Tag Archives | Intelligence

My Trip to Al-Qaeda: Q & A with Journalist Lawrence Wright

I didn’t see the theatrical adaption of Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower (which is the most informative book I have ever read about 9/11) so I am looking forward to checking about this documentary. From the Economist’s Prospero column:

Lawrence Wright spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews in at least ten countries in order to write “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11”. The book, a best-selling history about Islamic fundamentalism, weaves the stories of terrorists, intelligence officers and government officials in a remarkable narrative that helps to explain both the cult of Osama bin Laden and the flaws in American intelligence that let him get away with murder.

“When I finished my book,” Mr Wright said in an interview with Prospero, “I had countless people asking me ‘What were they like?’ and ‘How did it affect you?’” He ultimately answered these questions in his one-man play, “My Trip to al-Qaeda”, a gripping personal account of the people he met and what it all felt like. On September 7th HBO will premiere Alex Gibney’s elegant screen adaptation, which mixes theatrical footage with more photographs and videos to help tell Mr Wright’s story about the lure of radicalism in the Islamic world.

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Is This How the ‘Planet of the Apes’ Begins? Wild Chimps Outwit Human Hunters

POTAGreat, now all we need is some virus to kill all the cats and dogs on the planet, so we start taking primates as household pets and they become smarter. Thanks scientists for helping to create our eventual Ape Overlords. Slippery slope, real slippery slope. Matt Walker writes on BBC Earth News:

Across Africa, people often lay snare traps to catch bushmeat, killing or injuring chimps and other wildlife. But a few chimps living in the rainforests of Guinea have learnt to recognise these snare traps laid by human hunters, researchers have found.

More astonishing, the chimps actively seek out and intentionally deactivate the traps, setting them off without being harmed.

The discovery was serendipitously made by primatologists Mr Gaku Ohashi and Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa who were following chimps living in Bossou, Guinea to study the apes’ social behaviour.

Snare injuries to chimps are reported at many sites across east and west Africa where chimps are studied, with many animals dying in the traps.

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Google & CIA Invest Together To Predict The Future

Noah Schachtman reveals yet another confluence of public and private intelligence gathering, for Wired:

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down…

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The Washington Post’s Damning ‘Top Secret America’ Report

Well here it is, “Top Secret America,” the Washington Post‘s much-hyped critique of an out-of-control public and private intelligence disaster happening in the United States. Here’s the intro, but there’s a whole lot more at the Post‘s special report pages:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight…

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How To Uncover CIA Spies

Nick Baumann and Daniel Schulman tell how human rights advocates investigating torture ended up snooping on the CIA—and in hot water with the feds, in Mother Jones:

The CIA probably doesn’t want you to know this, but unmasking its covert operatives isn’t as hard as you’d think. Just ask John Sifton. During a six-year stint at Human Rights Watch, the attorney and investigator was hot on the trail of the CIA and some of its most sensitive Bush-era counterterrorism programs, including extraordinary rendition, secret Eastern European detention sites, and the legally dubious and brutal methods used to extract information from detainees. “Even deep-cover CIA officers are real people, with mortgages and credit reports,” Sifton once told CQ Politics. For researchers with a trained eye for the hallmarks of a CIA alias, there are obvious giveaways: “A brand new Social Security number, a single P.O. box in Reston, Virginia. You disregard those and focus on the real persons who lie behind, and you can find them.”

Sifton’s talent for uncovering the CIA’s secrets may have served him well—but now, it also has set off a firestorm in the human rights community, prompted a backlash from congressional Republicans, and helped trigger a federal investigation headed by none other than Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame affair.

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Brilliant Thinkers Relish Ambiguity

'The Thinker,' by Rodin

'The Thinker,' by Rodin

From www.lifehack.org:

Brilliant thinkers are very comfortable with ambiguity — they welcome it. Routine thinkers like clarity and simplicity; they dislike ambiguity. There is a tendency in our society to reduce complex issues down to simple issues with obviously clear solutions.

We see evidence of this in the tabloid press. There have been some terrible crimes committed in our cities. A violent offender received what is seen to be a lenient sentence. This shows that judges are out of touch with what is needed and that heavy punishment will stop the crime wave.

The brilliant thinker is wary of simple nostrums like these. He or she knows that complex issues usually involve many causes and these may need many different and even conflicting solutions.

Routine thinkers are often dogmatic. They see a clear route forward and they want to follow it. The advantage of this is that they can make decisive and effective executives — up to a point.

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Plants Are Actively Intelligent: What Does This Mean for Vegetarians?

VeggiesEthan A. Huff writes in Natural News:

Most vegetarians believe that by not eating animals, they are preserving life. Everyone knows that plants are alive but they are not viewed with the same level of intelligence as animals are. As science continues to uncover the complex nature of plants, it is becoming more apparent that plants are actively intelligent life that pursue their continued existence in similar ways as do animals.

Research on the subject naturally flies in the face of strict vegetarianism which often insists that eating animals is murder but eating plants is just fine. Yet the facts illustrate that the characteristics of animals used to argue that eating them is murder also apply to plants. In other words, in order for strict vegetarians to be consistent in their beliefs, they would also have to stop eating fruits and vegetables.

Plants are very sensitive to environmental changes and they have many built-in mechanisms to ward off attackers.

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