Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

I could be really teed off at this broad for dashing my hopes of what I thought would be a kick-ass thesis by accomplishing it first, but I am too in awe of her massive mental abilities, and as such, have decided to profile her instead.

Judee-doll was born in Ames, Iowa in 1948. A fairly normal upbringing ensued and resulted in classic mid-western dame. Judee attended Iowa State University where she earned a degree in both Speech and English minored in both Social Studies and Education. She quickly went on to earn a Masters in Speech Communication and a PhD two years later in Communication and Educational Psychology.

So let’s tally this up before proceeding:

  • Speech: verbal communication
  • English: written communication
  • Social Studies: ability to learn about people in context
  • Education: ability to teach people
  • Communication: a hefty blend of all of the above
  • Speech Communication: a further blend of speaking about all of the above
  • Educational Psychology: how people learn in educational settings

I’m not going to lie here: I expected her head to be size of mutant watermelon. I mean really, that is a heck of a lot of knowledge for one brain in such a short amount of time, but I Googled her and her head seems well-sized. So let’s continue:

Judee bounced around academia teaching in Florida, New York, Michigan and finally settling in Arizona where she is firmly installed a the University of Arizona. Her teaching and research interests according to her website read:

My primary teaching and research interests center on nonverbal and relational communication, with emphasis on such interpersonal communication processes and outcomes as expectancy violations, deception, nonverbal relational messages, conversation involvement and dominance, and dyadic adaptation patterns. I also have a subsidiary interest in mass media uses and evaluations.”

So you might be asking yourself:  Why does this dame deserve a post on this site? Simple, because she performed research  in something that I predict will become massively important in years to come: automated detection of deception

Long story short, aside from the usual verbal and non-verbal cues people provide when trying to deceive, Judee and her team developed a tool called “Agent 99” (named after the female Get Smart characterlove it!) that can detect (not always but there’s always room for improvement) deception in text messages.

Wow, wow, and more wow. In a world where Twitter informs the public of a major revolt inside a seemingly closed society, or is used as a tool of communication and deception in a government experiment, or is used to proffer information during a natural disaster , sound decisions making is going to depend on the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the signal, the mayo from the baloney. So this Agent 99 tool? Pretty damn useful.

And Judee exemplifies what I love most about women and their contributions to Intel: they come from where you least expect it.

This, of course, still means I am stuck in search of a thesis topic…


If I were a praying girl, I would be screaming “Amen and Hallelujah” from the rooftops today over the confirmation of Letitia Long as the new Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. But since I am not, let’s just discuss Long instead.

But if I may, can I comment on the fact that there are 16 Intelligence agencies in this country and we are only just now appointing a woman as the head of one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch, but it’s still akin to waking up today and feeling like it’s 1990 and not 2010. Baby, you’ve come a long way, but not long enough…

So who is Letitia Long? She is a longtime Navy-civilian professional entering the trade in 1978, where she worked in project engineering in the area of submarine acoustics, and climbed the ranks to join the Office of Naval Intelligence where she managed R & D programs.

From there, Long performed a dizzying rotation in the Senior Intelligence Executive Service while also serving as Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1994. She then completed a hat trick by joining the Defense Intelligence Agency during this time where she eventually became the Deputy Director of Information Systems and Services in 1996.

Can you say “dayamm”? I’m tired just typing all of that.

Please let this be a lesson to everyone out there who is stuck in the belief that Intelligence revolves around poli-sci, history, and computer science. Long is a trained engineer. And let’s think about that: it involves design (establishing a requirement and refining it); building (collection, exploitation); testing (production), roll-out (dissemination); and checking (feedback when it’s given).

Engineers work in teams; they are often great collaborators. They require project engineers to manage them; someone to juggle the pieces and keep in mind the bigger picture. They require communication skills to dumb-down the technical terms for non-engineers (read: clients). And most importantly, they require sound, logical thinking lest the whole contraption falls apart.

A person who can accomplish honing all of those skills is a golden egg and it looks like NGA just got theirs.

We’ve all heard the stories of police using Facebook to solve crimes but I love this story of how an Average Jane, or in this case, Mary Chapman of Brunswick, Georgia, used her Facebook community in her community to track down the man who broke into her husband’s truck.

As a student I tend to think of Crowdsourcing in only a professional context so to see it at work in real life is a bit of a treat.

I also like how this case brings in to contrast active and passive knowledge. Typical crowdsourcing in Intel is very much an active request request received by one is actively engaged in the subject matter. The twist in this story is that Mary Chapman actively sought out information regarding the crime and the story was then passed around. Someone in the community passively catching up on their Facebook page stumbles upon this story and discovers that, hey, they might know something about it.

Part luck, part good timing, part miracle of modern technology.

I love a story where the damsel in distress saves herself…better than any fairytale that’s for damn sure.

Grace Hopper

Posted: October 22, 2008 in First in Her Class, Navy, Technology

Navy Rear Admiral “Amazing Grace” Murray Hopper (1906-1992) revolutionized the world and you probably didn’t even know it.

Lead inventor of the Harvard Mark I & II computers, largely considered to be the first computerized calculator, and inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language, this gal changed life as we know it, from the PC sitting on your desk to how your toaster knows when your bread lightly done. I don’t think I need to enumerate how this affected the spy trade.

Grace was born and raised on the East coast, received Ivy-covered degrees in mathematics and physics from Vassar, went on to Yale for graduate degrees in more of the same, and eventually called it a day after receiving her PhD in mathematics. Hailing from a family with a military tradition dating back to the Revolutionary War, Grace joined the Navy in 1943. Grace bounced around a lot during her career usually holding more than one job all the while, but one thing remained consistent and that was her military service.

But back to the computer thing, here’s what this dame did to really set the world on its ear: she invented FLOW-MATIC, a computer language that is the proverbial mother of COBOL: Common Business Oriented Language, one the the very few original computer languages that is still in use today. Basically, Grace invented a way to take the English language and translate it into a mathematical language a computer could understand. This was back in 1959, think about it, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not even four years old.

Grace had a long and illustrious career in computers and the Navy. She served both until the day she died and upon the heaps and heaps of honors and accolades she received, the coolest has to be that the Navy named a guided missile destroyer (appropriately enough) after our gal Grace. The USS Hopper is one of only a handful military vessels named after a broad.

Amusing little fun facts about Grace: she coined the term “debug”, when you remove a glitch from a computer system, and the quote “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission” is attributed to her.

And my favorite: “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what the ship was built for”.

“We can rebuild her. We have the technology.We can make her better than she was before: better, stronger, faster.”

And so begins the career of Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman (1976-1978). A tennis pro nearly killed in a skydiving accident, she is rebuilt and becomes an agent for the Office of Scientific Intelligence a fictional and secret branch of the CIA and working for the fantastically bureaucratic Oscar Goldman.

(As a matter of note: this Agent actually had a Bionic Woman Halloween costume one year. Complete with blue jumpsuit, face mask and elastic armband to expose the arm’s “circuitry”)

Hmmm, so what is there to say about this show? That it was as silly and ridiculous as the “Six Million Dollar Man”? At least it had good company.

Mostly it was about Jaime poking around in a situation (which I suppose the writers would have you believe is investigating), getting drugged/knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and then using her super strength to escape. Oh! And there was the pop-culture rise of Jaime’s nemesis: The FEMBOTS! Truly, one could watch the show for nothing else if only to see the Fembots.

This blog tries to find even the smallest morsel of actual intelligence work in every fictional spy character out there, but this show? This show bothers me on so many levels but mostly for the fact that there’s just nothing there. No logic, methodology, research, analysis, mental exertion…this Agent has put more effort into writing this lone post than the writers of that show did in making it, oh say, realistic

But nothing bothers me so much as to why The Bionic Woman was remade in 2007. Reasons I do not wish to venture a guess about. No new ground was covered. Ridiculous “covert ops” any sexed-up-killer-fembot could perform. Just more emotions and feelings about being “bionic” and “different”, sheesh…The Powers That Be over there at NBC really should have let that sleeping dog lie.

Isabelle Cheng (1970-), aka Chang Nian-Tzu, embroiled herself in a serious brouhaha here in the US four years ago when the US Department of State discovered that one of our own, Donald Keyser, was involved in a tryst with Cheng who is a Taiwanese Spy Dame.

The details aren’t terribly clear but what we do know is that Keyser made unauthorized trips to Taiwan, removed classified documents from his office, and although he claims he didn’t pass them around, the FBI caught Keyser on film in 2004 exchanging documents with Cheng a number of times at various restaurant locations.

Cheng, of course, immediately hot-tailed it back to Taiwan and the Taiwanese have done a bang-up job of concealing her whereabouts.

Cheng did however peek her head out for an interview last year when she tearfully claimed that the affair with Keyser was so terribly innocent and really just a misunderstanding. Because “no one gathers intelligence like that these days”. Except of course, maybe, her. “And the relationship was not intended to elicit information”.

So let me see if I have this straight:

A perky, 33 year old, female, Taiwanese Intel Agent has an illicit affair with a 62 year old, State Department Official.

Said Official makes unsanctioned trips to Minx’s homeland.

Same Official also hands over numerous classified documents to said same Minx .

Official gets busted and Minx heads for the Motherland where she is now in hiding.

But it’s all totally innocent. Really.

Yeah, I believe the broad. You?

The first thing you should know about Colonel Karen Cleary of the US Air Force is that she has a bigger brain than you. I’m not saying this facetiously, seriously, check out this pedigree:

1987 Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, Cornell University NY
1992 Squadron Officer School, Maxwell Air Force Base AL
1995 Master of Science in International Relations, Troy State University
1999 Master of Military Operational Art and Science, Air Command and Staff College
2002 Air War College, seminar program, The Pentagon
2006 Master of Science in National Security Strategy, National War College

It should not surprise you then that Col. Cleary recently stepped down from National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), to take on the position of Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at the U.S. Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

All that and a mother of three.

We skirts here in the US may not have our act together enough to a get a broad in the White House, but I take comfort in the fact that a dame like Col. Cleary is our Eye in the Sky.

Oh, what’s not to totally dig about TV’s “X-Files” FBI Special Agent, Dr. Dana Scully? The logical foil to Fox Mulder, she’s has to be the brainiest broad ever to ever to hit the small screen. But what I truly love about this character is her strict attention to method: The Scientific Method.

While Mulder is off ruminating about conspiracy theories that threaten to overrun the investigation like a whirling mass of entropy, his gal Scully is always there to talk him back down from the ledge with a scientific explanation for everything.

Intelligence analysis relies on good logic and proper methodology. Whether that is Inductive, Deductive, Abductive, or the uber-tricky Scientific Method, if poor logic is employed, the methodology, no matter how good it is, falls apart.

So Alien infiltration of the government via killer bees from outer space aside, suspend your disbelief and listen Dr. Scully. This dame’s got an answer for it all.

Mulder? Mulder?

Genevieve Feinstein (1912-2006) was my kind of gal. A math-whiz with dreams of becoming a teacher, she was veered off course when she took an exam to be a government mathematician and decided to use her smarts for the common good.

Genevieve became a cryptanalyst for the US Signals Intelligence Service and in 1939, began work on decoding Japanese diplomatic messages. In 1940, Genevieve broke the code and her breakthrough allowed SIS to build a machine to decrypt the Japanese (US code name “Purple“) cipher machine. I don’t think I need to remind you how many lives this saved in the process.

After WWII, Genevieve continued working in cryptology and advancing cryptological research. Genevieve was one of the many women who worked as cryptanalysts on the Venona Project.

Ms. Lemarr, an Austrian born actress (1913-2000) who enchanted movie goers world wide with her ravishing beauty, also co-invented spread spectrum encoding, the basic technology for anti-ballistic missiles and the cell phone in your purse.

Married to an arms manufacturer in the 1930’s who had forbidden her from acting (while also failing to notice her astounding mathematical aptitude), Hedy instead learned her husband’s business and after fleeing the marriage for America in 1937, established a career for herself in Hollywood.

In 1942, Lamarr and composer George Antheil were awarded US Patent # 2,292,387 for a secret communications system which used a mechanical piano roll to frequency hop 88 times enabling radio guided missiles to evade detection, and thus, prevented from being jammed.

And as an amusing side note, this story may be pure hooey but I like it anyway: When reknowned womanizer, actor Errol Flynn, first encountered and put the moves on our gal-pal Hedy, she, knowing in advance his reputation, purposefully discussed mathematics until Flynn left her alone. One has to wonder if Errol Flynn didn’t inadvertently inspire Lamarr’s invention. The ultimate missile-jamming?