Assume the Position

Saturday, November 30, 2002
So, what has the "we're Persians, not Arabs" crowd been up to? Yesterday was Quds Day.
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured to the streets of the capital Tehran and other cities across the country to mark Quds (Jerusalem) Day, held annually in support of the Palestinians on the last Friday of Islam's holy month of Ramadan, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Marchers from all walks of life chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" slogans, and strongly condemned what Iranians usually call "the Zionists' merciless crimes and injustices against Palestinians."

State and military officials, including President Mohammad Khatami, Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi and Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi could also be seen among participants at the anti-Israeli rallies.

Quds Day, initiated more than two decades ago by the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, coincided this year with the 55th anniversary of the U.N. resolution that led to the creation of the state of Israel. The United Nations has designated the anniversary as the International Day of Solidarity with Palestine.

The BBC also covers this, but manages to obscure with facts the detail that "reformist" Khatami took part:
Despite the common cause, Friday's march - like most big government-sanctioned demonstrations in Iran - also had some hardline overtones, our correspondent says.

Many of the marchers were anti-reformist Basiji militia, loudly proclaiming their loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Both reformists and conservatives have held almost daily demonstrations in recent weeks, sparked by a death sentence imposed on the reformist academic Hashem Aghajari.

The two sides are frequently at loggerheads.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei often sides with the conservatives, while President Mohammed Khatami is a reformist.

Mr Khamenei warned recently that if Iran's feuding politicians could not shelve their differences and tackle the country's problems, the forces of the people might have to intervene.

Friday, November 29, 2002
The Man Without Qualities has an interesting take on the Democrats' increased bashing of talk radio and Fox News (emphasis in original):
Senior Democrats have been embarrassingly crude in their execution, but there may be a serious, focused effort here on the Democrats' part. The Democrats may be trying to shore up the willingness of their base constituency of liberal "regular news" television reporters and media executives to sacrifice some of the ratings and profitability of their companies in service of their personal, liberal political agendas.

These recent statements of Messrs. Daschle and Gore have struck most American voters as exaggerated, even extreme. But exaggerated statements by mainstream politicians are normally intended to stimulate some political "base," not to reach ordinary voters. To understand what "base" these Senior Democrats might be trying to reach, Senator Durbin's seminal assertion that Democrats"really have to work the regular news coverage" seems apposite. As demonstrated by any number of polls and other indicia, most "regular news" television reporters and media executives hold strongly liberal personal political views. That is: the many liberal "regular news" television reporters and media executives form a "base" of the Democratic Party. This Democratic "base" seems to need stimulating - and these recent statements of Messrs. Durbin, Daschle and Gore are consistent with such an effort.

IOW, the DNC is not so upset with talk radio or FOX News as they are disappointed that their lapdogs in the rest of the Fourth Estate didn't come through for them in the customary ways "which have in the past generally aided Democrats in both campaign coverage and in the spin given to coverage of politically sensitive news generally."

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
How new is "new?" One of the tipoffs that Safire's screed was more fantasy than fact was that "Total Information Awareness" just didn't sound new. The concept of "fusion" (intelligence fusion, data fusion, information fusion) has been around for some time. The International Society of Information Fusion was founded after the Fusion'98 conference. Information fusion is closely related to two other buzzwords: information superiority and information awareness.

Information superiority is an overarching goal as expressed by DOD in 1996's Joint Vision 2010, where information superiority is defined as "the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary's ability to do the same."

Fusion is a major component of the processing stage in the above definition, and information awareness enhances fusion operations. In June 1999, two years before the Sep 11 attacks and three years before Safire's hissy, DARPA held DARPATech'99. Among the presentations were several by the Information Systems Office (ISO), including one by Mr. J. Brian Sharkey, Deputy Director of ISO, on Total Information Awareness (slides [1.2MB PDF] and accompanying script [11kB text]).

Slide 5 script:

The requirements for total information awareness can be defined through four layers of technology.

The bottom layer is the data gathering layer where sensors and data bases collect data from events occurring in the real world.

The information discovery layer involves the retrieval and conversion of these data into information that is relevant to specific inferencing objectives that are driven by models of potential situations from a higher abstraction layer. This search for information may involve the use of agents, web crawlers, and other familiar methods for finding evidence that support specific arguments.

The third layer is focused on the problem of representing the information space within a well defined semantic structure that is an abstract representation of the problem being solved. This abstract representation is most easily understood through the use of models of intent and/or behavior of people and things (model elements) which help to focus the information search on specific arguments being postulated about the model elements.

The final layer is defined as collective reasoning, wherein complex arguments from (often ambiguous) data are "vetted" among humans using collaborative tools and "truth maintenance" decision aids.

The above processes are data intensive, and thus we are driven to explore automated methods of processing and become most interested in the boundary interface that defines the limits of machine and human driven processes.

Slide 14 script:
Thus one of the fundamental issues for TIA is the boundary between the automated and human driven processes. The primary question is: "How far can we push automation through the development of intelligent search and inference agents, to take the burden of finding relevant evidence that the human can reason about within a collaborative decision environment?"

Total Information Awareness is NOT an approved program initiative. Rather it is a technology focus for information science related project for the Information Systems Office and a starting point for reshaping the direction of existing programs and launching new efforts in the future under the auspices of future approved BAA's

We encourage you to submit ideas and technical concepts in support of TIA to the ISO office.

And the last two paragraphs of the Slide 14 script are pretty much exactly what happened. In the way of government agencies, DARPA did some internal shuffling and name changing. The Information System Office (ISO) and Information Technology Office (ITO) names disappeared and now there is the Information Awareness Office (IAO) and Information Processing Technology Office (IPTO). [There is also the Information Exploitation Office (IXO), established October 31, 2001, to "provide additional focus to agency efforts addressing the systemic challenges associated with performing surface target interdiction in environments that require very high combat identification confidence and an associated low likelihood for inadvertent collateral damage." Translation: improve the ability to kill mobile ground targets.] The BAA (Broad Agency Announcement, basically an open offer for solicitations in a specific area) for technologies under the TIA umbrella was released in Mar 2002 by the IAO. Finally, DARPA's April 2002 "Fact File" describes the various programs that fall under TIA as well as all the other DARPA programs (or at least all the other white-world programs, DARPA might have some ongoing black-world programs as well).

A couple of things to note if you follow the above links. First, it is important to keep in mind that the driving requirement is DOD's and the intelligence community's need for information superiority in the battlespace. The question of what technologies might transition from the battlespace to domestic use is a completely separate, political issue—the Blue Thunder question—where the government is not going to stop buying Apache helicopters for the US Army just because the FBI might get some and use the chain gun and Hellfire missiles against bank robbers. Second, the term "evidence" is used in its generic sense of indications that support or contradict a hypothesis rather than any prosecutorial sense.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.