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DT/Milcom on TV

Last night I appeared on the Federal News Tonight show on Washington, D.C.'s, News Channel 8 to discuss the controversy over the Navy's awarding Rep. John Murtha the Distinguished Public Service award.

I thought I should at least share how stupid I look on TV...


-- Christian

Friends of the Family


I ran into the maniacs from Mil-Spec Monkey, a site devoted to gear reviews and news and also a designer of innovative (and hilarious) motivational patches.

We've run a few of their posts and reviews here before -- they're close friends with our buddies at BreachBangClear -- but I'd never had the opportunity to meet them in person.

The Monkeys are based in the Bay area and are either working for, or alums of the America's Army video game. They have a lot of technical expertise, no military experience, but a lot of enthusiasm. Their moto patches are generating quite a following and the "rad guy" element of the tactical community are giving their news and reviews a lot of credibility.

We look forward to working more closely with the Mil-Spec Monkey crew of chimps, and will feature some of their SHOT Show content here when they've got it ready.

Now, back onto the floor of the show!

-- Christian

A Solemn Thanks to American Vets


In honor of Veteran's Day, I wanted to share with you all a quick story on a Soldier's valor to help us all remember the heroism and sacrifice our armed forces display each and every day on the job:

On Sept. 24, 2008, Staff Sgt. Christopher Upp, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was awarded the Silver Star for actions on July 31, 2007 in Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan.

While at Vehicle Patrol Base Seray, an incoming mortar round struck the base’s mortar pit, killing the platoon leader and initiating an attack. Staff Sgt. Upp led a small group through machine gun and rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fire towards the mortar position.

The incoming fire knocked them to the ground several times. When they reached the 120-mm mortar, an incoming RPG damaged the tripod and shrapnel tore a large gash in Staff Sgt. Upp’s left arm. With the mortar’s support legs damaged, Staff Sgt. Upp used his hands -- and when the tube got too hot, his back -- to guide return fire. Through heavy fighting, he fired 75 rounds at the attacking enemy and significantly contributed to the successful defense of the patrol base.

I've been honored to witness acts like this in my many days and months covering the armed forces as a reporter. Thank you for all of the great times and endearing memories.

-- Christian

Catch the "Buzz" with C-Double


All right folks, you're about to get a true "first."

Over the last several months, Ward and I have been brain storming, kicking, screaming, cajoling, whining and moaning to put together a new product for that focuses heavily on investigative reporting of the defense industry.

Well, our temper tantrums have paid off and we're going to launch the new online blog/newsletter in May (which will remain nameless until launch). But in the meantime, I'd like to introduce the product's new editor, Colin Clark.

I've known Colin my entire career and we've been good friends out on the hustings as we both kicked over rocks for the next big story. He's a powerhouse in the defense industry news business, with a resume that sports stints at Defense Week, Defense News, Congressional Quarterly and, more recently, Space News.

While we're putting together the final design and wrapping up marketing plans for Colin's new gig, he's going to keep the engines turning and post his content here. He knows he's being thrown into a pot of boiling oil head first with you guys, and I don't expect you to pull any punches.

So please welcome Colin and we all look forward to his kick butt reporting.

-- Christian

Off to the Sandbox

linkdin head.jpg

Alright folks, here's the deal.

I'm headed back to Iraq after about a two year hiatus. It was pretty violent and crazy the last time I was there and I'm interested to see how things have changed for the better -- or worse -- first hand.

I go with a different mindset this time, however. Though it's my third trip there, I'm much more cautious this time around. Don't be expecting rip roaring firefight dispacthes and daily raid and QRF debriefs from me. I've got a kid now, so running into the Humvee at every sound of an IED or small arms ain't gonna happen, sorry.

But as you probably imagine, I can't stand sitting around the FOB picking my nose. So, I'll be "oscar mike" quite a bit, seeing the lay of the land and getting into operations.

I plan to travel first to Anbar and hang out with the Marines for a week. I'll get a gander at some of the "awakening" progress and hopefully take a stroll down Route Michigan in Ramadi after spending a violent month there in '05. Then I'm off for a few days to the MV-22 squadron based at al Asad. After that, I chop to the Army in Diyala and hook up with a unit employing the interim Land Warrior suite of technologies.

I'll be posting entries here when they pertain to "techy" stuff, but I'll be writing a lot of content for our regular audience and will be updating a blog designed specifically for the "From the Front" assignment.

Ward will be honchoing the blog while I'm gone, so try not to give him too hard a time. I'll be throwing blog posts, pics and videos his way, so I'll stay in touch with loyal DT readers. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any buddies over there you want me to give a shout out to, or if you have any coverage ideas where I'm gonna be.

So, for now, adios. I'm hopping on a United flight to Kuwait tonight, then off to "the suck." I'll be back in DC in a month. Keep in touch!

-- Christian

Texting Thanks to the Troops

Here’s a cool idea from our friends at America Supports You:

“This holiday season, America Supports You is giving you a new way to send your thanks to the troops - by text message! When you send your message of thanks to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd, you’ll receive a special thanks in return. Also, we’ll be displaying those messages on our ASY Giving Thanks widget far and wide across the internet. Just another way that you can support our brave military men and women serving in 177 countries around the world.”

Click on the widget above to link to the ASY site. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of those serving the nation away from home this year.

(Gouge: JF)

-- Ward

Milbloggers Unite!


The second annual Milblog Conference kicked off today in Arlington, Va., with a surprise intro from President Bush.

Speaking via a pre-recorded message before a roomful of eager online pioneers, Bush stressed the importance of success in Iraq and thanked the inhabitants of the blogosphere for their efforts in getting their personal stories out.

Beaming smiles and giddy claps greeted the president’s virtual address from the largely patriotic crew of cutting-edge blog authors. Index fingers tapped furiously as the milbloggers produced live updates for their sites, no doubt showing off their new clout in this brave new virtual world.

The Bush address was followed by a similarly cheery update from Rear Adm. Mike Fox, who helps honcho the public affairs shop in Baghdad. He explained to the bloggers eager for war stories that the new counterinsurgency strategy is beginning to push back the “evil and diabolical” enemy America faces.

“We’re the good guys in this,” he said to whoops and claps.

Keep a closer eye on the Milblogger conference with updated feeds and live streams at one of several links, including:

Bruce McQuain of Qando

Kevin Whalen of Pundit Review

Lorie Byrd of Wizbang

Streiff of Red State

-- Christian

NYT, Jewcy Heart DT

The New York Times' Dan Mitchell was kind enough to give our little site a shout-out over the weekend, in his "What's Online" column. It's second time in about a month he's given Defense Tech a nod.

Meanwhile, Jewcy -- a smart, new online magazine for members of the tribe -- spends an inordinate amount of bits profiling me. The piece is way, way too generous to me. "Whiz Kid of Warfare?" Hardly. And it doesn't give nearly enough credit to Defense Tech's real heroes -- guys like David Axe, David Hambling, and Haninah Levine. But the story, written by Michael Weiss, does get at the heart of what makes this site cool. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Old Crows, Nest Here

If you're an "Old Crow" -- or a friend of one -- drop me a line. I'm trying to learn more about the fine, fine work y'all are doing. All conversations will be off-the-record, naturally.


Any Defense Tech people in the Vegas area? I'm headed out to Sin City tomorrow for the weekend, to catch a little family entertainment.

If anyone wants to share a beverage, the first round is on me. We'll even pour out a little for Anna Nicole. E-mail me if you're down.

DT's Biggest Hits, Best Posts of January

January has been a hell of a month for Defense Tech: traffic is through the roof, reader participation is way up, and the quality of material is at an all-time high. So here are the top five most popular posts for the month.

The Law Catches Up To Private Militaries, Embeds
Since the start of the Iraq war, tens of thousands of heavily-armed military contractors have been roaming the country -- without any law, or any court to control them. That may be about to change, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow P.W. Singer notes in a Defense Tech exclusive.

Navy's Deadly New Darts
David Hambling reveals a fearsome piece of hardware: a modified satellite-guided bomb, releasing thousands of darts, each carrying a payload of a powerful chemical called DETA.

Electric Lasers Shoot Mortars, Gain Strength
Real-life laser weapons continue to inch closer to reality. Two recent examples: Raytheon says its "prototype solid-state Laser Area Defense System successfully detonated 60-millimeter mortars." And Northrop Grumman is opening up a new "directed energy production facility" for building high energy, solid-state lasers.

Second Nork Nuke Test Coming?
I was skeptical when I heard the news that "senior defense officials" now think North Korea has "put everything in place to conduct a [second nuclear] test without any notice or warning." But the wonks over at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies are warning us: believe the hype.

China Space Attack: Unstoppable
China has shown it can destroy a satellite in orbit. What could the U.S. do to stop Beijing, if it decided to attack an American orbiter next? Short answer: nothing.

And here, in no particular order, are ten posts that didn't get quite as many clicks, but really show off the best of the work being done at Defense Tech HQ:

"Non-Lethal" Viruses to "Neutralize" Cities
Inside a Cold War plan to develop "biological agents" -- including ones that can lead to "inflammation of the brain, coma and death" -- for "incapacitating" enemies on the battlefield or "neutralizing hostile cities."

Cop Tech Key to Iraq Fight?
All the talk is about more U.S. troops. But if there's going to be a shot in hell of winning the war in Iraq, it'll be up to the Iraqi police. And those cops will need to be equipped with the latest crime-fighting gear.

Mr. Plow Eagerly Awaits Nuclear War
Step off, Al Gore! Eric Hundman has found a quick fix to global warming. All we need is a handful of nuclear weapons.

Behind the Ethiopian Blitz
David Axe examines how Ethiopia's tiny air force, which just four years ago was in danger of implosion, spearheaded the effort to drive Islamist militias out of southern Somalia.

Real Iraq Surge: Electronic Attack?
Any U.S. military surge in Iraq will be far more than a troop increase. It'll include a slew of new technologies to interrupt and infiltrate insurgent networks.

Iran's Super Missile Will Defeat Great Satan, Steal Your Girlfriend
Robot Economist looks at the Iranian claims, paroted by the U.S. press, that Tehran has a radar-evading, multiple-warhead rocket.

New Army Camos: No Place to Hide?
The Army's new uniform was supposed to blend into every environment -- from deserts to jungles to cityscapes. Has it lived up to the promise?

Merc Chopper Shot Down
Blackwater should've seen it coming, that one of their copters in Iraq was bound to get blown out of the sky. David Axe explains.

Behind China's Sat-Killer Test
Six posts, covering everything you wanted to know about Beijing's strike against a satellite, more than 500 miles up.

200 Years of "Mind Control"
Countless thousands of people complain today about the government taking over their minds. But the problem goes way back -- to 1810, David Hambling explains. And not all of the claims are completely crazy.

Get Listed for Your Defense Tech Fix

There have been a whole bunch of fresh faces visiting the site, lately. So I want to make sure y'all know about my weekly-ish, insiders-only, e-mail newsletter. It gives folks a first look at articles I'm writing, and lets 'em know about updates to the site. If you dig Defense Tech, I'd strongly recommend you sign up here. (You'll need a Yahoo ID, which is a bit of a pain. But it'll be worth it, I promise.)

UPDATE 01/25/07 11:27 AM: Reader MS says "one doesn't necessarily need a yahooID to subscribe to your newsletter. Sending a mail to and then confirming it by replying to the following mail does the trick, as well."

State of the Union...

...I missed it, and Webb's response, too. (The wife and I are taking a class at UCLA on Tuesday nights.) What'd you guys think? Speak up!

Homeland Guru's Final Post

A bad day for the blog world; a good day for the Senate. Christian Beckner, the IBM analyst who runs the planet's best homeland security blog, has just uploaded his last post. He's taken a job with Sen. Joe Lieberman's staff over at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Best of luck, Chris.

Noah's 50 Favorite Posts of 2006

Enough with the popularity contest. Here are my picks -- in more-or-less chronological order -- for the 50 best Defense Tech posts of 2006.

"Q Branch's" Stock Market Shenanigans

Killer robots, cheeky Brits, cute marine mammals, shady government officials, insider trading -- plus, a gratuitous reference to James Bond -- all in one post.

Laser Weapons "Almost Ready?" Not!
If you’re into military technology at all, somewhere in the back of your mind, you want laser guns to happen. That doesn't mean they will.

The Dead Bombers of Halabja
David Axe finds the machines behind Iraq's gas attacks.

Kneel Before the Centaur
Like a lot of us, former Navy electrician Dennis Buller is worried about our troops over in Iraq. But he's actually built a machine to do something about it.

China Tops Iraq, Osama in QDR
How the Pentagon's every-four-years master plan focuses more on a future fight with China than today's wars.

The Best Weapon
David Axe attends a tanker's memorial service in Iraq.

Real-Life Ray Gun: Say When?
I was skeptical, when I first heard about the idea of using lasers and man-made lightning to detonate explosives at a distance. Now, a little less so.

Happy Birthday to Me
Momma always told me to look on the bright side.

Be Mickey Mouse's Spy
Here's your big chance, junior spooks: the Walt Disney Company needs an ""Intelligence Analyst."

The Enemy is Me
Last summer, a U.S. Colonel in Baghdad told me that I was America's enemy, or very close to it.

Mini-Sensors for "Military Omniscience"
The Pentagon's new way to spot insurgents: a set of palm-sized, networked sensors that can be scattered around a war zone. It’s part of a larger Defense Department effort to establish “military omniscience” and “ubiquitous monitoring.”

Stealth's Radioactive Secret
There’s a simple technology that could transform civil aviation -- slashing fuel consumption, reducing greenhouse emissions and cutting noise. The problem, David Hambling explains, is it's a military secret.

New Detectors Sniff Terrorists' Scents
The Pentagon's fringe science arm wants to keep track of potential enemies-of-the-state in every way imaginable: not just by sight, or by sound, or by their e-mail; but by their smell, as well.

Laser Labs Go Back to the Future
George Neil and Bob Yamamoto don't remember exactly where they were when they found out that the Pentagon was canceling their laser cannon project. But they remember how they felt.

Air Force One Scare; Real Security Sacrificed
The headline sure seemed scary: "Web site exposes Air Force One defenses," Steven Schwartz notes. Too bad the article didn't mention that the site is a firefighter safety manual, to help rescue passengers.

Federal Bureau of Luddites
Why the FBI is still using tech that's straight out of the leisure suit era.

Iran's Kooky, Incendiary Arsenal
Super-fast underwater missiles ain't the half of it. Iran's armed forces are rolling out a slew of new military hardware.

China's R&D;: Don't Freak
China is about to pass the U.S. in the development of defense and commercial technology, Matthew Tompkins warns. And they're gonna take our lunch money, too.

Terrorists' Unmanned Air Force
The bad guys can use drones, too.

Sunny, With a 75% Chance of Air Superiority
Some Air Force weapons simulators act like our biggest enemies just don't exist. Haninah Levine explains.

Giant Slingshot: New Way to Space?
All space projects get into orbit pretty much the same way – by burning lots of rocket fuel. But what if, David Hambling asks, we could throw something so hard, it would wind up in space?

NSA Sweep "Waste of Time," Analyst Says
It'd be one thing if the NSA's massive sweep of our phone records was actually helping catch terrorists. But a leading data analyst says that "it's a waste of time... let[ting] the real terrorists run free."

The Tech That Took Out Zarqawi
Ten years ago, taking out Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi with F-16s would have been an impossible task. Not any more, David Axe reports.

Enter the BomBot
One of the nice things about being editor of Defense Tech is that people occasionally show up at your apartment with military robots.

Superbomb - or Crapshoot?
A panel convenes, to assess the not-quite-dead controversy over a phantom superbomb. Sharon Weinberger wonders why she wasn't invited.

Clowns Sabotage Nuke Missile
On Tuesday morning, a retired Catholic priest and two veterans put on clown suits, busted into a nuclear missile launch facility, and began beating the silo cover with hammers, in an attempt to take the Minuteman III missile off-line. Seriously.

Taking on Iran's Air Force
What happens a stand-off with Iran turns violent?

Missile Flop: Norks in Tight Spot
Is North Korea's busted missile test as a major problem for the U.S. -- or for Kim Jong-il?

Semper Fi Sauvignon
From the halls of Montezuma to Fallujah, the United States Marine Corps have proved themselves to be the most resourceful warriors on the planet. Now, a single test remains: Make a rich, smooth red wine.

CIA's Wacky, Online 'Personality Quiz'
These are tough times for the CIA. But can things have grown so dire at Langley that the it has to resort to gimmicks like a wink-wink-trying-to-be-ironic-and-cool- but-instead-looking-even-more-dorky recruiting website?

Hez Hacked Israeli Radios?
Readers debate whether Hezbollah really compromised Israel's most secret communications.

"Plug-and-Play" Ship Hits the Water
Why Navy Captain Don Babcock is in such a hurry.

Attack Of The Genius Robot Cockroach Swarm
"I have seen some radical ideas for attacking deep bunkers," David Hambling says, "but this beats 'em all."

Area 51: Hype vs. Reality
A veteran aviation journo writes about secret airplanes he believes might be under development at Area 51. David Axe wonders how much proof he has.

Robotic Frisbees of Death
The Air Force thinks it has an answer to the most vexing problem in counter-insurgency: frisbees. Not just any frisbees, mind you. Robotic frisbees. Heavily armed robotic frisbees.

How to Rate a (Possibly) Stupid Weapon Idea
Sharon Weinberger's 15-point test to find out if a weapons-maker is full of it.

Iraqi Forces Don't Suck ... Entirely
Despite what you might have heard from other media, David Axe says, the Iraqi Army does not suck.

High-Tech Uniforms Finally Heading to War
A collection of high-tech soldier gear, 15 years and half a billion dollars in the making, will finally make it into battle.

Army "Big Brother" Unit Targets Bloggers
Bloggers: "Big Brother is not watching you, but 10 members of a Virginia National Guard unit might be."

Spyboys Go Web 2.0
How the military keeps tabs on overseas TV channels, 24/7 -- and what it means for the future of intelligence.

Cash-Poor Army Pays Big to Pimp Pricey 'Future'
The Army is quickly going broke, its leaders insist. But there's one Army account that the generals are still managing to keep packed to the brim: marketing.

Bush: Space is for Soldiers
Theresa Hitchens explores the President's new space plan -- and finds a martial bent.

Big War Machines Pushed for Korea Fight
How military bigwigs are angling for North Korean fight.

NORK Nuclear Test: It's A Dud
Jeffrey Lewis is the first to figure out that Kim Il Jung's nuclear test isn't all it was cracked up to be.

BattleHog Drone's Story Stinks
David Hambling asks: Could a home security consultant operating out of a Manhattan apartment have built the latest and greatest killer drone?

"The Deadlies"
Defense Tech's search for the most insanely hazardous gear, ever.

Mechanical Mole Men, Attack!
Throughout the ages, bad guys have loved bunkers. Which is why the Air Force wants teams of tunneling, foot-long "subterranean vehicles."

Labouchere of Arabia
David Axe camps out with a modern-day T.E. Lawrence.

Drunks, Butts Test Pain Ray; Paris Hilton Next?
David Hambling's new reality-show pitch. Milimeter wave weapons are involved.

Pentagon Plan: Hit Anywhere on Earth, in an Hour
The secret connection between Nordstrom's toddlers department and the Pentagon push to "strike virtually anywhere on the face of the Earth within 60 minutes."

Bump: Def Tech's 20 Biggest Posts of 2006

Out of the hundreds and hundreds of technologies, tactics, and political maneuvers Defense Tech highlighted, here are the twenty you guys clicked on the most in 2006. Thanks for another great year, everyone.

silo-E8-gate_smaller.jpg1) Clowns Sabotage Nuke Missile
On Tuesday morning, a retired Catholic priest and two veterans put on clown suits, busted into a nuclear missile launch facility, and began beating the silo cover with hammers, in an attempt to take the Minuteman III missile off-line. Seriously.

2) Look Out, Pyongyang? Rail Gun in the Works
One of the big selling points of the Navy's new destroyer is that it can rain a whole lot of hell -- 20 rocket-propelled artillery shells, in less than a minute -- on targets up to 63 nautical miles away... But really, that's the start. The ship's real power will come when it moves away from chemical powders to shoot its projectiles -- and starts relying on electromagnetic fields to shoot projectiles almost six kilometers/second, instead.

3) SEAL Ship: Silent But Deadly
Every shipbuilder in the Navy these days talks about how his hulking destroyer or Cold War sub is now going to sneak SEALs onto shore... overlord Chris Michel was down in San Diego, and saw a pretty cool new prototype ship that's been designed from scratch to handle the mission.

4) Air Force Plan: Hack Your Nervous System
The brain has always been a battlefield. New weapons might be able to hack directly into your nerve cells and neural pathways.

5) Marines Quiet About Brutal New Weapon
War is hell. But it’s worse when the Marines bring out their new urban combat weapon, the SMAW-NE. Which may be why they’re not talking about it, much.

6) Urban Combat Skateboard!

7) Replacement Arm, Good as New
Thought-controlled robotic limbs were only the beginning.

8) Robotic Frisbees of Death
It ain't easy, picking out evil-doers in the urban canyons of the Middle East; there are so many places to hide. Taking 'em out can be even harder, what with all those noncombatants hanging nearby. But the Air Force thinks it might have an answer to this most vexing problem in counter-insurgency: frisbees. Not just any frisbees, mind you. Robotic frisbees. Heavily armed robotic frisbees.

9) David and the Inflatable Goliath
Inside the Darpa project to build a humongous blimp that can haul 500-1000 tons' worth of soldiers and gear halfway across the world in less than a week.

10) Falcon Fills Blackbird's Shoes
A decade after the final retirement of Lockheed Martin's Mach-3 SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the Air Force is preparing to test a plane that flies more than three times as fast. Two Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicles, built by Lockheed Martin with input from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), will take to the air in 2008. The $100-million program aims to field a Mach-10 unmanned aircraft that can spy on foreign powers, drop bombs or even lob satellites into orbit.

11) Giant Slingshot: New Way to Space?
All space projects get into orbit pretty much the same way – by burning lots of rocket fuel, a spaceship powers itself past the sky. But what if there was a different approach? What if we could throw something so hard, it would wind up in space?

FAST G16_small.jpg12) Facial Armor Rears Its Ugly Head
No matter how many times soldiers and marines say they're not interested, there's always someone trying to wrap them up in heavier, hotter, more uncomfortable armor. The latest culprit: MTek Weapon Systems, which is pushing Stormtrooper-esque "facial armor" for our troops.

13) Air Force's Secret Drone Program Revealed
A new, $1.7 billion, "Penetrating High Altitude Endurance" drone is thought to be able to cruise at 70,000-80,000 ft,soaring high above defended territory.

14) CIA's Wacky, Online 'Personality Quiz'
These are tough times for the Central Intelligence Agency. But can things have grown so dire at Langley that the CIA has to resort to gimmicks like this wink-wink-trying-to-be-ironic-and-cool-but-instead-looking-even-more-dorky recruiting website?

15) Pain Ray, Sonic Blaster, Laser Dazzler - All in One
For a while, now, I've been hearing about the Defense Department's plans to outfit a fighting vehicle with a pain ray, a sonic blaster, and a laser dazzler, too. I never figured they'd actually send the thing to Iraq, though. Project Sheriff, I assumed, would just be the military equivalent of a concept car -- a chance to see if some whiz-bang gear really worked together. But the Pentagon may wind up deploying this straight-outta-sci-fi jalopy, after all.

16) Battle Ball for Sailor Training
Check out the Navy's nine-foot plastic ball. It sits on wheels, enabling unlimited rotation in any direction -- making virtual reality feel a whole lot more real.

starfire-optical-range-laser3_small.jpg17) Chinese Laser vs. U.S. Sats?
Was it just China Hawks' hype? Or did Beijing really blind U.S. satellites by firing high-powered lasers at 'em? And what does that mean for the future of America's eyes and ears in the sky?

18) The Tech That Took Out Zarqawi
Ten years ago, taking out Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi with F-16s would have been an impossible task. Not any more.

19) 'Invisible' Boomerang 'Bot
It's nice to have a set of robotic eyes in the sky. But surveillance drones tend to be loud, and rather obvious, as they keep watch above a Middle Eastern city. That's why a small company out of Minneapolis, VeraTech Areo, has built a hand-held spy drone that it says is practically invisible.

20) Area 51: Hype vs. Reality
A veteran aviation journo writes about secret airplanes he believes might be under development at the Air Force's remote Groom Lake test facility in Nevada, a.k.a. Area 51. How much proof does he have?

(Big ups: Slate, and their surprising top ten stories of the year. And, and a note to Long Tailers: two of these posts were actually from '05.)

What the Hell... Noah Shachtman doing? Find out in the March issue of Wired magazine.


"Give Back to Those Who Give It All"

Good stuff. The Overlords and the Military Channel are teaming up to raise money for charities that support servicemembers and their families.

Beginning this holiday season and continuing throughout 2007, the Military Channel and will spotlight a different military-focused charity through monthly on-air and online promotions. United under one banner, will serve as a portal to all charities in the program, and provide the tools people need to make a difference in the military community. Visitors to the site can make online donations, send e-cards to servicemembers, post their thoughts on message boards, watch video postings from the frontline and access a "military-buddy" locator database.

Operation Gratitude is the first of 12 national charities that will be highlighted as part of Reconnect America. Founded after 9/11 as a means to lift troops' morale, Operation Gratitude brings a smile to servicemembers' faces by sending care packages overseas.

Following Operation Gratitude, the following charities are scheduled to be spotlighted on in early 2007:

* Armed Services YMCA: The Armed Services YMCA has provided services to the military community for over 140 years, offering essential programs such as childcare, hospital assistance, spousal support, health & wellness services, holiday meals and many others.

* Fisher House Foundation: Since its inception in 1990, the Fisher House Foundation has provided over 2 million days of lodging to military families in need, offering a "home away from home" that enables family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful time---during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

* The National Military Family Association (NMFA): NMFA is dedicated to providing information to and representing the interests of family members of the uniformed services. NMFA sponsors a military spouse scholarship program, the NMFA Very Important Patriot Award, and the NMFA Family Award.

* The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Inc. (TAPS): TAPS is a one of a kind non-profit Veteran Service Organization offering hope, healing, comfort and care to thousands of American armed forces families facing the death of a loved one each year.

In addition to the support received from visitors to, the Military Channel and will make monetary and other in-kind donations to each organization throughout the year. Furthering exposure and penetration for the Reconnect America program, the Military Channel will also work with its distribution partners in communities nationwide to build customized local citizen involvement in this charitable effort.

DC Drink Debrief

When Jeffrey Lewis and I suggested the other day that some folks should meet us in a bar in DC, I figured maybe 10 geeks, wonks, and bloggers would show. 15, tops.

So you can imagine how psyched I was, at 8 o'clock or so, when our little nerd soiree have become a full-fledged throwdown. I'd say there were at least 50 people jammed into the Big Hunt's attic. Among the whiskey-inhalers were hitters from DHS, State, the Hill, the Pentagon, and some, uh, "other government agencies." Bloggeratti like Matt Stoller (thanks for the shoes!), Swift Cat, Buckethead, and Spencer Ackerman made their presences felt. And pretty much the entire Defense Tech crew was in effect: Imaginary Sharon, Axe, Spooky Shane, Ryan 27B, AC Wonk, High Tech Haninah, T-Hitch, Pogo Nick... I'm sure I'm missing more than a few.

The last thing I remember was Greg Grant and one of my old college buddies punching me in the chest. Repeatedly. I can't wait to get hit again.

Paging Mr. CVN-21

Speaking of the Big Hunt party, I promised to get a card from a particular nuclear engineer... and then spaced on it. So if you worked on designing the CVN-21, drop me a line.

ABC of Pain

ABC News follows up on Hambling's pain ray report... and quotes both him and me in the process. Which is mighty kind of them.

And while I'm giving my horn a honk, here are two other recent press hits I forgot to mention:

* Public radio's "Future Tense" interviewed me about the Murder on MySpace story.

* Foreign Policy magazine quoted a bunch of heavy-hitters -- Tony Cordesman, Tom Barnett -- as well as me and Dr. AC Wonk on "what to expect from Bob Gates."

Bump: Drink Up, DC - Thurs 12/07/06

Thursday, December 7th is "a day that will soon live in infamy for a whole bunch of [new] reasons," says the Arms Control Wonk.

That's the day he and I are hosting the 3rd annual Defense Tech vs. Arms Control Wonk soiree, in DC.

Come debate the finer policy points of military robotics, nuclear proliferation, and Irish whiskey with us, upstairs at the Big Hunt, 1345 Connecticut Ave., NW.

The affair will be strictly off-the-record, of course. It'll kick off around 5, and -- if history is any guide -- go real late. C'mon down.

If you're thinking about dropping by, shoot me a note or post one here.

Live-Blogging Gates

Inside Defense, the invaluable suite of military-related newsletters, is live-blogging the Gates confirmation hearings. And there's already a bunch of great stuff up -- from whether we're winning the Iraq war to whether we can afford Future Combat Systems. Go check it out.

UPDATE 12:04 PM: One thing that jumps out at me is how realistic -- and pessimistic -- Gates is about Iraq. The status quo there is "not acceptable," he says. But, at the same time, there are "no new ideas" on Iraq.

Get Your News On

I almost always forget to announce it. But I've got a weekly-ish, insiders-only, e-mail newsletter, to give folks a first look at articles I'm writing, and let 'em know about updates to the site. If you dig Defense Tech, I'd strongly recommend you sign up here.

Hooray for Hambling!

I'm not sure exactly what the blog equivalent of a standing ovation might be. But whatever it is, let's give it to Defense Tech's London bureau chief, David Hambling.

David did an absolutely amazing job with the site, while us Yanks were busy stuffing our faces. If you haven't gone back and checked out his posts on items like man-made earthquakes, pimped-out gunships, military holograms, and atomic automobiles, click on over, now. They'll make you want to stand up and cheer for our man in London.

Noah vs. Fox News

I'll be on Fox News Sunday morning, around 9:20 am eastern time, to talk about my latest piece for Wired. It's a true crime story, centered around a triple-homicide in Tacoma, Washington.

Last February, Ulysses Handy murdered Darren Christian, Daniel Varo and Lindy Cochran. The killer and his victims were friends -- both offline and on. The aftermath of the crime played out equally in real life, and on the MySpace social network, too. Which made for some awfully strange twists and turns.

The story's not online, yet. But I'll definitely let you know when it goes up.

The "Deadlies": Earth's Most Lethal Gadgetry

The post below, on personal helicopters, got me thinking: There must be a zillion technological wonders out there that are beyond hazardous to use. What are they? Let's hear from you... Share your lethal gizmos (with links, if possible) below.

17-suit1.jpgReader Steve Weintz starts us off with a fine, fine suggestion: the steampunk jetpack.

Resembling a cast-iron uterus with whirring, razor-sharp dentata more than a jetpack proper, Andreas Petzoldt has spent the last decade perfecting every rocket lad's dream on his own dime...

It hasn't been tested yet, but... it's hard not to imagine the test flight. With great ebullience, Andreas soars into the heavens. He sneers at gravity with contempt, a spurned mistress, a whore who embraces all but him. But suddenly he hears a horrifying choke and shudder and a sickening vertigo creeping up from his genitalia and into his bowels as he plummets back down to the ground, strapped to over 200 pounds of highly-explosive rocket fuel and whirring metal blades.

So what could give the steampunk jetpack and the personal copters a run for their suicidal money? Vote now, and vote often. Think of it as a cross between Popular Mechanics' Breakthroughs (or Wired's Raves or Pop Sci's BOWNs) and the Darwin Awards.

Call it... "The Deadlies."

Kit Up!

Oh hell, yeah. This is the best idea the Overlords have had in a while: Kit Up! is's new gadget blog, devoted to "the stuff you weren't issued but that you couldn't have done without during your military life."

axehatchet_1.jpgWritten by ginormous Iraq vet Eric Daniel, the site checks out "the items that made things bearable during a deployment or that allowed you to accomplish your mission. Maybe your gear even saved your life. Kit Up can be new or old, expensive or cheap. It just needs to have mattered to you."

Today's samples include "Grunt Wonder Tape" and a "Limb-Saving Watchband."

This watchband saved my wrist from being split in two during a high seas covert ship boarding. We were attempting to board a vessel carrying illegal cargo during the most unpleasant sea conditions... As the seas began to swell up we were stuck bellow the curve of the hull and were pushed up into the vessel. When this happened my arm was pinned between the console railing of the RIHB and the hull of the vessel. Had it not been for this watchband my wrist(arm) would have been split between the two bones... This band differers from many others in that it is a single piece of nylon that wraps around the wrist twice and is secured with Velcro. Others only use an inch or so of Velcro to secure the band or include plastic rings where the band loops through to tie back to itself - both of which are far from being really safe. Heck, I've been known to take a $692 watch off of the metal band and use one of these babys instead!

Vet's Day Bump: Laptops for Injured Troops

There are worse injuries to have, of course. But for a guy like me -- who makes his living by typing -- there are few things more terrifying than the idea of losing the use of my hands.

That's the situation Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss found himself in the summer of '05, when the tank company commander (and blogger) was wounded by an IED in Iraq. He felt humbled, humiliated, broken. "Being fed, bathed, taken care of like an infant — not exactly a fitting role for a warrior who's used to being the one who helps others. It sure as hell wasn't a role that I wanted," he noted.

But that began to change, when the Soldiers' Angels charity provided him with a laptop, and a buddy got him voice-controlled software to operate it. Suddenly, he was able to connect to the outside world. And he was able to take up his blog again, too.

"I know how much better I felt, how amazingly more functional I felt, after[wards]," he writes. "I can't wait to do the same, to give that feeling to another soldier at Walter Reed."

Now, you can help the Captain out. He's inspired Project Valour-IT, which has distributed nearly 600 laptops to severely wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines across the country.

There are a bunch of ways to pitch in. The first is to click this button here:

Another way is to bid on Air Force memorabilia, by clicking one of these two links.

Last, you can bid for two fine, fine military books - "Marines in the Garden of Eden" or the "Gulf War Chronicles."

Give or bid as much as you can. I just kicked in a C-note. You do the same. This is important, people.

Axe Takes Charge

Yo. This is David Axe hailing. I'm in charge for a couple days while Noah relocates to sunny California for a hard-earned six months of drink and debauchery. Send all your tips, gripes and salutations to the same old address. On a sidenote: I've just joined the staff of Defense Technology International, edited by regular DT contributor and mad scientist-lover Sharon Weinberger. We're still an Aviation Week insert for the time being, but beginning in '07 we relaunch as a stand-alone mag. Check us out.

Singel Signs In

Ryan Singel has broken some of the biggest privacy and security stories of the last few years -- like AT&T;'s cheek-to-cheek cooperation with the NSA's domestic spying, and Jet Blue's fishy use of customer records, to test a federal passenger-screening database. These days, he heads up Wired News' horribly-named, must-read security blog, 27B Stroke 6. And he's still scooping folks on the regular; check out his coverage of the roll-your-own boarding pass generator.

So I am really fired up to have someone with this strong a track record blogging for Defense Tech. He'll be taking over the site this week, as I pack up for -- and drive out to -- Los Angeles, where I'll be spending the next few months.

Be good to my whiskey buddy Ryan. Send him tips. I'll see y'all on the other side.

DT in SF: It's On

I'm getting together with a bunch of folks from the Bay Area chapter of the Defense Tech gang on Friday. If you're in the neighborhood, come on down: 7pm, at the Hotel Utah Saloon, 4th and Bryant. Should be a blast.

New Space Policy? No Way!

I'm sure a bazillion bloggers are going to squeal in paranoia about this Washington Post story, on the Bush Administration's new space policy. But, of course, they could have been squealing a full week earlier, if they had just read Defense Tech first.

SBR.jpgThanks to Haninah Levine and Theresa Hitchens, this site was on top of the more martial space plan on October 11th. Other elements of the story -- the Air Force's "Counterspace Operations Doctrine," the Chinese laser supposedly that's targeting U.S. satellites -- have all been addressed here, too. A long time ago.

And so, with that, I'm ushering in a new category: "Eat DT's Dust" -- stories that the mainstream press takes up, long after this site has dealt with 'em. I'm posthumously inducting Jeffrey Lewis' post, "NORK Nuclear Test: It's A Dud," into the club, too. The Wonk beat all the big papers to the now-universal conclusion.

There are plenty of times, of course, when Defense Tech just points to, or comments on, stories that have been broken by outlets like the Times, the Post, or ABC News. But when it's the reverse -- well, I figure we ought to strut our stuff just a little bit more.

DT in SF

I'm in the Bay Area this week, researching a couple of stories. If folks are interested, maybe I'll put together a little Defense Tech drinking session high-minded military policy debate. Drop me a line if you're down.

Woodward, Overlords Chat

Over the last year, editor Ward Carroll's podcasts have featured such high profile guests as Joe Galloway, Tom Ricks, CNO Mike Mullen, and, uh, me. Today might be Ward's biggest "get" yet: State of Denial author Bob Woodward. Go listen up.

Amish Shooting: Dad's Analysis

061003_AmishShachtman_Hsmal.small.jpgDefense Tech Dad Tom Shachtman has written over thirty books -- including a trilogy on serial killers, and an exhaustive study of Amish youth, Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish.

So it's only natural, in the wake of the tragedy at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, that the MSM is turning to him for analysis. Here's an NBC Nightly News segment from last night, and a Newsweek Q&A;, posted this afternoon.

NEWSWEEK: Has the Amish community ever had to deal with anything like this?
Tom Shachtman:
No, this is terrifyingly unique. That’s not to say they haven’t faced tragedy before. On a regular basis you do hear about events where a truck hits a buggy on the road and kills four or five people. Less occasionally, you’ll hear about a fire in a home that can’t get put out. But in terms of multiple deaths as a result of this kind of violence, this is incredibly unusual. I can’t think of a similar incident.

How familiar with violence are a lot of these children?

Not at all. This is a total shock to these kids because they have no experience with violence. We do, and our children do. We watch violence all the time. We’re not impervious to it, but we are familiar with it whereas these Amish children are not at all. They don’t watch TV; don’t watch movies. These are the most vulnerable children you could imagine. They’ve been tremendously sheltered all of their lives against depictions of violence. They are na´ve, but they’re very nice. You’ve never seen a group of more polite people in your life than some of these Amish kids. And they’re very vulnerable because of it and in our society, vulnerability gets taken for weakness, and that’s what happened here.

UPDATE 10/04/06 12:47 AM: Here he is in the Times, the New York Post, and the AP.


Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, starts in a few hours. Which means I probably won't post anything until Tuesday morning. Have an easy fast, all you repenters out there.

Whisteblower Takes to YouTube is running a story on Michael De Kort, the Lockheed whisteblower that's drawing a bunch of attention. for airing his complaints about the company's shoddy Coast Guard work for on YouTube. The network website was silly enough to quote yours truly about the subject.

Noah Shac[h]tman, editor-in-chief of, which monitors military happenings both at home and abroad, says it's necessary to ensure the public's ability to blow the whistle.

"I think it's never been easier for people to call B.S. on the shenanigans of their employers or their government," said Shachtman. "Whether it's soldiers from Abu Graib slipping out pictures and getting them to the press, or whether we're talking about bloggers reporting from the front lines. Digital media has really made it incredibly easy for people who want to get their message out and bring questionable practices to light."

Shachtman says there are many examples of these kinds of defense contract scandals -- though he says he's unsure if this is one of those cases. He says the promise of digital media is fulfilled when people like Michael De Kort can be heard.

"There are plenty of honest people working at the nation's defense contractors and there are a lot of very hard working, very smart people," Shac[h]tman said. "Unfortunately, when there are abuses, it can be awfully difficult for someone to penetrate the corporate walls and the government walls that surround them."

Tell that to Michael De Kort -- if you can catch him in-between interviews.

"They [the people] need to know the level of incompetence and the decisions that were being made," De Kort said. "Your ethics -- especially after 9/11 -- cannot be decisions of convenience -- they can't be decisions of economics."


Maybe I'm still in a touchy-feely mood, after my honeymoon. But all I want to do right know is give big two-arm bear hugs to Dan Dupont, David Axe, Sharon Weinberger, and the CDI Three. Their guest-blogging stints were even better than I hoped they would be -- and my expectations were pretty darn high. Thanks guys, for letting me have some peace of my mind while the wife and I wandered around Italy.

See Ya!

I'm getting married next week. Then, it's off to Italy for the honeymoon. Which means no blogging for me until late August -- my biggest break, I think, since the site started.

But Defense Tech will be in good hands, never fear. An A-team of guest bloggers is lined up to take over while I'm in the Mediterranean.

Week of 7/31: Haninah Levine and his wonkalicious buddies from the Center for Defense Information.

Week of 8/7: The legendary David Axe.

Week of 8/14: Bad science's bete noire, Sharon Weinberger.

Week of 8/21: Inside Defense (and Inside Green Business) editor Dan Dupont.

You can contact any of 'em through the regular e-mail address, defense-AT- defensetech-DOT-org.

Wish me and Elizabeth luck. And if you're looking to send us a wedding present, you can make a donation to fine charities like Soldiers' Angels, through this website right here.

Axe at Comicon

Hey comics geeks and defense nerds, I'm at the San Diego Comicon this weekend promoting my graphic novel WAR FIX. Come by booth 1429 to relieve me of my boredom ... and to check out some of the sweet offerings from my publisher NBM!

I'll be at the NBM booth on the following schedule:

Thurs: 4-5:30
Fri: 10:30-12; 2:30-4
Sat: 10:30-12; 2:30-4
Sun: late morning

--David Axe

NYC Monday: Noah and the "Lunatic Fringe"

There's a pretty cool event brewing in New York next Monday, the 10th, tonight that y'all should come check out.

I'll be teaming up with Imaginary Weapons author Sharon Weinberger and Ann Finkbeiner (who recently published The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite) to talk about "Scientists, Warriors and the Lunatic Fringe." Which means space-shooting lasers, Air Force teleportation schemes, and psychic kittens will all on the agenda, as we chew over "the use and abuse of science in our government today, and its implications for America's national security."

The Nation magazine is hosting the chat, at the venerable Strand bookstore (12th & Broadway), starting at 7pm. It promises to be more fun than a nuclear hand grenade. And, who knows, an ol' fashioned Defense Tech drinking session might develop afterwards. Hope to see you there.


If you're interested in the NSA domestic eavesdropping story, and you live in the New York area, you might want to make your way to 41 East 70th Street, tomorrow around 12:30. The Century Foundation is holding a little roundtable on the topic, featuring three of the top journalists on the NSA beat... and me. Register beforehand, if you're planning on coming.

Amish Gone Wild!

rumspringa_cover.jpgDefense Tech Dad Tom Shachtman spent the better part of the last few years, hanging out with Amish teenagers. Not just any Amish teenagers, mind you. Drinking, smoking, fucking Amish teenagers.

You see, when Amish kids turn about 16 or so, their folks send 'em out of the buggy-and-barn world, and into ours. The period is called Rumspringa. And the idea is to let the teens choose for themselves how they want to live their lives. Remarkably, nearly 80 percent come back, and pick the plain path.

Dad's book on this time, Rumspringa: To be or Not to Be Amish, has just been published by North Point Press/Farrar Straus & Giroux. It's already getting rave reviews.

"Shachtman is a sensitive and nimble chronicler of Amish teens, devoting ample space to allowing them to tell their stories in their own words. And their stories are fascinating, from the wild ones who engage in weekend-long parties, complete with hard drugs and sexual promiscuity, to the more sedate and pious teens who prefer to engage in careful courtship rituals under the bemused eyes of adult Amish chaperones."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

-- People Magazine

"Writer, novelist, and documentarian Shachtman has created a fascinating and near-unprecedented glimpse into the inner lives of Amish society . . . Sensitively addresses the unique position of the Amish and the challenges they face. Highly recommended."
-- Library Journal

"Mr. Shachtman's wonderfully rich portrait and history of the Amish as a people and a faith helps to show why one of the strictest religious communities in America is better at holding a flock than some of the most liberal."
-- Wall Street Journal

You get the idea. So buy your copy, now. If you need a little extra convincing, the old man is going to be on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" this afternoon. Have a listen.

Defense Tech Goes Canuck

Tune in, Canada. I'm going to be on CBC Television's "The Hour," tonight at 8pm.

It's "an irreverent, 'round-the-world, mile-a-minute look at news and current affairs that's actually fun to watch," the show's website promises. Even when they have jerks like me, flapping their gums.

"Our host is named George Stroumboulopoulos," adds a producer. "[K]ind of like Stephanopoulos, but with Strombo at the front of it."

Axe Needs Your Help

I'm working on a story on veterans and ID theft for our evil overlords at Any vets out there with a tip or a personal anecdote about ID theft ... email me at Confidentiality available on request.


-- David Axe

NBA: Nothing but 'Net

I'm often accused of posting stuff on this site that has nothing to do with defense technnology. For once, I'll plead guilty as charged.

In February, Fast Company magazine was kind enough to send me to the NBA All-Star Game, to report on the league's forays into digital media. Along the way, I caught the slam dunk contest and hung backstage with Snoop -- officially making this The Coolest Assignment Ever.

The article, however, wound up being all business. Here's how it starts:


A thousand things are happening on the basketball court at the Toyota Center, Houston's 18,000-seat arena: Technicians are scrambling. Radio announcers are practicing their game-voice baritones. The pitter-patter of balls on hardwood sounds like a quickening heartbeat. Sitting two rows back, on the second night of the NBA's All-Star Weekend, Brenda Spoonemore takes it all in with ice-blue eyes and a wide grin. Long before she began working for the NBA six years ago, she was the kind of kid who named her pet gerbils after Seattle SuperSonics stars. Now she's the kind of grown-up who spends her vacations in skyboxes, catching games with her family. "How cool is this?" she asks.

As the NBA's senior vice president of interactive services, Spoonemore must get a whole new generation of fans hooked on hoops. Ironically, that means changing how the sport she fell in love with is presented. Showing two-and-a-half-hour games helped the NBA grow into a $3 billion-a-year monster. But the majority of that growth came before most Internet connections went broadband, and before wireless networks got beefy enough for video. Now, many fans don't want to watch a whole game, especially on a PC or a 2-inch cell screen. So it's up to a team of dozens at the NBA to digitally repackage the league's offerings around individual plays and players. "Full games, that's this much of what we do," Spoonemore says, her fingers half an inch apart.

Noah & Axe vs. "The World"

The talented Mr. Axe and I have a long interview airing on today's edition of BBC/public radio's "The World." It's about how the Pentagon's dreams of network-centric warfare are playing out on the front lines. Not coincidentally, that's also the topic of the big feature we co-wrote in the upcoming issue of Popular Science.

UPDATE 05/17/06 9:27 AM: The full, eight-and-a-half minute interview is here. And if that's not enough for you Defense Tech junkies, check out all fifteen-and-a-half minutes of this extended segment.'s Voltron Force

voltronformsword.jpgIt's a little like Voltron, really. You remember, the 80s cartoon, where five kids, piloting robotic lions, teamed up to form a super mecha-warrior? Well, the same principle applies to The Overlords at have brought together ten of the cooler defense-related blogs -- sites like Blackfive, Op-For, and Midnight in Iraq. And the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: an easy way to get your milblog fix, all in one click. Check it out. And don't forget your sword.

Defense Tech Drops Beats

on_all_frequencies.jpegBefore I got deep into death rays and flying drones, I played bass and made beats for a living. This new album from Subatomic Sound System, a dub-meets-dancehall-meets- hip-hop-meets-who-the-fuck-knows-what collective operating out of Defense Tech's former East Village headquarters, features a couple of my favorite tunes. (Although, really, I'm a bit player in this superstar crew. Subatomic mastermind Emch and his army of MCs do the real heavy lifting.)

Check out the record, "On All Frequencies," on DJMR, iTunes, and eMusic.

Links Galore in Transformation Motherlode

Future_Soldier_Collage_135.gifWanna get caught up in a hurry on how the world's militaries are changing? Then check out the "Military Transformation Uplink," from Defense Tech pals Murdoc and Joe Katzman. They've culled some of the best stuff from Winds of Change, Defense Industry Daily, eDefense Online, and yours truly for a monthly motherlode of material on how armies everywhere are "transform[ing] themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century." Click the links below to check out the Uplink's take on...

  • Military Transformation Uplink full briefing
  • Air & Space Sector
  • C4SI Dimension
  • Land Sector
  • Maritime Sector
  • Strategic Weapons & Missile Defense
  • Supply & Support
  • Transformation: Policy & Doctrine

Some of This Month's Targets of Opportunity Include: UAV plans; killer drone swarms; WALRUS mega-blimp extict?; Russian airlift for NATO; Hydras and Hellfire; space challenges; Secret weapon - two-way radios; Nano-sensors; Fighter jets as battlefield surveillance - brilliant or dumb?; money-saving supercarriers; Littoral Combat Ships; missile defense updates; Algeria's big buy, energy conservation now a Pentagon issue... and much more.

Happiness is...

...wandering around Paris for a week, and coming home to discover that, if anything, your blog is in better shape than it was when you departed. David Axe, David Hambling, Jason Sigger, Steven Snell, Geoff Edwards: Thanks for taking such good care of the ranch while I was gone. I should leave more often!

Noah & David Cast Pods!

I'm still not exactly sure what a podcast is ... but Noah and I did one with editor Ward Carroll. The topic: the so-called "general's revolt" against SecDef Donald Rumsfeld. Here's the URL.

Defense Tech Gets MSNBC-y, too

Woah. Mass psychosis has suddenly struck the nation's cable news producers. I'm taping a segment for "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," on soldiers' and cops' animal friends. (Hopefully, this time I'll remember to turn my cell phone off while I'm be interviewed.)

The feature is scheduled to air tonight. But I won't be around to watch it. I'm taking off for Paris for six days. Hell, yeah...

My main man David Axe will be in charge of Defense Tech HQ while I'm gone. Send him send him any tips, submissions, or just plain ol' spam at defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org.

UPDATE 12:27 PM: Ooops. Make that tomorrow night.

Defense Tech Gets Foxy

There's no better start to your day that a cup of black coffee, a perky morning news show, and a steaming laser gun. I'm scheduled to be on "Fox & Friends," tomorrow at 7:50 AM eastern time.

UPDATE 6:20 PM: Digging through my in-box, I just found two sweet videos of the Livermore laser in action.

OpFor, Good for a Click (and More)'s growing family of bloggers has two new members. Charlie and John are Air Force and Army officers, respectively. And they run a really smart site called OpFor. Their views on "foreign policy, wargaming, grand strategy, and hippy bashing" might be a little more overtly-political -- and politically right-of-center -- than what you're used to checking out here. But you won't find a sharper pair in the blogosphere. Long before the overlords scooped 'em up, John and Charlie were on my daily must-read list. Now, go take a look at OpFor for yourself.

Cool Ship; What's it for, Again?

Sweet. My Popular Mechanics cover story, "The Great Weapons Debate," is finally online. Everyone's favorite gazillion-dollar destroyer plays a starring role. Here's how the piece starts:


The attack would come quickly, and it would be awful. Cruising far offshore, the U.S. Navy's DD(X) destroyer launches 20 artillery shells in less than a minute. As the satellite-guided weapons fall back to Earth at 830 mph, computer algorithms alter their flight paths so that the 250-pound projectiles all strike the same patch of ground at the same time, reducing everything in the vicinity to rubble and dust. If more firepower is needed, the destroyer can unleash another 580 artillery rounds, as well as 80 Tomahawk missiles. And when the attack is over, the ship simply vanishes. On a radar screen, the DD(X)'s stealthy hull makes the 14,000-ton vessel look like just another fishing boat, casting its nets into the sea.

Just one thing is missing from this scenario: an enemy to fight. Targeting terrorists with the DD(X) is like smushing ants with an 18-wheeler, critics say. Attacking an Iranian nuclear facility is something American bombers can do today. "The DD(X) is the most revolutionary surface warship in decades," says John Pike, director of defense think tank "But I have yet to have anybody explain to me--point to a place on the map-and say what they propose to do with it."

On the surface, the country's main military goal is clear. "Our nation is engaged in a global war on terror that affects the safety and security of every American," President George W. Bush told an audience of Idaho National Guardsmen last August. "We're using all elements of our national power to achieve our objectives." So you would think the Pentagon's $70 billion annual weapons systems budget would focus on winning the war on terror. But a look at the arsenal the Pentagon is building tells a different story.

Inside the defense establishment, the war on terror has competition. In many minds, the real threat is a rising China. But containing China requires different weapons than breaking up Al Qaeda--weapons that were designed for Cold War-style fights. Out of a $70 billion budget, nearly $10 billion a year goes to ballistic missile interceptors originally designed to stop Soviet missiles; $9 billion to next-generation fighter jets meant to take on MiGs; $3.3 billion to new tanks and fighting vehicles; $1 billion for the Trident II nuclear missile upgrade; and $2 billion for a new strategic bomber. Eventually, the Navy is projected to spend $4.7 billion each for seven DD(X)s.

I hope you'll check out the whole thing. I'm also honored -- more than honored -- that former Assistant Secretary of Defense Bing West decided to contribute an accompaniment to my article, on how we can "Invest in Our Troops." Be sure to take a look at that, too.

UPDATE 12:01 PM: DD(X) makers Northrop Grumman have a very different take on the ship, of course. Here's a video outlining their case.

UPDATE 12:04 PM: One of the things you find, looking into these big weapons programs, is how how quickly justifications for the systems shift to meet the times. The DD(X), for example, went from a land attack specialist to a commando-delivery ship. The Army has a similar repositioning under way. Now, Future Combat Systems -- the Army's new array of robots, sensors, and ground vehicles, originally meant to take on another big military -- is being pitched as a disaster relief program. Check out the Army's "Aftershock" video to see what I mean.

UPDATE 12:15 PM: Just so we have an air component to this video assault, check out this promotional flick of the Joint Strike Fighter.

Picture This: Military Flicks

59791605-S.jpgThe Overlords at have a new photo center. And it's damn good.

The site has all the goodies you'd expect from a service like this -- slide shows, multiple picture sizes, yadda yadda.

But every member gets 50MB of photo storage free. And the quality of prints, I'm told, is way, way higher.

Check out Overlord-in-Chief Chris Michel's flicks here (he's a semi-pro photographer) and mine over here (I'm not).

Darpa vs. Canada

OK, maybe not quite. But Lynda Hurst does have a fun, fact-filled wrap-up of Darpa's future, and its history, in today's Toronto Star, The story is a super primer of the Pentagon's far-out research arm. Too bad she had to stoop to quoting some know-it-all blogger in the process.

"These guys have the freedom to think big, run wild," says Noah Shachtman, a New York technology analyst [yeah, right!] who runs

"They know some of their more outlandish schemes won't ever happen — like maybe the armies of cyber-insects — but they pick up important pieces of knowledge in the process."

With a defence department budget of $600 billion a year, he says, "there is room for a place like DARPA, where the research is imaginative, far-out and sometimes creepy."

Playing at the El Macambo, and now this. Toronto has been very, very good to me.

Defense Tech Wants You... join its blogger army. The site needs new writers, fresh voices. So if you like what you read here, and you know a thing or two about military gear, drop me a line.

The pay is, uh... well, let's just say it isn't substantial. But the exposure can be. And I promise: you'll have fun.

Girls Hate Defense Tech

So the results from last week's demographic survey are in. Thanks to all you guys -- 1,351, in a little more than 24 hours -- who filled it out.

DT_gender.JPGAnd I don't mean "guys," figuratively. A full 97.8% of Defense Tech readers are male, it turns out. Rich males: half had family incomes over $75,000 a year. A little more than 40% were part of the larger "military community," split fairly evenly between active duty troops, veterans, and defense contractors.

Hopefully, this will give the ad sales team enough to work with. What this all says to me: More pin-ups. And more dick jokes.

C.N.O., Podcasting

fted_mikemullen.jpgOne thing about the Overlords at They've got juice -- especially in the Navy, where editor Ward Carrolll and Overlord-in-Chief Chris Michel both served as fliers. Drop their names, and admirals return e-mails, quick.

So it's no surprise, really, that Ward was able to snag for his podcast this week Admiral Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations. Click here to listen to the CNO talk about his vision for a "thousand-ship Navy," the need to "outpace strategic competitors," and the "shift of our forces to the Pacific." Recent guests have included Joe Galloway, Nate Fick, James Barber, and, uh, me.

Uplink: You'll Like

Wanna get caught up in a hurry on how the world's militaries are changing? Then check out the "Military Transformation Uplink," from Defense Tech pals Murdoc and Joe Katzman. They've culled some of the best stuff from Winds of Change, Defense Industry Daily, eDefense Online, and yours truly for a monthly motherlode of material on how armies everywhere are "transform[ing] themselves to meet the challenges of the 21st century." Click the links below to check out the Uplink's take on...

  • Air & Space Sector
  • C4SI Dimension
  • Land Sector
  • Maritime Sector
  • Supply & Support
  • Transformation: Policy & Doctrine

DT Survey: Fill it Out, Help me Out

For months and months, I've been telling the ad sales department that Defense Tech is read only by three-star generals and 22 year-old millionaires. For some reason, they're now asking me to prove it.

So I'd really, really appreciate it if y'all could fill out this quick survey. It's super-important to the long-term health of the site that we collect this information. And it will take approximately 1 minute to complete the thing.

Click on over here, you rich and powerful consumers.

Blog Beg: Network-Centric Stories

I'm working on an article about how so-called "network-centric warfare" technologies are working out in the real world. So if you've got a story about how a fancy radio system, UAV, or sensor package worked great in the field -- or spectacularly crapped out -- gimme a shout.

The Freak-O Hat Trick

I get a lot of strange e-mails. Very strange e-mails, from conspiracy theorists, mad scientists, over-eager pitchmen, and ranters, digitally foaming at the mouth. But getting three letters like the ones below -- in less than twelve hours? That's the freak-o hat trick. Check out what crawled into my inbox last night:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ################
Date: Mar 2, 2006 2:23 AM
Subject: an invention
To: ##############

I am ############ from Iran. I have an invention about producing electric energy permanently & freely &without; any pollution for environment & without any Limitation. I claim with use of my plan in the world, crisis energy, this crux will solve.

In fact, that is positive closed system .In base of conversation of energy; amount of energy in the entire world is constant & only change from a type to another Type.

My contraption creates electric energy in base of conservation of energy.

Without use of any external energy or material, my closed system produces usable electric energy.

That is fabulous. I want to revolutionize in energy production.
We have to revision. I can bring power station to everywhere of universal.

Please help to me .I require to your support. Please, please certainly reply me. I wait for you

My E-Mail is: ###############

Thanks a lot

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: *************
Date: Mar 1, 2006 8:02 PM
Subject: please note, Noah


Probably my releasd paper about the schematic design of a practical spacewarp can be considered as one of your favorites. That's placed on: http://********* The aim of this email to you is providing the possibility of introducing it to more numbers of people which I believe that's in favor of improving the science and a service to
the mankind. However, your personal opinion on my work is important to me too.

I guess you might be able and/or interested to help me at least via making a link of the above address within your page(s) or presenting it to more media. So, please give a clear answer to my request.

Best Regards

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mar 1, 2006 7:32 PM




Happy Birthday to Me

I called my Mom one day when I was twenty-two, to complain about how totally sucky my life was. I don't remember exactly what was so awful -- I think maybe I was frustrated with a new boss or something. Whatever. I had just graduated college, spent a year on the Clinton campaign, and was sharing a 2,000 square foot apartment/recording studio in Georgetown. My job was fun, my circle of frineds was huge, my bank account wasn't over-drawn, and I had recently spent a half-hour, solo, with Nelson Mandela. In short, I had absolutely zero to whine about.

In her polite, rosy way, Mom told me told shut the fuck up, and enjoy what I had. Great moments don't last forever, she said, and you better enjoy them while they're going on.

I still struggle to remember that simplest of lessons. But birthdays have a way of forcing you to stop and take an inventory of your life -- especially milestone birthdays, like number 35.

So with Mom's advice in mind, here's a list of some of the things I've done since I turned 34.

- Hung backstage with Snoop
- Shot guns with Xeni
- Got shot at by Iraqis
- Climbed Chichen Itza
- Caught the dunk by Iguodala (and Knicks/Sixers with Uncle Steve)
- Rode the rapids upstate
- Got choked in Krav Maga
- Tested a killer robot
- Blew up an IED
- Threw parties
- Threw up at parties
- Rode a Black Hawk and a C-130
- Flew a Joint Strike Fighter sim
- Fasted
- Gorged
- Snowshoed
- Snorkled
- Hiked
- Spellunked
- Sinned
- Atoned
- Prayed
- Cursed
- Cried
- Comforted
- Visited:

* Brooklyn
* San Fran
* L.A.
* London
* Leeds
* Chi-town
* H-town
* Tulum
* Cozumel
* Philly
* Baghdad
* Kuwait City
* Deadwood
* DC
* Sedona
* Manchester, VT
* Norfolk
* The 'burgh
* Ft. Irwin, CA
* Ft. Monmouth, NJ
* Ft. Huachuca, AZ
* Picatinny Arsenal, NJ
* Eglin AFB, FL
* Pentagon, VA
* And THREE laser weapon labs

- Chased crooks (A few weeks before the 34th, technically. Still counts.)
- Filed about 750 blog posts
- Wrote for Wired, Newsweek, the Times, the Forward, Pop Sci, Pop Mech, Wired News, the Times mag, the National Post, and Fast Company.
- Blabbed on CNN, NPR, and the BBC
- Had four albums come out with my name on 'em
- Learned a nice chunk of Hebrew
- Reconnected with my brother
- Raised some Katrina cash
- And, of course, got engaged

You know what? That seems like a pretty good year to me. Thanks, Mom. You were right.

Army's Blogger PR Push: Lame

So the Army has finally sent its "exclusive editorial content" to bloggers like me. And, wouldn't you know it, that content is almost comically lame.

johnson.jpgEarlier this month, Charlie Kondek, an account exec at the Michigan public relations firm Hass MS&L;, e-mailed a "handful of bloggers" with promises of goodies just for us. I wasn't expecting much. After all, the Defense Department has been cracking down on blogs, lately. One Pentagon spokeswoman, after laying out her strategy for keeping the mainstream media in check, admitted that she and her colleagues "still don’t know how to handle the bloggers."

But still. I figured what we'd get in our in-boxes wouldn't be this bad: two Wonder bread-bland profiles of Army reservists.

As a member of the Army, [Staff Sgt. Jose] Salazar has been able to wear the uniform across numerous continents and time zones--including a recent deployment in Iraq—something a 17-yr old kid from San Francisco never would have even dreamed of.

“It’s interesting when I look back at my childhood and see how much I’ve changed over the years,” says Salazar. “The Army really provided me with the tools and background I needed to get on track. Now, as part of the Army Reserve, I’ve taken that next step in the process, combining my training with my civilian career to help serve my country in Iraq during a pretty historic period.

Staff Sergeant Salazar also cites travel and the opportunity to experience different cultures as another benefit of service.

“Throughout my time in uniform, I’ve been able to travel all over the world and have been able to experience different cultures and people and realized that, even though we may have different beliefs and ways about ourselves, we are all really the same. My time in Iraq really provided me an amazing perspective on the world.”

Hard-hitting, hunh? Well, that's Woodward-and-Bernstein compared to this profile of JAG officer Captain Patrick Johnson (that's him in the pic).

In addition to the mutually beneficial relationship between the skills he receives during his Army training and those used in his civilian career, Captain Johnson has also benefited from the emphasis on character that the Army instilled in him during basic training—an important characteristic that has remained a constant thread as he continues to seek challenges and opportunities to be part of something larger than himself, both in his role as an Army Reserve officer and as a prosecutor for Spokane County.

“The Army really provided me with so many fundamental skills, from discipline and honor to the ability to make a difference in the world—skills that continue to play an important role in everything that I do in life. I know that, whatever the challenge or obstacle, I can find a way to overcome it—the Army taught me that...”

“I've never lost sight of the fact that I'm lucky to be in a country where I can advance myself as far as my ability and drive will take me. Serving in the Army Reserve makes me realize that I am ensuring that these opportunities continue for my children and my children’s children. It’s a pretty amazing when you think that generations down the line will experience the effects of what I’m participating in right now.”

And to think, that was an exclusive... just for me.

Radio, Radio -- Oh, and TV, too!

I don't think the panda comments made it into the segment -- they were still adjusting the microphone. And the Bible joke kind of fell on its ass. But I think my interview went well with BBC/public radio's "The World," regardless. The topic is the Pentagon's big review. And you can hear it Friday afternoon.

UPDATE 9:33 AM: Silly me. I forgot that I'm also going to be in a Discovery Military Channel documentary, which airs tonight. So tune in to "Warbots" at 8pm eastern and watch me make a fool of myself!

UPDATE 5:21 pm: The radio interview is online. Joins the Ranks

If you've followed the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan much at all, you've come across milblogs -- online diaries from troops on the front lines. There's no better way to get a sense of what life is like over there for the soldier, airman, sailor, or marine.

thunder6.jpgBut the joy of reading milblogs comes with a fairly substantial catch. The sites often pop up suddenly, disappear just as quickly, and feature new entries only when their authors can get around to it -- which isn't always regular in a warzone. All of which makes finding a good milblog pretty tough.

So I was psyched when Spc. Jean Paul Borda launched The site has a gi-mungous list of milblogs, sorted by military branch and country where the authors are stationed. Site visitors also vote for their favorite blogs, which makes finding the good ones a matter of a couple of clicks.

JP, who chronicled his own tour of duty in Afghanistan, clearly knows what he's doing. And, for his good work he's been given shout-outs by MSNBC, Newsweek, Army Times, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC radio, and others.

Now here's the best part, for me: JP and I are now cousins. Well, sorta. At least in that Internet way. That's because Chris Michel and the rest of the patriarchs at made the wise choice of bringing into the family.

Chris calls it a chance to "supercharge soldier-journalism." And he's dead-on. But there's more to it than that: With traditional journalists being targeted in Iraq and elsewhere, there's a huge void in war reporting -- a void which maybe only milbloggers can fill.

Now, hopefully, the Pentagon will let them do it. The higher-ups have been getting increasingly skittish about letting their troops speak to the world without a filter. Guys I know on duty in Iraq now have stopped blogging, due to warnings about violating operational security. They still send their stories by e-mail, of course, and the content isn't hush-hush in the slightest. Let's hope that guys like JP can convince them to start sharing their views of the battlefield with the rest of us, once again.

Ehud, Fidel, and Me

Jerusalem was gray on the March morning, twelve years back, when I met Ehud Olmert. He was the newly-installed mayor of the city then, not the country's acting prime minister. But like now, he was following a legendary figure -- Teddy Kollek, who had run Jerusalem for nearly thirty years, and built a big chunk of what we know of the city today. The consensus was that Olmert would never escape his predecessor's outsized shadow.

2world.gifA family friend, tight with the Likud party, had set up a meeting at the end of a month-long trip to the Middle East. I did my best to look respectable for the occasion, shaking out the wrinkles and dust out my backpacker's clothes. I wasn't particularly successful.

Olmert nodded to me from behind his desk as I was ushered into his expansive, airy office. Then he took a puff of a long, black cigar. It was about 8am or so, not normally when you think of people lighting up. I told him I liked his style.

"Oh, these? Fidel gave them to me last month. I have boxes of them," he said, reaching into a drawer, and handing me a fistful. "Here, take."

We started bantering. He struck me as bright -- very bright -- and mega cynical. He was suspicious about the handshake deal between Yizthak Rabin and Yassir Arafat that I had seen a few months earlier on the White House lawn. And he wanted every scrap of information he could get about Hillary Clinton.

But the cigar is one of the few specifics from the encounter that still comes through clearly. That, and Olmert's confidence. Other folks may have been doubting the new mayor's abilities. Olmert told me that morning that he'd be prime minister one day.

After about twenty minutes, it was over. I took a walk down Yaffa Street. And lit up one of my new Havanas.

Happy Anniversary, Dear Defense Tech

Three years ago today, I made one of the better decisions of my life. Guys like Josh Marshall and Glenn Reynolds and Gene Healy had convinced me to start a blog. But I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take the site in -- a general-purpose, where I could spout off about whatever, or a more focused site, where I could hone in on my emerging military technology beat.

happyanniversary.jpgFortunately, many friends and many relatives talked me into the right choice. Taking a page from Declan McCullagh, I called the site Defense Tech. And on January 6, 2003, the site went live.

With a war fast approaching, the site quickly gained traction. My little excursion to some of New Mexico's nuclear facilities generated additional interest. Within a few months, a couple of major media organizations were approaching me about buying up the site.

The talks went nowhere, though. And, once "mission accomplished" was declared in Iraq, traffic to the site dipped. By January 2004, only a thousand people a day were stopping by. I thought more than once about giving Defense Tech up. Without encouragement from Phil Carter and others, I probably would have quit.

By the summer, however, things started turning around. Constant links from folks like Alan Boyle, Xeni Jardin, and Joel Johnson kept people coming to the site -- almost four thousand, daily. And then, the acqusition talks started picking up again.

I had known -- and been impressed by -- Chief Chris Michel for years. That respect shot through the roof once I saw him in deal-making action. It took just a couple of days to agree to join up with him and

Another good move. Traffic went up to more than ten thousand people per day. Guys with stars and oak leaves on their shoulders began writing into the site. And, a whole crew of mega-talented writers started contributing to Defense Tech -- superstars like Jeffrey Lewis, Dan Dupont, David Hambling, Catherine Macrae Hockmuth, Jason Sigger, Murdoc, and David Axe.

The deal also let me focus more on long-form, magazine work. Which lead me to high-speed pursuits across Chicago's West Side. To the Army's drone school at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. And, of course, to Iraq and the Baghdad Bomb Squad. Thanks to Chris Anderson, Adam Rogers, and the rest of the Wired magazine crew for the opportunites. And extra-special thanks to my wife-to-be, Elizabeth Visceglia, for putting up with all those trips, with all those nights in front of the keyboard, and with all my many mood swings.

Today, Defense Tech has nearly thirty thousand people visiting daily. You rock, all of you. Your support means the world to me. I can't wait to see what happens in the next three years.

Four Star Blogger

During his talk at the IFPA "New Triad" Conference, General James "Hoss" Cartwright mentioned his blog.


How did I miss this?

Back in March, "Timmer" at The Daily Brief noted that General Cartwright had been "talking up his Command and Control Blog (you couldn’t get to it even if I did link to it)" and posted some guidance that Cartwright issued about not letting the chain of command get in the way the information he needs. (Another blogger, with the handle Sgt. Mom, noted that a blogging 4-Star isn't that odd.)

Any way, the story bumped around the blogosphere (for example) before petering out.

The Huntsville Times reported General Cartwright's blog in August after he mentioned it at the Annual Space and Missile Defense Conference.

Cartwright's comments -- as reported by Timmer and the Hunstville Times -- suggest that he "gets" the potential for blogging.

"The first thing that came out was 'Don't post anything on that blog without clearance from the commander,' " Cartwright said. "We had to beat that down."

The next firewall thrown up to Cartwright's blog were responses that came from only senior staff officers like captains and majors "giving me only what their commanders wanted me to hear," he said. "I called that the 'tethered goat' response and it wasn't all that helpful.

"What I wanted was information and context to help with decision making. I can't wait for the perfect advice," Cartwright said. "If there is a bad decision then that's on me. That's my responsibility."

Finally after "blowing the doors down and sitting on" the blog nay-sayers, Cartwright is getting what he wants from STRATCOM's Web tools, he said.

Of course, one doesn't become a flag officer (or anything else essentially political) without some skill at self-promotion, so grain of salt and all.

I know that (and Arms Control, where this is cross posted) get lots of STRATCOM traffic -- so, folks, I'd love to hear about how the STRATCOM blogs are working. Drop one of us a line:


-- Jeffrey Lewis

Not a Deal Maker, or an Arms Broker

I feel ridiculous even typing this. But enough companies have written in, asking me to help them market their products to the Defense Department, that I feel obliged to respond. Here's my answer, in a nutshell: no.

I received the latest come-on just a few days ago, from a company that claims to make radio frequency jammers.

...COMPANY is able to quickly produce most professional [customized] solutions for Every requirement of jammers, the best in the world, and most competitive in terms of price. The only issue is that currently we don't have yet connections with the US Military.

Can you help us make the US Army immediately aware of our superior capabilities ? because we understand that there's an immediate top-urgent requirement of Professional IED Jammers for the US Army troops in Iraq. Needless to say that if you help us in this matter you (or your organization) will be highly compensated for the same.

Your prompt response will be very appreciated. Thank you very much in advance...

Look, I'm a journalist. Not a deal maker. And not an arms broker. I'm happy to consider writing about your product, whatever it is. But I'm not about to start lobbying the government to take the technologies I cover. That would pretty much shred whatever last little bit of credibility I still have. How could I appear to be an objective observer if I'm pimping gear behind the scenes? So, please, do everyone a favor -- no matter how revolutionary and awesome your new doodad is: back off.

Make Noise, DC

I'll be in and around the District from Thursday to Monday. So if you work on the Hill or in that five-sided building or some place like that, and want to link up, drop me a line at defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org. There's some talk of drinks Thurdsay night, too. Details to follow.

Gunshot Detector and Other "Ideas"

The New York Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas" issue is out today. And I wrote up three of the ideas inside:

* "The Crawl" Makes You Stupid

* Microblindness

* Sonic Gunman Locator, The

Unfortunately, the online versions of these articles all cut off the last paragraphs of what are already short stories. The stories have been fixed. So I'll paste the full text of the "Sonic Gunman Locator" below. (And yeah, I know the thing came out in 2004. But the Times didn't feel like quibbling over details.) Let me know if you guys want to see the full texts of the other ones.

11sonic.650.jpgThe bombs get all the headlines, but gunfire is also a constant threat to American troops in Iraq. Between the shattered buildings, the rubble piles, the swirling dust storms and the roaring Humvees, shooters can be very hard to find. The Pentagon's response: start equipping Humvees with technology that can automatically pinpoint where the shots are coming from.

One system, known as Boomerang, uses a bundle of seven microphones, each facing a different direction, mounted on top of an 18-inch pole. (Imagine a giant bouquet, with all the flower petals gone.) When a bullet flies by, creating a shock wave, each microphone picks up the sound at a slightly different time. Those tiny differences allow the system to calculate where the shooter is. (Boomerang also listens for the blast from the gun's muzzle, which reaches the system just after the bullet's faster-than-sound flight.) Inside the Humvee, a recorded voice buzzes through a dashboard speaker, announcing the shooter's position - "Shot 10 o'clock! Shot 10 o'clock!" - and an analog clocklike display indicates the direction. Other information, like the shooter's G.P.S. coordinates, range and elevation, are also provided. "We're now accurate way beyond 500 meters," says Dave Schmitt, Boomerang's program manager at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Mass.

The Army has 25 Boomerangs in Iraq right now, and the Marines are readying an equal number for their next rotation of troops. Schmitt sees a domestic market for the devices, as well. Already, Chicago is coupling gunshot detectors to security cameras, which are hung in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods. The idea is that when shots are heard, the camera will automatically turn in the direction of the gunfire -- giving police and ambulance dispatchers a glimpse of the scene before cops or EMTs are sent out. G.I.s won’t get that kind of advance warning, of course. But they’ll settle for a little information, just after the fact.

Axe Heads Back to Iraq

DAVID AXE.JPGSuperstar Defense Tech contributor David Axe has been to Iraq four times already, reporting for the Village Voice, C-Span, and others.

Now, he's headed back to the big sandbox for his longest trip yet -- three months, to hang with soldiers, seabees, and marines stationed all across the country. If all goes well, he'll be filing exclusive dispatches for Defense Tech along the way.

Good luck, David. Keep your head down. And make sure that helmet stays on straight.

Comments are Back On...

...So start talkin'.

Anniversary, Sorta

A year ago yesterday, Defense Tech officially sold out the Man began its fruitful partnership with Since then, the site's been visited more than six million times. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by. And extra-special thanks to Chris Michel and everyone at, for putting up with my B.S.

THERE'S MORE: I always forget to mention this, but Defense Tech comes in a weekly-ish e-mail form, too. This won't be of much use to daily site visitors. But you once-in-a-while people may want to sign up for the mailing list here.

Veterans' Day

Today is Veterans' Day. And I can't think of a better way to honor the people who have served than by donating a few dollars to Project Valour-IT. It's a fund-raising effort, to provide "voice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at major military medical centers."

Once you're done giving, check out has set up a special site dedicated to America's 26 million living veterans. On it, folks who've served can find old buddies, get career help, and read war letters from every conflict in U.S. history.


107,000 visits in three days? Sweet!

That comes on the heels of another record-breaking month, with 663,000 visits and 1.55 million page views. Which is more than four times the traffic Defense Tech was getting just a year ago.

Thanks so much for coming by and hanging out with me. I'm flattered. And kind of blown away.

BBC Bombers

You can hear me on today's edition of BBC/public radio's "The World," blabbing about the Baghdad bomb squad.

THERE'S MORE: The interview is now online, here.

London Calling (and Leeds, Too)

The+Clash.jpgI'm on my way to the U.K., to give a liitle talk at Jane's 8th Annual Less-Lethal Weapons Conference. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some blogging from the show -- "Pharmacological Non-Lethal Weapons," anyone? "Vortex Rings?" "Attenuating Energy Projectiles?"

Anyway, if you're going to be in Leeds (where the confab is being held) or in London (where I'm going to hang out for a few days afterwards) gimme a shout: defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org.


Thanks to Noah and all the readers for a fun week. I'll have one more post -- a bit of light weekend fare -- in a few minutes, but I'm officially signing off now. I hope to do this again some day. Meanwhile, keep up with the folks via the INSIDER (it's free), and if homeland security is your thing, try the new Homeland Defense Watch (also gratis).

-- Dan Dupont

Ft. Irwin, Where You At?

Hey, guys. Noah here. I'm going to be hanging out at Ft. Irwin, CA for the next few days. If you're stationed there, gimme a shout: defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org.

Shock & Awe Redux has revamped its already impressive Shock & Awe site.

If you haven't seen it -- I hadn't before today -- it's worth a look. It features raw video footage and pictures of combat scenes -- and some far less serious stuff, like pages devoted to tattoos and the time-honored tradition of nose art.

Highlights include the car-off-the-carrier photo at left, of unknown provenance. And video clips showing what not to do, like this one. (But you may have to register first.)

And then there's this.

-- Posted by Dan Dupont

Wanted: AUSA

Anyone going to next week's Association of the U.S. Army convention in DC? I can't make it. But I'd be psyched to have a set of eyes check out the event on Defense Tech's behalf. E-mail me at defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org if you're interested.

Defense Tech vs. "The World"

You can hear me stammering through another interview on BBC/Public Radio International's "The World" this afternoon. I'll be talking about my favorite $450 billion science project.

THERE'S MORE: It's online now, here.

Dark Day Remembered

For the 4th anniversary, has put together a round-up of 9/11 related news The Times, meanwhile, has posted a heartbreaking series of pictures from Ground Zero. The Counterterrorism Blog is not to be missed, either.

Katrina: Drive for Five

redcross.jpgIt's no secret that one of the keys to any rescue effort is money. And the folks in Louisiana and Mississippi need our help, bad.

So I'm asking Defense Tech readers to come up with five thousand dollars over the next five days to give to the Red Cross or to Mercy Corps. Click here or here to donate.

I've just made the first contribution: a thousand dollars, which ain't easy on a freelance writer's budget. Now, you guys come up with the other four grand. Once you've donated, drop a note in the comments section to say how much you've given.

Let's do this.

THERE'S MORE: You guys rock. As of 11pm on Monday, you've given $4605 -- $605 more than the goal I set, with a day to spare. Can we get another $400 in that remaining day?

AND MORE: Wow. $1140 on Tuesday, bringing the total to $5745. Add in my G, and this "Drive for Five" just netted $6745. Anybody wanna make it an even seven grand? Seventy-five hundred?

AND MORE: I'd be a pretty lame fiancee if I didn't give a shout-out to the future Mrs. Defense Tech, for donating a thousand bucks of her own. Thanks, Lizzie!

AND MORE: Seven hundred more as of Thursday noon -- five bucks south of $7500, on other words. Anyone for a group hug?

Katrina: Relief Links

My brother Dan was one of the lucky ones; he left New Orleans long before Katrina made landfall. But even the fortunate, like him, have no idea whether they will have homes or jobs when they return -- and may not know for weeks, or even months.

Dan is about to start the 1400-mile drive to our folks' house, to wait things out for a while. Many others don't have that luxury. Give to one of the charities linked here.

I Doubt This is True...

...But it's still nice to hear, anyway.

"You're usually right, more so than most, and I *do* read your site. Everyone at the Pentagon does, from time to time."

- anonymous Defense Department official

Blog Beg: DarpaTech

It pains me to say so, but I'm going to have to miss the mystery and majesty that is DarpaTech 2005. Yes, the every-18-months confab of the Pentagon's Q branch and its associated mad geniuses will have to go on without me this year. But I still want to know what's going on. So if you're planning on hoofing it out to Anaheim next week, shoot me a note at defense-AT-defensetech-DOT-org.

Back on the Beeb

I'll be back on BBC/Public Radio International's "The World" this afternoon, talking about the technologies used to catch the London bombers.

THERE'S MORE: Well, whadya know. The New Republic was pressed enough for copy to give the site a shout out in its July 25th issue. Somewhere, my grandfather Leon is smiling.

Noah Hearts Dan, Jim, Jeffrey

So I'm back from Iraq -- the previous post was actually written a few days ago. And hot damn, was this blog good while I was gone. Dan Dupont, Jeffrey Lewis, Jim Lewis: Thank you so much.

If you haven't been checking in regularly while I'm gone -- and shame on you, if that's the case -- here's a little smidgeon of what you missed:

- Punk at the Pentagon

- Moon Shine

- Supercaviation-alisticexpealidocious

- Brilliant Pebbles Returns

- Fun with Nuclear Targeting

- FCS Jitters

- What, no Blimps?


Many thanks to Noah for asking me to sit in for a week. It's been fun. Next week you'll be in the hands of a real blogger, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, also known as the Arms Control Wonk.

nsa.gifA few things I couldn't get to:

* The Pentagon's homeland security growing pains

* The Quadrennial Defense Review

* The GamePipe Laboratory and its director, Michael Zyda

* Grand Theft Pentagon (subtle, it ain't)

* And one more for the kids

Stay safe, Noah -- and everyone else over there. Out here.

-- Dan Dupont


DSCF0386.JPGI met Elizabeth Visceglia in 1997, and fell in love with her approximately two hours later.

Last week, on a sugary beach on Mexico's Caribbean coast, I finally worked up the guts and good sense to ask her to marry me. She said yes, taking my grandmother's engagement ring from 1940.

Back at the hotel, we celebrated with rum.

Murdoc and Jason, You Rock

Man, I should go away more often. Murdoc and Armchair Generalist Jason Sigger did a kick-ass job guest hosting Defense Tech last week. I don't know about you, by I learned a boatload -- and had a ton of fun -- reading through their posts. A few favorites:

* R2D2 vs. Mortars

* It's Just a Box

* A Rose by Any Other Name

* We Can Make Them Stronger

* The Navy's FCS

Come back soon, guys!

Hola, Murdoc y Jason. Adios, Noah!

tulum.jpgI'll be bouncing around the Yucatan penisula next week, snorkling and getting drunk (hopefully not at the same time). While I'm south of the border, two highly capable guest bloggers will be in charge at Defense Tech HQ:

- Jason Sigger has more than a dozen years as a DC-area chem-bio analyst.

- Murdoc is "just a guy," but one with a super blog that was a best military site finalist in 2004's Weblog Awards.

Treat 'em nice. You can start by e-mailing the dynamic duo tips and site suggestions here. Adios!

Milbloggers' Rules

American generals in Iraq have handed down their rules for military bloggers. They seem surprisingly fair.

It wasn't that long ago that Spc. Colby Buzell was banned from patrols and confined to base for what he wrote on his blog. Today, that might not happen.

"Personal web sites and web logs produced in a personal capacity and not in connection with official duties need not be cleared in advance," the new rules read. "However, it is the responsbility of MNC-I [Multi-National Corps Iraq] personnel to ensure that any personal web sites and web logs do not contain prohibited information" -- classified and for-official-use-only material, basically.

Commanders are supposed to review the blogs on a quarterly basis. "Risk of release of the information must be weighed against the benefits of publishing," the chiefs warn. What's more, "servicemembers in violation of this policy may be subject to adverse administrative action and punishment under the UCMJ [Universal Code of Military Justice]."

Phil Carter, who passed on the rules to me (and others) thinks "this policy strikes a pretty good balance, especially to the extent that it refrains from 'prior restraint' [pre-publication review]. However, a lot continues to depend on the willingness of commanders to allow these blogs, and the extent to which they exercise their lawful authority… to quash them."

(Big ups: Argghhh!)

THERE'S MORE: Milblogger CDR Salamander ain't too happy, however.

Having your Chain of Command have complete knowledge and access to your webpage/blog and/or postings on other internet based publishing media will put a damper on primary source reporting, opinion, and information flow we are used to in the quick, honest, unvarnished manner we have become accustomed...

Let me tell you what this means to me: If/when I go to the MNC-I AOR [Area of Responsibility], CDR Salamander will go cold iron. That is the only way I can keep CDR Salamander anon and brash as it is and not violate a lawful order. No other option.

On a macro scale, simple Freakonomics will tell you that this burden will result in fewer blogs and diluted content.

Defense Tech 3.5

Weekend re-post: There have been a bunch of changes to the site, all of 'em pretty good, I think.

COMMENTS. They're right on the site, instead on the Overlords' forums. So you can now tell me what an idiot I am without registering for!

CATEGORIES. Check out two years of ray gun rants with a single click.

HEADLINES. All the military news that's fit to... uh, squeeze inside an inch-and-a-half box.

NEW SERVER. Less time to wait for your drone fix.

MORE ADS. Gotta pay the rent, somehow...

(Big ups: Tom McIntyre, Sherwin Techico, Paola Cerioli, Dennis Watson, Justin Uyemura, David Grayson, Chris Michel, and the whole family. Plus everyone who made suggestions about what to improve!)

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, the family is encouraging everyone to click on over to Packages from Home.

As many of you know, American troops in the field often have to dig into their own pockets to buy the most basic supplies -- stuff like sun screen and Gatorade mix and good t-shirts. Packages from Home puts together boxes of these items, as well as snacks and books and phone cards; anything, really, to make soldiers' time overseas go a little bit easier.

It only takes a minute or two to donate a couple of bucks to the group. Or, if you live in Arizona, you can drop off your goods at one of the locations listed here.

: Winds of Change has put together an exhuastive list of aid organizations.

Defense Tech + CNNi

CNN International has made the mistake of booking me a guest tonight, at 7:45pm EDT. I'll be talking about my story in next month's Wired, on the U.S. military's new wave of drone pilots.


SA_spotlight_050510.jpg...plug's tooth-shaking Shock & Awe flicks and vids site. They didn't have to. Even if you skip the raw footage of helictopers colliding in mid-air or Maverick missiles taking out insurgents in Mosul -- and those clips are definitely not for the timid -- the giant archive of military tattoos alone is worth a click.


Armchair Generalist went foraging through the University of Bradford non-lethal weapons report I mentioned yesterday, and found himself a little chestnut from the Pentagon's PR department...

Over lunch on the first day of the conference a representative from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs discussed strategies to counteract critical viewpoints of the non-lethal weapons programme in the media. She encouraged those present to keep repeating a positive message particularly when there was a negative story published, and not to shy away from commenting. If there was negative coverage about an important programme that could be derailed by the general public or congress then they would ‘really go after them’, she said. She indicated that officials would give increased information access to ‘bread and butter military journalists’ as opposed to the ‘60 minutes type journalists’ in return for more positive coverage. She also advocated a strategy of targeting military analysts working for various news media and getting them on message. She admitted, however, that they ‘still don’t know how to handle the bloggers’. (emphasis mine)


I'm meeting on Thursday with my overlords, to review Defense Tech's first six months under their iron-fisted but eminently fair regime.

So tell me: How's it going? What are we screwing up at Defense Tech HQ? What are we doing right? What would you like to see more of, and what do you want stopped ASAP?

Post a quick suggestion to the forum, or send your detailed, ten-point plans for top-to-bottom overhauls to


The overlords at has come up with another cool app -- a Google-powered search that lets you "find everything military." That means hunting for guys in your old unit, combing through .mil websites, and digging for post-service jobs just got a whole bunch easier. End of plug.


For some reason -- probably just plain sloth -- I never seem to get around to linking to these top-notch blogs. That'll change, starting now. Say hello to Airborne Combat Engineer, Murdoc Online, Armchair Generalist, Winds of Change, and the wickedly-funny Ace of Spades. Interesting reads, all. I don't agree with everything these folks say. But I sure do like how they say it.


The fine folks at the Project on Government Oversight want to hear from soldiers who've served in the controversial Stryker armored vehicle. Give 'em a shout at


I'm slowly starting to put together a story on explosive ordnance disposal, or E.O.D. If you or any of your buddies have ever been in the bomb-defusing business, give me a holler: It'll all be kept off-the-record, unless you tell me otherwise.


Overzealous military marketeers; ships and sailors in matching shark-skin outfits; and what border vigilantes are really all about. That's just a taste of what they're debating on the Defense Tech forum right now. If you haven't checked it out in a while, go click on over. You'll be glad you did.


I'll be on Inside Edition tonight, talking about the rash of iPod thefts in New York. Plus: "Hilary Swank Started Something! Women Are Transforming Their Bodies By Boxing."


You guys kick ass. March was the best month yet for Defense Tech, with over 533,000 super cool visitors clicking on 985,000 pages. Thank you so, so much. Now, get back to work.


ok_small.jpgLaziness wasn't the reason -- or, at least, wasn't the only reason -- for the paltry posting this week. I was also staying in charming Tombstone, Arizona, on assignment for Wired.

Starting today, blogging should resume its normal pace. If I can get my ass in gear, that is.


It ain't easy, blogging from the front lines. Keeping a website up isn't exactly the top priority under fire. And what's written often leans towards boosterism -- especially when the brass tends to clamp down on the more unvarnished depictions of military life.

But I've stumbled across a trio of U.S. Army bloggers in Iraq that I think are worth a read. With moving, you-are-there descriptions of military life, pictures from the battlezone, and ruminations on the big questions that war raises, Major K, Thunder6, and Lieutenant C are extremely clickable. And, since all three are from the same batallion, readers get the benefit of three sets of eyes on the same questions and situations. Good stuff.


Our friendly overlords have put up a new set of forums so we can chat away. The revamped discussion boards sure look a lot better than the old ones -- and they seem more stable, too. Click on over, and let's gab. Think of it like Coffee Talk, but with guns.


The bosses here have come up with a nifty little application for the military-minded: a toolbar that gives one-click access to defense headlines, photos and videos from the site's "Shock & Awe" grab bag, and discounted gear for service members. Click here to check it out.


34! Send flowers!


Showing a stunning and ongoing lapse in judgement, the producers over at BBC/Public Radio International's "The World" continue to have me on the program to talk about defense geekery. The topic this time: space war.

Dr. Evil was mentioned. And so was Ronald Reagan. Pete Townsend, unfortunately, was not in attendance for today's talk. Maybe next he'll return for the next episode.


Yesterday, Defense Tech pal Adam Penenberg was reckless enough to invite me down to his business and economics reporting class at NYU's journalism department. I blabbed for a while about my adventures in blogging, and about the manifold ways I had managed to piss my editors, readers, and fellow writers off.

Miraculously, all of the dozen-or-so the students were able to stay awake through the blather (although for a young woman sitting to my right, it seemed like a pretty serious struggle). Even more remarkable were the questions the students asked: BS-free queries about how a writer develops a beat, finds material, and maybe even makes a few bucks in the process.

Adam has the class group-blogging right now. And the results are pretty impressive -- about a thousand times better than the drivel I tried to pass off as journalism in college. Go give 'em a click.


I'll be on the public radio show Future Tense today, talking about the Pentagon's high tech ways to stop jury-rigged bombs. (Here's a link that'll take you straight to the interview.)

THERE'S MORE: I've also got a short article in today's Times, about a new generation of music mixing software, for mobile phones.


If I sounded a little distracted during my interview on Tuesday's edition of "The World," the BBC/Public Radio International show, there was a reason: shock. Because while I was mumbling about the Pentagon's so-called budget cuts in the BBC's cramped studios on Broadway, a hero of mine was sitting in the next booth over.

He'd seen better days – better decades – clearly. His eyes were puffed and heavy; bags dropped most of the way down his cheeks. His skin was saggy and full of lumps. A couple days' worth of gray gristle didn't make him look any more lively. Still, it took me only about a nanosecond to recognize him: Pete Townsend, guitar and songwriting god of The Who.

Now, when I was about thirteen or so, I didn't just like The Who. I came pretty close to worshipping them. Before my record collection had thirty LPs, Townsend's two records from the mid-80's were piled near Who's Next and Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. "My Generation" was the first bad-ass song I learned to play on bass. I even went to a Roger Daltrey solo show at Madison Square Garden; Big Country opened the bill.

In the BBC studio, I smiled a teenaged grin as I saw Townsend. And it took just about everything in my power not to go up to the booth's glass and start doing Townsend's signature windmill strum. But I managed to resist. And as I tested my mic levels, the engineer kindly pumped in Townsend's interview into my headphones; he was discussing a pink Stratocaster guitar.

My interview quickly got underway. As I answered a question about the Raptor stealth fighter, Townsend backed away from his microphone, put on his coat, stood up, and walked out the door.

I sang "Behind Blue Eyes" the whole way home.


I'm in Washington this week. And to celebrate, me 'n the Arms Control Wonk are going to have some beverages at the venerable Fox & Hounds pub. Come knock back a few with us, if you're interested, next Tuesday, the 18th, starting around 8pm.


Thanks to all of the people who offered their assistance, their advice, and their words of sympathy when the Defense Tech database went kablooey. You guys rock, all of you.

A few folks veered far, far out of their way to make sure this site got back online in a hurry. Tom McIntyre and Salim Madjd at, Xeni Jardin, John Batelle and the Boing Boing crew, and Anil and the fine folks at Six Apart -- I owe you all hugs and booze. Gallons of it.


Re-runs: not just for television any more! Defense Tech is proud to bring to blogdom the time-honored tradition of recycling fare from the past year, to fill up an otherwise fallow 52nd week.

We'll tackle a different topic each day, staring this morning with drones. Check back in every day for more Defense Techlicious goodness. And don't forget to visit the forum here, where (original, non-recycled) debates are raging on everything from Iraq strategy to ray guns to real-life exoskeletons.


Any time the phrases "robo-crappie," "stealth, my ass," and "the good weed" are all used in a week at Defense Tech, I know the site has had itself a good run. So let's give Dr. Jeffrey Lewis big, sloppy, wet kisses for his briliant guest blogging last week. And be sure to visit the good doctor at his regular online home for national defense rants, Arms Control Wonk.


I'm going to Jamaica for a week, for some hiking, snorkeling, and horticultural research. But the Defense Tech HQ won't be closed while I'm away. Instead, the supremely qualified Dr. Jeffrey Lewis will be at the helm.

Jeffrey is a Research Fellow at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. He lectures around the world on defense issues. And for years, he's been the guy you turn to, for the nitty-gritty on the Pentagon's programs for combat and surveillance in space. Only folks on Rummy's payroll get deeper into the Defense Department's ledgers.

Jeffrey is also a hell of a writer, contributing to Defense News, Arms Control Today, and other security-minded publications. His breezy, catty blog, Arms Control Wonk, is on my daily must-read list. I steal from him as often as I can.

Jeffrey will be taking your tips, comments, and profanity-laden insults at defense AT defensetech DOT org. Please, make him feel at home.


It's no surprise, what with the move to, that traffic to the site would be up. But this is ridiculous.

366,482 of you beautiful people made visits here in the last month, taking a look at 637,727 pages. That's more than double the traffic from the month before. I'm floored. Thank you so, so much.


topolm.jpg- Russia is leaning more and more on its nuclear weapons, as its conventional military falls into the toilet.

- Fallujans looking to return home are going to have to give up DNA samples, get their retinas scanned, and wear special badges constantly.

- Scientists have grown a "brain" from a rat embyro's neural cells, and taught it to fly an F-22 jet simulator.

- Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis tears the Bush administration a new one, over the White House's ten-thumbed attempts to bigfoot the International Atomic Energy Agency.


I'll be yammering about gun-toting robots, on today's edition of BBC Radio's "The World." The interview should be online after 5pm eastern, or so.


spamkings.gifMaybe it's because my e-mail account has been hijacked by spammers recently, leaving me to clean up the mess when a zillion people get hit with advertisements for "Unlimited Free Music," "Hot Deals from Adobe," and "Moms Ready to Cheat." But boy, did I like my weekend read, Brian McWilliams' Spam Kings.

Brian has been one of my favorite freelance writers, ever since he hacked his way into Saddam's in-box two years ago. I must have tried a dozen times to get him to write for Defense Tech. But he always demurred.

Now I know why. He was too busy cataloguing the exploits of backwoods neo-Nazis, shady stock-pickers, and sexy anti-spam crusaders.

The result is breezy, naughty fun, with deeply-flawed good guys and painfully-human villians. Think Dominick Dunne, edited by the geeks at Slashdot. Good stuff.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to get these spammers to stop using my e-mail...


spamkings.gifMaybe it's because my e-mail account has been hijacked by spammers recently, leaving me to clean up the mess when a zillion people get hit with advertisements for "Unlimited Free Music," "Hot Deals from Adobe," and "Moms Ready to Cheat." But boy, did I like my weekend read, Brian McWilliams' Spam Kings.

Brian has been one of my favorite freelance writers, ever since he hacked his way into Saddam's in-box two years ago. I must have tried a dozen times to get him to write for Defense Tech. But he always demurred.

Now I know why. He was too busy cataloguing the exploits of backwoods neo-Nazis, shady stock-pickers, and sexy anti-spam crusaders.

The result is breezy, naughty fun, with deeply-flawed good guys and painfully-human villians. Think Dominick Dunne, edited by the geeks at Slashdot. Good stuff.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to get these spammers to stop using my e-mail...


I've got a story in today's New York Times, about blogs and charities. It starts like this:

People already knew Alan Nelson; they had been reading his Web log for more than a year. So when Mr. Nelson, a 35-year-old management consultant and a co-founder of the widely read Command Post site, started asking for donations to support a California mother of 13, the money came fast and quick from all over the Internet. After two and a half days, Mr. Nelson raised more than $15,000.

It became a model for Mr. Nelson, and for many in the mushrooming community of online diarists known as bloggers.

For years, bloggers have been building bonds with their readers by sharing everything from their opinions on Iraq to pictures of their cats. Mr. Nelson is part of a diffuse effort to turn that trust toward a higher purpose. He has put together a new blog coalition, Strengthen the Good, to focus attention on microcharities, like that California mother. Other bloggers have adopted their own causes, from breast cancer research to ambulances in Israel to television stations in Iraq.

Mr. Nelson's efforts began in a rage. In a Minneapolis hotel room last May, he watched the grisly online video of Islamic militants beheading Nicholas E. Berg, the American contractor who had hoped to build communications towers in Iraq. Fuming in front of his laptop, Mr. Nelson readied himself to write a red-faced screed in response.

But then he stopped. He remembered the documentary he had finished watching a few moments before, about Susan Tom, a California woman who had adopted 11 mentally and physically disabled children, in addition to two of her own. Instead of railing against the awful act in Iraq, Mr. Nelson announced that all donations to the Command Post's online "tip jar" would go to a trust to pay for the Tom children's education.

Soon, Ms. Tom began to hear from Mr. Nelson and his fellow bloggers. She was skeptical at first. "Lots of people promise things that don't come true," she explained. But then the pledges started coming. "I was overwhelmed," she added. "Most of these people, they didn't know me. They hadn't seen the movie. Most people, they just took Alan's word."


It never ceases to amaze, the trenchant and well-reasoned commentary that fills our servers here at Defense Tech HQ. One recent example:

This is an important issue proposed for your attention. Please consider it carefully and with much gravity as should it prove accurate, it may be of greatest national importance. A. That, there 'is' a regularly occurring abusive use of space and land-based spy surveillance systems within boundaries of the United States. Such systems are occasionally of a 'loose-cannon,' that is 'ungovernable by the citizenry,' nature. That use of such systems, particularly those producing both 'audible' and potentially more importantly 'subliminal' audio signals may be causing severe psychological stresses within the population of the country. Also! , surveillance system audible signals may often be heard by much of the United States populace. Local police departments, national law enforcement or the like may perpetrate such signals. But, that a majority of citizenry are unaware that they may be hearing such surveillance systems. Such, or otherwise might be a sort of psychological denial of a possibility that such systems may in reality be turned to use against them, although such may not necessarily be perpetrated in malicious fashion, 'for the most part.' There is a chance that law enforcement and, or private security organizations often do not realize the ability of some people to 'audibly,' that is, 'non subliminally,' hear systems as such targeted individuals are under surveillance. Such, though subliminal nonawareness may be far more detrimental to the public's health. It may prove true that police department personnel might be joking or playing audio games they are themselves unaware can be heard by targets, thus! , with citizenry they suspect of being nonacceptable for whatever reason. Such behaviors on the parts of any such law enforcement personnel must not be tolerated in any manner, and be subject to the strictest and harshest of Federal rules and laws. There must exist no allowance for any sort of psychological programming or reprogramming through use of surveillance systems...The potentially most worrisome forms of such systems are those based in space. This is because they might be used to blanket large areas of the country with subliminal programming, or to covertly have psychological, thus, 'duress' access to individuals or groups that would otherwise be secure from governmental, corporate or criminal intrusion. Should such be occurring, it might prove to be the most malicious form of citizenry maltreatment by government or otherwise, violating constitutional and civil rights at will. Should 'criminal' mob-like organizations be using such tactics nation-wide, then our country may be in the grip of a great national emergency, if not! a disaster of epic proportions.


fcs_tank_teeny.jpg- Roland Piquepaille crawls under the hood, with the vehicle electronics of the Army's Future Combat Systems.

- Miami police blow a fuse, and taser a six-year old kid.

- Arizona researchers get misty, using peroxide vapor for airplane decon.


Frank Barnako, the "Internet Daily" columnist for CBS Marketwatch, was kind enough to interview me on the move to Here's a snippet:

Do you write for yourself or the reader?

Sometimes both. I think it comes out best when I write for myself. And I try to let my own sense of urgency and my own sense of cool guide me.

What's more critical, content or opinion?

I think content. The Internet is full of people who will rant and rave with no facts behind them. So with the stuff I am doing, content is more important. There is a tendency in the mainstream press to just gawk and drool over the latest hardware idea without really looking at what its real capabilities are, how close it is to actually happening. That's why I think content trumps opinion.