Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Purpose of Project PM

In 2009, I began recruiting individuals with a variety of backgrounds for an experimental online group, the initial purpose being to conceive and put into play new dynamics by which to improve information flow on the internet, as well as to develop new methods of practical online collaboration. A number of proposals were discussed among the participants whom I'd managed to bring in via announcements on The Huffington Post, Skeptical Inquirer, and other outlets for which I was writing at the time. Some work was done on a sort of "collaborative network" that could theoretically grow from the inside out without incurring a decrease in the average capabilities/seriousness of its participant base. Meanwhile, an operation by which to improve the state of science journalism in the U.S. by coupling volunteer scientists with working journalists was launched (with only moderate success, beyond a few collaborations we managed to facilitate here and there), and another was planned involving "crowd-sourced Africa development," as one might term it. All in all, Project PM was more experiment than success for the first year of its existence, but it did manage to attract several dozen individuals with an unusual array of talent and certain shared ideas and values.

In early 2011, when I began working out of the Anonops server in support of OpTunisia and then other matters, Project PM (the chief venue of which was simply an IRC channel on the Freenode server) became an extension of those efforts. Eventually it fell to the wayside as I became more heavily involved with Anonymous itself. A few months later, as a number of us continued to investigate the large mass of information that had stemmed from the HBGary hack, we turned Project PM into our shared venue/banner and re-purposed it into an informal association that would do two things: (1) disseminate information about the intelligence contracting industry and what is now being increasingly termed the "cyber-industrial complex," including specific firms/outfits known to be involved in one or more of certain activities we oppose, and (2) provide whatever support possible to other parties that wish to pursue these issues. The first objective is carried out in a number of ways, but chiefly through our wiki, Echelon2, which serves as a repository of info on the subjects we deal with, or by providing tips to journalists and other activists on those subjects. We now work chiefly out of an IRC server, irc.project-pm.org, in one main channel called #projectpm.

Now, lemme break it down for y'all:

Q. Is Project PM a part of Anonymous?

A. Nope. Many of the participants are Anons, but many aren't.

Q. How many people are in Project PM?

A. There is no membership roster, or even real membership. Instead, people contribute to the project as they see fit, or simply come hang out with us to discuss topics of interest or drop tips or whatever. Our IRC channel usually contains about 40 people at any given time.

Q. Why is Project PM worth participating in?

A. There are a number of issues that were brought to light after the HBGary e-mails were made public, and some of them received wide attention at the time. But the nature of media and public attention is such that a story tends to be deemed "over" after a certain point. In this case, the story was effectively over in a few weeks despite the fact that there were clearly more things of importance to be found in those 70,000 e-mails. For example, see Romas/COIN.

Q. How could I actually assist?

A. This depends on your background and skill set, as well as what you already may know about issues involving technology, government contracting, surveillance, data mining, online propaganda, and the like. We really like our participants to spend some time reading through the information on our wiki so that they'll know what kind of things we're trying to bring to the wider attention of the press. Assisting the project can be as simple as helping to spread links to either our own wiki entries or articles written by others on these same subjects. The most valuable contributors are those who can research these issues and add to the wiki on their own, or who are able to get journalists or bloggers interested in covering aspects of the problem. Some people will have information or insight into specific issues by virtue of their professional background, in which case we're always happy to have them talk to us in the IRC. All in all, our goal is to help bring attention to the dangers that arise from certain dynamics we've already seen in the intelligence contracting industry, and so anything that can help bring attention to these things is helpful.

Q. If I want to look through the HBGary e-mails myself, how do I do so?

A. As of this writing (late May 2012), the 70,000 e-mails don't seem to be available online in any form, although they were once searchable via a site set up by Anonymous participants. You can still download them and then search through them by keyword on your own computer; the majority of them (those of former HBGary Federal personnel Aaron Barr and Ted Vera) are available via torrent here. In fact, helping to "seed" them after downloading is a good, simple way to help make them accessible until such time as they're once again available in a more convenient form.

Q. What's the purpose of this blog in terms of Project PM?

A. I'm going to be writing some materials here on the subjects we've been studying so that I'll be better able to explain why they merit more attention from the press, activists, and the public.

Q. Will you be my steady girl?

A. If you're gentle.

Q. I'm some sort of journalist or blogger and I want to cover something involving the intelligence contracting industry, persona management, data mining, surveillance, or one of the other issues you're clearly obsessed with. Will you provide me with some form of assistance?

A. Yes. You can e-mail staff@project-pm.org to reach a couple of the people who are particularly active, or barriticus@gmail.com to reach just me. You can also download an IRC client and come to irc.project-pm.org if that floats your boat.

3 comments:

  1. "Q. How could I actually assist?

    "A. This depends on your background and skill set, as well as what you already may know about issues involving technology, federal contracting, surveillance, data mining, online propaganda, and the like."

    That should read "government contracting" or something, if you're aiming for an international audience - yeah, we all know who's the primary puppet master, but I assume you're wanting global-reach thinking on this?

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  2. You're absolutely right, as we do have lots of non-Americans and already look into several firms beyond the U.S. contracting scene. I'll change that.

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