Had really wanted to attend the Open Source 101 training they had available–would have made the conference much more valuable to me–and so I requested it when I sent them my information. I was denied, and I tried to wrangle my way in, but to no avail. Instead, I went to this session, with the following presenters:
* Mark Mansfield, Director of Public Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency
* David E. Kaplan, President, Kaplan and Associates
* Dr. Chris Westcott, Director, BBC-Monitoring
* Arnaud de Borchgrave, Director, Transnational Threats, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Just a very quick overview on this one. De Borchgrave gave a stirring condemnation of modern journalism and the disappearance of foreign correspondents from the landscape. He claimed that we had entered a new era of “journalism of assertion” rather than verification, brought about by new technology. An argument that would be stronger, I suspect, if he didn’t write for NewsMax. Maybe he wants to be ahead of the curve.
Westcott provided a nice, structured overview of BBC Monitoring, which employs about 450 people to gather news from local sources. Indeed, this seems to be an interesting answer to the fall off in foreign correspondents: hire locals. He notes that it is important that the people monitoring are close to the news they are reporting on–both physically and in terms of cultural literacy–and that they monitor over time rather than just helicoptering in.
Kaplan begins by arguing that journalists and intelligence analysts are not really that different in terms of what they do and how they do it. He says the major difference is that journalists work in an open system [debatable…] while the intelligence community is wholly insular. A few years ago, analysts didn’t have email or access to the web–some of them still don’t. They don’t talk to anyone outside their narrow community. This is bad, he says: “working in a closed system in the 21st century will kill you.” As it stands, new analysts, weened on the web, are told to “leave your connectedness, your network worthiness, at the door.”
Was hoping for a clear refutation of this from Mansfield. His claim was that “a lot has changed” over the last few years, and that analysts could talk to outsiders, but had to forward press queries to the press office. This is common in most large organizations–let alone the CIA–but it seems that this forestalls any discussion outside the Agency. Mansfield also noted that the Agency hosted conferences and did other things to encourage opening up the discussion, but did not elaborate much in that direction.
At the end, there was a discussion about the fall off of research offices among news organizations, and the moderator noted that the DNI believes more librarians were desperately needed in the intelligence community.
OK, I’ve not blogged the two plenaries. They had a whole gaggle of cameras filming those–will be interesting to see if they release the video over the web…