Welcome to Blogs of War. My name is John W. Little and this is essentially my personal blog. Almost all of my projects since 2001 have been developed with the goal of understanding and addressing the critical national security, technology, and intelligence challenges facing the United States and its allies.
Blogs of War, created in 2002, is one of those projects. It gained international attention when CNN acknowledged that I, along with a few other war bloggers, were at times beating traditional sources to the story during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That coverage, which was mostly comprised of rapid-fire, short, around the clock updates (think tweets - but well before Twitter) was later archived by the Library of Congress.
With Blogs of War I have tried to leverage decades of internet experience (pre-dating the web - 300 baud modems and bulletin board systems) and a global network of contacts to mine, analyze, aggregate, and surface open source information with an eye towards identifying critical emerging trends. I also try to directly connect Blogs of War readers to smart, respected, non-partisan subject matter experts at every opportunity.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how technology, from social media to AI, is driving profound changes and creating significant tension in existing socio-political systems. We are witnessing the emergence of robotics, AI, incredibly powerful algorithms, and other transformational technologies that, while impactful now, stand to be significantly more disruptive in the very near future. Navigating this change, avoiding catastrophic conflict, building adaptive and resilient systems (all while preserving democratic ideals) is going to be tremendously challenging. In 2017 I was to focus on some of these challenges as a Future for Good Fellow at The Institute for the Future
My projects and analysis have received global coverage from news organizations including CNN, BBC, CBS News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fast Company, Time Magazine, and PBS Newshour. That's pretty cool but I'm more interested in the connections that I can make with smart people and the projects that I'm able to contribute to. I don't go looking for media coverage - quite the opposite in fact.
In late 2014 I launched the Covert Contact podcast. My goal is to produce a program that showcases complex and meaningful national security topics in a manner that resonates across the entire spectrum. I have many diplomats, journalists, technical experts, intelligence and military professionals in the audience (which I am thankful for) but I want the casual observer of international affairs to find the program accessible, thought-provoking, and engaging as well. On Covert Contact we ditch partisan politics and complaints to go off in unexpected directions, wrestle with big problems, and struggle to gain an accurate understanding of what is happening in the world around us. Guests have included diplomats, technologists, spies, journalists, art historians, hackers, and authors. The Podcast is currently on hold but I hope to return to it.
Before Covert Contact was a podcast it was a commercial national security focused Twitter aggregation tool:
I built Covert Contact after my livestreaming Twitter aggregators aimed at mining Tweets during the Egyptian Revolution gained widespread attention. Unfortunately, Twitter later removed the streaming capability from their API and the tool was retired.
That one disappointment aside, Twitter has been a real asset and significant focus for me since 2008. My primary account, @blogsofwar, was named one of Time Magazine's top 140 Twitter accounts of 2014 but what I collect via the service is as even more important than what I share. I'm always mining. Always mapping networks. Always making new contacts. Always looking for additional insight into critical problems.
Occasionally my work gets picked up and referenced in ways that are unexpected. Finding my analysis of Tor, and its limitations (Tor and the Illusion of Anonymity, cited in United States v. Matish was one such surprise. Blogs of War has led me into many strange surprises over the years but it has never been boring. Far from it.
My professional work in the Bay Area and with various organizations aligns closely with my focus here. I am currently laser-focused on identifying and mitigating misinformation/disinformation at scale. To do that I design and build automated misinformation narrative detection systems and stand up the intelligence teams and processes needed to make it all work. This includes building out teams that service every phase of the intelligence cycle, process design for all phases, and designing/building tools that serve the entire process from detection, to collection, to analysis, and distribution to customers.