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HipBone implications of the second shoe dropping for intel analysis

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — also, the role of the True Name in intel analysis & Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea ]
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You may know that I value the documentary film Manhunt for its lucid presentation of the process by which the finest intelligence analysts “leap” to their quarry — in which Cindy Storer notes, “not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic”.

In my post The process of associative memory I decribe this process, which I consider the root process of true creativity:

There’s the present moment .. And there’s the memory it elicits.

Compare Michael Hayden in Manhunt, at 1.19.18:

The way it works is, information come in, you catalog it, your organize it – that little nugget there could sit fallow on your shelves for four or five years until something else comes in that’s suddenly very illuminating about something that you may have had for a very long period of time. That actually happened in the work we did to hunt for Osama bin Laden by trying to track his courier.

By way of confirmation, here is Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.

And here’s Jeff Jones on piecing together puzzles —

Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

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My point here is that the board in my “game” of DoubleQuotes provides a matrix for eliciting and annotating such leaps between fact and memory — that’s its purpose, and that’s why I believe the practice and “playing” of DoubleQuotes is, in itself, an ideal training for the analytic mind in that otherwise elusive aptitude which Ms Storer says seenms like magic to those who do not possess it..

I believe my DoubleQuotes would be an invaluable tool for analysts in training.

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Note, however, that Jose Rodriguez, speaking immediately after Michael Hayden at 1.19.55, adds a reference to the “True Name” — accompanying screencaps included — something to which as a theologian I am naturally drawn:

It took years for the agency to recruit the human source that eventually gave us the true name. That’s why we were in the business the of condensing human intelligence because, in many cases, all these fancy gadgets and everything else won’t give you the information that you really need. A true name.

And we finally got his true name, which is whatever it is. Whatever. Arabic name, you know. But the true name – we were able to find out a lot about him. From then on, you know, the agency was able to do what it does so well. Track the guy and find him.

That too elicits memories, though in this case providing cultural context rather than actionable intelligence. It’s interesting to compare Rodriguez’ quote with the passages in which Ursula Le Guin describes the nature of magic in her book, Wizard of Earthsea:

He who would be Seamaster must know the true name of every drop of water in the sea.

and:

He saw that in this dusty and fathomless matter of learning the true name of every place, thing, and being, the power he wanted lay like a jewel at the bottom of a dry well. For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.

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See also:

  • Gaming the Connections: from Sherlock H to Nada B
  • Jeff Jonas, Nada Bakos, Cindy Storer and Puzzles
  • FWIW, there’s an appendix on the central spiritual significance of remembrance of the True Name in Judaism (HaShem), Christianity (Jesus Prayer), Islam (dhikr), Hinduism (nama-rupa), Buddhism (nembutsu) etc at the back of Frithjof Schuon‘s little book, The Transcendent Unity of Religions.

    On which frankly mystical note, here’s a third para from Le Guin to carry you towards Lao Tzu‘s observation that “The name that can be named is not the eternal Name” —

    It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

    Realpolitik as if angels were real

    Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
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    St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

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    It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

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    Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

    an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

    Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

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    When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

    and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

    and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

    I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

    Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

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    Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

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    But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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    An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

    Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

    Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?

    Religious scholarship may not be the best (CVE) counter to religious zeal

    Monday, June 5th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — nor intellect the best response to emotion ]
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    Offered without further ado.

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    Sources:

  • SahelBlog, Peter Mandaville and J.M. Berger on CVE, Past and Present
  • TimesNow, Reading Gita, Upanishads to counter BJP and RSS: Rahul Gandhi
  • Holy cow: Mahatma Gandhi’s corrective to Hindutva violence

    Saturday, April 8th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a sad incident on the road, and its context & wider implications ]
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    I’m always on the lookout for what I term “serpent bites own tail” ouroboros reports; here’s another example:

    A one-year-old calf was run over allegedly by the car of Hindu Yuva Vahini’s (HYV) Lucknow district convener in Nivada area in Janakipuram locality of the city on Wednesday. A social organisation founded by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, cow protection is one of HYV’s main objectives.

    Source:

    Indian Express,

  • Hindu Yuva Vahini leader’s car runs over calf, drags it 20 metres
  • **

    Two quotes by Gandhi:

    THE COW is a poem of pity. One reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the mother to millions of Indian mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of God. The ancient seer, whoever he was, began with the cow. The appeal of the lower order of creation is all the more forcible because it is speechless.

    The cow is the purest type of sub-human life. She pleads before us on behalf of the whole of the sub-human species for justice to it at the hands of man, the first among all that lives. She seems to speak to us through her eyes: ‘you are not appointed over us to kill us and eat our flesh or otherwise ill-treat us, but to be our friend and guardian’

    Obviously Gandhi loved and revered cows… for what we might call Hindu, or better, Vedic reasons?

    **

    These days, under Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) influence, the love of cows has a political edge, leading to such events as this one:

    Muslim man dies in India after attack by Hindu ‘cow protectors’

    A Muslim man has died in western India after he was attacked by hundreds of Hindu cow protection vigilantes, the latest attack in a spate of mob killings in the name of the revered animal.

    Police said on Wednesday that Pehlu Khan, 55, had died in hospital two days after a group attacked his cattle truck on a road in Alwar in the desert state of Rajasthan.

    Gangs of “cow protectors” have been implicated in killing at least 10 people in the past two years as the welfare of the animal has become an increasingly charged issue in Indian politics.

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    This section between triple asterisks added later, from Barkha Dutt today:

    We have already moved on from Mohammad Akhlaq who was killed in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that there was beef in his house and whose son, a corporal in the air force continued to believe his country would grant him justice. And I can confidently wager that not too many people would even know, leave alone remember, who Majloom Ansari and Inayatullah Imtiaz Khan are. In March 2016 they were found hanging from a tree in a Jharkhand village, their hands tied together by the nylon chords used to hold cattle. Imtiaz was only 12 years old. A school-going child, he was accompanying Ansari to a cattle fair in the hope of making a few extra bucks for his family. Later it emerged that Ansari had been threatened just a few days earlier by a gang of extortionists who asked him for a 20,000 rupee bribe money to ferry his oxen. The National Commission of Minorities team that investigated the killing reported a “brazen communal bias” in the police handling of the lynching and said that complaints by Muslim traders against the so called cow-protections groups had been ignored. A few months later the Jharkhand Chief Minister declared that “If India is your country; the cow is your mother.” But no mother would allow murder in her name.

    Once again: the cow is your mother.

    ***

    But then on the legal issue, Gandhi is quoted as saying:

    How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there were only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here.

    Amen.

    Footnoted readings 04 – CVE, jihad & liminality

    Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a term from cultural anthropology as a marker for jihadist intensity ]
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    Ahmed S. Younis, Deputy Special Envoy and Coordinator, Global Engagement Center, U.S. Department of State, during the George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security event, Toward a Global Partnership to Counter Online Radicalization and Extremism, the Understanding Online Counter-Messaging panel, March 28,2017, a little after the 2 hr 03’50” mark in the video above:

    I would posit that terrorism and extremism by their definition are liminal states. They are defined by their inbetweenness. And often when we see someone who is radicalizing towards terrorism, they are shifting in a crevice between a series of pieces of life that bring them to a place where this type of activity appears as a solution or an option for their frustration with lived experience. And we lose, as people who want to fight this effort, when we try to pretend this is all about shariah and fiqh and issues of Islam. .. If radicalizing is sexy, then that sexiness is by definition interdisciplinary, and we have to meet people in the liminality of their moment. .. Reality is complex, and it is interdisciplinary.

    **

    My eyes prick up — I know, “pricking up” is really a phrase that’s apt for the ears, but I think it should apply to the eyes as well — my eyes do a double-take when I see the word “liminal”. It signals importance.

    I’ve talked about liminality before, lightheartedly [Liminality I: the kitsch part] and more seriously [Liminality II: the serious part] — but by way of a reminder, I’ll just quote two stories from the latter, along with this definition:

    liminality is between-ness — it’s what happens on thresholds

    Here are the two stories:

    Something pretty remarkable happened as 1999 turned into 2000 — something liminal. And it happened aboard the USS Topeka, SSN-754 (below):

    USS Topeka, credit: United States Navy, released ID 090623-N-1126G-005

    The Associated Press reported:

    Its bow in one year, its stern in another, the USS Topeka marked the new millennium 400 feet beneath the International Dateline in the Pacific ocean. The Pearl Harbor-based navy submarine straddled the line, meaning that at midnight, one end was in 2000 while the other was still in 1999… The 360-foot-long sub, which was 2,100 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii, straddled the Equator at the same time, meaning it was in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Some of the 130 crewmembers were in Winter in the North, while others were in Summer in the South…

    Sitting pretty on the threshold between two millennia, two centuries, two decades, years, seasons, months, days and hemispheres was an extraordinarily liminal idea — as the two-faced January is a liminal month — and I think illustrates effectively the terrific power of the liminal to sway human thinking

    Navy commanders in charge of billion dollar ships seldom get up to such “fanciful” behaviors!

    And if we might turn from the contemporary US Navy and its submarine to ancient Indian mythology and Hindu religion for a moment:

    Narsingh avatar depicted in Nepali dance, credit: Navesh Chitrakar, Reuters / Landov

    The story of Narsingh (above), the fourth avatar of Vishnu in Vaisnavism, also captures the idea of what’s meant by thresholds very nicely:

    A tyrannous and oppressive king obtained a boon from the gods that he should die “neither by day nor night, neither within the palace nor outside it, neither at the hand of man nor beast” and thought his boon conveyed immortality — but when he persecuted his son, a devotee of God, a half-man half-lion figure — the Narsingh avatar of Vishnu — met him on his own doorstep at dusk and slew him, so that he died neither by day nor by night, neither within the palace nor outside it, and neither at the hand of beast nor of man.

    Dusk, doorsteps and metamorphs are all liminal — with respect to day and night, home and abroad, man and beast respectively.

    **

    Two other references at the intersection of terrorism and liminality:

    Arthur Saniotis writes in Re-Enchanting Terrorism: Jihadists as “Liminal Beings”:

    Religious terrorists have been the subject of much scholarly scrutiny. While such analyses have endeavored to elucidate the ideological logic and implications of religious terrorism, the transnational character of jihadists necessitates new ways of understanding this phenomenon. My article attempts to explain how jihadists can be defined as liminal beings who seek to re-enchant the world via their symbolic and performative features. Jihadists’ strategically position themselves as ambiguous not only as a distinguishing device, but also to enhance their belief of a cosmic war on earth. Jihadists’ use of symbolic imagery on the internet works within the ambit of a magical kind of panoptic power which seeks to both impress and terrify viewers.

    And Marisa Urgo Shaalan, in the course of a post on Liminality at her Making Sense of Jihad blog powerfully comments:

    perhaps the most important factor drawing many young men into jihad is the sense that it is authentic and sacramental life. [And I mean sacramental. Jihad is a sacred act that they are told guarantees them paradise.]

    Recommended.

    **

    I’d be very interested to learn more about Dr Younis’ insights into liminality in jihadist recruitment, and it’s implications for CVE.


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