Category Archives: Security

“Humility Makes a Great Intelligence Officer”

Marc Polymeropoulous has published a new leadership book. He describes it as a revelation about his failures in the first two thirds of his career, which he then credits for making him into a good leader in the last third of his career.

These things stuck out for me in his CSPC interview (118 views):

He refers to intelligence like going to bat in baseball, where a .300 hitting average is great even though we know it’s a 70% rate of being wrong. I actually like this as I tend to define intelligence, especially artificial intelligence, as the ability to hit a target.

An example he gives of this is chilling, however, since Marc’s best agent in Afghanistan was tortured and killed because of a very simple and predictable operations mistake.

Maybe then the 70% failure rate in baseball is not really applicable more widely in other fields, especially high risk ones. Instead such standards of quality in sports are ok to be low because by design outcomes shouldn’t really matter — it’s just a game.

As Calvin and Hobbes put it a long time ago, next to their snowman made from only two balls, “the fastest route to success is lowering expectations”.

Something tells me the .300 might need to go way up to a number more like .900 when lives are on the line every day, because nobody should want to go to bat repetitively knowing they have an over 70% chance of death. But who in history has ever batted .900? That’s where gaining an upper hand using modern information warfare comes in, right?

Even more confusing is “employ the dagger”, a notion Marc offers the audience as evidence that “competition is good”. He says when officers did something desired he would award them a physical token of appreciation, a souvenir knife he’d buy at the market for $10.

In corporate circles this is a well-known tactic. Give people a snow globe after x years of showing up to work and they’ll work more, right?

In baseball I guess this is the idea that a coach could give out a $10 trophy bat for hitting a ball, instead of expecting the team to find enough satisfaction in achieving a 70% failure rate.

It’s thus interesting to see him conflate a well-tread concept of internal appreciation and reward systems to affect morale with a raw “good” of competition. What if the competition is toxic because teams are in fact killing each other instead of targets?

Something obviously sounds not right about generic praise of competition. Perhaps Marc is using some kind of over-compensation act (surrounded by hyper-competitive personalities in the killing fields) to cover up his softer anti-competitive leadership messages of inclusion and unity.

He’s obviously a master at fitting in. I wonder if him floating these ideas about 1) pointy sharp tool and 2) competition is meant to disguise his true message that is rather blunt and collaborative.

There is neither any uniqueness or shortage for such inexpensive daggers (hey, even I have at least TWO from my time in Nepal) nor any real scarcity to his approvals. Competition for an award and attention isn’t a fair description of any system that could operate just fine without using any competition (with each other) at all.

He goes on to say his leadership success grew by including more people into communications, a larger tent for collaboration. This suggests he valued the opposite of pressing everyone into competition (e.g. bringing finance officers and kitchen chefs into his planning).

From there he digs further and hits the empathy button hard, which takes the listener further from his opening salvo on competition culture.

In other words, he’s basically saying competition works if people are kind instead of selfish, aligned instead of oppositional.

His big tent mindset (he calls out nostalgically for everyone in competition to hold a sense of unity) combined with his points on empathy and repetitive reference to humility being a core ingredient for great intelligence… it all seems his love of competition comes with some pretty huge caveats.

Humility is presented as competitive advantage in intelligence — hitting a target without pride or arrogance, just like some African tribes have advocated for thousands of years.

When a young man kills much meat, he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man – and thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can’t accept this … so we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way, we cool his heart and make him gentle.

While Marc’s leadership advice sounds good in principle, there’s a moment in the interview where he boasts about delivering news of a successful assassination. Oops.

Such hubris about targeted hits not only is a swing and a miss according to his own doctrine, it’s unfortunately a widespread problem he could be making worse. Just look at some of the latest American Army PSYOP and Department of State messaging (while Frank Church rolls in his grave).

In all seriousness, how would baseball exist if hyper-competitive batters could assassinate a pitcher, sort of like how Walter “Steel Arm” Dickey was killed in 1923 with a dagger?

By the time he was 17, he was a pitcher who threw so hard and fast that he gained the nickname that followed him the rest of his life. […] “He was as good as I ever saw throw a baseball,” Roy recalled to James, “I remember one time that Steel Arm brought in his whole team to the dugout. No one was left except him and the catcher. He then struck out three straight men, daring them all the time to hit. They could not do it.

Such questions about lawfulness in competition bring to mind the lessons behind a song called “Move on Up” as well as a film called The Rubble Kings.

Humility in the context of American history in fact might serve as an excellent gateway into discussing rule of law being far more important to real success in intelligence than arbitrary displays of power.

As an afterthought, has anyone at the NSA ever said humility is a good thing?

China Claims U.S. Aircraft Carriers Can’t Hide From New AI on Satellites

A new report out of China suggests it’s using AI on satellites to find and constantly track U.S. aircraft carriers, rendering them easy prey.

When USS Harry S. Truman was heading to a strait transit drill off the coast of Long Island in New York on June 17 last year, a Chinese remote sensing satellite powered by the latest artificial intelligence technology automatically detected the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and alerted Beijing with the precise coordinates, according to a new study by Chinese space scientists.

This is a long predicted shift from “on the ground” processing power for analysis, working through logistics issues (e.g. bandwidth performance, data integrity), to instead doing “real time” analysis on-board sensors in the air.

A core tenant of aircraft carriers has been, of course, they sail hundreds of miles away undetected while unleashing massive airborne devastation.

The threat of constant tracking using new global sensor networks means in simple terms naval strategist have to expend far more effort to engage carriers safely.

Submarines and fast attack boats, beyond the reach of satellite technology and able to sail undetected more easily towards targets, become a more logical physical platform for launching airborne attacks from the sea. It’s the kind of thing both Iran and Ukraine have been proving grounds for lately.

Such developments mark a potential inversion of logic behind massive build-up of the U.S. Navy that stretch back to the 1980s. Allegedly a June 1977 dinner with Graham Claytor (Navy secretary under President Carter) led to a famous “Ocean Venture” exercise that reamins relevant even to this day.

Mr. Lehman notes, the U.S. fleet participated “in a sophisticated program of coordinated, calculated, forward aggressive exercises—all around the world.” The Soviets would thereby see that, with any aggressive move they made, “the might of the U.S. Navy would be off their coasts in a heartbeat.”

Over 250 ships and more than a dozen countries in 1981, then under the racist President Reagan, set out to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that a giant NATO alliance could achieve dominance of the sea such that Russia would not detect navies (aircraft carriers in particular) until it was too late.

That’s a premise China would like to believe they have finally shattered by following a long-coming trend of on-board image processing with inexpensive sensors in the air.

As a footnote on blustery news about advances in technology, if you dig into a “dominance” narrative of the U.S. Navy technology during the 1980s you’ll also find surveillance history gems.

For example, ships in the Norwegian fjords were trivial to spot visually when covered in snow (bright white) sitting in deep dark waters yet at the same time hard to detect with even the best radar of the day because sitting beneath mountains.

British aerial reconnaissance of German battleship Tirpitz, near Bogen in Narvik Fjord, Norway, 17 July 1942. Click to enlarge. Source: IWM

This was well known in WWII and of course still true when NATO ships closed in on Russia in the Norwegian waters decades later. Moreover, nobody had bothered to heat modern ship antennas so NATO sailors had to climb in frigid weather to remove ice with hand tools.

There’s technology… and then there’s ignoring history while deploying technology into a world of already experienced variables. That’s a huge hint about why China is probably wrong, given how bad AI tends to be when pressed into actual service.

The reality of big data security (e.g. vulnerabilities in AI due to trivial integrity flaws, made even worse by satellite platform limitations) is another way to look at this.

China is doing what should be expected. They follow easy and obvious trends in big data, moving analytics to the edge and improving the sensor resolution. Yet China (let alone Russia) isn’t particularly known for being able to handle adversarial creativity and the unexpected (possible perturbations to defy expectations).

Carriers may sail another day, in other words, just by returning to the lessons of a bold “Ace” Lyons deception maneuver — ignore academic theorists decrying the end of carriers in 1981 by flying a dozen jets 1,000 miles from the USS Eisenhower to surprise buzz adversaries right in the middle of their naval exercises.

[Soviets] were particularly taken aback by the prowess of our commanders at sea in cover and deception operations. To kill a ship you need to find it first, and our commanders stayed up nights thinking up ways to bluff, trick, hide, and conceal their forces at sea so that they couldn’t be found.

New Zealand Surveillance of Retailers Exposes Recycling Fraud

Trackers were affixed to expensive electronics to test retailer claims of recycling. A simple “fault” was created to see if anyone would take the five minutes needed to repair and resell a perfectly good device, but unfortunately they were sent to landfill instead.

“We now live in a world where nearly new appliances, and all the embedded resources contained in them and used to produce them can be thrown straight into a hole in the ground at the first sign of fault.” Smith said New Zealand was the only country in the OECD without a national e-waste scheme and its e-waste per capita rates was one of the highest in the world.

One would think the severe land constraints of islands would move the market naturally to make them leaders in landfill avoidance.

Unsafe by Design: More and More Teslas Catch on Fire

There have been hundreds of fires claimed due to Tesla cars, as many as 300 estimated. That’s incredible in itself. For context the Ford Pinto allegedly had a tiny fraction of that number yet caused international outrage.

More to the point, there are now at least 32 recorded fatalities due to Tesla fires. Ford infamously tried to argue there were as few as 23 killed by the explosive Pinto.

How many, if not all, of these Tesla tragedies were preventable and foreshadow higher future deaths (or should I say Ford-shadow)?

Why do Tesla fires keep happening so often without far more public and detailed investigations, explanations or recalls despite similarities to the Ford Pinto?

Here are some examples in the news just the last month:

May 14, 2022

Ruiz said he received a notification on his phone that the car alarm to his Tesla Model 3 was going off. He went outside to see his car covered in smoke. He opened the back door and was met with a wall of flames. The first thing to melt, he said, was his 4-month-old’s car seat.

May 16, 2022

NHTSA ID Number: 11466262
Consumer Location CINCINNATI, OH
…autopilot malfunctioned, causing the vehicle to inadvertently drive off the road, hit a tree, and then catch fire… autopsy report stated that his son died as a result of intense thermal heat and smoke inhalation.

May 19, 2022

A South Jersey motorist died Thursday night when his car ran off a highway, struck several trees and caught fire, authorities said. […] Sincavage died of his injuries and a 40-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries, police said.

May 20, 2022

Driver says car shutdown and he couldn’t open windows or doors as [“serious toxic threat”] smoke poured out his vents… “I kicked through the window and climbed out” [the car he had bought just a few months earlier].

Tesla in Vancouver spontaneously catches fire and traps the driver inside. Source: Autoevolution

May 23, 2022

Three cars were damaged in a Sunday 7:30pm fire at a Miami Tesla dealership that was caught on camera. […] Firefighters had to show up here not just once, but twice [returning at 2am Monday]. Neighbors had to call 911. Investigators say there was no foul play here.

May 23, 2022

A Tesla electric car with Missouri dealer plates burned to its chassis after hitting a fire hydrant…“It was challenging. It took a couple of hours, at least, to get the fire out.” [Brooklyn Deputy Fire Chief Mike Calhoun] said crews worked from 4:30 to about 7 a.m.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat

A Tesla hitting a fire hydrant full of water couldn’t seem to stop burning. I haven’t found any mention of that sad irony in the news, but some do emphasize the common fact that a Tesla fire will re-ignite for hours or even days.

In 2013 the manufacturer itself officially put it like this:

If the battery is breached, [firefighters] are told to cool it with very large amounts of water. Battery fires can take up to 24 hours to fully extinguish, according to Tesla.

“Very large amounts” eight years later is an increasing disaster, like this:

“Normally a car fire you can put out with 500 to 1,000 gallons of water,” Austin Fire Department Division Chief Thayer Smith said, per The Independent, “but Tesla’s may take up to 30,000-40,000 gallons of water, maybe even more, to extinguish the battery pack once it starts burning and that was the case here.” He added that “there is not any, at this point, any easily obtainable extinguishing agent on the market to deal with these [EV] fires.”

A recurring theme for years has been that fire crews struggle to extinguish Tesla hazards or predict when they will restart, despite all the training and massive expense to tax-payers helping safety crews prepare… the market is failing.

More firefighter distraction more of the time, with ever more water being sucked up more often is now a hallmark of a Tesla rolling into a neighborhood.

Consider also for a minute being a public servant in California distracted for three hours dumping over 20,000 gallons of water (over a month of typical fire department water usage) on this single car. Priority should be fighting wildfires during a drought to save society and instead here comes a “luxury” car manufacturer to reduce chances of survival.

I can only guess the expletives that fire fighters say when they see the environmentally disastrous Tesla on their roads, or even parked.

Maybe Tesla owners should have to pay an extra “fire department” waste fee, or be billed for being a sloppy water guzzler?

Tesla claims each fire is unique in order to avoid fixing the big underlying problem that keeps causing fires. Source:

The following news story is a good example of why all of this adds up to being a much bigger problem than Tesla ever seems to admit or take any real responsibility for…

June 12, 2022

Firefighters say the car was in a crash three weeks ago, that’s why it was parked in a junk yard in the first place. And then somehow it caught fire. Fire crews had to get creative and dig a hole to dump the car in it.

Source: NBC

Acceleration of Tesla fire risks

We’re seeing the opposite of what should be happening, despite a long runway to fix these well known and frequently reported serious fire issues.

Remember it was a year ago already that an infamous case reported a man paid $130,000 and three days after delivery his Tesla caught fire and trapped him inside fighting for his life. And that’s many years after high-profile fire during a test drive in 2016, and even longer since the string of fires among the first Teslas on the road in 2013!

Another Tesla Model S has caught fire after a crash. It’s the third widely-reported fire involving one of the all-electric plug-in luxury cars in just two months. All three fires involved some sort of accident. None of the fires occurred in undamaged vehicles, Tesla Motors pointed out.

Imagine Ford saying none of the Pinto fires occurred in undamaged vehicles. Absurd response.

Or imagine Ford saying that tragic Pinto deaths “involved some sort of accident”. No kidding.

Then ask yourself why Tesla has publicly said those things since 2013… as if the Pinto accident lessons meant nothing to Tesla management.

It displays utter contempt for human life. Like the CEO of Tesla trying to mass market (normalize) an illegal flamethrower as a toy at the same time his customers are being burned to death by fire in defective cars.

The sad fact is few people in the general public are in position to drive proper risk analysis and decisions about fire risks even in their own vehicles unless they bring some sense to a broken market (regulatory insight) as a whole. I’ve given many presentations about this going all the way back to 2016 when I correctly predicted Tesla would continue killing more and more people.

Great Disasters of Machine Learning: Predicting Titanic Events in Our Oceans of Math

Remove the incentives to overlook death tolls, add proper security analysis of the design and mitigation, and you get a clear view of danger. The risks quickly do not look “rare” as fires are preventable and far too common, which the string of news continues to prove easily.

Public over-dependence on what is ultimately very dangerous technology corrupts the process because too many are coerced into a death-trap automobile. It’s this coercive relationship, along with a no true Scotsman logical fallacy (e.g. false attempts to redefine every Tesla fire risk as unique instead of within a pattern) that the car manufacturer has peddled to avoid public scrutiny.

Ford perhaps more than anyone has proven this already, as they seemed shocked when journalists and lawyers began to convince Americans to care about fire risk and morality for a minute. Juries started to very clearly rule against the “last great unregulated business“.

Ford waited eight years because its internal “cost-benefit analysis,” which places a dollar value on human life, said it wasn’t profitable to make the changes sooner.

To be fair it wasn’t just eight years of disregarding the value of human life. Ford’s very existence hinged on well-documented extremist and hateful “cost-benefit analysis”. Nazi Germany even cited Ford as a man on their side, an inspiration to go to war against democratic government. Seriously, way back in 1925 Adolf Hitler mentioned only one American in his autobiography (Mein Kampf): Henry Ford.

The Americans serving jury duty eventually became so offended by evidence of Ford downplaying the significance of deadly vehicle fires (an obvious and odious failure of “self-regulation”) that punitive and even criminal charges were floated against the car maker.

Between 1971 and 1978, approximately fifty lawsuits were brought against Ford in connection with rear-end accidents in the Pinto. In the Richard Grimshaw case, in addition to awarding over $3 million in compensatory damages to the victims of a Pinto crash, the jury awarded a landmark $125 million in punitive damages against Ford…. On August 10, 1978, eighteen-year-old Judy Ulrich, her sixteen-year-old sister Lynn, and their eighteen-year-old cousin Donna, in their 1973 Ford Pinto, were struck from the rear by a van near Elkhart, Indiana. The gas tank of the Pinto exploded on impact. In the fire that resulted, the three teenagers were burned to death. Ford was charged with criminal homicide. The judge in the case advised jurors that Ford should be convicted if it had clearly disregarded the harm that might result from its actions, and that disregard represented a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct. On March 13, 1980, the jury found Ford not guilty of criminal homicide.

In other words the most important thing here is to not ignore any of these Tesla fires, and definitely not to falsely treat them as rare, because we have ample evidence they ARE HAPPENING MORE AND MORE GIVEN NO INTERVENTION / EXTERNAL REGULATION.

Henry Ford II, eldest grandson of Henry Ford and then head of the Ford Motor Company responded curtly. “Many of the temporary standards are unreasonable, arbitrary, and technically unfeasible,” he warned. “If we can’t meet them when they are published we’ll have to close down.” Despite these foreboding predictions, in the years since these safety measures were passed, the number of deaths from automobile accidents in the US has fallen from 5.50 per 100m vehicular miles travelled in 1966, to 3.34 in 1980. By 2015 that number was down to 1.12. Over that time, an estimated 613,000 lives have been saved. (A separate study puts the number at 3.5 million.) …well-designed regulations had the effect of helping national industries innovate and remain competitive internationally.

At the current rate the anti-regulation Tesla will perhaps end up accused of the criminal homicide that Ford escaped. Already we’ve seen Tesla owners charged with vehicular manslaughter by operating the vehicle in the manner promoted by the manufacturer, so why not bring charges for being unsafe by design?

Tesla can’t be trusted to figure this out

Here’s some speculation on why Tesla engineering is so poor and its fire problems are getting worse over time instead of better.

First, the effect of the Pinto precedent on gasoline cars has been that their fires almost never tend to be due to design flaws (less than 1%). There’s tons of research on this subject already.

That very important lesson and result apparently flew out the window when product managers at Tesla dis-regulated themselves. Basic engineering principles, basic ethics, were dropped and the exact opposite happened when Tesla brought yet another electric car to market.

Since 2013 the Tesla fires ALL are going in the opposite direction of progress, and somehow seem related to design flaws, including fire from crashes (e.g. proof they ignore the Pinto precedent).

A whipsaw from 1% of fires being from design flaws to something approaching 100% just because a car is electric should be seen as a B.F.D. in safety modeling. Electrical fires happening due to design is a HUGE indicator of something about to get much worse much faster because the safety norm saving lives since the 1980s just died in a Tesla fire. It’s like the Tesla CEO took the exact wrong lesson from Henry Ford news.

Source: NYT

Seriously, Ford backed Hitler.

Fast forward and it’s surely no accident that the allegedly racist Elon Musk brags “he is leaning toward backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)” a mud-slinging hate-filled politician who “has a clear, repeated pattern of making offensive and/or outright racist statements, hanging out with racists, and defending other people who are also racists.” In fact, the overtly racist DeSantis used this moment to stab at Blacks by replying that a big endorsement from Tesla’s CEO was being recorded by his campaign as “welcome support from African-Americans”.

Is there any real accountability for Tesla failing basic safety, under a manifestly unkind CEO, and moreover for failing to heed basic history and to save lives when others have shown how to do it? Many millions of vehicles these days are being recalled due to fire risks.

Take for just one obvious example GM recalling every Chevy Bolt (an excellent and very safe electric car) and then reporting a major sales boost due to transparency and regulation.

Source: NHTSA

How many within the recent explosion in Tesla recalls follow a modern industry safety pattern giving the same or even similar transparency around serious fire danger?

Source: NHTSA


Read the hundreds and hundreds of complaints against Tesla, let alone the numerous investigations, where there seems to be no transparency or response from Tesla. You’ll find things like a father’s deep soul-wrenching appeal a few days ago (NHTSA Complaint #11466262), just one of HUNDREDS of people begging regulators to do something to stop Tesla disaster after disaster:

…autopsy report stated that his son died as a result of intense thermal heat and smoke inhalation.

Sad and tragic, like a Ford Pinto. But it gets worse because Tesla dealers are watching multiple cars on their lot go up in flames just sitting there. That is pretty much the total opposite of what recall safety expectations are supposed to be for design flaws. If the dealer itself can’t even predict, detect or prevent a serious Tesla fire in a Tesla parking lot… then nobody can.

Second, Tesla lies.

Lack of integrity is inherent to the company culture, constantly coming from the CEO. Plain and simple you can’t trust a word they say.

Shortly after Tesla called its cars in 2013 the safest ever a Model S caught fire and there were fatalities from “veering” into opposite lane.

Another high-profile example of this is their fraudulent “autopilot”. The company often attempts to say autopilot wasn’t at fault in crashes when they know it failed. That’s because they’re gaslighting, bending truth to the point we might as well just go ahead and label them liars. There’s a persistent failure to grasp safety issues that regulators are only just starting to hone in on.

“On average in these crashes, Autopilot aborted vehicle control less than one second prior to the first impact,” the NHTSA said.

Aborting control less than a second before impact is a serious safety design flaw. Saying autopilot isn’t to blame for the impact because it aborted control is sick and twisted logic. I’ve written before about persistent lying throughout the automobile industry, as have others. Once again, the Pinto story is relevant here since Ford lied egregiously.

[Death from fire] is no news to Ford. Internal company documents in our possession show that Ford has crash-tested the Pinto at a top-secret site more than 40 times and that every test made at over 25 mph without special structural alteration of the car has resulted in a ruptured fuel tank. Despite this, Ford officials denied under oath having crash-tested the Pinto.

Third, fires in gasoline cars are often due to electrical systems.

It’s odd to hear electric car companies say gasoline cars catch fire more often, without disclosing that those were electrical system fires. In fact, the data show electrical fires to be the second most common cause of fires.

So if you take maintenance-related fuel leaks out of the equation, electrical fires already are a HUGE problem, foreshadowing the critical need to NOT ignore Tesla’s Pinto-like design failures or treat them as rare.

Every time someone from Tesla tries to cite rate of fires in gasoline automobiles you immediately should educate them with “electrical systems are a top cause of fires in cars already yes — even gas ones — but at least some electrical design processes prioritize safety unlike yours“.

In conclusion, if electrical systems are already basically the top cause of vehicle fires and then you add in an anti-regulation company like Tesla that removes the most important lessons of the Pinto (negligently opens the flood-gates to design-related electrical system flaws and fires) how is this not a predictable disaster with preventable deaths?

Nobody should drive a Tesla.

Nobody should ride in a Tesla.

They pose an unnecessary danger to the public. I’d say Mercedes showed everyone how to do the right thing with a massive fleet-wide stop order to 300,000 owners. However even that bold move isn’t safe enough for anyone near a Tesla because they are a threat even standing still — catch on fire while parked doing nothing.

These cars are so unsafe by design they need to be picked up (on something that can contain a toxic re-igniting fire in transit) and returned to a place that can afford to put out incredibly resource-intensive fires en masse.

Tesla is an example of some of the worst engineering in history. A car designed to fail.

And on that note I’m happy to drive an electric car. I’m even ok driving a gasoline car that has electric systems in it. But I do not and will not (since 2016, when my own tests proved it completely unsafe) drive or ride in something as poorly designed as a Tesla.

How Many Died After Florida Judge Based Ruling on Internet Search for “Sanitation”?

Sewer socialists famously earned their title from a platform of keeping things clean. They advocated for building sewers, and thus creating shared infrastructure that would continue cleaning neighborhoods that we all benefit from today.

Called a “sewer socialist” for a preoccupation with keeping the city clean, he used regulations to close down brothels and casinos while creating parks, public works and a fire and police commission. He left office after just two years when the Democrats and Republicans combined their votes into a single candidate and campaign effort.

Fast forward and there’s a harrowing story from The Verge about how technology companies suddenly jumped in the way to undo all that sanitation “progress”.

The COVID-19 pandemic was still raging when a federal judge in Florida made the fateful decision to type “sanitation” into the search bar of the Corpus of Historical American English. […] Pulling every example of the word “sanitation” from 1930 to 1944, she concluded that “sanitation” was used to describe actively making something clean — not as a way to keep something clean. So, she decided, masks aren’t actually “sanitation.”

The real kicker to the article is summarized in these two clear paragraphs.

The most frequently used application of a word is not always going to be the most “ordinary” or most commonly understood use of that word, Gries says. For example, corpora, specifically the corpora used for legal corpus linguistics, contains millions of words from TV programs, magazines, and newspapers — news sources. A word, then, might be used in a particular way more frequently because that use of the word is more newsworthy, according to one Stanford Law Review article.

Davies is also concerned that there’s not enough attention to the methodology judges are using. Changing up the way a search is done, or the way words are counted in that search, or any number of small tweaks could influence the outcome of the analysis. “If you’d done it in some other way, you would have gotten different results,” he says. Most legal corpus analysis also doesn’t ask multiple people to analyze the same data, which can help reduce bias, according to Tobia’s analysis.

Once again integrity shows up on the forefront of information security battles.

The judge’s results were not scientific, they were not accurate, they were confirmation bias at best. Yet this judge treated wrong as right simply because a veneer of technology had been applied. And like any technology, that’s the definition of the problem.

“It can be very good but it can also be very dangerous,” Gries says. “It depends on who’s doing it.”

Someone using a word a certain way searching to find evidence of others using it the same way is not how “sanitation” gets understood let alone defined properly.