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The Human Terrain Project

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Had an interesting conversation this morning with the chief of counter terrorism for the State Department, Amb. Dell Dailey. It was part of the Defense Writers Group breakfasts that I go to periodically and I wanted to point out something that might interest you all.

Asked a question about surveillance technologies, aviation assets and other gadgets his office might need to more effectively counter terrorist movements, Dailey had an interesting answer. He said the department always needs more aircraft, but the surveillance tech is already good enough for his needs. Instead, he needs a comprehensive map of the human terrain he'll encounter.

"During the Cold War we mapped the floor of the oceans for our submarines to move around and not bump into underwater mountains. We ought to take that same mentality and apply it to the humans that may end up coming after us that are terrorists."

Basically Dailey is asking for an extremely detailed, layered map of tribes, religions, cultures, races, politics, history and languages for key areas and their interaction with the geography.

"Human preparation of the environment rather than physical preparation of the environment... We need to map the human terrain in those sensitive areas as thoroughly as we mapped the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. That will allow us in the future not to go into a post-9/11 scratching our heads 'should we go kinetic, should we go non-kinetic? Should we go after this tribe or should we go after that tribe?' It allows us to have a foundation in place already to move for our government actions. I don't see that right now."

Dailey said several think tanks, universities and some offices within the US Gov. are working on some kind of variation of his human terrain map, but there lacks the "Manhattan Project mentality" that pushed the sea floor mapping during the Cold War.

-- Christian

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