Suits And Spooks Rendezvous For The Greater Good

Mark Drapeau (Washington, DC) —

Last week, an eclectic group of tech-savvy “suits” and “spooks” gathered in a private conference center in Rosslyn, VA, in a towering office building overlooking Georgetown across the Potomac River. The occasion? The second-annual Suits and Spooks anti-conference, curated and hosted by cyber warfare consultant and author Jeffrey Carr. Nominally there to “shape a revolution in security affairs,” the 50 or so attendees had a one-day lovefest around cybersecurity, hacking, intelligence gathering, foreign affairs, and just generally geeking out a bit.

It was a private affair, so some details will go unpublished (at least by me). Indeed, it was one of those conferences where no last names are used on name tags (to protect some people’s true identities). But representative among the people there were former military officers, current intelligence community analysts, law enforcement agency officials, representatives from significant tech concerns like IBM, Microsoft, and Palantir, and a smattering of actresses, hackers, experts on electronic money laundering, and professors and authors.

What did I learn? Again, my notebook contents will remain mostly private, but I did take some interesting 20-minute crash courses in thinking like a guerrilla, hacking electronic hardware, self-promotion, trafficking of illegal goods, exploiting social networks, the legal basis for killing in war (“You can do a lot of killing in war, but you cannot do treacherous killing.”), and in perhaps the hit of the event, using satellites to track what’s happening in Sudan (and the role of George Clooney in that effort).

Here are some terrific (unattributed) quotations from speakers:

“I’m an engineer, and I build exploits.”

“This whole social media business is filled with hypocrisy and contradiction.”

“Nothing is impossible for those who don’t have to do it.”

“Ask what needs to be done, then do that, even if it’s impossible.”

“So, 0.000001 percent of the world’s shitheads, that’s what I do all day.”

You just had to be there.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is part of the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC.

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