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. […]
and . . .
“The administration has flat out ignored Congress,” said Sparapani.”They renamed it, re-tied the bow around it and off they went.”
and . . .
“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.
and . . .
Sparapani [called] 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.
I love these guys; they’ve never had to work an intelligence problem but they know what does and doesn’t work; they point at an empty closet and scream that a boogie-man might appear there at some point in the future; they say “the old ways are best” when 9/11 showed quite clearly that the old ways were crap.
We had perfectly fine FBI Special Agents point out the 9/11 threat prior to 9/11 but they were ignored. We had perfectly fine intelligence officers do the same thing and get the same if not worse treatment.
These efforts have less to do with ferreting out golden nuggets or even helping analysts keep their heads above the rising sea of data that threatens to drown them. They are in essence efforts to reduce the likelihood of having to stick it to people who have the brains and the balls to point out promising anomalies by making their discoveries less anomalous. When 99% assumes X is true and later Y is clearly and obviously shown to be the right answer, that 1% that fought for Y stop looking so kooky. Resources and time are limited so when the split is 99/1 the decision is easy; when the split is more like 60/40 you are obliged to put forth a stronger effort.
Or we could just keep churning out more generic Special Agents and hope for the best.