Adam Hudson is a journalist, writer, and photographer. He was born in Oakland, California and raised in Pittsburg/Bay Point, California, a multiethnic working-class suburb in the East Bay Area.
He graduated from Stanford University in 2010 with a BA in International Relations and a minor in Middle Eastern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, focusing on the Arabic language. So he can read, write, and decently speak Arabic. In Winter of 2010, he studied international humanitarian law and public policy abroad at the University of Oxford.
Eight Questions & Answers
1) Provide some information on your professional background — In the military and working with information technology.
In the military I was an infantry and intelligence officer as well as an adjutant (personnel and security for large units). I served at the service level as a reviewer of Theater Intelligence Architecture Plans (TIAP), national intelligence support to tactical units, and Gulf War and other lessons learned and afteraction reports (shortfalls in our capabilities, there are many).
In the technical arena I am a pissed-off end-user who has been blessed with some extraoridinary technical opportunities. I did my second graduate thesis on strategic information (mis) management, and at CIA I was culled from the herd to do a rotational in the Office of Information Technology (OIT) where I led two projects to apply artificial intelligence and other advanced information technologies to clandestine operations and all-source analysis. I did one of the only cross-agency functional requirements analysis studies ever done there — I actually talked to end users at all levels in all directorates. When I served as the senior civilian creating the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, I applied everything I learned, and also led the Joint National Intelligence Development Staff (JNIDS) submission for an all-source workstation that won the 1984 competition, but was overturned by an Admiral without ethics and a staff without integrity — as I heard the story years later, the Admiral refused to accept our win, saying “we are a Navy shop, we will do a Navy problem.” It is precisely this lack of integrity across the US Government that prevents substantive advancement of our capabilities. We are morally and intellectually corrupt.
As a CEO working with over 66 countries, my biggest obstacle has been the refusal of each country to engage in multinational (multialteral) information-sharing and sense-making. Everyone wants to do bi-lateral secrets rather than create a common system that meets 80% of everyone’s needs openly. We would be much more effective at the last 20% — secret sources and methods — if we got the open source 80% right first.
See the bio summary at The Daily Bell interview, Former CIA Spy Robert Steele Wants to Strangle Leviathan With ‘Open Source’ Governance
The Guardian profile that put me on the map recently with The open source revolution is coming and it will conquer the 1% – ex CIA spy
I mention these because if you are thinking about how the US “innovates” in information technology there are three huge points that need to be made:
01 US secret world has been distorting and corrupting information technology for decades — that has to stop
02 Intelligence is about decision-support or making sense — no one in Silicon Valley and especially Microsoft and Google, do this
03 Open Source is the only approach to IT that is affordable, interoperable, and scalable — and the only approach that lends itself to Internet autonomy from government monitoring and corporate tollgates and shut-down. Silicon Valley is behind the times for lack of an agile mind-set.
2) What is Keyhole? Explain its 3-D mapping technology. I understand that Google purchased Keyhole years ago.
Keyhole, or Keyhole Markup Language (KML) is the coding that makes geospatial data work. Its particular brilliance consists of a tiling approach that allows very intelligence sparse access to data just in time such that the speeds and feeds of data go much faster than if you were trying to load everything at once.
3) Google has partnerships with many government agencies and defense contractors, including the NGA, NSA, CIA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC, and Blackbird. In your opinion, what’s the general relationship between the U.S. government and tech companies? What does each side want from the other?
US Government seeks ways to spend lots of money so Congress can get its 5% pork kick-back and the bureaucrats can be promoted — Silicon Valley seeks ways to earn money that play to the stock valuation. NEITHER OF THEM actually give a shit about making anything useful.
4) Explain geospatial intelligence, how it is used, and how it relates to what the NGA does. How is geospatial intelligence used by the military or any other agency?
At its most basic, geospatial intelligence means military combat charts with contour lines (defilade matters) for 100% of the Earth. We still only have 10% or so in hard copy maps that will keep working, perhaps another 20% in digital form. At the more advanced stage, geospatial intelligence in the ideal sees every datum from every source with a geospatial attribute, such that you can say “show me everything there is to know about this one square kilometer.” Keyhole Markup Language (KML) does not do non-geospatial data. Where we need to get to is an open source expansion of CrisisMappers that is as good as GoogleEarth, with a KML sparse matrix stacked on top of the world map, such that all data has both a time and space tag, and a geospatial attribute.
In the future, this will allow true cost economics to come to the fore, for example visualizing clearly the virtual water contained in every product, service, policy, and behavior. A Global Game will allow everyone to play themselves and vote on all issues at all levels.
5) Also, comment on how metadata and signals intelligence are used as compared to other forms of intelligence. For example, U.S. drone strikes are based largely on metadata analysis and monitoring cell phone SIM cards.
Signals intelligence has always relied primarily on seeing the dots and connecting the dots, not on knowing what the dots are saying. When combined with a history of the dots, and particularly the dots coming together in meetings, or a black (anonymous) cell phone residing next to a white (known) cellphone, such that the black acquires the white identity by extension, it becomes possible to “map” human activity in relation to weapons caches, mosques, meetings, etcetera. If you combine that with the exploitation of captured cell phones that provide documentation of first, second, and third order contacts missed by the larger system (which only “notices” or processes 1% — ONE PERCENT — of the total collection, you get to some extremely expensive but modestly interesting capabilities.
6) Recently, The Intercept reported that the NSA collects the contents of almost all cell phone calls in five countries — the Bahamas, Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, and an unnamed fifth country. After criticizing The Intercept for not revealing the fifth country, Wikileaks reported that the fifth country was Afghanistan. On Twitter, Wikileaks also pointed followers to a July 2009 diplomatic cable showing that country was Afghanistan. According to the cable, in July 2009, Google’s Ideas director Jared Cohen met with the State Department where he was tasked to get Afghan telecom companies, such as Roshan, to move their towers to U.S. bases. I’m not sure if this move was done (probably was) but I’m curious as to your thoughts on this. Why would it be helpful to have Afghan telecom companies move their towers to U.S. bases? Could this help with drone strikes, considering they’re based largely on cell phone monitoring and metadata analysis?
Taking down cell phone towers is one insurgent tactic, and they are easier to defend if they are on a base. Presumably black boxes can be attached to them regardless of where they are located. Drone strikes are an abomination — 98% collateral damage and CIA is not a combat command, it should not be doing mass murder. I do not connect the two.
7) Palantir is a Silicon Valley based company that sells data-mining and analysis software. Many of its customers are military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies like the CIA, FBI, USSOCOM, the Armed Services, LAPD, NYPD, etc. How familiar are you with Palantir? How would data-mining and analysis software be useful for military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies? I know the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), one of many fusion centers across the country, uses software built by Palantir to store and analyze license plate photos.
Palantir sucks. Smoke and mirrors. To understand Palantir’s lack of tangible value, see the posts by various experts at Phi Beta Iota, https://phibetaiota.net/?s=
In fairness to Palantir, everything else sucks also, including the US Army’s multi-billion dollar monstrosity, Defense Common Ground System (DCGS), i2 at IBM, and so on. Only SILOBREAKER out of Sweden comes anywhere close to my expectations, and even there it is at 20%.
Silicon Valley still does not get the need for open source or for an all-source analytic workstation or for geospatial tagging of all data regardless of its source. In short, I consider Silicon Valley a fad shop, not a heavy lifter. To understand what we need in eighteen functionalities for an open source all-source (human, signals, imagery, other feeds) workstation, see this post from 1989 Worth a Look: 1989 All-Source Fusion Analytic Workstation–The Four Requirements Documents — $1.2 trillion dollars later, the US secret world still does not have a functional all-source workstation because no one gives a shit (in Washington or in Silicon Valley) about empowering the human in the loop.
8) It seems that as the U.S. government relies more on electronic and signals intelligence for its operations, it will continue to see Silicon Valley as a useful industry. What are the advantages and disadvantages of electronic and signals intelligence?
The US Government and Silicon Valley are focused on financial streams, not practical streams. Neither of them is actually committed to creating a World Brain or a School of Future-Oriented Hybrid Governance, or anything remotely useful to 6 billion human beings in desperate need of tools for humanity. Here is my 1993 invited rant at Paul Allen’s INTERVAL Corporation. Silicon Valley has learned nothing since then. 1993: God, Man, & Information – Comments to Interval In-House (Full Text Online) In my view, the real innovation now is far away from Silicon Valley, among individual disruptors with real passion, not an eye on the stock market. CrisisMappers is one example.
The only advantage of electronic and signals intelligence to its current beneficiaries (special interests, not the public) is that it is very very expensive and leaves a lot of money on the table for pork and overhead. Human intelligence and open source intelligence are vastly superior to signals intelligence 95% of the time, but they are underfunded precisely because they are not expensive and require face to face contact with foreigners, something the US Government is incompetent at, and Silicon Valley could care less — they would have to leave their air-conditioned cubicles and get out into the real world.