March 28, 2006

Uh-oh! This can't lead to anything good. Any monkeys speak Arabic? In search of some reading material? This is your chance to tie Saddam to MetaFilter or the Boy Scouts or whatever. (New York Times)

Newsfiltery I suppose, but the web aspect justifies the post, I thought. Not that I'm defensive or anything.

  • Ha ha! let the right wing nutjobs froth at the mouth over this, eking away at their ever-more flimsy credibility, finding tidbits in the documents to crow about only to have their claims debunked, again and again.
  • The freakin' most powerful army in the freakin' world doesn't have enough translators in the language of a region they've been involved in for so many freakin' years?
  • No, because they don't trust people who have emigrated from that region - they treat them badly (checks, arrests without charge, etc) and wonder why they don't have people. The US has alienated many in its Arabic communities. They also refuse to trust any Canadians or British or other allies who might have people who could work for them - heck, they can't even got on with their own Arabic studies departments. (Of course, people who study the fall-out of colonialism are not too likely to be eager to join a new colonialism project).
  • It's the new version of seti@home!
  • I think left wing nutjobs are just as stupid.
  • Bravo having the intestinal fortitude to post them free access - but beware the interpretation....... and from whence it comes - kinda innovative and sensible - but frightening as well - at least there will be no accusations of censorship - but can't wait for the ocnspiracy theories about this lot.....
  • Um and the most "powerful army' in the world probably has enough translators but um - hate to say it but irony is not one of the average US citizens strong suits - yea you need translators for that -
  • All those terrorist-loving translators will be redundant when this is ready. Then where will they work? And besides, who needs a translator to understand the welcoming cries of a liberated Arab population?
  • um military inelligence to be translated into english..... hasnt military intelligence always been held up to be one of the greatest oxynorons of all time - hopefully (tongue seriously in cheek) more successful than Monty Pythons Hungarian Phrase Book was...........
  • "I will not buy zis suitcase nuke dewice, it is scratched."
  • "...who needs a translator to understand the welcoming cries of a liberated Arab population?" Yeah, specially when they put on their welcome costumes and have a parade!
  • I think left wing nutjobs are just as stupid Hey, I'm a left wing nutjob! ...oh...
  • There was also a bit a while ago about how a lot of the native American linguists who happened to know Arabic were gay - I can't cite that, but I remember reading it on a bunch of queer blogs. My Arabic is crap these days, so I can barely get past titles.
  • It's going to be interesting to see what comes out of this, because it goes right to the heart of one of the key debates in the theory of intelligence analysis: credibility vs. accuracy. So let's say you're an intelligence analyst, providing information for powerful, sceptical intelligence consumers. You can either a) just give them raw data, b) just tell them what you think the data means, or c) give them a mixture of conclusions and raw stuff mixed in. Experience shows that just giving intelligence consumers raw data has disasterous results. They don't know how to use it, and they come to erronious conclusions and you may as well not have bothered. Because of this most intelligence organiations just give their consumers finished intelligence, and never tell them what the raw data was. This is especially true of the Americans in the late Cold War period. Of course, the problem then becomes one in which the intelligence consumer says 'how do you know?' and the intel geeks say 'we just know, sir, we looked at the evidence' and the consumer says 'I don't beleive you'. For example, Clinton kept arguing with the CIA, because he'd read interesting articles in magazines and wanted the CIA's opinion, while the CIA thought this was a dangerous example of a decision maker acting as his own intelligence analysist (see above). So, historically, some intelligence agencies have tried to present selected bits of raw evidence to bolster their claims with the intelligence consumers. Sometimes this has worked really well. For example, Kennedy was shown arial photos during the Cuban Missile Crisis which helped him take the intelligence seriously. Sometimes it's had very bad side effects: see Colin Powel and WMD, where access to flawed evidence badly distorted decision-makers' certainty about how strong the evidence actually was. So this is interesting, in one sense, as an expression of that aeternal battle between consumers wanting more access to evidence (essentially trading access for credibility) and intelligence anayists wanting to hold the evidence back. As for whether the public will do sensible things with these documents... well there's a reason historians have to spend a long time going to school before they're allowed to publish stuff. I'm not too optimistic that we'll see anything produced by the partisan press but cherry picking to support pre-decided conclusions. On the other hand, this will provide a great resource for historians (if there are any military historians left in a few years!).
  • This is just a ploy to keep all Arab speaking Americans busy so they don't have time to plan for the next terror attack.
  • "I will not buy zis suitcase nuke dewice, it is scratched." Hahaha, well played :)