Writer, American Journalism Review and Professor, Indiana University School of Journalism
* Patrick Meier – Research Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
* John Donvan – Correspondent, Nightline ABC News (invited

RSVP: or (202) 203-4400

Should be an interesting discussion. Very related to the Smith-Mundt discussion of informing Americans of what is going on overseas, as well as granting oversight by Americans into what is being said and done in their name and with their (our) money.

See also:

Ayman al-Zawahiri’s racial epithet

MountainRunner friend Spencer Ackerman nails it on Zawahiri’s use of "House Negro" in Al-Qaeda’s latest propaganda:

With an American president as loathed as George W. Bush around the world, it’s easy for Al Qaeda to portray the U.S. as venal and stupid and brutish as he’s proven. Obama complicates the narrative significantly: the very color of his skin, precisely what Al Qaeda mocks, symbolizes America’s willingness to change. That’s exactly what Al Qaeda fears most. …

Still, as Ilan Goldenberg notes at Democracy Arsenal, "Al Qaeda’s narrative is now under siege and it’s clearly uncertain about how to react." That sort of disruption is precisely what the U.S. needs to rapidly exploit. In both policy and public-diplomacy terms, the clay is still wet. Why haven’t we seen the State Dept.’s blog hit the Zawahiri "House Negro" tape yet?

I have all the respect for the DipNote staff, and for that matter, but they just don’t have the agility or flexibility to respond to this message. Of course the argument could be made that a response highlights the attack. But in this case, as with most, we know the message is being received and a reply like Spencer’s strikes at AQ’s vulnerability. AQ is losing the struggle for minds and wills and this very message highlights that they will grasp at anything to attempt to regain control of the narrative.

DipNote and should be one of the many platforms used to post accessible responses. Reposting the above is out of the question, but at a minimum a short response echoing or linking to Spencer is better than silence and would get traction. I can think of several people that could bang out a credible response.

State’s foreign media hubs are one thing, but what about online? I’ll wager Defense has already started to respond to this the Zawahiri message on the Internet. State needs to respond both to U.S. audiences (ostensibly DipNote’s mission) and abroad (’s mission). Seriously, even China is implementing an agile response capability.

I don’t think we’ll see anything from DipNote or on this. It would be great to be wrong. Prove me wrong.

See also:


 Public diplomacy expectations by Helle Dale in The Washington Times

What is specifically needed is a new U.S. Agency for Strategic Communication under the guidance of a director of strategic communications. Its director should have the confidence and trust of the president, though maybe not necessarily at cabinet level, and his responsibility would be to coordinate the informational activities of the entire U.S. government, including the vast resources currently commanded by the Pentagon. He would also be responsible for formulating a much-needed comprehensive new communications strategy that would address the activities of U.S. public affairs, public diplomacy, international broadcasting and military information operations.

The State Department itself is in dire need of reform, and should lose an array of public diplomacy activities and assets, which it has been wasting. It should focus more narrowly on traditional diplomacy in state-to-state and multilateral settings. Meanwhile, the Pentagon, where most of the new thinking on this topic has taken place, could be called in to coordinate activities through its combatant command structures, which are the prime examples currently of U.S interagency coordination directed at different regions of the world.

Iranians Flood VOA with Messages for Obama – VOA press release

Iranians are flooding President-elect Barack Obama with personal messages on a special Persian-language website the Voice of America (VOA) created for people to express their views.

VOA’s Persian News Network (PNN) has received hundreds of messages on topics ranging from U.S.-Iranian relations to access to student visas since it invited its audience last week to write to Obama at the website The messages, posted on the site, will eventually be transmitted to the president-elect’s transition office.

Dictators Prefer Botnets –

In the African nation of Mauritania, the military dictatorship has used Cyber War techniques to shut down two opposition web sites that provide the most information on what is going on inside the country. The generals apparently hired several botnets … to smother the anti-dictatorship websites with phony visitors (a "DDOS attack").

Should Arabs Use Violence Against the U.S.? – MEMRI

Jordanian university lecturer Dr. Ibrahim ‘Alloush: I’d like to salute whoever conducts resistance against the Zionist-American hegemony in this world – whether by means of politics or by means of weapons. …

Kuwaiti journalist Sami Al-Nisf: This is the same formula of Stalin, Hitler, Kim Il-Sung, Qaddafi, Saddam, and so on. They all used bombastic words, all had ‘deep throats,’ but at the end of the day – and that’s the greatest mistake – one should look at the figures, rather than the words. These people destroy their countries.

 HARDtalk interview with former US National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski from 14 October.

The internet and “public opinion” in China

No time to comment, but Jim Fallows posted a worthwhile (and timely) post on the internet and public opinion in China.

Outsiders who follow Chinese events have known for years about Roland Soong’s EastSouthWestNorth site*, which draws from Chinese-language and English-language sources for reports and analysis.

I’ve just seen this post, from a few days ago, which strikes me as something that people who don’t normally follow Chinese events should know about. It’s the text of a speech Soong prepared for last weekend’s annual Chinese Bloggers conference (but did not deliver, for family-emergency reasons). In it, he discusses the differences the Internet has, and has not, made in the Chinese government’s ability to control information and maintain power within China.

This is a subject easily misunderstood in the United States, where people tend to assume either that the cleansing power of the Internet will ultimately make government efforts at info-control pointless, or, on the contrary, that the bottling-up effectiveness of the Great Firewall will protect the government from the power of an informed citizenry.  (My own Atlantic article on the subject here.)
Soong elegantly illustrates why such categorical assumptions miss the complexity of what’s going on. The whole speech is worth reading . . .

Read the rest of Jim’s post here.


“An overview of the review team’s mission obtained by The Post says that including other government agencies and other nations in the planning will ‘mitigate the risk of over-militarization of efforts and the development of short-term solutions to long-term problems.’ … Another priority is to take a regional approach to the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including more robust diplomacy with neighbors and a regional economic development effort.” – from a Washington Post article by Ann Scott Tyson on General David Petraeus’s 100-day assessment of strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

“We also pride ourselves on our ability to move ahead of the sound of guns. If we can move ahead of the sound of guns, and prevent them, we’re all better off.” – SOCOM Commander Adm. Eric T. Olson quoted in the Los Angeles Times. SOCOM’s operating mantra of “by, with, and through” the indigenous population is how informational activities must also act.

“The United States’ current counterterrorism strategy lacks any efforts to break the terrorists’ ties to the communities that conceal them and the culture of martyrdom that inspires them.” Malcolm Nance in Foreign Policy (subscription req’d)

“As we’ve noted before, today’s jihadists don’t just use the Internet, occasionally.  ‘They don’t exist without the Web,’ says Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla. Everything from recruiting to training to propaganda is handled online.” – Noah Shachtman at Wired. Twenty years+ ago is was “media is the oxygen of the terrorist.” Today, New Media and traditional media are the oxygen of the terrorist, the insurgent, the counterinsurgent, and the counterterrorist.

“A project at the University of Sao Paulo aims to overcome one of these hurdles by using the sun to power a self-contained wi-fi access point.” – BBC World Service. This is an ICT4D application that empower and engage poor communities in susceptible regions. See also Picking ICT Targets and ICT to Deny Sanctuary.

“When conducting HA missions, PSYOP is necessary for initiating and coordinating reliable communications among aid workers and with the local populace. … CA operations cannot succeed without winning “the hearts and minds” of the people, and PSYOP cannot succeed without CA support.” – short paper by Myrtle Vacirca-Quinn, M.D. Sternfeld and Luis Carlos Montalván at Small Wars Journal.

“German diplomats, for example, spend a year in a sort of Foreign Service boot camp and are expected to speak fluent French and English before being posted abroad. American diplomats typically get seven weeks—most of it spent learning rules and regulations, not economics or political science or history or even management skills—before they’re thrown into a consular job somewhere overseas.” Andrew Curry writing about the Foreign Service Officer Test in Foreign Policy. See also the report by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

“This is the imperative to rely far more on traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy and foreign aid delivered through civilian means to begin to repair America’s face and effectively conduct its business abroad.” – Pat Kushlis at WhirldView.

Last note: I have the Paret edition, how about you?


Highlighted Blog: US Army Combined Arms Center. Pick your model, CAC or UK FCO, both are excellent. Be sure to check out CAC’s blog and user stats page.

“As my friend the late Sheriff Gene Darnell always told me, the best politics is doing a good job.” – Representative Ike Skelton, D-MO, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee discussing improving the interagency process but raising the point that the deeds speak louder than words.

“It is not every day that a young US Army officer has the opportunity to interact with a sitting head of state who has both lead a revolution and fought a counterinsurgency. CGSC students and faculty had just that chance on Friday when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” – LTG Bill Caldwell sharing President Museveni’s five conditions and four phases for revolutionary war.

“[T]here is also increasingly broad recognition within the military that the expertise USAID brings with regard to providing effective and culturally-appropriate humanitarian assistance to foster long-term economic and political progress in the developing world will be decisive as the U.S. government strives to develop capabilities aimed at not only defeating ongoing insurgencies, but creating conditions in threatened nations that will be key to preempting future insurgencies.” – LTC David Menegon and Jeffrey Ashley, Ph.D., in Operational Design Prototype for USAID and DOD Synchronization: The Art of the Strategic Process for PRTs in Iraq.


Use Google as if it were January 2001.

Congratulations to Chris Albon, blogger at War and Health, for completing his comprehensives.


“One of the major new difficulties here is the vast canvas of the media landscape. No longer can audiences be divided into ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ as they have done in the past. Anything that is published can be potentially viewed by either the domestic or the international audience or in fact a multitude of different audiences with a variety of compositions. And yet, the old view still prevails in a number of communications campaigns. This comes unstuck when your international audience views your domestic output. Steve Tatham provided one example of a British Army advertisement showing British soldiers searching Muslims. This was part of a recruitment drive aimed at UK television audiences, but it had a detrimental effect when it ended up on Youtube, and was deemed highly offensive by some Muslims.” – Daniel Bennett reviewing the symposium How Insurgents Shape the Media Landscape. Read Part One and Part Two.

“We have rarely seen such a work of profound analytic fallacy as the now much circulated study “Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military `surge’ using nighttime light signatures”, which has been making the rounds throughout the blogsphere as of late. … such an assumption ignores much of the literal reality on the ground – valuing remote sensing over the contemporaneous and local accounts of human sources, military commanders, and reconstruction agencies that have lived through the tumultuous progress of the latter stages of the Iraq intervention. It also conflates economic indicators with stability and security…” Deliberately Ignoring the Human Terrain by Kent’s Imperative

“An informed public is central to a properly functioning democracy. As bloggers, you are now part of this modern day newsroom. You are deciding what stories should be posted without the benefit of a traditional gatekeeper in the media that’s often been referred to as the Fourth Estate. … Bloggers play a vitally important watchdog role in the defense of democracy and the Constitutional order.” – LTG Bill Caldwell speaking to the Milblogging conference.

Related to the above, see the Combined Arms Center’s blogging page.

“We’ve seen over and over again that the blogs are the most effective fact-checking tool that we have.” – McCain spokesman, Michael Goldfarb, to Michelle Malkin. (h/t AS)

Treat audiences as investors was the message of a recent short post. This week I threw up another post (sourced again from H&K) about proxy engagement, which is fundamentally what public diplomacy is all about: talk to people, influentials preferred but not required, so they tell two friends, and so on like the old U.S. commercial. The firm behind the program in the latter post caught my mention of their client and followed up with me today to see if I needed more information. This is a ‘digital outreach team’ that is on top of it (GolinHarris, if you were wondering). That’s good follow up to promote the message and help it spread. This is where the Madison Avenue model really digs in but it’s also the approach that’s uniformly ignored by USG folks who invoke “Madison Avenue”.

“I think DMA is one of the most exciting things to happen to public affairs in a long time,” Hastings said. “It’s our opportunity to change the way we deliver news and information to our internal audience.” – Bob Hastings talking about the Oct 1 establishment of the Defense Media Activity. (h/t Galrahn)

Following up the testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, see


“Our ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful’ message isn’t working either.  Like Jim Glassman says, it’s not about us, it’s about them.  The sooner we recognize that, the better.” – Angela Trethewey and Joe Faina in talking about Sen. Lieberman’s Not-So-Straight Talk on Public Diplomacy

“One of the problems with Open Source research is that most of it is farmed out to contractor [companies], who are just using it as unclassified work for people who are in the process of getting their clearance.  This is one of the reasons contractors will NEVER contribute to the field of Open Source.  Their analysts pick up some skills but then are ripped out of there to serve on a higher-paying contract, once they get cleared.  This brain drain is a huge problem.” – Open Source Spy Looks for Upgrade by Noah Shachtman

“The decline of the U.S. military’s acquisitions workforce, and the resulting reliance on private contractors to perform oversight on weapons program, is ‘going to be sooner or latter one of the biggest stories of the military complex in this half of the century,’ according to one longtime defense industry professional.” – Pentagon Weapons-Buying: ‘Dumb as a Bag of $600 Hammers’ by David Axe

“Hackers knocked out Al Qaeda’s online means of communication, thus preventing them from posting anything to commemorate the anniversary.” – Hindustan Times (h/t MT)

Online Symposium at CTLab: Social Science in War starts next week (22 September 2008)

“Google is talking about moving some of their data centers offshore, which in their mind apparently means at sea. … The ‘water-based data centres’ would use wave energy to power and cool their computers, reducing Google’s costs. Their offshore status would also mean the company would no longer have to pay property taxes on its data centres, which are sited across the world, including in Britain.” – Google Going Offshore? by Galrahn (see also Google and Am FP)

“Despite almost seven years of fighting, the administration has still not clearly articulated a strategy and has starved the effort of resources. … Good tactics and more troops are not a substitute for a strategy – and in fact can significantly raise the cost of a bad strategy. Both candidates need to explain the strategy that justifies such a commitment.” – The Good War? by T.X. Hammes


“…the people formerly known as the audience refused to behave like one. They brandished video cams, iPhones and recorders, doing their own documentation of what was under way.” David Carr in the New York Times

“The goal is to bring down the walls of the convention and invite in an audience that’s as large as possible. Credentialing more bloggers opens up all sorts of new audiences.” Aaron Myers, the director of online communications for the Democratic National Convention Committee, quoted in the New York Times.

“…most notably 1946 to 1974, when a pervasive concern to combat and contain communism prompted an unprecedented yet uncoordinated array of initiatives by the federal government to export American culture as exemplary illustrations of what the free world had to offer Europe as well as developing nations.” Michael Kammen writing in the book The Arts of Democracy: Art, Public Culture, and the State, quoted by John Brown in his review of said book.

“During the Cold War, the transatlantic community understood that pulling allies closer, not just countering enemies, was a priority for public diplomacy.” Kristin Lord in Public Diplomacy and the New Transatlantic Agenda.

“Since the Russian invasion of Georgia there has been a lot of discussion about the media war and who won it. … But another aspect seems to have received a little less attention – namely the nature of the media’s coverage and how it differed from other wars.” Daniel Korski in the Future of War Reporting.

Open Source Counter-Propaganda

In order to win the “War of Ideas” we need to mobilize and empower the masses. It’s one thing to talk about New Media, it’s quite another to make it available. Commercial outsourcing information activities is one thing (and potentially distasteful resulting from incredibly poor short-term judgement), outsourcing the struggle for minds and wills to indigenous population is another. The struggle must be, after all, ultimately conducted by, with, and through the local population for legitimacy, participation, and durability of the message and effect. After thinking more about Sean’s observation on improved connectivity in Baghdad, a friend and I were talking. While “neutral” media websites provided CENTCOM may not be the answer (we arguably squandered this opportunity five years ago), getting information and communication technologies into the hands of the general public is.

The insurgent is using off the shelf software and free tools to capture, brand, and transmit their messages. Why not do the same for ordinary Iraqis? We’ve talked about doing the same in Iran a few years ago: distribute free Farsi blogging tools and hosting to facilitate online discussions.

This “open source counter-propaganda” must be used to expose misinformation, atrocities, and adversarial “say-do” gaps as well as promote the positive and success stories.

Something to think about. The advantages will outweigh and beat the disadvantages in the long run. Capacity and connectivity are good.

(H/T Mike)

See also:

Blackberries and Wireless Networks in Baghdad

This could be filed under Friday morning light news or it could be a sign of improving conditions in Baghdad, but Sean McCormack, State’s Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, notes that Blackberries now work in Iraq’s capital. Let’s hope the network will be accessible to locals to rebuild the economy, local accountability and governance, and enhance security, all of which are standard aims of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). 

After getting to the first meeting site at Prime Minister Maliki’s residence, I asked one of the embassy personnel with us what had happened. They said that IRAQNA (Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation) had happened and that they now had the pleasure of having to answer yet another question from Washington at 2:30 AM in Baghdad just because their Blackberries worked at home. (My first thought was to mention that answering e-mails at obscene hours will only beget more such e-mails but quickly decided my colleague could either figure that out for himself or continue to live a sleepless existence). Baghdad Blackberries had worked for about two months. In celebration and cost savings, our embassy was getting rid of the ubiquitous cell phones with a U.S. area code that served as the only means of mobile communication for civilians. The second surprise awaiting me in Baghdad was a wireless network at the Prime Minister’s office building, which I used to send a blog post to my colleagues in Washington. The journalists traveling with us shared in the good fortune, using the network to file their initial stories from Baghdad without traveling either to our embassy or to a press filing center.

Neither of these small changes will change much in Iraq nor change many opinions for that matter. But for some reason, they struck me as worth sharing. Perhaps it was because the road in Iraq has been such a costly and difficult one, and maybe because progress on big issues has come only recently. However, both of these minor technological advances reinforced the perception formed during the past few trips there that Iraq is moving forward in large and small ways — though there is a long way to go.

Any chance this will enhance media coverage of Iraq?

See also:

Are the Russians violating US sovereignty in the cyber war?

The purpose of Computer Network Operations (CNO) and Electronic Warfare (EW) are, put quite simply, to create and deny access to information. Typically considered tools to interfere with the decision making of leaders, they are being used by the Russians to shape international opinion. Georgian CNO, having been defeated and on the retreat, moved some sites to Google-hosted services. Whether these are in the United States or not is unknown. The question hasn’t been raised so far, perhaps because Google largely operates in its own pseudo-sovereign realm

The Associated Press is reporting that some Georgian sites (maybe the same sites?) have been moved to U.S. servers:

The website of the president of Georgia, the small nation that is battling Russian forces over a breakaway enclave, was moved to a U.S. hosting facility this weekend after allegedly being attacked by Russian hackers.

The original servers located in the country of Georgia were “flooded and blocked by Russians” over the weekend, Nino Doijashvili, chief executive of Atlanta-based hosting company Tulip Systems Inc., said Monday.

Making this particularly interesting is the question of whether these servers are U.S. sovereign territory. If so, then the Russian hackers, government or not, are attacking the United States. This would be like a foreign national taking refuge inside an American embassy and the local police charging in after them. This is at least the position of some of the U.S. government even if they don’t realize it.

How so, you ask?

Simply put, the U.S. Government is prohibited from engaging discussion boards, blogs, etc. hosted on U.S. servers in part because of the modern interpretation of Smith-Mundt, but not entirely. The concern is the U.S. Government, mostly military as they are the most active in the informational sphere, may influence American citizens by virtue of the fact the server is on American soil regardless of the physical location of the users. So-called “public affairs authority” changes things a bit and permits access, but there remain special considerations for engaging U.S.-based servers.

So, if the U.S. considers U.S.-based servers as the equivalent of U.S. physical territory for the purpose of informational engagement, how is a foreign attack on the same not an incursion against the United States? This dichotomy is going to hurt us sooner than we think.

As I noted earlier, the Georgian dilemma highlights the extreme importance of information in wars among people and the critical requirement to get your side of the story into the information ecosystem. This war of bits and bytes is ultimately a war of perceptions. There is a “tremendous symphony” playing globally right now that involves the government of Russia as well as private sympathizers (e.g. private citizens acting on their own or with encouragement) that is drowning out the Georgians. The Russians cannot have information superiority unless they deny their adversary the ability to communicate, and then they can propagate their message without a counter-narrative, truthful or not. The cyber attacks are muzzling Georgia to prevent opportunities to portray the Russians as anything but “peacekeepers” and “defenders.”

(H/T on the AP article to Jeff Carr)

Outsourcing to break the “cyber-lock”

Noah Shachtman at Wired draws our attention to an interesting bit of virtual geography: George is largely “cyber-locked” (see the Packet Clearing House diagram). The solution? Outsource to Google:, the Georgian news site, is "under permanent [cyber] attack." So they’ve switched their operations to one of Google’s Blogspot domains, to keep the information flowing about what’s going on in their country.

"In a sense," notes Jim Stogdill, "they must be saying ‘we can’t keep our sites up, but we don’t think [Russian hackers] can take down Blogspot, given Google’s much better infrastructure and ability to defend it.’"

Yes, and the cost was probably attractive attribute as well.

Besides the interesting reliance on the private sector, the Georgian dilemma highlights the extreme importance of information and the ability to get out your side of the story. The war of bits and bytes is ultimately a war of perceptions. The cyber attacks are efforts to muzzle the Georgians and to prevent opportunities to portray the Russians as anything but “peacekeepers” and “defenders.”

See for example Joshua Keating: Georgians feel betrayed and abandoned by their American allies. The Russian media isn’t really reporting it that way though.”

iPhone as a weapon

The Netwar between Georgia and Russia is interesting. Not the least of which for the way language is being exploited to put the other side in a negative light (otherwise known as propaganda). But there’s an unrelated article on network warfare you may find interesting:

With a jailbroken, iPhone attackers can use this to find out information about a network using just a phone. Gathering information or footprinting is important to have when wanting to attack a secure network. According to Stuart McClure, Joel Scambray, and George Kurtz (1999), “systematic footprinting of an organization will allow attackers to create a complete profile of an organization’s security posture”(p. 5). They go on to say “Footprinting is necessary to systematically and methodically ensure that all pieces of information related to the aforementioned technologies are identified”( Kurtz et al., 1999, p6). Footprinting can involve scanning tools such as Metasploit, Nmap, Whois, tcpdump and others.

Read the whole thing at the blog of MountainRunner friend Sam Liles.

With all these techniques, gathering information from a wireless network has gone from carrying a laptop to using the device that one mostly already has, smart phones. Peter Grabosky and Russell G. Smith say, “In 1995, 250,000 smart phones were sold in the United States” (p.6). Two-hundred and fifty thousands smart phones were sold in 1995 and today who many young adults do not want an mp3 player with build-in wireless card that can be used to run attacks against networks because they saw it on You Tube. You Tube is providing people with the knowledge to unlock there smart phone and use it for there own good well or terrorize someone else’s job.

YouTube… not just the place to watch funny cats, but the DIY-center for propaganda and mobilizing for and facilitating network-centric warfare.

Recommended Reading

The following informational posts will increase your knowledge.

  • Social Media as “Influencer Relations” from Hill & Knowlton

    …social media has long been associated with sites like Facebook, Youtube and Myspace, there’s a danger that corporates tend to view social media as a leisure activity and not an avenue for telling a story or communicating with consumers. … pitching social media engagement as something else, possibly "Network Media", "Peer Media", or "Influencer Relations" might enable PR agencies and other advisors to overcome C-suite resistance. … we’re resisting calling online outreach "social media engagement" and instead think of it as targeted stakeholder engagement. This mental shift helps position the internet as a strong, powerful communications tool, and not just a place to while away hours sending pictures to friends (though, of course, we love the internet’s capacity for that too). 

  • Marc Tyrrell responds to my post on new media with Looking at the new (?) media
  • Chris Albon and David Axe report from the USS Kearsarge (see also Galrahn’s post on same)
  • Pentagon’s Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission