Software companies have come up with a host of other analytical tools. In fact, with so many already available or under development, analysts are challenged to get everything to work together seamlessly. That’s why In-Q-Tel is funding Cincinnati-based Intelliseek, one of the few companies that specialize in such integration.“There is no silver bullet,” says Intelliseek CEO Mahendra Vora. “And no one company has the complete solution to solve all our homeland security problems.” What’s needed, Vora says, is an open architecture that can incorporate new applications as they come along. For this reason, the company’s systems use open standards, such as extensible markup language, that make it easy for different pieces of sensemaking software to work in harmony. This open technical approach is, perhaps, a metaphor for the new age of homeland security itself.
For many people, mere technical protections against governmental infringement on privacy provide little reassurance. Witness last fall’s uproar in response to the news that John Poindexter, notorious for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, would head DARPA’S Information Awareness Office. (William Safire fulminated in the New York Times about “this master of deceit” and his “20-year dream” to snoop on every U.S. resident.) Many Americans have a visceral aversion to domestic-intelligence gathering in any form, notes Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and, he adds, they have good reason. Whenever he hears a bright new idea for high tech intelligence, he says, “My question is, What would J. Edgar Hoover do with such a system?’”
If anything can improve the level of trust, says Tien, it is even greater openness. “Skepticism grows from secrecy,” he says. “If officials are going to hide, not give any details, and just tell us they’re protecting privacy, that’s not a strategy that will reassure people.” Conversely, he says, by being as forthcoming as possible, the Department of Homeland Security and any other agency that coordinates the intelligence-gathering effort could reap big dividends in the form of public cooperation and political support.
We can only savor the irony. It is our openness as a society that makes us so vulnerable to terrorism. Yet our openness-on both the technological and the human levels-may very well be our strongest defense.
|A Sampling of Sensemakers|
|Entrieva||Reston, VA||Management of unstructured data such |
as text files, Web pages, and audio and
|i2||Cambridge, England||Information visualization software|
|IBM||Armonk, NY||“Federated” management of structured data such as an airline reservations database, as well as unstructured data|
|In-Q-Tel||Arlington, VA||CIA’s venture fund for companies with technologies that show promise for intelligence work|
|Intelliseek||Cincinnati, OH||Integration of information search and analysis tools|
|Stratify||Mountain View, CA||Management of unstructured data|
|Systems Research and Development||Las Vegas, NV||Software that finds subtle patterns in complex webs of relationships and transactions|