Bloggers on the State Department using Google.

Bloggers on the State Department using Google.

Bloggers on the State Department using Google.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Dec. 13 2006 4:44 PM

The Other Google Bomb

Bloggers eat up a report that says the State Department's now getting its intelligence on Iran from Google. They also bridle at a Left Behind video game whose object is to convert non-Christians before the rapture, and they squirm about a stem-cell story out of the Ukraine.

The other Google bomb: After the CIA refused to share its list of Iranians involved in the regime's budding nuclear program, a junior foreign service officer at the State Department made his own using a different resource—Google. The United Nations has been using high-frequency hits produced by searching "Iran and nuclear" to determine who deserves a travel ban.

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Carolyn O'Hara at Foreign Policy's blog Passport writes, "Good work, everyone. There's nothing that says 'intelligence reform' less than relying on Google searches and refusing to share information between organizations. …. If the folks at State trust Google so much, perhaps they should check out what a search for 'failure' gets them."

"Normally you'd think this was just another case of government agencies functioning as islands and refusing to cooperate," notes John Little at "armed conflict" blog Chronicles of War, "but in this case the CIA actually had little to gain (sanctions? effective? please) and something, who knows how much, to lose. If you're going to play your hand you want results and nothing on the table, at this time, is going to give us that."

At least Google's results are consistent, argues Carah Ong, the Iran policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, at Iran Nuclear Watch: "Ironically, none of the 12 Iranians listed to be banned for international travel and business for their involvement in the country's nuclear activities are believed by the CIA to be associated with the project. Policymakers and intelligence officials have always struggled when it comes to deciding how and when to disclose secret information, such as names of Iranians with suspected ties to nuclear weapons."*

Lefty Mick at Witness for the Prosecution thinks the real lede was buried by the search engine: "What happened to State's Intelligence Dept? When Powell was Secretary, State Intelligence was a thriving, competent bureau with its own sources and resources. If it still exists under Rice, why wasn't this handed to them instead of some junior clerk and his Google skills? Did she disband it because it had embarrassed her husband President over the Iraq WMD deal? If so, that should have been front-page news and it wasn't."

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Read more about Googling Iran's nuke agents.

The passion of the joystick: A video game called Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which is based on Tim LaHaye and and Jerry Jenkins' controversial novels about the apocalypse, has ignited a firestorm over its virtual objective: to convert non-Christians or kill them before the Second Coming. * (You can play on the "anti-Christ's team," but you'll never win.) The game is currently carried in Wal-Mart outlets though many religious leaders and secular liberals are aghast and have started a petition to have it yanked from the shelves. Grand Theft Auto's got nothing on Jesus.

Rob at Pajamas Media affiliate Say Anything does not feel the Christ love: "The idea that you've got your kids playing a video game where they go around with guns converting people who don't agree with their line of religious reasoning just doesn't sit well with me. And it's not just the weapons and the killing either, but simply the fact that the video game classifies everyone who isn't evangelical as on the team of the 'anti-Christ.' "

Freelance writer Greta Christina sees a mammoth act of monotheist hypocrisy on the part of the game's manufacturers: "What I want to say is this: If there were a video game being sold in Iran and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, in which Islamic fundamentalist characters won by converting or killing non-Muslims, people in the U.S. would be having nineteen kinds of hysterics. The Christian right especially."

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Pastor Bob Cornwall at Ponderings on a Faith Journey is troubled by "the assumption that something as serious as faith can be made into a game, especially a game that instills the idea that its us against them. If we can't convert them, then we'll have to kill them. Doesn't that sound strangely similar to al-Queda?"

Read more about Left Behind: Eternal Force. Slate held a "Book Club" about the Left Behind books in 2000.

Stem-cell babies: According to evidence obtained by the BBC, newborn babies in Ukraine are being snatched from their mothers and killed for stem-cell harvesting. The network has obtained chilling video footage of infant postmortems, which suggest the practice is all too real.

Mike the Greek at The Waffling Anglican observes: "In some ways, this story has the earmarks of a wacko conspiracy theory. … On the other hand, the reason wacko conspiracy theories are so popular is that sometimes people really do conspire to do really bad things. Besides, the established reality is bad enough, with women essentially being paid to act as baby farms for stem cells."

Nancy Reyes, a retired physician living in the Philippines and contributing to Blogger News Network, isn't sure whether the story is an urban legend or a grim realiy, but "[t]he stem cells mentioned in the article are supposed to have been taken from abortions performed from three to eight weeks, and then divided into three groups depending where the tissue originated. Yet the safest technique of early abortion, using a thin tube with suction, would make it difficult to sort out where the tissues originated. Scientists also questioned how the 'new' cells blindly injected into a new body would live and grow, and were skeptical of the exaggerated claims of cures that had never been confirmed by outside sources."

Read more about Ukrainian stem cells.

Correction, Dec. 14, 2006: This article originally misspelled Carah Ong's name. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Correction, Dec. 19, 2006: This article originally referred to the Left Behind video game as Left Behind: Eternal Focus. Its correct name is Left Behind: Eternal Forces. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.