Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Privateer analytics: high-reward/high-risk numbers

Following is a Letter of Marque signed by soon-to-be-president James Monroe in 1812. Yes, the Revolutionary War was in 1776, but the evolution of the Monroe Doctrine makes this particular document an interesting part of history.

Not a lot of legal jargon in this document. A more readable copy of this letter can be found at

How did privateers contribute to the Revolutionary War? An excellent summary can be found at and shows that the Continental Navy had a mere 64 ships, compared to 1,697 privateer ships. The navy had 1,242 guns while the privateers had 14,872 guns. The Continental Navy captured only 196 ships while the privateers captured 2,283 ships. The risk, however, cannot go unreported. While it's unclear how many navy ships were captured by the enemy, 1,323 privateer ships (that's 78%) were captured by the enemy.

Which brings us to the question of risk to modern-day Cyber Privateers. What happens when a licensed privateer with a valid Letter of Marque and Reprisal absconds with several million dollars from a criminal organization, like maybe the so-called Russian mafia? Will we find body parts from that privateer, along with those from friends and family, strewn in various public places?

I reach one conclusion from this possibility. Access to the details of any privateering exploit must be protected. Is that possible in today's Freedom-of-Information-Act world?


  1. What happens to .gov's plausible deniability when they officially recognize and commission Civilian Irregular Computer Network Attackers?

    American Cyber Militias can be disowned when they become inconvenient.

  2. The key concept is "licensed and bonded." I'm envisioning a fairly high bar to get your LoMaR certification. Also, nobody gets plausible deniability. The .gov can only deny knowledge before the fact. "Admiralty Court-equivalent" .gov orgs will make final disposition decisions.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?