Facebook for COIN

I was thinking about a reverse Facebook, an unFacebook . The key difference is that this is not a social network that is populated by willing participants, but populated with people by information gatherers.

For example, I meet you, and unbeknownst to you, I add you to my unFacebook. I meet another person and add them. Later I find out that you and he are business partners. I then “friend” you to him on my unFacebook. I give access to this database to all the people in my organization and send them out with iPhones and a handy little app that they can use to snap facial photos, grab a GPS point for last location, and fill in some quick details about subjects. Sometimes my people use their iPhones to show photos of subjects to other people to verify names or aliases, corroborate last known locations, and make links with other subjects in the database. Multiple aliases could be resolved through face recognition software. Multiple spellings could be resolved through morphological analysis. Personal details, links, and geolocation data can all be captured on the go in a very simple and familiar system (everybody knows how to use Facebook). As these bits of disparate information come into my UnFacebook, I use this data for an advanced type of link analysis, or scalable social network analysis (SSNA). It seems to me that a system like this would be handy for soldiers fighting an insurgency.

Facebook him Danno!

I would assume that law enforcement organizations have something like this that has been the result of a long evolution of link analysis technology. Doing a little research I found a list of tools used by the NSA in James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory (pp. 149): PatternTracer, Agility, AMHAS, Anchory, ArcView, Fastscope, Hightide, Hombase, Intelink, Octave math, Document Management Center, Dishfire, CREST, Pinwale, COASTLINE, SNACKS, Cadence, Gamut, Mainway, Marina, Osis, Puzzlecube, Surrey, Tuningfork, Xkeyscore, and Unified Tasking Tool. This is simply a list of tools used by the NSA. I could not find out what many of these did. That may be because they are specific to the NSA, or historical with no trace left on the net. ArcView is the only social network analysis tool I could confirm. Pinwale is data-mining software, which can be used for SSNA. But this is beside the point.

The military has its own needs and different ways of collecting intel than domestic law enforcement agencies, or even the NSA. With all the COIN work Western militaries have been conducting in the past decade, a flexible, automated, unFacebook-style link analysis application could be a benefit. Such an application probably exists, and if anyone has some information on it, please share. If not, this is a potential market for an enterprising startup. Please contact me if you would like to collaborate. ;)

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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11 Responses to Facebook for COIN

  1. Adrian says:

    Yes, law enforcement has stuff like that. But ArcView is a mapping software, it’s not social analysis.

  2. Younghusband says:

    I know but it can do GIS based link analysis.

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention ComingAnarchy.com » Facebook for COIN -- Topsy.com

  4. HIM says:

    I have been operating such a system for nearly three and a half years. Not so elegant in terms of all the functionality you describe, but it gets the job done. If you can see my email – send me a note.

  5. SJPONeill says:

    Here’s one: http://www.superstructuregroup.com/sid.aspx. SiD is a great tool and widely used here however IMHO has yet to truly realise its potential as it hasn’t been, again IMHO, particularly well promoted. It’s integration with IKE (www.surveylab.co.nz) and compatibility with the ARC suite fit within the unFacebook described above. Discliamer: I’m not involved with either company in any way however have seen both capabilities in action on various occasions.

    @Adrian, re Arc View, correct but there are some powerful analysis tools under the hood that can be used for 4D spatial analysis of potential networks.

  6. Edgewise.Sigma says:

    Interesting coming across this–

    I’m sure that by now at least some of you have learned of the upcoming remake (or is that “re-imagining”?) of “Red Dawn.”

    I’ve been wondering–should it ever come to be that some Major Power
    Out There should dare to plot the invasion of the US (I know, not too
    many candidates, but just humor me), would the planning for such an undertaking involve trying to exploit Facebook–or other social networking services–to plan for **pre-emptive** COIN? (A “pre-emptive” Phoenix Program?)

  7. The CHATS (http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/docs/bnM095AK.htm) system I used working on Tactical Humint Teams in Iraq (2003-4) had as part of its software suite a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf program called CrimeLink (http://www.pciusa.us/Crimelink.aspx).

  8. A “pre-emptive” Phoenix Program …

    Why would it be a foreign power?

    Wouldn’t a faction in the US Gov plotting a coup be willing and able to do that?

    It would be a great movie, and a potentially dangerous paranoid political fantasy.

  9. Edgewise.Sigma says:

    “A “pre-emptive” Phoenix Program … ”

    Yeah–or, for that matter, how about a Gladio-in-Reverse?

    “Why would it be a foreign power?
    Wouldn’t a faction in the US Gov plotting a coup be willing and able to do that?”

    Yeah, another scary possibility. Take note again of the tools Younghusband mentioned.

    “It would be a great movie, and a potentially dangerous paranoid political fantasy.”

    Well, any silver lining can have a dark cloud as well.

    BTW, posted both my question and a link to this blog post on an online forum, and one reply recommended this historical work:

    “Invasion 1940: The Nazi Invasion Plan for Britain”
    by SS General Walter Schellenberg


    Talk about paranoia and being thorough, this thing even covered the Freemasons and the Boy Scouts….

    And did this reviewer enter this correctly?

    ” The chapter on British Intelligence was considered so embarrassingly accurate that the few copies retrieved at the end of the war were retained by the authorities.”

    No Internet back then. No computers–*at least* as how we know them.

    Any guesstimates as to what would be the size of a similar handbook for the present-day ( or “near-future”?) U.S.?

  10. Edgewise.Sigma says:

    BTW, “Lexington Green,” et al–a bit OT, but check this out:


    And–somewhat “seriously”–more on this:


    by way of John Reilly:

    (who shares [among other things] drive-by reflections on a couple other “America Invaded” classics…)

  11. Peter says:

    “Personal details, links, and geolocation data can all be captured on the go in a very simple and familiar system (everybody knows how to use Facebook).”

    This post reminded me of “Enemy of the State”, a pretty gonzo Will Smith movie that featured lots of supposed whiz-bang technologies that the NSA exploited to try and quash whatever it was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was doing. People translating their sousveillance into surveillance for COIN through a intel-sharing site is great as long as people have the incentives to use it.

    The incentives for people to use Facebook are much different than the incentives to compile for the system you propose. This is why Facebook is Facebook and Muckety.com is still quite limited in terms of utility. So while your proposal is nice, how do you provide the incentives to the users to get the database past the tipping point where it becomes a really useful device?