A Bit Of Chemistry

You may be familiar with the bellingcat organization. Eliot Higgins started looking at and identifying munitions in Syria on a blog called Brown Moses, which he used as a pseudonym for a while. He was profiled in the New Yorker in 2013.

I have been interested in open-source intelligence for a long time. I started with an unclassified problem: how to find trash burial sites at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for potential cleanup. We did a bunch of work with overhead photos and other data, data fusion as it was called at the time. We hired some folks to do infrared photography – the burial pits would collect water and be a lower temperature than surrounding areas. Read More

Links – May 8, 2018

What Russia wants most – derzhavnost means both being a great power and being recognized as such by others. It explains a lot.

What North Korea needs to give up for peace with South Korea. This seems analogous to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy before 1989. This is what would be necessary to monitor a deal with North Korea – much more complex than Iran’s agreement, which Trump is now savaging. Top photo from hereA nuclear inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran in 2014. CreditKazem Ghane/European Pressphoto Agency

Probably the best piece around on Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacle on the Iran deal.

The OPCW concluded that the chemical agent used on the Skripals in Salisbury, England was “concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

How they do it – open source intelligence at Middlebury’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Links – April 27, 2018

Photo from Al Jazeera’s timeline of the Korean Summit. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands across the border.

Trump needs to pare back his goals for his meeting with Kim Jong UnSuspicious factory underscores challenge of verifying North Korea’s nuclear promises. Nothing that Trump has said indicates that he has any concept of verification. What to do if the talks with North Korea succeed: Develop a program like the Nunn-Lugar program for Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since Siegfried Hecker was instrumental in the program with Russia, I’ve always thought that North Korea’s invitation to him to visit in 2004 was an attempt at building such a program. From 2017, on how to deter North Korea. Read More

Links – March 16, 2018

No, Scott Kelly’s year in space didn’t mutate his DNA. There is a lot of VERY bad reporting on this. Top photo from here – Mark Kelly on the left, and Scott on the right.

A good proposal for how Britain might respond to the Salisbury nerve agent attack. Another possibility: Take Putin to the International Criminal Court. Some basic information about nerve agents. Legal basis for options. Decoding the Prime Minister’s speechBackground on Sergei Skripal.

If you read only one thing on the Trump-Kim summit, this should be it. And here are a couple more, from Evans Revere and Jeffrey Lewis. An interview with Siegfried Hecker.

Update: The New York Times has a clickbait article on Russian hacking of the US electrical system. Philip Bump at the Washington Post actually reports on the grid and why it’s not that vulnerable.

Links – February 1, 2018

Cool dinosaur and mammal tracks at NASA. Top photo from here.

The first thing Congress needs to do, when it can get away from the fever dreams of the worst of its members, is to reconstruct the process for passing a budget before the end of the fiscal year.

Americans Are Rising to This Historic Moment. I’m not as convinced as Eliot Cohen, but I think there are positive signs.

Heather Cox Richardson on creeping authoritarianism.

Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer. What is at stake – the grand bargain with the intelligence community. And why aren’t we hearing more from the intelligence community?

Is the Trump foreign policy great-power competition or America First? It depends on whom you ask.

Zeynep Tukfeci on the latest data privacy debacle. It’s not enough to ask individuals for their permission.

Leaks, feasts and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia. There are simple ways to avoid this kind of corruption. We need to know why the Navy didn’t apply them.

Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans. Cha was to be US ambassador to South Korea, but apparently the ideas expressed in this op-ed were felt to be disqualifying.

This is definitive, if you have friends who are still pushing the Sy Hersh narrative about nerve agents in Syria. It was the Syrian government who were responsible for the sarin attacks.