Wednesday, August 08, 2012

technohood watch - what a concept!

I am working on a weeks-long stream of consciousness and needed to write it out - it's great how that often works. The concept (technohood watch) is a variation of neighborhood watch (no, not like in the one in Sanford, FL with George Zimmerman).  Technohood Watch is where average, everyday citizens with superior technological abilities act in a way that they may be seen as superheroes by the less informed, less technologically aware.

In essence, they are living their lives, going about their business, see criminal activity going on, and choose to report it.

The police are not always the first to see crime happening. I know this comes as a shock to many a criminal (and perhaps a few criminal justice students) but without a crystal ball, a time machine, or the ability to read minds, the police most often identify crime when average, everyday citizens 1) observe crime or evidence thereof, and 2) take time out of their busy day to notify the police.

As I noted in The odds of finding a "pattern of criminal gang activity,"the odds of this happening are surpisingly low, so to be blunt about it -- the police need all the help they can get.

In addition to the limitations of their inherent superhuman mind-reading powers (and the absence of a crystal ball or time machine), police officers are constrained by the U.S. Constitution. In relevant part, these Amendments limit what the police can do:
  • 1st freedom of speech and right to assemble/associate
  • 2nd right to bear arms
  • 4th unreasonable searches and seizures
  • 4th search warrants based on probable cause
  • 5th/14th due process/self-incrimination
  • 6th right to confront accuser 
. . . but if someone doesn't work for or act as an agent of the government those restrictions don't apply. There are many out-and-about professionals who are more likely to see criminal activity: cable and telephone installers, pest control professionals, newspaper delivery people, U.S. Postal Service (and Fedex, UPS, etc) carriers and drivers, meter readers, and my personal "favorite" -- door-to-door salespersons.

But technohood watch is designed for another population -- the folks who browse, peruse, occupy, explore, and otherwise engage in the space between my computer and your tablet -- between my server and your ipod -- between your xbox and my . . . you get the picture. This may not be a space where no man has gone before but it's definitely where few can go and not get lost.

So while folks are going through their day and they see a crime and feel the need to report it, they are engaging in technohood watch. It's related to USAonWatch and somewhat like Citizen Observer, but it's different. There are no meetings with the police or prosecutors to obtain guidance or get information like with Infraguard. It is complementary to all of these activities, but it's very different.

Technohood Watch is a crime prevention program that educates citizens on the application of basic legal principles and common sense. It teaches citizens how to help themselves and their community by identifying and reporting suspicious activity they see during their normal daily activities. It provides citizens with the opportunity to make their world safer and improve their quality of life. Technohood watch groups focus on observation and awareness to identify, report, or prevent crime and employ strategies that range from social interaction to active techno-patrols.

Technohood Watch has no membership requirements, as there are no members. The "program" is simply a venue for information and education. There are no connections between the learners and any police or similar government employee, agent, or representative. No directions are provided to the authors of Technohood Watch alerts, advisories, or other information or to the readers, and no one is targeted to investigate certain people, property, or activities. Technohood Watch participants may identify a child pornography ring one day and a cyberterrorist the next. It's a focus on the space, not the crime, with an emphasis on reporting.

What do you think? More -- @technohoodwatch

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Logically and strategically counter violent extremism VS jumping to conclusions and calling it news

Many pundits, talking heads, and self-proclaimed experts are attacking the results of a recently published, grant-funded study on How Islamist Extremists Quote the Qur’an

The authors noted that Islamist extremists make heavy use of the Qur’an in their strategic communication. The report raised questions about the veracity of claims often made by analysts. They concluded that verses extremists cite from the Qur’an do not suggest an aggressive offensive foe seeking domination and conquest of unbelievers, as is commonly assumed. Instead they deal with themes of victimization, dishonor, and retribution. They recommended that the West abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination, focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage, emphasize alternative means of deliverance, and work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists.

I suggest folks actually read the report before jumping to conclusions -- it could be a great piece of strategy if taken in context.

It appears to me, having taken more than a couple of seconds to examine the recommendations, that they did not make these recommendations because they were wrong, but because they defeat the (strategic) purpose. READ ON!

Consider this the Cliff's Notes and the Rest of the Story.

The authors offer four practical implications for strategic communication to counter violent extremism:

Abandon claims that Islamist extremists seek world domination.
  • These claims also undermine the credibility of Western voices, because the audience knows that extremist arguments are really about victimage and deliverance.
Focus on counteracting or addressing claims of victimage.
  • Of course, where these claims are true, they should be acknowledged and addressed. Otherwise, when claims of harm are demonstrably false, they can possibly be disputed factually. 
  • Another strategy is to emphasize cases where the West has come to the aid of Muslims (or attempted to do so), as in the cases of Kosovo and the various Arab Spring conflicts. 
  • Finally since Qur’an verses are used as analogies to present day events to justify violent behavior, it may be possible to undermine the analogies themselves
Emphasize alternative means of deliverance.
  • Even if one accepts the premise that Muslims are in need of deliverance, it does not follow that violence is the preferred means of achieving it. 
  • Here again, the Arab Spring conflicts provide a rich reservoir of such alternatives (e.g. nonviolent new media campaigns). 
  • Late last year the State Department’s Digital Outreach Team posted a video on YouTube12 mocking Ayman al-Zawahiri using clips from an al-Qaeda video 
    • These quotes were intercut with scenes from the Arab Spring protests in Egypt.
Work to undermine the “champion” image sought by extremists.
  • Extremists use a deliverance narrative to position themselves as the champion that can deliver the community from evil. However, as we have argued elsewhere, extremists do little that is champion-like. 
  • Two-thirds to three-fourths of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by anti-government forces. 
  • So there is an argument to be made that even if one believes that violent action is required to deliver Muslims, Islamist extremists are not competent to occupy the role of champion.
What do you think?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New issues for the new year

It's been a while since the ideas bouncing around in my head were directly related to any of the topics in courses I was teaching. Coincidentally, that intersection is occurring in the coming (Spring 2012) semester. I am teaching at Austin Peay State University in the School of Technology & Public Management Criminal Justice - Homeland Security.

Towards the end of the last semester, I learned of an opportunity to supplement my endeavors with technology for the students, and applied for supplemental funds to get quite a few iPads, iPods, and related accessories. Here's the summary:
  • The overarching purpose of the proposed purchase was to provide faculty alternatives to expanding the learning environment and disseminating course and program-related material. 
  • The requested equipment will be used by department faculty to enhance and expand the learning environment for all students – both on-ground and online. 
  • The equipment will be used to create and process audio and video recordings, photographs, and other media to document the many tangible ways the community and our world reflect the many topics studied in the disciplines within the department. 
  • Students will be encouraged to create and produce digital media both individually and in groups. 
    • Examples of this include documentaries of real-world events, interviews, or role-playing to provide innovative scholarship and a sense of the available technology that can be used to augment their work in their chosen professions. 
  • Faculty will be encouraged to and assisted with increasing their understanding of the ways technology can enhance the learning environment. 
    • Examples of faculty use include recording podcasts of in-class lectures, videos of lectures and the aforementioned student endeavors, interviews, and presentations, and engaging in qualitative research to further university, college, and departmental pedagogical objectives. 
  • It is anticipated that many of the productions of these endeavors will be uploaded to public-access websites like iTunesU
  • Documentation of the continued use of this equipment and evolution of the use thereof is planned with eventual presentation in a variety of academic forums, include Austin Peay State University’s Innovative Professor conference.
We got approved, and though it was not for the whole amount, we will be able to get enough for a really good start.

This post starts the informal, public documentation of this adventure.

I have sent/will be sending out this email/post to as many of my contacts and their contacts as possible. I would love to get your assistance in this endeavor:

Seeking LE organization willing to work virtually with supervised university students. 
The goal is to give students more exposure to real officers and police administrators and fewer TV cops. 
Are you willing to partner with a handful of students with retired-LE professor oversight on a small project tailored to your department/team needs? All project ideas considered, prefer those reated to mobile technology, with no anticipated cost to your organization. 
Time commitment very flexible and easily tailored to your availability, extended over approx. 15-week semester. Please let me know what your interests and apprehensions include.
This is a nationwide & international inquiry -- communication by email, phone, etc. depending on preference of LE organization.
This will be a work in progress throughout the semester. I plan to present the rough ideas to the class and get their input on choosing groups of 3-5, designing a group project, creating a grading rubric, and then having individual students grade (assist with grading) each group project.

I plan to think out loud here, so comments and follow up would be most appreciated. If you want to get some ideas, check out Christa Miller's work at

What do you think?