A Ban Too Far?

And it hasn’t even been released yet.

Sales of ‘Medal of Honor’ video game blocked on U.S. military bases

Small victory,” was all it said on the subject line of Karen Meredith’s e-mail.

But for the Silicon Valley military mom, who lost her son in the Iraq war, the decision this week by U.S. military base exchanges not to carry the controversial “Medal of Honor” video game was still great news.

“I’m thrilled,” said Meredith, whose son, Lt. Ken Ballard, perished in 2004. She has set off a storm of protest against Redwood City-based Electronic Arts and its “first-person shooter” game, which allows players to pretend they’re Taliban fighters killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. She applauded Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella, commander of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES, for the decision to keep the game out of its stores worldwide.

“I’ve heard from people all over the world, many of them upset about this game, so at least this has started a conversation,” she said. “And this country needs to have a conversation about the place of violent video games in our society, especially a game based on an ongoing war.”

Due out Oct. 12, “Medal of Honor” has drawn accolades from gamers and has been defended even by some U.S. soldiers. But it has unleashed howls of protest from families who have lost loved ones and even from Great Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox, who urged retailers to “ban this tasteless product.”

Electronic Arts spokesman Jeff Brown on Friday issued a statement that said in part: “The criticism of ‘Medal of Honor’ is disappointing because I can’t think of another interactive game that has gone to such lengths to convey respect for soldiers. From the very first day of development, the ‘Medal of Honor’ development team has been dedicated to creating an homage to the soldiers who fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

Saying EA feels “a deep sympathy and respect for the soldiers and people with family members killed or wounded in Afghanistan,” Brown wrote that “we don’t see a distinction between a film like ‘Hurt Locker’ and a game like ‘Medal of Honor.’ We don’t agree that it’s OK to depict the war in films and books, but not in games. We don’t see a moral difference.”

See also:
Taliban-Themed Multiplayer Gets EA’s “Medal of Honor” Banned on U.S. Military Bases
Military Exchanges Refuse to Stock New ‘Medal of Honor’ Video Game
Medal of Honor pulled from US military stores
Medal Of Honor Banned On US Military Bases
Medal of Honor not to be sold on US military bases
Medal Of Honor Pre-Orders Banned From Military Stores
Playing as the Enemy

I can understand the sensitivity but, in the end, it’s just a game. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to buy or play it.

/if you outlaw video games, only outlaws will have video games

All Your Jihad Are Belong To Geeks

How Team of Geeks Cracked Spy Trade

From a Silicon Valley office strewn with bean-bag chairs, a group of twenty-something software engineers is building an unlikely following of terrorist hunters at U.S. spy agencies.

One of the latest entrants into the government spy-services marketplace, Palantir Technologies has designed what many intelligence analysts say is the most effective tool to date to investigate terrorist networks. The software’s main advance is a user-friendly search tool that can scan multiple data sources at once, something previous search tools couldn’t do. That means an analyst who is following a tip about a planned terror attack, for example, can more quickly and easily unearth connections among suspects, money transfers, phone calls and previous attacks around the globe.

Palantir’s software has helped root out terrorist financing networks, revealed new trends in roadside bomb attacks, and uncovered details of Syrian suicide bombing networks in Iraq, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the events. It has also foiled a Pakistani suicide bombing plot on Western targets and discovered a spy infiltration of an allied government. It is now being used by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Yet Palantir — which takes its name from the “seeing stones” in the “Lord of the Rings” series — remains an outlier among government security contractors. It rejected advice to hire retired generals to curry favor with the agencies and hired young government analysts frustrated by working with slow-footed technology. The company’s founders knew little about intelligence gathering when they started out. Instead, they went on a fact-finding mission, working with analysts to build the product from scratch.

“We were very naive. We just thought this was a cool idea,” says Palantir’s 41-year-old chief executive Alexander Karp, whose usual dress is a track-suit jacket, blue jeans, and red leather sneakers. “I underestimated how difficult it would be.”

Technology like Palantir’s is increasingly important to spies confronting an information explosion, where terrorists can hide communications in vast data streams on the Internet. Intelligence agencies are struggling to identify and monitor such information — and quickly send relevant data to the analysts who need it. U.S. officials say the software is also crucial as the country steps up its offensive in difficult theaters like Afghanistan. There, Palantir’s software is now being used to analyze constantly shifting tribal dynamics and distinguish potential allies from enemies, according to current and former counterterrorism officials familiar with the work.

“It’s a new way of war fighting,” says former Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long. While there are many good systems, Ms. Long says, with Palantir’s software “you can actually point to examples where it was pretty clear that lives were saved.”

See also:
Spooks Heart Software for Rooting out Terrorists
Palantir Technologies
A conversation with Alexander Karp, CEO of Palantir Technologies
Alexander Karp

/just another example of the creative, nimble private sector entrepreneur running rings around the myopic, sloth like government bureaucracy