Eric Stewart on Sat, 28 Oct 2006 10:09:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> It Lives: Total Information Awareness

Total Information Lives Again 

Snip: "The National Journal reported that the government last month
awarded three contracts for that development at a cost of nearly $12
million. Two of the firms receiving awards -- Booz Allen Hamilton
and 21st Century Technologies -- worked on TIA. The third, SRI
International, worked on one of its predecessors, the so-called Genoa

21st Century Technologies is the technical enabler for Voice of America.

Total Information Lives Again
by Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
Washington (UPI) Oct 26, 2006

The new U.S. intelligence czar is developing a computer system capable
of data-mining huge amounts of information about everyday events to
discern patterns that look like terrorist planning. The technology is
reminiscent of the axed Total Information Awareness program. Civil
liberties and privacy advocates criticized the effort, called Tangram,
which is being developed by contractors working for the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence.

"They are misdirecting resources towards this kind of fanciful,
science-fiction project," said ACLU attorney Tim Sparapani, "while
neglecting the basics" of good counter-terrorist detective work.

The office of John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence,
declined comment on the program, but it is described in some detail in
a procurement document posted on the Web by the U.S. Air Force, and
officials have said it is being tested without using any data about

The document says the system will build on previous work by U.S.
intelligence agencies "developing systems, tools and algorithms to
detect international terrorist activities and planned events" which
have developed "methods of ... efficiently searching large data stores
for evidence of known (terrorist) behaviors."

The document does not say what kind of information will be used,
either to test and develop the system, or when it is deployed. An
intelligence official who asked for anonymity told United Press
International that the system was being tested using two data sets,
one artificial, and the other consisting of intelligence data from the
Department of Defense.

"There is nothing in there that does not comply with the regulations
on U.S. persons," said the official, referring to the restrictive
rules that govern what information U.S. intelligence agencies can
collect, analyze and store on American citizens and legal residents.

Nonetheless, the new system is bound to attract controversy because
of its similarity to the Total Information Awareness or TIA program,
a project run by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects

That program also aimed to detect patterns of suspect terrorist
behavior by data-mining huge stores of information about everyday
transactions like credit card purchases, telephone calls and travel

Alarmed by the privacy and civil liberties implications of the
program, Congress in 2003 cut all funding for it, but research
continued in different agencies, funded by appropriations in the
classified intelligence annex to the Defense Department budget.

Most of that continuing research was conducted by the Advanced
Research and Development Activity, a unit formerly based at the
National Security Agency but now part of Negroponte's office. The
National Journal, which first revealed the existence of Tangram last
week, said that office would oversee the new program, too.

"The administration has flat out ignored Congress," said Sparapani. y
"Therenamed it, re-tied the bow around it and off they went."

Some of the scientists that worked on TIA later said the project,
headed by indicted Iran-Contra figure John Poindexter, who chose
an all-seeing eye in a pyramid as its logo, became an undeserved
lightning rod for privacy concerns.

Sparapani said he did not necessarily doubt the assurances about
how the new Tangram system was being tested and developed, but said
officials were "not making any commitments about the future."

"What is this tool they're developing for? What data is it going to be
used on?" he asked.

The Tangram document, a technical guide for contractors, says that
researchers have already "developed novel algorithms and methods for
linking entities and activities using a guilt-by-association model"
also known as link analysis.

"By relying on highly accurate and analyst-vetted knowledge about
known terrorists, groups, affiliations and activities, these tools
and methods have proven to be very effective at tracking terrorist
suspects and detecting their threat event intentions," says the

However, despite this, the work is still far from ready for prime
time. "Several fundamental challenges remain before the technology can
be deployed broadly within the Intelligence Community."

These include that a single question may take "days and weeks" to
answer, "Yet, to have any demonstrable improvement in the intelligence
process we need to provide answers in hours or minutes."

The document says processing times and efficiency needs to be improved
by two or three orders of magnitude, meaning they must be hundreds or
even thousands of times faster.

"Despite all the millions they are throwing into this, they haven't
got past square one," said Sparapani. The amounts spent on the
continuing TIA research are classified, but the procurement document
says $49 million has been put aside for the development of Tangram
over the next four years.

The National Journal reported that the government last month awarded
three contracts for that development at a cost of nearly $12 million.
Two of the firms receiving awards -- Booz Allen Hamilton and 21st
Century Technologies -- worked on TIA. The third, SRI International,
worked on one of its predecessors, the so-called Genoa project.

The procurement document also makes clear how little progress has
been made on what some consider the data-mining Holy Grail, the
ability to recognize "anomalous and suspicious" behavior patterns, and
distinguish them from the random acts of the innocent.

"In large measure, we cannot readily distinguish the absolute scale of
normal behaviors," from which deviations would be suspicious, says the

"The underlying assumption of existing approaches is that behaviors
are a constant that can be described as a graph. Yet, behaviors are
not constant." It calls this problem "A recognized gap in current
terrorist detection processes."

The Tangram program will also include "collective inferencing
techniques" -- a way of scoring whole populations on a kind of
suspicion index. "This technique is capable of making simultaneous
inferences (scores) about large numbers of likely interrelated
entities in large data collections," says the document, cautioning
that its use "for real intelligence analysis is still a promise rather
than a reality."

Sparapani said it was likely to remain that way, calling the effort "a
wild goose chase for a hail-Mary scientific miracle technology that
doesn't exist."

He said link analysis, the only approach to have produced any real
world result so far, was "just another word for good old-fashioned
gumshoe detective work. You have an event, you have a suspect, and
then you look at who is connected to that."

He advocated more spending on FBI agents and translators instead.

"Every dollar spent on this is a dollar not spent on proven
strategies" for fighting terrorism, he said.

SOURCE: Space War

Big Medicine

"If you give a man the correct information for seven years,
he may believe the incorrect information on the first day of
the eighth year when it is necessary, from your point of 
view, that he should do so. Your first job is to build the
credibility and the authenticity of your propaganda, and
persuade the enemy to trust you although you are his enemy." 
A Psychological Warfare Casebook -
Operations Research Office - 
Johns Hopkins University (1958)

-- - Faster than the air-speed velocity of an
                          unladen european swallow

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