Does the US military have some super new capability?

On Sunday night's 60 Minutes, famed journalist Bob Woodward talked about his new book The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008, about the Iraq war. During the interview, he made a vague reference to a breakthrough supersecret weapon or capability he claims the US military has that is comparable to the advent of the tank and the airplane. From CBS News:
"This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target, and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs," Woodward told (60 Minutes correspondent Scott) Pelley.

"But what are we talking about here? It's some kind of surveillance? Some kind of targeted way of taking out just the people that you're looking for? The leadership of the enemy?" Pelley asked.

"I'd love to go through the details, but I'm not going to," Woodward replied...

"If you were an al Qaeda leader or part of the insurgency in Iraq, or one of these renegade militias, and you knew about what they were able to do, you'd get your ass outta town."
Bob Woodward: military's secret weapon (CBS News, thanks Syd Garon!), Buy The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 (Amazon)


  1. So, what could this be? Hmmm. Remote controlled surveillance insects? Genetically engineered super-soldiers? Giant robots? Dr. Manhattan?

  2. I’ve heard of it from someone who signed an NDA not to talk about this. I’m not sure whether to say it or not because I’m afraid the CIA or SS (the Secret Service, not the Schutz-Staffel ;) will be knocking to my door.

    It’s related to satellites, tracking movement of people, and “supercomputing” (think 200,000+ core machines).

    (I swear to god even though being an atheist that I was told about this, and the guy who told me about it is by none and not at all a wingnut, he’s got connections to IBM et al. through his father.)

  3. Look, I give Woodward props for Watergate et al, but did anyone find this twist in the interview highly deceitful? If someone had referred to the Ultra codebreaking during WW2 saying “We know all about the German Army’s communications, but I really cant reveal any more”, would that not have been seen as disgraceful? It’s like the competitive journalist in him just couldn’t let go of getting the “scoop” and in so doing endangered our national security. Reminiscent of the person who revealed we knew about Osama bin Laden’s satelite phone– after which, Osama stopped using it and we lost all that intelligence. Alternatively, this “breakthrough” isn’t any such thing and he’s just being sensationalist. Either way, he’s off my xmas card list.

  4. Is Bob Woodward a journalist or does he work for the US government?

    As a civilian, does Bob Woodward really know the top secret stuff of government has?

    I didn’t see the interview, but it smells like propaganda.

    What is the purpose of secretive journalists?

    Osama bin Laden is an al qaeda leader, right? I bet he’s not worried.

  5. And the representitive from at Pentigon said, “Mr. Woodward has a close head injury. You don’t need to take him seriously.”

    And we also have a starship parked in back of the Moon and a Stargate in the basement.

  6. I call a genetically-engineered virus that creates mild flu-like symptoms in the general population, but which is deadly to the individual with the specific DNA is was tailored to target.

    *cough cough*

  7. I think #5 might be onto something. Isn’t there stuff in development—or actively being used—that can profile people by shadows? Would make sense for satellite surveillance.

  8. Actually, in the CNN report there’s confirmation from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

    National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward’s book, acknowledged the new strategy.

    Weird that they would acknowledge it, yet it’s a “secret”.

  9. OOH! OOH! Pick me! Pick me!

    I know.

    It’s transwarp drive, right?

    Hey Bob- “if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.”

  10. It’s atomic bombs! He never said there wouldn’t be a bit of collateral damage. He is just a little behind on the news.

  11. Maybe they’ve finally perfected their super awesome “deadly thought” techniques after decades of staring at goats.

  12. Hrm… the analogy of tank and airplane… Tanks allowed us to travel across land and into battlefields well protected against infantry and horse cavalry. Airplanes let us move from the ground into the sky. If we’re talking about moving into new fields of play then what do we have left? I can think of a few:

    Very small spaces– tiny robots.

    Through solid spaces– traveling *through* solid surfaces. Teleportation? Sci Fi!

    Through time– yes, time travel, but Yamara called that first. heh

    Then again, tanks and airplanes have something else in common. These are commonly cited inventions that changed the face of war. Wars were much different before tanks and much different before airplanes. (Another invention also cited in those conversations is the machine gun.) So, have they invented something that changes the game of war?

    Robotic soldiers? Tiny robots that can be driven or flown into enemies bases undetected and dispatch anyone? Long range energy weapons?

    Psychic weapons? heh

    Is this a technology that allows the military to find people, or makes it easier to dispatch them if you’ve already found them?

    Bah… they probably just have their surveillance octopus wrapped around Iraq, consuming all forms of communication. I bet that’s the invention. You turn this thing on, and in a couple days it shows you who and where the leaders are. They can probably mic the whole damn country from space.

  13. Woodward is former Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI); he has beaucoup connections in the spook community. Once . . . always, you know?

  14. If it’s what I think, has been covering it for quite some time, if a bit obliquely: operational intelligence gathering filtered through the experience of reserve soldiers who were cops in their day jobs, with operations analysis applied to spot patterns leading to leaders and technical assets. SP credits it with the collapse of the bombing campaign in Iraq (among other factors).

    Strategy Page is an excellent free resource for people interested in world military affairs who don’t have a truckload of money to subscribe to Stratfor.

  15. It’s cards! Cards as weapons! That’s why the book isn’t being reprinted – to contain the secret!

  16. And, while we’re on a paranoia kick… might be worth mentioning that Kim Jong Il hasn’t been seen lately, but perhaps he’s just spending more time with his hair.

    Now, suppose you’ve had access to satellite and high altitude plane photography for many years, and real-time pictures from satellite for some years… and your boss keeps asking “if we can see him, how come we can’t get him right now?”

    … And you eat lunch with the guy two floors down who is working on (nominal) anti-ballistic laser technology who has a boeing 747 that they can fly around the battlefield burning little holes in steel plates (or people) like a godlike alien child with a magnifying glass…

    How long before someone decides to go all “Real Genius” on global ‘undesirables?’

    (Then again, they may just be playing more games with Mossad-esque dirty tricks… exploding cellphones and the like.)

  17. #14: Tracking people by their shadows is all well and good… until they get into a car….

    (Naturally, it would help to enter the car from a shaded location).

  18. @Markim – How so? People figured out from the absence of papers from the leading atomic scientists in the early 40’s that the must all be working on something. I think your viewpoint requires accepting the assumption that there are millions of people actively working toward killing you. There may be actually be a couple thousand of people trying to kill us – but not whole nations full.

    It’s a matter of scale, really.

    What I find potentially disgraceful here is the potential weaponization of space.

  19. How long before someone decides to go all “Real Genius” on global ‘undesirables?’

    Can we make their fillings talk to them instead?

  20. Hey,

    If they had something super secret and super effective, why are we getting our collectives asses kicked daily?

  21. If it was a really good way of tracking bad guys, wouldn’t they have used it to find someone really bad. Say…Osama bin Laden?

    Or maybe it’s a new way of releasing information about false capabilities to trusted members of the press to scare bad guys at least long enough so that Iraq and Afghanistan are quiet until the election?

  22. My money’s on the little remote controlled flying insect cameras. Can supercomputing refer to little tiny computers, or only to computing vast amounts of data?

  23. It will be interesting to see how long this can be kept a secret now that it’s the buzz of the internet. Vegas should start taking bets. I’ll say two months.

  24. I suspect our secret weapon is really nothing more than a giant data warehouse. And why not, you stick all the information in and just see what stuff correlates with each other.

    Like a whole bunch of cell phone calls just before a suicide bombing. Or if you know when several very important meetings took place, you can figure which people were close to all of them.

    This isn’t rocket science anymore and it in fact would be surprising if the DOD wasn’t doing something like this.

  25. So let me get this straight: It’s super secret and Bob is blathering on about it on television? I think #15 has got it right:

    “The new secret weapon uses the power of fear…”

  26. #5 + #24 = warm. HUMINT takes time. Think ambient awareness. Seurat for the intel world + supercomputing to visualize, paint the fluid picture, and predict the patterns.

  27. Power of fear? The Iraqis don’t read Woodward…this is for US consumption.
    Last super-secret thing I remember getting out was something about domestic wiretaps and monitoring all web traffic…
    How do you know the intel part won’t be used for domestic political advantage?

  28. #40

    So, something like the sort of collective intelligence projects Hal Varian is working on for Google (c.f. CI Foo Camp)?

  29. @#27 You mention Kim Jong Il has been coincidentally not seen lately. That tripped my mind on this: After 40 YEARS of trying to kill Fidel Castro, he just kind of faded away after some kind of surgery. Surgery? Maybe it was a test run of whatever-the-hell this is.

  30. He just talked about it today on Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross.

    When I heard it I remember thinking, ‘Nixon has a secret plan for winning in Vietnam.”

    It would be nice if our trillions of dollars spent on weapons and these wars WOULD lead to some breakthrus. War does sometimes spurn ideas for the new use of old technology or the development of new technologies. Maybe later we will get the equalivant of “atoms for peace”

    There were some technologies that I heard about that would help to prevent cars getting hit by IEDs. They were semi passive protection, but not armor, people said not to write about them because it might allow the bad guys to suss out the situration and then they would be useless.

    But yeah, Jake called it. Tantalus Field.

    Time to grow a goatee.

  31. 30 years ago you could go to an SF convention, get Jerry Pournelle drunk (boy, wasn’t that easy?), and he’d blow on about lasers as the next weapon in the Arsenal of Freedom. In thirty years time, I see that they’re still talking about lasers, only now in public. Woo hoo. Maybe they have the lasing media working better then they did then, but I’m still not up with Reagan’s Star Wars crap defending us from incoming nuclear warsheads. Reagan’s making as much sense with that stuff now as he did in 1982, and he’s been dead for years.

    I also think that bin Laden has as much to worry about now as he did in August 2001 [ie, not much]. Next January 21st, he’ll be playing golf with Bush’s dad, just like Osama’s brother was on 9/11, and this time they’ll be joined by Cheney and Junior, and Junior’s serving the beers.

  32. Woodward is a tool, further illustrated by his restricting this book to “2006-2008.” I mean, that’s sure either arbitrary or capricious depending on your view of the last 5 years.

  33. Just what we need… another weapon.

    Isn’t it cheaper to prevent wars via diplomacy rather than spend zillons of dollars in new weapon systems?

    The U.S. is nuts.

  34. Obviously this secret capability is incredibly effective, given the capture of OBL and all of his senior staff.

    Oh, um, nevermind.

    Reading Woodward’s arched-eyebrow quote instantly reminded me of all the things said by bigshots before the Segway was revealed (“Will change how cities are built!”)

  35. If it was a time machine they would have used it to go back in time and stop the White House from being hit during 9/11.

    What? It wasn’t? What did they do with the plane that crashed into the White House? I remember seeing the shots on TV of the White House getting blown up.The sad voices of the newscasters talking about how the President and Vice President had died. The funny thing is that seven days later everyone thought that the plane had crashed in a field somewhere. No one believed me when I said what I remembered it differently, but that it almost seems like I had memories of both events. I told them do you really think that the President of the United States would sit in a class room and NOT bolt out of it when he knew of a plane hitting it. No. Only if he knew that HE was safe. No leader would be that cruel.

    (Nobody could have anticipated a plane being used as a weapon–except this guy on this tv show three years in advance.)

  36. That tracking stuff just sounds like an assignation tool. He’s talking about autonomous plasma shooting tank killing frisbees.

  37. I’ve thought about it and thought about it, and although there are many possibilities what this new weapon could be, the only one that makes any sense is sharks with laser beams attached to their heads.

  38. Yeah, all those terrorists are dropping like flies. WE’RE SAVED!

    Does this mean we can cut the US military budget to a tiny fraction of its’ current level?

  39. (Nobody could have anticipated a plane being used as a weapon–except this guy on this tv show three years in advance.)

    Or Tom Clancy in Debt of Honor. You’d think that all of those neo-cons would have read that. Of course perhaps they did and that’s where they got the idea from.

  40. Or Tom Clancy in Debt of Honor. You’d think that all of those neo-cons would have read that. Of course perhaps they did and that’s where they got the idea from.

    Or anybody who’s seen Tora, Tora, Tora.

  41. Since Osama bin Laden is still thought to be alive they are either lying, not really trying to end the war on terror bullshit, or both.

  42. Do you suppose if we stumble upon the exact super secret weapon someone will come to our house and ask us how we know?

    “I heard about it on the radio from Bob Woodward! I just guessed.”

    “So, nobody told you that we had developed a combination optical-infrared tracking nano bug device that feed data from satellites and predator drones into a real-time battlefield targeting system that allows us to take people out with conventual weapons or with a high energy pulse beam?”

    “Ummm, no. I just guessed a Tantalus Field from Star Trek.”

    ‘A what?”
    “A Tantalus Field, from that parallel universe episode of Star Trek.”

    “So you don’t know the details of the Thor’s Hammer weapon platform? And our panopticon and intelligent nano tracking dust?”

    “Unm no. Until now. But now that you have told me I guess you’ll have to kill me? Right?”

    “Nah, we don’t kill people instantly anymore, we just keep track of what they say, do or go and let them know that if we WANT to we CAN destroy them, when we want.”

  43. Or anybody who’s seen Tora, Tora, Tora.

    Or the Wright Brothers.

    Actually, like someone upthread already inferred, maybe the new secret weapon is the Segway.

  44. I wish it was something like that Vonnegut story “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” but that story is only good because a very moral peace-lover has the power and uses it to disarm everyone.

    I think #5’s comments are the most tantalizing here, and #6’s comments are way off, (Woodward may indeed be doing part of the White House’s bidding, fear IS a powerful weapon, it could make the terrorists so meticulous and suspicious that they can’t get anything done.) Besides, if we had let the Nazis know we had a “super powerful secret weapon” what would they have done?

  45. I don’t think that that the US is using anything terrible beyond imagination. Anything like insect robots, freakin’ laser beams, and the like like would be quickly be caught in action or their would be evidence of their existence (people having burn holes through their head are kind of conspicuous).

    Far more likely, the US has just gotten really fucking good at correlating data from multiple sources, has multiple methods of keeping an eye on whatever back country hole in the wall they want to, AND have the ability to drop a boring but utterly effective conventional missile anything that returns a P value less than 0.05.

    Hell, just imagine this simple scenario using all known technologies:

    A special ops guy with a GPS and a laser spots a known insurgent in Afghanistan and pings guys GPS coordinates and puts a little invisible dot on his head. A surveillance drone overhead marks the insurgent in question and marks everyone else around him. A between the drone and satellites, the insurgent is followed as he gets into a car. The car is followed by satellite and drone. The car parks a few villages over and everyone who gets out is tracked as far as they can be tracked. A person enters a building, and every person who now enters or leaves that building gets tracked. Correlate this data with human intelligence and signal intelligence. Ping a few insurgents like our first victim in question.

    Clearly, you can’t follow the original target very far, but you can start to build a map of people around this person. If a few pinged insurgent enters the same building, you can probably feel safe in assuming that something is going on in there. Even more importantly though, if you can start making broad correlations and noticing broad movements. You can’t identify people, but you can identify when a lot of “insurgent related” people start to congregate. Your correlations might all of a sudden start getting all hot and bothered for a certain village in Pakistan because correlations keep popping up. Send a surveillance drone look at faces or even send in a special ops team with a pair of binoculars to the air. If you see a juicy target, it takes just a few seconds to send a few hundred bounds of explosives at it from the drone that has been circling at high altitude for the past few hours.

    You could do all of this with stuff we know exists. I personally think that Americans are just getting good at finding needles in haystacks. The US has a long history of slowly ramping up (technology and tactics wise) for war. Just war or unjust war, good war or bad war, the US tends blunder its way forward in the beginning and as the conflict drags on get better and better.

    Personally, I think that time is on the American’s side (especially in Afghanistan). Providing the American tax payer doesn’t get sick of footing the bill, the US armed forces and intelligence agencies will find the “answers”. Prolonged conflict just gives Americans time work the problem. I personally think that a lot of the Taliban’s success recently had been the fact that the Americans were ignoring them and not working on the problem in favor of working on Iraq. With Iraq evening out and the Americans turning their attention to Afghanistan, I think the Taliban is about to find itself in an ugly position. The only thing the Taliban really has going for it is that the US wont launch a full on occupation of Pakistan’s tribal lands… but both Bush and Obama have made it pretty clear (and I imagine McCain probably also agrees) that we have no problem tossing bombs over the border to assassinate Taliban leaders.

  46. It’s a weapon that gains its power through stupidity, hubris and greed–it’ll go supernova if McPalin sleazes into the Oval Office.

  47. I like #60’s response!
    To be serious though, I think all that work in Area 51 has finally paid off. Right now 10-star generals are victoriously puffing on their corn cob pipes, and shaking hands with lab-coated technicians. Before having them killed. I expect to see images of saucer formations over Afghanistan soon. What? I can dream.

  48. Obviously it’s the cellphone-sonar technology from The Dark Knight.

    …but at what cost?

    Dun dun DUNNHHHHH

  49. Alexx @50

    After 40 YEARS of trying to kill Fidel Castro, he just kind of faded away after some kind of surgery. Surgery? Maybe it was a test run of whatever-the-hell this is.

    The new secret weapon is infirmity caused by advanced old age! It’s brilliant!

    As others have pointed out – if this secret weapon was really all that great, should we not have seen some evidence of its efficacy by now?

  50. “…it is possible to synthesize excited bromide in an argon matrix. Yes, its an excimer, frozen in its excited state.”

  51. Every military contractor in the world always claims that every product they make is a major new development, equivalent to (list of famous technologies). Every one of them gets a bunch of government mooks to believe them and spout their nonsense.

    Nothing to see here.

  52. This super-secret database targeting scheme is just about foolproof, too. One of the first targets was some poor bloke named “Buttle”.

  53. It’s a small, stealth dirigible. It can hover and loiter in an area during the night while making very little to no noise detectable on the ground. It’s paylod is sufficient for a couple of Hellfire missles.

  54. They’ve been collecting biometric data over there for years. I’m putting my money on some crazy database of the whole country.

  55. #88 – your idea makes the most sense, and would also explain about 95% of UFO sightings.

    But I still want it to be attack badgers.

  56. ‘you’d get your ass out of town’

    HMMM, so this technology only works ‘in town’..

    The DOE has a 122400 core opteron based system which is currently topping the 500 list. It also has 2 more in the top 10. The DOD has about 8x the computing power of the DOE, considering the budget difference. You could process a shit-ton of video and voice data with those kinds of TFLOPs.

  57. While it’s probably the assasination teams #81 was talking about, I’m sort of hoping that their secret weapon is actually a requirement to have all foreign affairs policies set by sane people.

  58. The breakthrough weapon is the ability to plant Woodward on 60 Minutes to claim there’s a breakthrough weapon.

  59. SPOCKO@57: I think you might have to change your name to Guinano.

    Of course, we all know the new secret weapon is pixie-dust.

  60. That sounds dangerously like the “be nice to me or I’ll get my dad to beat you up” bluff, but directed at disfavored foreigners.

  61. As others have pointed out – if this secret weapon was really all that great, should we not have seen some evidence of its efficacy by now?

    L’l Kim Il is reportedly ill.

  62. i read about this in a science pub last week, its a multi-powered laser coupled with a special new satellite that can track a person by the way they walk. also, OSAMA BIN LADEN HAS BEEN DEAD FOR 6 YEARS. for whatever reason the press in this country refuses to acknowledge the fact, but it seems, every other country knows. assassinated in the pashtun region of pakistan by one of his right hand men. ( according to benizir bhutto )

  63. Yes Rindan that’s just what happened in Vietnam.
    IMO we’ll all be out of Afghanistan in five years and the Taliban will be running the place.
    Without air power our outposts would now be being encircled starved and cut to ribbons like they were 150 years ago. By the way there were Talibans (so called at the time) fighting the Imperial British in the 1800s.
    Anyway you guys claimed to want Bin Laden, the Taliban just happened to be in the way….Karzai et al are non-Pashtun brigands, with little popular support and Pakistan, 80% of whose population is anti-“war on terror” is a nuclear power.
    English is widely used in Pakistan and every party has an English-language paper, so this stuff is not difficult to find out.
    Remember too that the US ambassador to Pakistan dodged an assassination attempt two weeks ago, and while her predecessor committed suicide in a Karachi hotel room. Never a good sign, at least as far as US interests go.
    You are playing with fire hitting Pakistanis on their own soil.
    Maybe the Am taxpayer needs the money to pay for his food gas and lodging instead of your army tear-assing around Afghanistan killing scores of women and children with their terigger-happy airstrikes.
    And where does your President get off ordering murders? WTF?

  64. Yes Rindan that’s just what happened in Vietnam.

    Yes, exactly like Vietnam. During Vietnam the US got progressively better at fighting. As the war was drawing to a close, the US had utterly defeated the Vietcong inside of South Vietnam. Saigon was for years bombarded by rocket fire from the Vietcong. The US eventually got good at fighting them, developed some pretty inventive tactics, and pretty much crushed the Vietcong through superior tactics and firepower. In the final years of the war Saigon was a safe city. Of course, crushing the Vietcong doesn’t really do you much good if North Vietnam is sending a regular army south as your soldiers are pulling out. The US lost Vietnam because they got tired of tossing American boys and money into a meat grinder over some little south Asian nation that has the strategic value of a first full of dirt.

    Fighting the Americans is a battle of time. As a nation fighting the US you basically need to inflict as horrific of casualties as possible no matter what it costs to yourself. Your goal should be to sap American will to fight before they figure out how to fight you. Once Americans figure it out, they better be on the way to leaving or else you are pretty much screwed without a nuclear arsenal or a few million people to toss into a meat grinder. You need to convince the Americans that they are losing or that the cost isn’t worth it, because in the end, they really have more resources and better tactics than most other armed groups. They can maintain war pretty much forever (politicians willing) and they have a military that is flexible and self critical enough to find whatever the “right” tactic is.

    Iraq is a good example. It took a while, but they eventually hit one the “right” tactic to win. The Iraqi government is growing in strength. There is little doubt in my mind that if the Americans stick around long enough, it will be strong enough to hold the nation together. I am not saying that the Iraq war was a smart idea (it wasn’t) nor that victory is worth the cost (it isn’t). I am just saying that if politicians are willing to pay the price, it is a winnable war.

    The same goes for Afghanistan. The US can win, it just has to be prepared to spend the money to do it. The US will figure out workable tactics, execute them, and achieve whatever goals they set out. It will just cost money and time, and in the end the prize will be an acceptable quasi-democracy somewhere on the ass end of the earth. The only question the American people need to decide on is if making that worthless hunk arid rock a squishy little friendly quasi-democracy is worth the billions it is going to cost.

  65. Two secret guesses:

    1. You take this bunch of guys, dress them up in black pajamas. Then you give them all the hashish they can smoke. Then you send them out in the dark to do things.

    2. The same ‘secret’ that Richard Nixon used at election time.

  66. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise….

  67. #57 posted by spocko , September 9, 2008 2:06 PM

    If it was a time machine they would have used it to go back in time and stop the White House from being hit during 9/11.

    Oh, you’re meta-funny :^)

  68. Fishing trip for new ideas —

    Put the idea that there is a new super weapon out there and see what people on Boing Boing and other blogs come up with.

    2.0 as ultimate think tank.

  69. Woodward thinks it’s a secret weapon, but it’s really the final punctuation mark on a distress call back to Tralfamadore.

  70. My money is on dust speck sized RFID tags that can be pinged by aircraft or even sat’s. ‘Dust’ a target area, continually ping that area, feed that info into some gods-awful-big computer to figure out suspicious movement from the average shop keeper/farmer… follow up with drone coverage, more normal electronic snooping and old style gum shoe work.

    Given enough computing power and air craft/sat coverage and you could follow every person in the country in real time. All the while looking for suspicious movements.

    No place to hide, no more secrets.

  71. Quantum tracking of some kind? That would indeed be new and powerful.

    Its obviously a tracking tech. Maybe its just a system that tracks the locations of everyone all the time, based upon security cameras and satellite footage. Thats obviously very doable and they are planning to put things like that into major US cities. Could be why there’s loose lips, not exactly a big secret. It would sort of be a time machine, I am sure you’d be able to look back at the previous movements of people who were not targeted until after the surveillance.

  72. 120 comments lol! Yes this is absolutely infuriating, what are they doing teasing us? Must be some sort of psych-op on the enemy.. but why are they attacking thousands of innocent nerds with it! Bah.

    also, it is an illegal war and if they are using it as an r&d testing ground that shows what their priorities are/their regard for the future of Iraq.. :(

  73. Rindan, it was not a failure of US will that “lost” Vietnam, regardless what Henry Kissinger and other zealous revisionists have to say. Blame the pot-smoking pacifist hippies, yeah right.
    If the Policy and Intel behind the decision to launch a War is wrong the War is unwinnable. What’s the exit plan for Iraq? A strong Government there? That’s what was there before you (you speak like an American) started this demo of slow US infallibility in Warfare. An State exercise in cruelty, IMO.
    As to Afghanistan it is laughable to think that we can succeed where the USSR , Afghanistan’s then neighbor, failed. This is an exercise in Coalition Warfare and the civilian casualties the US forces are causing is screwing all the NATO countries trying to get that place together. And what’s the goal in Afghanistan? When will we know we’ve won?
    Oh yeah when your politicians say so….
    Having the bestest Army in the whole wide world is a serious liability to the pursuit of happiness if your politicians are cruel jerks who’ll start non-defensive wars and who do not shy from ordering the torture and assassination of political ‘enemies’ in other lands.
    Don’t be proud of fulfilling illegal orders to kill disrupt terrorize and destroy with alacrity and efficiency. That is all.

  74. The clue is the phrase “*operational* capabilities”. It’s not a new weapon per se. It’s probably not a new tactic or strategy really, based on his comparisons to airplanes and nukes, but it could be closer to a very specific system for doing something, including perhaps some units with specific training role, etc. It could be something as simple as infiltration of enemy groups by secret units. Some advanced unmanned surveillance robots might be it (sneakier than just UAV’s). It could even be social network analysis — it’s been used for a while but maybe the military is using it much more heavily than we know.

  75. RINDAN #71:

    “Prolonged conflict just gives Americans time work the problem.”

    I’ve come to believe that this is actually the real reason that the Bush administration started the Iraq war. To buy time and stall before another terrorist attack on the US… and preferably enough time that he could be out of office before it might occur. But also to buy time to set up visible stuff like the Department of Fatherland Security, and also secret offices and departments and commands and this and that within the military and intelligence services that might eventually come up with something that has a chance of being somewhat effective at actually fighting terrorist groups.

    When they say “fight them over there rather than over here”, that may actually be a dumbed down version of a real strategy.

  76. An exceptionally cruel vicious and timid strategy, with the benefit of emptying the public coffers just when the boomers need it most, natch.

  77. “On Sunday night’s 60 Minutes, famed journalist Bob Woodward talked about his new book…”

    The “60 Minutes” interview is really an informercial to move product, in this case Woodward’s book. If you follow the url above to the page and scroll down you can see Woodward’s publisher is Simon & Schuster. Simon & Schuster is a division of CBS Corp. which produces “60 Minutes.” Simon & Schuster arranged for interview simply to move product. The Amazon page also show the sales rank at #3, which is a fantastic number. This is all about selling his book. Nothing more. I would not be surprise if Viacom, which owns CBS, has a financial interest in Boing Boing.

  78. Maybe they’ve got a death note and some eyes of the shinigami! :P

    Unfortunately, they can find anyone in the world…except for Osama Bin Laden.

  79. NED613 @133 – Your view was fascinating and believable, right up to that last sentence.

    I would not be surprise[d] if Viacom, which owns CBS, has a financial interest in Boing Boing.

    Then, suddenly, Fail.

  80. Ah damn #128 beat me to it. I was thinking Active Denial System as well. They could couple it with speakers that blast songs by They Might Be Giants for that extra kick.

  81. I almost always learn more from reading the comments than following the actual story, and likely in this case, Woodward’s latest promotion.

  82. On the one hand, I wouldn’t waste my ears’ time listening to anything Woodward has to say.

    On the other, is it just me, or has OBL been in the news an awful lot lately? There’s even an article in the Post today, which is the one that made me say, yup, it’s nearly time for an October Surprise…

    (Yes, I know what tomorrow is, I just don’t recall anyone in the media caring about OBL on the past few 9/11’s… so why this year?)

  83. And yet they can’t find Osama bin Goldstein, the world’s most wanted man.

    Why, it’s enough to make you think he’s been dead for years, but he’s too convenient a bogeyman for them to admit it.


  84. Make no mistake: Active Denial is what the US has been engaged in for some time with this war. Mission accomplished!

  85. It’s true that OBL could be dead. On the other hand he could be alive. So if he is alive why has he not issued any commniques? Think about it, if you were in bin Laden’s shoes…okay slippers…if you were in bin Laden’s slippers who would you rather want as U.S. president? Easy, He and his associates want Obama elected.
    America during an Obama presidency is considered a softer target than with a McCain presidency.
    Be forwarned: al Queda will surely test the next president.
    I predict there will be an al Queda communique after the U.S. presidential election.

  86. You know Ugly Canuk, you might find intellectual discussions more interesting if for a moment you could take a step back, toss aside the ideological lenses and moral judgments, and try to see the world for how it is without judgment.

    Rindan, it was not a failure of US will that “lost” Vietnam, regardless what Henry Kissinger and other zealous revisionists have to say. Blame the pot-smoking pacifist hippies, yeah right.

    We can get into a “no it isn’t!” “yes it is!” debate, but I don’t really see the point. You are adding moral judgment that I am not making. It wasn’t a “failure” of will. It was a lack of will. The US had pretty handily defeated the Vietcong. It is pretty hard to argue otherwise. When the US left, it left before an advancing regular army that took over South Vietnam. The US certainly could have stopped that army dead in its tracks if it felt like tossing a few more boys and dollars into a meat grinder of a jungle. They didn’t want to.

    If you desperately want me to make a moral judgment on it, know that I think that leaving was absolutely the right thing. If you need to draft citizens (which is just the short hand way of saying that you gather up people at gun point) to fight a war it is a pretty safe bet that you are fighting a bad war or fighting a good war in a needlessly very bloody manner.

    If the Policy and Intel behind the decision to launch a War is wrong the War is unwinnable.

    If it makes you feel better, than think of the current Iraq war was the Iraq war part III. The first was to kick Iraq out of Kuwait and it was won. The second was the WMD snipe hunt which was lost. The third was to undo the damage done and shove a strong government into the void that was created from Iraq War II.

    What’s the exit plan for Iraq? A strong Government there? That’s what was there before you (you speak like an American) started this demo of slow US infallibility in Warfare.

    Yup. Pretty much. Call it a loss if that makes you feel better. I think it is pretty much accepted by everyone that the original goal (WMDs) is lost. Whatever the case, that doesn’t mean that it is over, there are multiple possible endings to the Iraq war. The discredited neo-con vision is a Japan in the Middle East. The Sunni Islamic fundamentalist version is a Taliban like state in the Sunni region that eventually kicks the ass of all the Shiites and Kurds. The Kurd version is a region of Turkey breaking off with a region of Iraq to form Kurdistan. The Iran / Shiite fundamentalist vision is a Shiite government that is closely aligned with Iran. The slightly cynical and pragmatic American vision is a government able to hold Iraq mostly together and keep all of the above from taking over; bonus points if it has vaguely democratic leanings.

    The point is that it isn’t a binary win/lose situation where once you have “lost” it is over. The original goal might be a failure, but there is still a pile of different outcomes and the US (not surprisingly) wants to see the least bad (for them) of all the outcomes come true.

    As to Afghanistan it is laughable to think that we can succeed where the USSR , Afghanistan’s then neighbor, failed.

    Sure I think the Americans can win where the Soviets failed. There are a number of things that give the Americans a pretty decisive advantage over the Soviets. First, the US just has a shit ton more resources than the old USSR could even dream of. While the USSR was getting bled to death in Afghanistan, its was in the process of absolute and total economic collapse that makes the downturn in American and European markets look like a hiccup. Second, the Americans are better at occupations than the USSR. When the USSR collapsed, so did nearly every single government under the USSR. They collapsed because those governments are not stable unless you have a lot of men with guns pointed at the civilian population. While democracies still have men with guns, they need far fewer to keep the order. Germany, Japan, and South Korea will not suddenly have their governments collapse if the US vanishes. They don’t need the US to keep things together. Third, the US just has a better army than the USSR. The USSR, while certainly formidable, just wasn’t flexible. Its command structure and ideology made it have a very hard time adapting when plan A failed. The US on the other hand has a long history of extreme flexibility that results almost universally in the Americans getting their asses kicked early, learning, and then turning around to kick serious ass.

    This is an exercise in Coalition Warfare and the civilian casualties the US forces are causing is screwing all the NATO countries trying to get that place together.

    I am pretty sure the US would hand the entire thing over to other NATO nations if they wanted it. In fact, the US has spent the past couple of years begging and pleading for NATO to send more soldiers and take on riskier roles.

    And what’s the goal in Afghanistan? When will we know we’ve won?

    You know you have won when violence drops, the Taliban remains marginalized, al-Qaeda can’t operate openly, and as you pull soldiers out the place doesn’t implode. Basically, you can point to Iraq as an example of what winning might look like. Violence levels are low, the government seems stable, and as soldiers pull out things don’t seem to be getting any worse.

  87. Ned @148: That would be a more convincing argument if it was, you know, an actual argument instead of an unsupported declaration. Al Qaeda doesn’t care who wins, America will still be America. To them, there isn’t sufficient difference between Democratic and Republican policies to change their long-term goals. I’m not sure there’s enough difference for AQ to even have a different strategy. It’s clear that they’re only being quiet now so that whichever choice the American people make in November, AQ will make it appear to be the wrong one.

  88. ned613, you gotta be fuckin kidding me? and here i thought you were serious with your question and it was just another bit of right wing sockpuppetry! amazing!

  89. I would not be surprise if Viacom, which owns CBS, has a financial interest in Boing Boing.

    Nobody has a financial interest in BoingBoing. And you can take that to the bank. You have, however, piqued my interest in you.

  90. NELSON C.@150, MINTPHRESH@152: No No I’m not kidding and I don’t consider this right wing socket…whatever. The Radical Islamists tested the newly elected President Bill Clinton in February 1993 in the first WTC bombing and tested the newly elected President George Bush in September 2001 in the second attacks. I believe they will surely test the next President. I believe that Barack Obama, inasmuch as he has weak foreign policy credentials, is considered a softer target to the Radical Islamists. Hence the silence on the part of OBL & Associates so as not to make McCain’s poll numbers to go up. McCain did happen to get a nice bounce in the polls when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. When ever there is turmoil abroad this benefits the Republican’s and the Islamists understand this.

  91. Ned613,

    You’re starting to sound like a campaign worker. And pretending that you don’t know what a sock puppet is? Bad move. Stick to the topic, please.

  92. Monitor satellite phone calls, match voice prints, triangulate position, send a plane or drone to launch missiles on the target. But this isn’t new. The Russians did it in 1996.

    You could kill anyone. But the solution is also simple. Stop using satellite phones.

  93. I lived in D.C. for a while and met LOTS of people who worked in government and the defense department. I heard a lot of talk about weapons we had, but the one that stood out to me was a certain satellite.

    I was told that this satellite could focus in on an area and radiate the whole thing – up to something like a 5 mile radius. This, combined with the highly-accurate and amazing spy satellites that can read the words off of your newspaper could pretty much spell disaster for anyone they are looking for.

    It’s either science fiction or I will be “disappearing” for a while…

  94. What’s so new about Kill Squads?
    So what? We’re actually using existing tech to their fullest potential? Directing Kill squads with more precision? Bribes? Whatever it takes. Right On!
    Now let’s get the Hell out of Iraq and move back to Afghanistan and resume the original mission!

  95. ned613, if this country elects john mccain president, it will get exactly what it deserves: a slow painful demise-financially, morally, and philosophically. kinda like the last eight years, only far worse. then we can look to our neighbors to the north and south and join with then in creating a ‘north american union’. then perhaps you will have the security from these terrorists (who hate us for our freedom) that you and the rest of the republicrat sheeple so crave. BTW you are more likely to die from wasp stings than from a terrorist attack.

  96. MINTPHRESH@164: You complain about moral and philosophical demise of the last eight years yet in the same paragraph you blithely compare a natural phenomenon (wasp stings) with an act of murder (terrorism). Simple philosophical question: Do wasps have free will? If you believe neither man nor wasps have free will then don’t preach to me about America’s moral decline.
    If it is true that the relative risk of dying from wasp stings is greater than the risk dying from a terrorist attack it’s simple cause and effect. America is winning the War on Terror.
    BTW, I have known people who are allergic to bee stings and it is no laughing matter.

  97. NED613@165: “America is winning the War on Terror.”

    By what ridiculous yardstick to you make such an unfounded and unsupported supposition? Your unthinking punditry does not serve you well here in a discussion with the intelligent and the observant. We saw what you did, and we don’t dig the smell.

    This administration has done far worse for this country, by any measure, than any Islamic extremist sect could ever have hoped to imagine. So badly, in fact, that the incumbent party for the first time ever is running on a platform of change, attempting to mirror the opposition (in case you haven’t noticed.)

    Give us a break with your petty pedantic off-topic digressions. Your astroturf is wearing mighty thin.

    The secret weapon? We are now putting any unqualified women who unquestioningly tow the party line on the front lines. It seems to work to baffle the undecided into paralytic inaction.

  98. PHIKUs@166: I did not make the supposition, MINTPHRESH@164 did. I pointed out to this party that based on his/her assessment that dying from wasp stings is more likely than dying from a terrorist attack it follows that America is winning the War on Terror.
    t s trly sd tht y nd fw thrs hr r s ntlrnt f pnns tht dffr frm yr wn tht y wsh t stfl thm by cntnlly snpng t m nd rgng m g bck n tpc.
    BTW, blv m n tpc, s thr.
    BTW, rlly dn’t mnd th snps thr. fnd t msng thgh, tht y fnd my pnns s ffnsv.
    Gd blss mrc.

  99. I quoted you Neddy, and notated correctly. Keep going. You’ve been warned twice in this thread alone. Don’t you have a bridge to guard somewhere?

    NED is the new secret weapon. Tremble before him.

  100. “Reminiscent of the person who revealed we knew about Osama bin Laden’s satelite phone– after which, Osama stopped using it and we lost all that intelligence.”
    That’d be the GOP White House, btw.

  101. PHKS@170: n yr Hppy Mtnts B y wrt
    ” m n cnclstc…mbrc chng… strght thnkr…
    r cmmnts 167 & 170 hw smn wth ths dls wrts?
    Y frd t prnt wht ws wrttn n pst #168. dr y t prnt th cmmnts. Y wn’t bcs y r chckn.

  102. oooh neddly, im sure phikus is shakin in his beatle boots. you seem to me like a complete tool. you took my comment WAY out of context. then proceeded to put words into my mouth that i would NEVER say. perhaps, for the simple minded, i should have said that STATISTICALLY you are more likely (pick any year that records for these things have been kept) to be killed by wasp ( or any venomous insect for that matter) stings than by ‘terrorists’ or a ‘terrorist attack’. fact of life. ALWAYS has been. however, if you wanna see a ‘terrorist’ in every shadowy corner, and live your life in fear of the evil, baad, freedom-hating ‘terrorists’, feel free. hey, they’re the new commie pinkos! that’s a gooood lil republicrat. tow that party line! lift that steaming pile! fight that ‘liberal’ foe! drill! drill! drill!

  103. Oh what the hell, since this has been such an informative discussion:

    NED@173: “Are comments 167 & 170 how someone with these ideals writes?”

    Why, yes. Thanks.

    You afraid to print what was written in post #168. I dare you to print the comments. You won’t because you are chicken.”

    I could, but why bother to echo your inanity. And for some reason it seems a bit hard to decipher. Why is that, do you think?

    You obviously have run out of things to say and so you have denigrated to personal attacks. A true sign of a solid point of view able to stand on its own logic. Fling more poo, please. We don’t seem to have enough poo on tha internets!

    And BTW, you found me out. I am indeed a chicken.

    And Ned, is your last name Beatty? Perhaps it is time you granted us Deliverance.

  104. I have a little red rooster, too lazy to crow for days
    I have a little red rooster, too lazy to crow for days
    Keep everything in the barnyard, upset in every way

    Oh the dogs began to bark, and the hounds began to howl
    Oh the dogs began to bark, and the hounds began to howl
    Ooh watch out strange kind people, Cause little red rooster is on the prowl

    If you see my little red rooster, please drag him home
    If you see my little red rooster, won’t you please drag him home
    There ain’t no peace in the barnyard, since the little red rooster been gone

    Willie Dixon

  105. sent by a friend, not sure where its quoted from:

    Past Defense Science Board studies have had impact. A 2004 report recommended a “Manhattan Project” approach to take “available and emerging technologies . . . to identify objects or people of interest from surveillance data and to verify a specific individual’s identification.” It suggested that “biometrics, tags, object recognition and identification tokens” be harnessed with sensors and databases “to overcome the shortcomings of conventional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.”

    Tags allow distant tracking or detection. Some tags are active, emitting radio waves that can be collected. Others are passive, including chemicals that give off a color when hit by an infrared beam. The board said these “represent a very important area for research and technology development.”

    Four years later, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, discussing his new book, “The War Within,” on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” attributed part of the success of the troop buildup in Iraq to “secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs.”

    A recent congressional report said Special Forces in Iraq are using newly developed “sophisticated capabilities to identify, find, track, and kill or capture high-value individuals.”

  106. The US has fully developed “180 degree out of phase” technology. This ability makes the US Military the most powerful on Earth.. period.
    If you can not see or hear your enemy, you’re history. Think Apache warriors of the 19th century.
    In the history books you can read about one angry Apache warrior who took out 99% of a town single handed in one evening. The few survivors claimed they never saw or heard anything.

    Imagine a aircraft that can lift and descend vertically and can travel horizontally at speeds in excess of mach 5.
    Imagine an aircraft that can be anywhere in the world in minutes by a proven method of V trajectory flight.
    Then imagine that aircraft equipped with advanced super weapons that can be delivered with pinpoint accuracy and or with the effective similar destruction of a 1 mega ton nuclear bomb without any radiation fallout… and you have a military adversary that is nothing less than your greatest nightmare.
    Not to mention that most of the world is selfish and greedy.
    Nobody really wants to mess up the real estate.
    No profit in that.
    Most of the other countries know the US has this technology and the rest will soon know it.
    This will lead to a very different world than we know now.
    The age of truth and peace is coming.
    Have faith and rest easy.

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