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24 October 2006

How other services may be solving their 21st century collection challenges…

Kombinat has evolved into a term coined to describe the murky linkages between Russian security services and business elements, whether official or (more often) through interlocking layers of corruption and organized crime (organizatsiya).

It is presumed that the Russians are facing the same kinds of collection challenges as every other industrial age bureaucracy forced to live in the information age against its will. The potential opportunities created by kombinat structures – part government, part criminal, part business have presumably not been entirely lost on the new generation of Russian intelligence officers; although the degree to which any official structure recognizes or utilizes these opportunities is quite uncertain. One can assume at the very least however that individual officers maximize any and all potential sources for personal profit.

The average Russian citizen is very much aware of this phenomena. In fact, it is nearly impossible to conduct any normal activity of modern life without a krysha (roof) – “protection” and facilitation services provided by organizatsiya and kombinat structures through extortion.

Thus, it is with no surprise that we view the alarmed reactions of the Russian user segment of the blogsphere in response to a dubious business decision by Six Apart, the owners of the popular blogging service Livejournal. Their fears are most certainly not unfounded.

And while one can easily dismiss the Livejournal service as home to angst-ridden teens writing reams of mindless fanfic before migrating to Myspace or Facebook; there are fascinating war stories regarding this service among the open source intelligence (OSINT) crowd, dating as far back as 2000 (long before its acquisition by Six Apart.) As one of the earliest readily available lightweight online publishing tools, it attracted for a brief time a number of early adopters. And in the course of the evolution of the community’s response, a number of boundaries had to be defined for this new thing, and those boundaries were rapidly tested.

Of course, if the Six Apart deal goes through; then the issue becomes a matter for deeper examination by the fine folks engaged in counterintelligence and information operations… which is where the “new economy” suddenly comes crashing into the otherwise cloistered mazes of the decidedly non-connected, non-technical, and deeply unhip. In other words, the rest of us…