March 19, 2006

Open source translation

The Joint Reserve Intelligence Center of the US Foreign Military Studies Office has set up a web site from which anyone can download documents and transcripts of audio recordings from Iraq. According to the information on the Operation Iraqi Freedom Documents site itself and the press release issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the purpose is to make these materials accessible to the public.

Another view is that they are doing this in the hope that people who know Arabic will translate them and post the results, thereby alleviating the severe shortage of translators available to the US government. According to this Boston Globe article, some people are already doing this. This argument is undermined to some extent by the fact that they are only posting documents that do not contain classified material whose publication will not be harmful to innocent people, which means that they have all been read first. (Besides, won't it be a lot of work to exclude translations by gay people?) Yet another view is that they are releasing documents carefully chosen to support the Bush administration's case for war. A more paranoid interpretation would be that the site is a honeypot, meant to identify people who can read Arabic so that they can be detained and interrogated as suspected terrorists.

Posted by Bill Poser at March 19, 2006 06:28 PM