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October 30, 2007
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As required by law, the Director of National Intelligence today disclosed that the budget for the National Intelligence Program in Fiscal Year 2007 was $43.5 billion.
The disclosure was strongly resisted by the intelligence bureaucracy, and for that very reason it may have significant repercussions for national security classification policy.
Although the aggregate intelligence budget figures for 1997 and 1998 ($26.6 and $26.7 billion respectively) had previously been disclosed in response to a Freedom of information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists, intelligence officials literally swore under oath that any further disclosures would damage national
“Information about the intelligence budget is of great interest to nations and non-state groups (e.g., terrorists and drug traffickers) wishing to calculate the strengths and weaknesses of the United States and their own points of vulnerability to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” then-DCI George J. Tenet told a federal court in April 2003, explaining his position that disclosure of the intelligence budget total would cause “serious damage” to the United States.
Even historical budget information from half a century ago “must be withheld from public disclosure… because its release would tend to reveal intelligence methods,” declared then-acting DCI John E. McLaughlin in a 2004 lawsuit, also filed by FAS.
Deferring to executive authority, federal judges including Judge Thomas F. Hogan and Judge Ricardo M. Urbina accepted these statements at face value and ruled in favor of continued secrecy.
But now it appears that such information may safely be disclosed after all.
Because the new disclosure is so sharply at odds with past practice, it may introduce some positive instability into a recalcitrant classification system. The question implicitly arises, if intelligence officials were wrong to classify this information, what other data are they wrongly withholding?
October 30, 2007
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Hanno acceso la telecamera. Infilato una Mentos in una bottiglia di Coca-Cola light, e invaso YouTube con decine di video di fontane zampillanti. Hanno raccolto l’invito di Chevrolet a ideare uno spot per il suo SUV Tahoe, e l’hanno messa in crisi con una violenta polemica ambientalista. Hanno usato i forum dell’ ITunes store per criticare i servizi offerti da Apple e lo stesso ITunes.
Sono gli user che, agguerriti e spietati, nel corso del 2006 hanno, poco a poco, rubato la scena ai marketers, trasformandosi, di fatto, in veri e propri brand manager in grado di decidere le sorti di un brand, determinarne la percezione, con un semplice gesto: la produzione di un contenuto.
È quello che Repubblica.it ha una volta definito il “web venuto dal basso”: l’UGC (user generated content), divenuto oggi, più che una mera condotta mediatica, o la naturale evoluzione del mezzo web, una vera e propria filosofia che orienta l’agire degli internauti verso la partecipazione attiva alla creazione dei contenuti che circolano in rete.
La nuova abitudine non si è limitata a incidere sulla fisionomia del web, ma ha radicalmente modificato anche le interazioni tra i brand e i propri consumatori. Armati del nuovo potere UGC, questi ultimi non si limitano a ribattere alle affermazioni dei marketer , ma, con vari mezzi e varia intensità, ne rilasciano di proprie. E che queste affermazioni siano di apprezzamento o di critica resta invariata la sovversione delle regole in fatto di partecipazione al brand da parte dei consumatori. L’esperimento Mentos/Diet Coke rappresenta solo uno dei tanti esempi a dimostrazione di come il consumatore internauta di oggi sia in grado di creare contenuti che possono decidere le sorti di un brand e costringerlo a cambiare radicalmente politica.
All’inizio di giugno 2006, gli americani Fritz Grobe, giocoliere professionista, e Stephen Voltz, avvocato, hanno postato su YouTube un video piuttosto particolare. In Eepybird.com, questo il titolo del filmato, i due mettono una Mentos in una bottiglia di Diet Coke, producendo una sorta di effetto geyser. Immediata e massiccia la reazione della community di YouTube. Nel giro di pochi mesi, il più famoso canale di video-sharing è stato letteralmente sommerso di video analoghi: tutti gli scienziati pazzi amatoriali del pianeta hanno voluto condividere i risultati dei propri esperimenti Mentos/Diet Coke.
Enorme ed inaspettata la visibilità per le due aziende coinvolte nell’esperimento, ma anche l’urgenza di dover dare risposta ad un inevitabile dilemma: unirsi alle danze o restare seduti ad ascoltare la musica?
Mentos ha scelto la prima soluzione. La casa madre Perfetti Van Melle ha indetto un video contest ufficiale per scegliere il migliore geyser Mentos. La Coca Cola, invece, è parsa più intimorita e perplessa, aspettandosi forse che la gente bevesse la sua bibita, non che ci facesse degli esperimenti.Di fronte al rischio di un possibile colpo di stato, i marketers dovrebbero assumere un diverso atteggiamento: abbandonare la visione che, del brand, potrebbe avere il suo produttore e accettare l’idea che i consumatori possiedono, ed esercitano, una forte influenza sui messaggi del marchio.
Prendere coscienza di questa evidenza non significa, però, lavarsene le mani. Significa piuttosto impegnarsi in modo diverso, cioè mettendo i consumatori in condizione di portare il brand all’interno delle loro community, perché ne parlino e veicolino messaggi positivi.La considerazione che le persone si siano riappropriate della consapevolezza di svolgere un ruolo attivo e determinante nei processi di comunicazione è il principio ispiratore della nuova campagna Tiscali, “Mettici la Faccia!”, pensata e realizzata dai Ninja LAB di NinjaMarketing: un advergame virale e un’innovativa campagna banner interamente user generated.
All’insegna della co-generazione, “Mettici la Faccia!” si struttura come un contest a premi che coinvolge gli utenti in prima persona, invitandoli a dare prova della propria creatività. Attraverso una serie di semplici step, infatti, i partecipanti possono realizzare una simpatica vignetta, inserendo una propria foto su uno dei divertenti personaggi proposti, raccolti in categorie che spaziano dallo sport al cinema, dalla storia alla geografia. In tempo reale, le 10 vignette più votate dagli utenti sono caricate a rotazione sui banner della campagna, quegli stessi banner che figureranno sui siti italiani tra cui Gazzetta dello Sport, Corriere della Sera, Repubblica, MSN, Yahoo!, Dada, Bastardidentro e, ovviamente, Tiscali. Gli utenti diventano, in questo modo, i testimonial della campagna, il volto del brand sul web.
La dinamica di votazione, inoltre, che spinge gli utenti a segnalare la propria vignetta agli amici, alimenta la conversazione sul marchio.
Tiscali sembra così riuscire nell’intento, mettendo i consumatori in condizioni di portare il brand all’interno delle proprie community.
October 23, 2007
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Dr Alessandro Comai and Dr. Prescott have been working in a multi-stage research project which purpose is developing a model for building a World-class CI function http://www.world-class-ci.com.
They are now trying to build norms around the model we have developed. Therefore, they would like to invite you to benchmark your function against the model so that we can collect as many data as possible to build norms.
If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr Alessandro Comai at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will send you the like of our online survey.
This exercise will take about 20 minutes and it will give you the access to the model. You will be able to compare your Competitive Intelligence Function against world-class standard! Moreover, we will send you the norms by end of October and offer you a free access to our next multimedia tool (we hope to have it ready by the end of November).
BSc. in Engineering, MBA, DEA (Esdae), PhD Candidate (Esade)
October 23, 2007
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More than 95% of U.S. based businesses indicate that they have dedicated some amount of resources to the gathering of intelligence. This may include market, sales or competitive intelligence, but the goal is usually the same: be better at business than the next guy.
But, few companies would rate themselves as being very effective with the intelligence. And, the funny thing is the discrepancy of the perception between those that gather the intelligence and those that would use it. Executives usually rate themselves as “somewhat effective” or “very effective” as using intelligence while the intelligence professionals generally rate the executives as “not very effective.” Hmmmm. Why so many axes to grind?
Every organization should examine and reexamine its practices to create a continual improvement process. During this process, I would recommend that each organization take a little time to review other organizations that make intelligence a priority.
Now, it would be difficult to peek into other businesses and discover their secrets. You wouldn’t open your doors to this kind of review. Why would anyone else?
But, you can look at an institution that, overall, leads the world in the gathering, analysis and use of intelligence – The military. In fact, you can make the case that the military has the longest running and most successful intelligence system in history. (We won’t talk about policy makers and their use or misuse of intelligence. That’s another story for another day…
Where else are the stakes higher than on the battlefield? In a situation where lives and equipment are constantly at risk, we can learn some very critical things about how the military values its “competitive intelligence”, from gathering through strategic use.
“Most militaries maintain a military intelligence corps with specialized intelligence units for collecting information in specific ways. Militaries also typically have intelligence staff personnel at each echelon down to battalion level. Intelligence officers and enlisted soldiers assigned to military intelligence may be selected for their analytical abilities or scores on intelligence tests. They usually receive formal training in these disciplines.”
“Critical vulnerabilities are…indexed in a way that makes them easily available to advisors and line intelligence personnel who package this information for policy-makers and war-fighters. Vulnerabilities are usually indexed by the nation and military unit, with a list of possible attack methods.”
“Critical threats are usually maintained in a prioritized file, with important enemy capabilities analyzed on a schedule set by an estimate of the enemy’s preparation time. For example, nuclear threats between the USSR and the US were analyzed in real time by continuously on-duty staffs. In contrast, analysis of tank or army deployments are usually triggered by accumulations of fuel and munitions, which are monitored on slower, every-few-days cycles. In some cases, automated analysis is performed in real time on automated data traffic.”
“Packaging threats and vulnerabilities for decision makers is a crucial part of military intelligence. A good intelligence officer will stay very close to the policy-maker or war fighter, to anticipate their information requirements, and tailor the information needed. A good intelligence officer will ask a fairly large number of questions in order to help anticipate needs, perhaps even to the point of annoying the principal. For an important policy-maker, the intelligence officer will have a staff to which research projects can be assigned.”
“Developing a plan of attack is not the responsibility of intelligence, though it helps an analyst to know the capabilities of common types of military units. Generally, policy-makers are presented with a list of threats, and opportunities. They approve some basic action, and then professional military personnel plan the detailed act and carry it out. Once hostilities begin, target selection often moves into the upper end of the military chain of command. Once ready stocks of weapons and fuel are depleted, logistic concerns are often exported to civilian policy-makers.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_intelligence)
The points that catch my attention are:
- Intelligence professionals are present at each level of the military
- They receive formal training in intelligence practices
- Good intelligence officers stay very close to the policy-maker or war-fighter
- Good intelligence officers ask lots of questions to make sure that the intelligence program is on the right track and can anticipate the leaders’ needs
- Good intelligence officers package the intelligence in ways that the users can easily consume while still getting the intended “nutritional value”
- While competitive intelligence personnel are not responsible for policy, direction or decisions, they should try to understand how these decisions are made. This will provide a deeper context to make future intelligence efforts more valuable.
In the next post, we’ll look at the usual structure of intelligence in today’s business.
And, if you have any thoughts, leave me a comment. I dare you.
October 16, 2007
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Upon lawful request and for a thousand dollars, Comcast, one of the nation’s leading telecommunications companies, will intercept its customers’ communications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The cost for performing any FISA surveillance “requiring deployment of an intercept device” is $1,000.00 for the “initial start-up fee (including the first month of intercept service),” according to a newly disclosed Comcast Handbook for Law Enforcement.
Thereafter, the surveillance fee goes down to “$750.00 per month for each subsequent month in which the original [FISA] order or any extensions of the original order are active.” With respect to surveillance policy, the Comcast manual hews closely to the letter of the law, as one would hope and expect.
“If your [FISA intercept] request pertains to individuals outside the U.S., please be sure you have complied with all the requirements in 50 U.S.C. sections 105A and/or 105B,” the manual says, referring to provisions of the Protect America Act that was enacted last month. “Requests such as these can not be honored after one year and must be dated prior to February 5, 2008, unless extended by Congress.”
Comcast will also comply with disclosure demands presented in the form of National Security Letters. owever, the manual says, “Attention must be paid to the various court proceedings in which the legal status of such requests is at issue.”
In short, “Comcast will assist law enforcement agencies in their investigations while protecting subscriber privacy as required by law and applicable privacy policies.”
At the same time, “Comcast reserves the right to respond or object to, or seek clarification of, any legal requests and treat legal requests for subscriber information in any manner consistent with applicable law.”
A copy of the manual was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Comcast Cable Law Enforcement Handbook,” September 2007:
October 11, 2007
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For better or worse, contractors are now an indispensable part of the U.S. intelligence workforce, and greater attention is needed to manage them effectively, argues a recent study by a military intelligence analyst.
The author presents criteria for evaluating contractor support to various intelligence functions, and applies them in a series of case studies.
“This study assesses the value of current commercial activities used within DoD elements of the Intelligence Community, particularly dealing with operational functions such as analysis, collection management, document exploitation, interrogation, production, and linguistic support.”
In the best case, interactions with contractors can serve as a spur towards modernization of the intelligence bureaucracy itself, suggests the author, Glenn R. Voelz, a U.S. Army Major.
“Collaborative effort with nongovernmental entities offers a powerful mechanism to diversify and strengthen the IC’s collection and analytical capabilities, but to fully realize the benefit of these resources the management and oversight of commercial providers must become a core competency for all intelligence organizations.”
A copy of the study, published by the Joint Military Intelligence College, was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Managing the Private Spies: The Use of Commercial Augmentation for Intelligence Operations” by Maj. Glenn J. Voelz, Joint Military Intelligence College, June 2006: