One of the milbloggers I follow (TBone of "TBone’s War Journal") had this proposal for how individual, citizen bloggers can work together to prevent terrorism.
Since there are citizens in our country who don’t approve of any substantive methods employed by the government to catch badguys, then perhaps concerned citizens should do it themselves. I propose we set up a new kind of neighborhood watch organization in the blogosphere, call it Operation HOMELAND VIGILANCE (or insert other cool name here), which shall initially be composed of ordinary citizens from the blogosphere, who can actively seek out information that identifies terrorists and criminals. As the project progresses and gains some notoriety and sponsorship, then perhaps it will become even more effective. If America’s Most Wanted is successful at catching crooks, then this initiative can be even more so because instead of us being passive and reactive, we will be proactive and aggressive.
I first became interested in what I call "citizen security" efforts while doing a readings course at RPI about "new social movements".Ã‚Â One feature of "new social movements" that academic researchers have noticed is the increasingly blurred boundary between the personal and the political.Ã‚Â Intensely personal issues like health, sexuality, andÃ‚Â in this case the physical security of families and communities, become the basis for collective action that does not just seek redress within the traditional legal, political, or economic systems.Ã‚Â Rather, there is a do-it-yourself aspect to these movements because, as TBone’s proposal demonstrates, there is often a sense that there is no redress to be found through any of the traditional means.
When it comes to "citizen security", TBone’s suggestion is not entirely unique (there are a number of similar groups already) but is, I think, emblematic of a larger sort of cultural current within the U.S. since 9-11.Ã‚Â Of course, the most famous, and controversial, of the citizen security groups is "The Minutemen Project".
While The Minutemen Project is focused primarily on border security, there have been other efforts to focus more directly upon al-Qa’ida and terrorists directly.Ã‚Â One such group, 7-Seas Global Intelligence, now called Phoenix Global Intelligence Systems, is an Internet-based group of individuals from around the globe who monitor the Internet for terrorism-related intelligence information which they then pass on to the appropriate authorities.Ã‚Â They describe themselves and their mission as follows:
Phoenix Global Intelligence Systems is an organization made up of dedicated and talented individuals from around the globe. Phoenix Intelligence provides real time terrorist information, intelligence and strategic analysis to law enforcement and military agencies in the United States and other nations.
The unique multi-national nature of Phoenix Intelligence and the fact that its members reside around the planet means that it is able to provide ’round-the-clock’ threat related information. It also gives Phoenix Intelligence a truly global perspective on the war on terror, enabling it to perceive the world-wide situation from a multitude of vantage points.
Phoenix Global Intelligence Systems believes that it is necessary to place on notice each and every website, individual engaged in terrorist activities, or group involved and/or associated with terrorist activities, which in any manner attempt to communicate, preach, teach or deliver terrorist messages or related activities via Internet, that they will be hunted down and brought to justice in any jurisdiction within the world community, until such violence and terrorism is defeated globally.
The most famous member of the group, a Montana Judge named Shannen Rossmiller, received national press coverage for her role in the arrest of a U.S. National Guard soldier who attempted to sell information on how to kill U.S. soldiers to what he thought was an al-Qa’ida operative, but which turned out to be Rossmiller, posing as an al-Qa’ida operative and working from her home computer.
The folks who put together TerroristWarning.com and TransitSecurityReport.com provide their data in a real-time Google Map that they call their Global Incident Map.Ã‚Â They allow their readers to submit incidents to them which will be included in their reports and on their map.
The common theme is that there is increasing doubt that traditional states and governments can really keep their citizens secure against a distributed and decentralized threat such as al-Qa’ida.Ã‚Â As such, many of these DIY, citizen security groups seek to work in a distributed and decentralized way themselves, in an effort to provide the security and peace of mind that seems to be lacking in the current system.
I do like TBone’s emphasis on using a network of bloggers in his proposal.Ã‚Â I have wondered lately what we can learn about information sharing from milbloggers in particular and/or the blogosphere more generally.Ã‚Â RSS and "trackback" technologies facilitate information sharing.Ã‚Â Sites like Technorati and TalkDigger make it easier to search for and follow particular conversations.Ã‚Â IceRocket and BlogPulse call provide an overall picture of what the blogosphere is talking about, including overall trends of gaining and declining issues, as well as comparisons of the relative level of "buzz" on particular topics.Ã‚Â Finally, "prediction markets", play-money futures markets in which participants "buy" or "sell" stock in predictions about the future, are reported to be far more accurate than standard polling.
What if we could bring all of these technologies together in a more integrated and deliberate way?Ã‚Â How might they be brought together in a way that would make bloggers not just bloggers, but a distributed and decentralized network of intelligence collectors and analysts, collecting, analyzing, and sharing information from both the real world and the online world?