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Conflict & Computer Science

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

Conflict has often been a driver for technological advances and computer science has been no exception. The requirements of code breaking during World War II led to the construction of Colossus – the first totally electronic computer device, while the Internet was originally constructed to provide a secure communications network for the military in the event of a nuclear war. While terrorist use of technology, and particularly the Internet, receives tremendous press, the current conflict is also sparking important developments in computer science that will have impacts far beyond the security realm.

My employer, the Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics (LCCD) at the University of Maryland is one group seeking to develop the theory and algorithms required for tools to support decision-making in cultural contexts. LCCD has developed numerous systems including T-Rex, which can rapidly scan text in several languages and convert it into a database and SOMA (Stochastic Opponent Modeling Agents) which can extract rules of likely behaviors by organizations from their past behaviors.

LCCD sponsors an annual conference, the International Conference on Computational Cultural Dynamics (ICCCD2009) – to be held this year on December 7-8 at the University of Maryland. Papers being presented include efforts to model insurgencies as well as piracy in Somalia, a tool used to map the Indonesian blogosphere, and SCARE (Spatial Cultural Abduction Reasoning Engine) which can help predict the locations of weapons caches in an urban environment. (See the full program here.)

Augmenting the Mind
The human brain is an impressive system, which also builds models. In some regards it far exceeds anything on the horizon in the realm of computer science. The ability of human beings to take information and place it in context and draw conclusions from it is profound. We build complex models of how the world works in order to function in it. But computers can process some forms of data far faster than humans and will do so systematically. Human minds cannot quickly process large quantities of data. In attempting to make sense of large amounts of information a human beings may discount or ignore information that does not fit in their model of how the world works – or alternately draw significant conclusions based on a very limited amount of data. Imagine an economist ignoring issues of ethnic identity in analyzing a nation’s policies or a political philosopher focusing on ideology while ignoring logistics in studying a terrorist group’s behavior. In short, computer systems are capable of substantially augmenting the power of human reason.

Things to Come
The impacts of these technologies will be profound. Real-time data collection and processing will potentially improve decision-making in many ways.

Read the complete post here.

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West, Clark to Lead Fort Hood Review

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

Trying to avert another tragedy like the Fort Hood shootings, Defense Secretary Robert Gates named a former Army secretary and former Navy chief to review a broad range of Pentagon programs, ranging from medical and personnel policies to how well military bases are secured.

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Senator Asks About Troops’ Meds Use

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

A U.S. senator wants to know if American warfighters are being overmedicated in theater as a way to help them — and the military — get through the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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PETA Offers Troops ‘Bin Laden Bites’

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals isn’t normally associated with military matters but after reading news reports that described how troops are hurting for chocolate in Afghanistan the group decided to take action — and the result is something warfighters will probably enjoy eating for more than one reason.

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Army may Separate Short-Term Soldiers

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

Soldiers who have fewer than 180 days left on their enlistment will be given a choice when their units deploy: They will be offered incentives to complete the deployment or be involuntarily separated up to 90 days prior to the end of their enlistment, according to an Army message.

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At Osan, Obama Talks About Deployments

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

President Barack Obama drew repeated cheers and applause during a speech to U.S. troops here Thursday — except when he mentioned that some may deploy once again to a war zone.

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Ad Seeks to Recruit Arab-Americans to CIA

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

A new commercial aimed at U.S. Arabs is part of an ambitious outreach effort to communities the CIA deems critical to reducing the threat of terrorism in the U.S. The agency has a five-year plan to boost fluency in Arabic and other languages.

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Border Crossings

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

After observing approximately 15-20 bad guys cross the Afghan-Pakistan border in the same spot for two nights in a row, I decided to take a squad of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, my Embedded Tactical Trainer (ETT) NCO, and myself to set up an overnight ambush along their avenue of approach.   Now for all of you [...]

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NEFA Foundation: Interview with Spokesman for Pakistani Al-Qaida

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

The NEFA Foundation has obtained a transcript of an interview, produced by the As-Sahab Media Foundation, with Dr. Ahmad Farooq, Senior Media Official, Al-Qaida in Pakistan. During the interview, Dr. Farooq was asked “how Pakistani individuals” had become a part of Al-Qaida, which “is commonly known as an Arab organization.” He explained, ““The claim can be true to the extent that a great majority of the Mujahideen – many of whom have been martyred to this day – who laid its foundation and joined it at the start, was that of the Arab brothers; and even today, a large part of Al-Qaeda comprises of the Arab Mujahideen. But this neither is an introduction to Al-Qaeda, nor any condition to become part of it… We see that Al-Qaida is active on diverse fronts including Algeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It embraces Muslims of different nationalities; not only the locals of the areas it holds presence in, but also those belonging to America, different European states, Australasia, the Philippines, Indonesia and numerous other Muslim countries. People from all backgrounds come and join it. Pakistanis are part of it too and this is nothing improbable.”

Dr. Farooq also waved off the frequent criticism that “the Muslims provoked the Kuffar into fighting at a stage when they were not fully prepared to resist them” and that the 9/11 attacks were “premature” because they provoked an American military invasion “which is said to have caused the fall of the Islamic Emirate.” He insisted, “9/11 did not worsen the situation; rather, the state of affairs was altered for once, and the Kuffâr were forced to pay back for the horrors they had been inflicting upon the Muslims… The other thing is that there was no other way to fell a monster like America except that it approached Muslim land itself. Stationed far afield, it was controlling us as though with a remote-control: through our marionette rulers. It is by the Grace of Allah that it has come within our reach… Allah blessed the blood of those nineteen martyrs with great inspiration… And the sequence did not discontinue here…it marked the beginning of a chain reaction. Then came 7/7, the Madrid blasts and the succession carried on. By the Grace of Allah, it is still in progression and shall continue in future, Allah willing.”

One further note — Dr. Farooq also emphasized the propaganda value that Al-Qaida gains from hot-button issues like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. He referred to the existence of Gitmo as “another great benefit these attacks brought… America had hidden its charlatanic face with an innocent mask…and many amongst the Muslim Ummah considered it to be different than Russia…to be ‘civilized’. Allah set straight the truth. Whatever happened in Guantanamo…the horrors of Abu Ghraib; this was how Allah revealed the hideous, Crusader and secular face of America in front of the world. This is none but a blessing of the Jihad…the blessing of the Tuesday attacks.”

A complete English transcript of Dr. Ahmad Farooq’s remarks can be accessed via the NEFA Foundation website.

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Secretaries Napolitano and Donovan Joint Statement on Disaster Recovery Stakeholder Forum

Newly Syndicated Author @ November 19, 2009 # No Comment Yet

The Long Term Disaster Recovery Working Group held its fourth of five planned stakeholder forums today in Salt Lake City—designed to encourage stakeholders to provide direct input and ideas for disaster recovery.

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