Adding Social Media to the Arsenal of Democracy.

Military and civilian intelligence agencies using social media tools/skills?  No way.  Not possible.  Those are the “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” organizations.  Dark suits and sunglasses.  No sense of humor.  Not exactly something I’d associate with the term “social.”

But it’s true.  Almost shockingly true.  I was reading through Joel Postman’s SocialCorp book when a discussion of the CIA‘s use of an internal social media system called A-Space jumped off the page at me.  To be fair, this is not something with the accessibility or security issues of Facebook.  Postman wrote, “Although, the CIA has embraced social networking and collaboration tools, they’ve still aligned A-Space with their stringent IT and security standards” (page 101).  What’s more, A-Space is not a brand-new system.  It’s been around since September 2008.  Will it help “connect the dots” and prevent future terrorist attacks?  We may never know.  Secrecy and all.

Even more intriguing to me is how the military is making use of social media tools and skills to save lives and fight the war on terrorism.  A recent New York Times article by Christopher Drew discussed it in more detail. (Thanks Mom for sending me the link to the article.)  Drew wrote about Air Force intelligence analysts located in California who view real-time video from drones loitering over the battlefield.  Their quick messages to combat units halfway across the world save lives and help coordinate more effective attacks.  Tremendously impressive!

I spent four years as a Navy Supply Corps officer.  As I think back upon my military experience almost 15 years ago, I am consistently amazed at how far we have come.  I served on a 30+ year old supply ship.  No e-mail, minimal computing power.  Limited contact with the rest of the world when away from home port.  I’ll let you in on a secret, (shhh, don’t tell anybody):  my first choice for my service selection was Navy Intelligence, not Supply.  Certainly, I do not regret being a supply officer; it was a great experience.  Still, reading about today’s intelligence analysts using social media skills to save the lives of front-line troops… well, it makes me wish that I had gotten an intelligence job.

It also reminds me that we owe our troops our appreciation.  To all of you serving our country:  Bravo Zulu!

Leave a comment


  1. springtimesoul

     /  June 11, 2010

    You’re welcome. Always happy to contribute to my sons’ blogs.

  2. Tom from Guilderland

     /  June 12, 2010

    Social media has and is becoming an increasingly powerful tool of online activism and online campaigning for political candidates.

    Social media is an invaluable tool for keeping many new comers to a movement active and engaged feeling part of a community or simply promoting what you are about.

    The more members feel comfortable and confident speaking about what they are involved with, the more likely they are to do so, and do so effectively. And if they are into a community of social networkers they can reach a lot of people who just may spread information you need spread.

    • Well-said Tom. Social networking was vital to the creation of the Tea Party movement and to many other political activities, too. It’s definitely changed some of the methods used by politicians, their supporters, and followers to communicate with others. The impact on 2010 elections will be interesting to watch.


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