Monday, December 11, 2006

Shadows In The Light

The State Department recently asked the CIA for names of Iranian nuclear scientists who could be sanctioned and the CIA refused to give them, saying that it needed to protect its sources and tradecraft, and anyway, it has a large workload.

State then set a junior officer to find them on Google, and he did. One wonders if the CIA also had found them on Google but did not want to admit it.

The CIA may be hurting themselves by such denials. Will State call them the next time they need something fast? Will other departments discover that they can get what they need more quickly from Google than from the CIA? Will Google obsolete the CIA?

As the cost of storing and transmitting information approaches zero, all information will tend to go everywhere. The more public a piece of information is, the more it will tend to attract critical comment and the more the truth of it will be known. The truthfulness of secret information such as the CIA provides becomes in comparison only one side of the story.

For State to replace CIA reporting with Google searches almost makes Google a branch of government. Our intelligence collection process is outsourcing itself. Hard to resist when there is no cost.

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