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The Military Social Networks Technology

Military Taps Social Networking To Hunt Insurgents 69

Hugh Pickens writes "The New York Times has an interesting article about the thousands of analysts based in the United States for the Central Intelligence Agency and the US military who are showing how the Facebook generation's skills are being exploited — and paying dividends — in America's wars. Analysts monitor enemy communications and scan still images from drones in Afghanistan, then log the information into chatrooms, carrying on a running dialogue with drone crews and commanders and intelligence specialists in the field, who receive the information on computers and then radio the most urgent bits to troops on patrol. Marine intelligence officers say that during an offensive in February, the analysts managed to stay a step ahead of the advance, sending alerts about 300 or so possible roadside bombs, paving the way for soldiers to roll into Marja in southern Afghanistan with minimal casualties. 'To be that tapped into the tactical fight from 7,000 to 8,000 miles away was pretty much unheard of before,' said Gunnery Sgt. Sean N. Smothers, a Marine who stationed as a liaison to the analysts. New analysts, who were practically weaned on computers and interactive video games, have been crucial to hunting insurgents and saving American lives in Afghanistan. The Air Force, which has 4,000 analysts, is hiring 2,100 more. For the most part, the networking has been so productive that senior commanders are sidestepping some of the traditional military hierarchy and giving the analysts leeway in deciding how to use some spy planes."
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Military Taps Social Networking To Hunt Insurgents

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:16AM (#32494444) Journal

    Facebook generation

    Please don't call us that. I thought 'Generation X' and 'Generation Y' were stupid names but now I long for alphabetic naming. I still fail to see the connection between their "social networking skills" (whatever the hell that is) and the increase in effective military intelligence. It looks to me like good communication and a drastic increase in surveilance technology is what the military is tapping. Just because social networking is rising to ~95% popularity in the younger generations doesn't mean that it's the reason for everything that generation does right.

    How is this any different from World War II where several analysts received reports and images from war zones, discussed the new information, got on the radio to send new intelligence to forces and gave feedback to the collection unit of that intelligence? It sounds like the same process to me with just the next logical step up in all of these actions. Now they're using hardware to look at live video feeds. Now they're discussing it over a computer with people around the world. Now they're piloting the drone in real time. It's the advancement of technology, not Facebook that is driving this. The only stipulation is that you are familiar with a computer and the software on the computer -- which I would buy the younger generation are more comfortable around. But again, not a whole lot to do with posting on your friends wall that you got so plastered last night. And I don't really feel like social networking increases communications skills.

    For all I know this could be the equivalent of LeBron James having a Facebook page and the New York Times saying, "Look at how well the NBA utilizes the skills of the Facebook generation."

    • by kevinbr ( 689680 )

      and networks are not places one find truth or accuracy. We seem to be able to waste enough civilians, now we get to do it faster with less analysis thanks to lack of constraint, responsibility and oversight.

      "Dude, Just push the fucking button, not my family gonna get wasted ....... don't push the button and I will defriend you"

      • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:26AM (#32494508) Homepage

        Farmville 2: Golden crescent

        Add me on facebook and we can harvest raw opium together.

      • it sounds an awful lot like the military has just started using similar systems to the ones gamer guild have been using for years to coordinate attacks in MMO's.

        I thought the military with it's massive R&D budget was supposed to be years ahead of the curve, not years behind.

        of course they probably don't suffer occasional information blackouts because the guy who's supposed to be relaying stuff had to go put out the trash. :D

        • I thought the military with it's massive R&D budget was supposed to be years ahead of the curve, not years behind.

          The military using teh intarwebs, whodathunkit? They'll be getting GPS units soon, just you watch.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nospam007 ( 722110 ) *

          "I thought the military with it's massive R&D budget was supposed to be years ahead of the curve, not years behind."

          They just seem to misuse it as a chat replacement because the stuff they have is crap.

          When I read the article summary, I thought they were reading what the bored terrorists were tweeting to their facebook page.

          'Still waiting here with the other 17 brothers and our 3 IED at the South-Bridge for the troops of the Great Satan'

        • Damn you. Now you're making me think of complex combined-arms operations as just another raid night.

          Only problem is that a wipe is much more tragic, and there are no battle rezzes.

      • by gtall ( 79522 )

        Actually, we waste less civilians with more analysis, more constraints, responsibility and oversight. You might have missed the changes the U.S. military made since Vietnam when you last looked in on them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hedwards ( 940851 )
          You're assuming that the analysis is accurate. Or are you one of those people that still believes that there are WMDs that haven't been found in Iraq and that Saddam was involved with al Qaeda?
          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            You are assuming the analysis is inaccurate. And no I'm not still waiting for WMDs to be found or links between Saddam and al Qaeda. Saddam was naughty all by himself.

            So, how does it feel to be sympathetic to the Butcher of Baghdad and the rest of his murderous Sunnis? Care to explain to the Shi'ites in Iraq how much you value their freedom? Or the Kurds? Don't hold back, tell them how you really feel.

    • by lemur3 ( 997863 )

      Gotta wonder if some recruitment minded guy is saying "we need more buzzwords" wherein buzzwords are things like 'twitter' 'facebook' 'ipad'...

    • Facebook generation

      Please don't call us that.

      You think thats bad? Remember when Kanye West said he was the voice of our generation? First I had to find out who the hell Kanye West was. Then I raged. Hard.

  • All right, people, I'm in charge now, and we will find the terrorists.
    Jarvis, I want you to check for any terrorist chatter on AOL.
    Marley and Greggs, try searching for nuclear devices on

    • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      All right, people, I'm in charge now

      Not anymore, you're not. Orders from the President, he wants this handled personally by his staff.

  • or to help some future government spy on it's own citizens. oh wait, that's exactly what the FUCK they're doing.

    • Newsflash: governments already spy on their own citizens. But please go back to your fantasy world where this doesn't happen.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      FISA and the Church report, COINTELPRO ect are all just words now.
      The NSA is in your local [] watching and sorting, kind of what they did against the Soviets, but now they are looking inwards.
      From the first mobile devices to the newest web 2.0 apps, if your using one, they will track you.
      Stay off the web, its all just signals intelligence to them. Wash your location via a sneaker net.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:20AM (#32494472) Journal

    I always thought that the trolls on facebook were actually Taliban texting on their mobiles from the middle of the Afghan desert!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by siddesu ( 698447 )
      And now it turns out they are just some bored trololists who moved form Mom's basement to Pentagon's basement. Quite a letdown, no?
  • Seems more like the generation "C&C" is producing its first results. Tiberium beware!
  • ...facebook did something useful.
  • Just look up

    Job's a good 'un.

  • Old tools. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FatSean ( 18753 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @08:50AM (#32494686) Homepage Journal

    All of the features described in this article were available long before the arise of 'social networking' and 'web2.0'. You just needed a dedicated application. Smells like someone's trying to pimp their war.

    • you still need people to use the tools... and seems like this new generation is quite good at it.
      • by FatSean ( 18753 )

        I suppose that could be true. But it seems like everything they described could be done in IRC nearly two decades ago. I'm guessing the traditional IRC user and the traditional army recruit had less in common back then.

  • Military Taps Social Networking To Hunt Insurgents

    first off: no, not even the article suggests this. the article is about tapping social networking skills. yes there's a difference... like an enormously huge one.

    and as other people already pointed out, this has nothing to do with social networking skills either. they are typing information into (military) chat rooms, my god, how difficult! clearly i need my leet social networking skillz for this, come fucking on!

    facebook generation, pleeeeease... internet generation maybe.

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @09:29AM (#32495054) Journal
    Will learn from their mistakes and learn to manipulate back.
    Sooner or later they will attempt a [] with some web traffic and some leaks.
    Todays cyber nerds are good with forums, chat and real time info, but do they have the feel for been played?
    • That will work sometimes if done correctly, the observers will become appropriately skeptical, and the cycle will begin anew.

  • So they're side-stepping normal hierarchy so ex-gamers can just play with militray toys? No wonder the 'collateral damage' bodycount is so high...

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @09:37AM (#32495154) Homepage

    "People working together share information by talking to one another. Productivity rises. Film at 11."

    It's great that they are able to use words to communicate, but this isn't exactly a new concept.

    • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @10:06AM (#32495422)

      Productivity rises.

      Err... not quite. "Destructivity rises," rather.

      Henry Ford once said if you'd asked his customers what they'd wanted before he started building cars they'd have told him "a faster horse."

      This is the military or geo-political equivalent of a faster horse.

      Rather than approaching the enemy in new and interesting ways, the same old stupid and destructive deadweight loss tactics are being applied: blowing people up and killing them. To anyone who cares about economics, this is idiotic. These people are useful, capable and potentially produtive members of the human community. Rather than intelligently find ways to exploit that, we spend billions of dollars we can't really afford to find more and more sophisticated ways to blow them up.

      If blowing things up in Afghanistan solved the Afghan problem, there wouldn't be an Afghan problem anymore. It didn't work for the British, it didn't work for the Russians, and not it's not working for NATO.

      Maybe it's time we started thinking about using new technology in ways that are actually likely to bring about the desired end--which is peace and prosperity (right?--rather than just stupidly and unimaginately pursuing the dead-end dream of a faster horse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jeng ( 926980 )

        If blowing things up in Afghanistan solved the Afghan problem, there wouldn't be an Afghan problem anymore. It didn't work for the British, it didn't work for the Russians, and not it's not working for NATO.

        It worked for the Afgans with foreign invaders. They blew their enemies up and eventually the enemies left, but then they went after each other.

        Perhaps the Afgans should quit blowing people up in general. Someone needs to stop, and if the Afgans had stopped then the US probably would not have had a reason to invade. If the US stops blowing up the Afgans then they will just go back to blowing up each other again/still.

      • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Tuesday June 08, 2010 @12:45PM (#32497710)

        Yeah, right on, dude. Because when we build roads, and schools, and hospitals, those

        useful, capable and potentially produtive members of the human community

        won't come in behind and blow them up and then beat the women for the audacity of accepting medical care or an education. Those potentially fine, upstanding members of the human race won't shoot old men for accepting food for their starving tribe or allowing tribe members to be educated on ways to better grow food crops. Nothing like that ever happens...potentially.

        • by dugeen ( 1224138 )
          If the US had been invaded by the Afghan army, with mass civilian slaughter and widespread torture, would your reasoning be 'Well, this ain't so bad, because at least when we aren't being tortured/killed, we've got these new roads, schools and hospitals?' I don't think so.
      • The real problem is the U.S., for all its military might, doesn't have the stomach for war. The insurgents do. They are willing to go all the way for their cause, as twisted as it might seem to us. It's the same problem as Vietnam. That war was half a dozen nukes away from being solved. Afghanistan and Iraq are easy to solve too: nuke the place until everyone you don't like is dead. Or everyone is dead. Al Qaeda would do it if they could.

        But oh we can't use those horrid nukes, etc, etc... OK, fine, t

  • And here I was hoping for something a little more like FarmVille .... We could call it DroneVille or maybe DroneTown, maybe DroneWorld?
  • settings (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, I noticed facebook added a new privacy setting.

    Let the someone water board you? friends & US government only -> Friends Only.

    you have to watch that shit.

  • Will this be just like the air marshall program that spends billions and results in like 4 arrests in 8+ years?

    With everyone up in arms about waste in government these days, I find it amazing that they still institute programs that are unproven and massively wasteful. Bet we will hear in a couple years that this program has cost 2 billion and resulted in no arrests of convictions.
  • YOU'RE NEXT!! (Score:1, Informative)

    by czarangelus ( 805501 )
    Sing and dance to the tune of your corporate overlords, suckers. Because you are the next insurgents. The government has said as much, many times, smearing military veterans and Ron Paul voters and people who can name at least two amendments in the Constitution as "terrorists." All these fancy weapons they're testing in Iraq and all these "non-lethal" systems that turn out to be quite lethal exist to make sure you don't demand restitution for the crimes that have been committed against the American people.
  • Before I just trolled for GPS articles, but looks like my recent works surfacing here as well. It is true that there is a chat system, it's previous name is mIRC, and it's going to a newer system. NATO has a tool that does the same thing, which is called JChat. The article really doesn't do justice in how integrated all the groups are now. For the comment, "increased surveillance," put on your foil hat and go back to surfing. Unless you're planting IEDs or being stupid in Afghanistan, we don't care or h

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein