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DHS Chief Wants Better Algorithms For Analyzing Intelligence Data 108

coondoggie writes "Better algorithms to spot patterns and trends within the mass of information the Department of Homeland Security sees everyday are key to national security. That was but one of the talking points DHS chief Janet Napolitano focused on in a lecture on the role of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today. 'DHS is part of the nation's Intelligence Community, which receives more terabytes of data each day than the entire text holdings of the Library of Congress. The National Counterterrorism Center's 24-hour Operations Center receives 8,000 to 10,000 pieces of counterterrorist information every day. We receive data about all of this, and it is clearly too much to suggest that the simplistic "connect the dots" analogy accurately represents what an analyst must do. Very quickly, you can see that "Big Data" – more so than the lack of data – becomes the most pressing problem. At the same time, the threats implicated by the data are not static.'"
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DHS Chief Wants Better Algorithms For Analyzing Intelligence Data

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  • Yeah right (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pseudonym Authority ( 1591027 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:32PM (#35487288)
    More like he wants to be able to sift through more people data and make files on every citizen faster, am I right?
    • An algorithm isn't going to give him access to any more information.

      • I never insinuated that they had any lack of data, only that they wanted to do it faster.
        • Well, you said more people data, so I just assumed :p

          • It's not my fault that Buttle's heart condition didn't appear on Tuttle's file!

            • Mistakes? We don't make mistakes.
              • Re:Yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

                by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @09:02AM (#35490128) Homepage

                That points to the heart of the matter. Incompetent political appointees want computers to do their job for them so that they can take the credit.

                Better algorithms to sort filter and collate the data, how stupid can they be. The bigger and more complex the database the easier it is to poison it with false data. Once that false data is in, it make all sorts of false connections, and more false connections based upon those.

                Intelligence services do no need better algorithms, they need to dump contractors who make a living out of creating false data, they need to get rid of political appointees and most of all they need to quality manage data entering the system.

                The insanity of working from the basis that everyone is guilty and, stupidly thinking that somehow computers will sort that planet full of evidence you have created with the idiot's assumption that everyone is guilty, well, it just really points to what kind of fuck up the DHS chief is as well as the DHS itself.

                • They also need to remove the incentive system for ID and apprehension.

                  It will put an end to the set-up of mentally challenged patsies, as "terror cells".

      • by Nikker ( 749551 )
        The only difference is you get to provide the data and sort it out too!
    • Who's "he"?

    • I suspect they want algorithms that will find more links between people. Guilty by association and all that.

      Hmmm. I wonder if 'six degrees of separation' works with terrorists. With better algorithms they can reduce it to five or even four.

    • More like he wants to be able to sift through more people data and make files on every citizen faster, am I right?


      He wants to make files on everyone, citizen or non-citizen, who could potentially pose a threat.

      That isn't, of course, restricted to people who visit the United States.

      Oh, sorry, have I already included everyone who has been born? Better square-off the database by making allowance for every possible interaction too.

  • So you want to know how to turn terabytes of naked pictures of little old ladies and children from your full body scanners into actionable intelligence on Islamic radicals and wikileaks contributes? If you actually get some software, let me know... because whoever comes up with it has got to be the coding Messiah.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Crowd source it.

      The same way we crack CAPTCHAs by showing some third world kid a fleeting glimpse of pr0n for every correct hit. We let the pervs look at the TSA nudie flicks and give them credits for every knife, gun, or baggie of weed they spot.

    • by Seumas ( 6865 )

      No, they want to be able to sift through more information to steal domain's from people who index torrents or point to links to links to links of stuff so they can steal their property and libel them without any actual legal intervention or conviction, too!

  • better agorithms (Score:4, Insightful)

    by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:39PM (#35487350) Homepage Journal

    Well, if the DHS Chief wants better algorithms for analyzing intelligence data, maybe he can have the department's funding cut, so more money can be put to use educating a generation of better students.

    • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:07AM (#35488810)

      If there's one fucking thing we've learned recently, it's that law enforcement types are god awful fucking gullible when they think they're listening to their own kind. We've hard proof that the Egyptian secret police carried out two major terrorists attacks inside Egypt and blamed their own country. And western intelligence services just blindly believed their lies. We understand how the evidence for chemical weapons in Iraq was entirely & purely focally fabricated by Iraqi ex-pat living in Germany. We even had some asshat put his wife on the no fly list when she was outside the country.

      We obviously cannot trust our law enforcement and intelligence services without serious judicial oversight. In particular, we cannot trust the buffoons hoping that 'better algorithm' will give them some pre-crime detector. Instead, they'll just harass more innocent people based upon imaginary plots and connections.

      • We understand how the evidence for chemical weapons in Iraq was entirely & purely focally fabricated by Iraqi ex-pat living in Germany. We even had some asshat put his wife on the no fly list when she was outside the country.
        Well, there was this whole incident [] to provide evidence for chemical weapons. And the wife thing is just funny, even more so if the mother-in-law also ended up on the no-fly list.
        • by radtea ( 464814 )

          Well, there was this whole incident [] to provide evidence for chemical weapons

          Remind me again how a chemical weapons attack fifteen years ago provides evidence of chemical weapons today, after a decade of ongoing dismantlement and inspection of the defunct Iraqi chemical weapons program?

          "Plausibility" is not "evidence".

          Going to war based on a plausble but unproven suposition is a crime against humanity.

  • So they cast a net so large the boat sinks from the weight of the fish... Typical DHS.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      So they cast a net so large the boat sinks from the weight of the fish... Typical DHS.

      Fish? Rather sand... so much sand they cannot find the fish in.

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:47PM (#35487390)

    Step One: cut down on the clutter. That means stop chasing after everyone in a turban or every angry blogger named Mohamed or Assad who criticizes your government or sticking GPS monitoring devices under their cars.

    There are two major reasons we've historically said NO to dragnets. They violate civil rights and they...surprise surprise!...clutter your intelligence channels with worthless drivel.

    • by jdogalt ( 961241 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @11:04PM (#35487508) Journal

      +1, my gut reaction as well, with the addition that there is a multiplication effect as the added violation of rights increases terrorist recruitment and motivation, with a corresponding increase in the amount of drivel and non-drivel entering your intelligence channels.

      It's the prisoner's dilemna as clear as day. If you don't start with trust and have a system that encourages more trust/liberty/privacy and the benefits of such, you don't end up with anywhere near the optimal outcome.

    • PI []
    • That means stop chasing after everyone in a turban or every angry blogger named Mohamed or Assad who criticizes your government or sticking GPS monitoring devices under their cars.

      Mohamed and Assad the blogger are easier targets than groups like CAIR with their vast funding from foreign sources and media exposure. The Islamic community in the US is a target-rich environment for real counter-terrorism and intelligence operations because there are so many Saudi and Iranian-funded groups of dubious or outright

  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:50PM (#35487414)
    policy after policy is implementing her dream of a police state. traffic revenue cameras in Arizona when she was there. Naked scanners for the tsa. Pretty sure she is abusing patriot act powers. US Citizens need to take back their government
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      The PATRIOT act is an abuse of powers because it gives the government powers that are explicitly denied to them in the constitution.

      And we won't see US citizens taking back the government anytime soon, since all of them have become so dependent on the government for all their entitlements.
      • by PaulBu ( 473180 )

        "since all of them have become so dependent on the government..."

        The point of (almost!) no return actually requires only more than half of them, nominally! BUT I still hope that the minority of liberty-loving people (both on antiwar Left and true conservative Right) can organize themselves better (without needing any "Community Organizers" :) ), and that there is still a chance to turn things around.

        But then, I have my signature, and you have yours, and neither changed the world just yet... ;-/

        Paul B.

        • There won't be a revolution. America has televisions. It's just so much easier to grumble about the government online than it is to actually do something that matters.
    • Despite the fact that this was started under a Republican President with Republican majorities in both houses and that it's primarily Republicans agitating for more and more invasive measures? Sure the Democrats have managed to fuck this up pretty good, but let's be honest about when and how this started.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @10:50PM (#35487422)
    The DHS has far too much funding if they have too much data and can't analyze it with current algorithms. And really, why do they need all this data in the first place? Chances are the vast majority of it is unconstitutional and shouldn't be collected to begin with.
    • by plover ( 150551 ) *

      What would "enough results" be? Ten planes blown up? Five schools? Three office towers? That way next year we could try for only eight planes blown up, three schools, and one office tower. Gotta show "enough results", after all.

      I'd say that whatever powers they're abusing, the results are that they've not let a lot happen.

      The better question is: if they didn't have these abusive powers and massive budgets, what would their score be? Fifty blown up planes? Ten? Zero? We don't know, because those fi

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You mean TV lied to me again and you can't foil terrorist plots by throwing data at a big shiny computer with lots of flashy light after all?

    • by qbast ( 1265706 )
      No, it did not. After all there were no successful terrorist attacks in US for years, so that big shiny computer with lots of flashy lights must have foiled them all.
  • What with monitoring all the nation's phone calls, that is a lot of data to sort through. Listening for keywords probably isn't enough.

    And yeah, I really do think they have automated systems that (attempt to) monitor all the phone calls made within the United States, as well as the more obvious targets of those going out from the US or coming in to the US. I can see of no other reason for some of the legislation they've pushed for these past several years.

  • I'm sure this will be a big help in identifying and prosecuting copyright infringements.
    • I'm sure it will help when they are sued by the RIAA for having that data or knowing where that data can be found, after all, if the Pirate Bay can be sued for linking to files that may or may not contain copyright infringements, why can't the DHS?
      • Because that level of circular logic may eventually lead to a paradox that destroys the universe? Okay, maybe not, but when the DHS helps prosecute a case against the DHS I'll be really confused on who to root for.
  • They should take a look at google's big querry. []
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday March 14, 2011 @11:18PM (#35487566)

    We were working on some cool technology applicable to just this sort of problem back at a previous employer. Then 9/11 hit, management realized that the coming intelligence applications of this would put it on the ITAR list. Everything went into boxes and went offshore.

    The next time you wonder how credit card, telecom and various other marketing concerns can find you, find your friends and figure out who is likely to buy what, you'll know who to thank. There's more money in pushing junk at you than keeping you from being blown up.

  • The problem isn't finding the patterns. Finding patterns is easy. Eliminating the majority of patterns which have no significant meaning, that's the hard part.
  • ...not Big Brother slowly creeping upon us like in the novel "1984"? I guess if you institute it slowly enough, people just bend over and take it.
    • by PaulBu ( 473180 )

      Because it's Big Sister, silly you! ;-/

      And yes, do it slowly is apparently a sure way to boil a live frog without it noticing, as well as making American public accept DHS and beyond.

      Paul B.

    • I guess if you institute it slowly enough, people just bend over and take it.

      Well, all the books I've read about anal sex suggest starting slowly to help loosen things up before picking up pace and really having some fun. So it seems that most of our government leaders are just keen fans of, "The Complete Guide to Getting it On," and the like.

  • post what you have on /. and we'll tell you the patterns. Your data will be perfectly secure here, no-one ever reads the articles anyway.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      "We therefore cannot overstate the need for software engineers and information systems designers."

      So one has to wonder: isn't this what H1B visas are for?
      Alternatively, outsource it!! It's likely that she'll get plenty of algos equally worthless at a lower cost for the tax-payer.

  • One side consequence of better processing will be that it will be more advantageous to collect even more data.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    DHS acts like the proverbial drunk searching for his dropped keys under a lamppost despite having dropped them in a darkened alleyway. Rather than scanning every word passed over electronic media they should have agents in the field doing investigations and talking to people who may have information. There is no substitute for human intelligence ("intelligence" as in "intelligence collection", although it appears that DHS has neither form of the term in excess).

    So I suggest that DHS get off their collective

  • sounds like a job for Watson - or at least a slightly modified version. []

    I guess they could re-use that hand which is currently used to press the buzzer to, say, feel your balls when you opt out of the x-ray.

  • by faedle ( 114018 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @12:58AM (#35488068) Homepage Journal

    In all seriousness. DHS would do us all a whole better if they concentrated on conventional "police work" investigations, and less on fancy shit like warrantless wiretaps and X-ray backscatter arrays that don't work.

    Our security apparatus had all the details they needed to make the connection before, and failed to see it not because they lacked some fancy algorithm, but people "in charge" didn't listen to the street operatives, and political infighting between organizations: which (hey, guess what Interplanet Janet!) DHS' very existance was supposed to solve.

    So what she's saying is, "we suck, give us more money." Sorry, fix what you have first, Janet.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Just don't gather so much data. That makes for a friendlier community.
  • Artificial Intelligence is no match for natural stupidity
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps it would be better to focus on intelligence gathering that requires them to leave their comfortable offices.
    Sitting and essentially browsing the data of the internet is a nice way to spend the day, but I know as well as anyone that you don't get a lot of work done.

  • Post it on the internet, I am sure Google will be more than happy to index all your information for you.

  • Department of Homeland Security actually getting something done? Oh dear god no.
  • Napolitano is just one more of the long like of elected idiots who understand neither technology or their
    job, which is (military) Intelegence and are trying to use computers in exactly the wrong way. Empirical
    Computer modeling and 'tell-me-what-is-going-on' are beyond modern technology.

    Hunches and good intuition is presently reserved to the people, and all this anti-profiling, security theatre
    and techno babble just gets in the way of having a small team of expert investigators in FBI and CIA and
    also the nat
  • Gee, maybe they just shouldn't collect so much? Rather than shotgun everything, why are they not being more judicious with what it is that they are monitoring?

  • Pointy Haired Bureau

  • its very interesting And thought provoking

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.