Phi Beta Cons

Girding Spies with Blogs

In an engrossing feature in The New York Times, spying expert Clive Thompson explores whether online tools such as blogs and wikis actually aid the nation’s 16 intelligence organizations in uncovering terrorist ploys.

One W.M.D. analyst thinks so, citing his regular reading of the blog of Juan Cole, an academic at the University of Michigan notable (in the words of the Times) “for omnivorous linking to, and acerbic analysis of, news from the Middle East.” “He’s not someone spies would normally pay attention to,” says the analyst, “but… he’s a  subject-matter expert, right?”
According to David Horowitz in The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Cole’s views are formed by his belief in a conspiracy of Jewish “neo-conservatives” who mastermind U.S. Middle East policy, and he is guilty of having made “fact-stretching statements” and of “dangerous sophistry.”
Strange bedfellows, American spies and Cole? Perhaps. Yet again, isn’t it on one level the business of our intelligence forces to get to the bottom of sophistry?

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