Tuesday, December 5, 2006

More on spies: Radical Transparency and National Security

Chris Anderson weighs in on the New York Times Magazine piece on intelligence agencies use of social software applications: Radical Transparency and National Security.

His thesis is that radical transparency within the intelligence services could compensate the failures of command-and-control information sharing. Perhaps it could. But I was surprised that Clive didn‘t take the question to the obvious next level. What if, rather than just starting blogs and wikis behind military firewalls where the rules are most strict, the intelligence agencies encouraged them out in the open, catalyzing conversations between people who aren‘t constrained by the same laws? Between the intelligence analysts, military bloggers, and intelligence technology providers, there are already loads of spook-types blogging in public. They‘re not writing about classified stuff, of course, but there is plenty of information in the unclassified world that could lead to useful intelligence if only it were easier to connect the dots. Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.

In other words, what if spotting early-warning terrorism signals became an open-source project?

Great question and a great idea. We should be demanding transparency from most if not all of our public institutions. The public should be invited in as an integral part of the process. The public agencies that figure this out will win the hearts-and-minds of the people.

I especially like the idea of complete transparency of our scientific and educational institutions. Several progressive universities and school systems have seen the light and are jumping on the transparency bandwagon. It‘s time for the rest to lay themselves open for public scrutiny, and the help the public is more than willing to provide. People want raw, they want to see things as they happen. That‘s what the Inet has enabled. They have the right to see what their tax dollars are paying to create at every step of the process.

We already know that opening up leads to better products. That is an indisputable fact. I work with too many people who are paid by public dollars who want to hide behind their firewalls. This needs to stop. Even for the spies.

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