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US Government Seeks Open-Source Translation 309

valdean writes "The Boston Globe is reporting that last week the United States Government began publishing captured Iraqi documents on the web in order to harness the translating talents of the bilingual public. The article calls it 'the same open source principle' that created Linux. Check out the Foreign Military Studies Office's document portal."
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US Government Seeks Open-Source Translation

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  • Classification? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:32PM (#14953414)
    What if it turns out that the document is talking about something that the US finds it needs to classify? Too late then...
  • Odd (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:33PM (#14953423) Homepage
    Why don't they put the NSA's crack team on ti, they seem to be good at this sort of thing. Or they couls hire translators? Maybe they are just trying to ferret out people who show too much interest in these documents?
  • erm.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Turn-X Alphonse ( 789240 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @05:46PM (#14953487) Journal
    Maybe it's just me here, but most people in the OSS community seem pretty bright people. Bright people tend to rather dislike the Bush government and would go out of their way to NOT help them.

    I mean seriously, what type of people will want to support this government. All they get back in return is the loss of basic human rights and in the future finger pointing. It's a lose-lose situation.
  • by lixee ( 863589 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:15PM (#14953617)
    I'm perfectly bilingual but will never do that.
    The incentive of open-source is that a lot of people will benefit from your work, and not some greedy individual (Thanks to the GPL). For me, it'd be the same as if Gates started up a contest for who could come up with a better OS and Linus and the other hackers handed their work to him. Gates could have then started making profit out of their work.
    I am not American, but I'd guess most open-source enthusiasts out there are better informed than the average Joe and are more likely to be opposing the war in the first place.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:18PM (#14953627) Journal
    So "open source" is now anything that's a free/community project?

    Coincidentally, the use of the phrase "open source" in the intelligence community actually predates its use regarding software, using it to refer to intelligence gathered from publically-available sources. From wikipedia: nce []

    Open source intelligence or "OSINT" refers to an intelligence gathering discipline based on analyzing information collected from open sources, i.e. information available to the general public. These sources include newspapers, the internet, books, phone books, scientific journals, radio broadcasts, television, and others. The term OSINT is unrelated to the term open source as that term is used in the computer software community to refer to programs whose source code is publicly available (and modifiable). OSINT should also not be generally confused with OSIF (Open Source Information) on which OSINT is based. OSIF is any information that is publicly available; OSINT is analytically-tailored OSIF designed to answer a specific tasking or to support decision-making.
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:19PM (#14953629) Journal
    Maybe I'm off base here, but isn't the government supposed to have large computers for things like the Carnivore project? Aren't they supposed to be capable to tapping into about anything on the Interweb? Why don't they just buy some software from and use it to pinpoint what parts of the Internet they really want to have experts read? To start with, a google for allah, then translate as required would be a good start, key words can be added to the process somewhere along the line... It seems unlikely that there would be more than say, oh... 100,000 arabic websites? Couple of days and its all done.. right?

    This seems quite an odd thing to me... unless they are trying to ferret out people in the US and allied countries that are both capable of and willing to translate such information. That sounds like some new kind of profiling to me... well, I could just be paranoid...
  • by ronocdh ( 906309 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:34PM (#14953695)
    This is blatant PR on behalf of the military. FTFA:

    The US Government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available.

    Wiki-style scholarship has been criticized sufficiently on /., so I needn't address the flaw in methodology. But the problem is that this is no genuine attempt at intelligence, it's merely a showcase for unflattering (and, as the disclaimer attests, possibly plain false) documents and is meant to promote American nationalism. The very first document on the page is about how the bad-man Qusai Hussein ordered prisoners to be used as human shields during the US invasion. The document is more than two years old! Do you really believe this is an example of the cutting edge of our military's translation endeavor? (Okay, I walked right into the incompetence joke on that one.) Perhaps TFA sums it up best:

    Jonathan Singer, weekend editor of the liberal site, was equally dismissive. ''The Hussein documents are not of great interest to me," said Singer, ''for the simple reason that they simply reinforce the notion that the Bush administration cherry picks intelligence to suit their needs."
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Sunday March 19, 2006 @06:48PM (#14953749)
    "The purpose of presenting those documents to the public is to slyly hint, to the Iraqi insurgents, that Washington has even more documents and, more importantly, all the detailed information about their whereabouts and their next set of moves. Washington hopes that this threat just might scare the insurgents into leaving Iraq. Basically, Washington is doing psy-ops (psychological warfare) on the Internet."

    Is this like the time the American govt knew where there were 50 tons of chemical weapons in Iraq?

    A plea to the US govt: If you have detailed information about the whereabouts and the next movements about the insurgents please go and get them. Please stop dragging this war out any further then neccassary. Furthermore if you know where the insurgents are and what they are about to do there is no need to further torture people in Iraq and there is no need to ship people to other countries to be tortured.

    "Washington will do everything (including psy-ops) that it can up until 2007 January 1, the start of the next presidential campaign season. After 2007 January 1, Washington will pull the troops out of Iraqi."

    I thought it was obvious to everybody by now that a war with iran was planned for the next presidential election cycle. Maybe not a full all out invasion but surely ariel bombardment and plenty of nice video of exploding buildings (no ugly dead people please, just the explosions like you see in movies thank you). Just enough to make sure this extremely unpopular president does not harm the chances of making sure then next govt is also dominated by republicans.

    A war with Iran combined with diebold rigging the next election in CA [] should do the trick nicely.

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