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October 2013

the Written 
Foreign Language

October 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

A transliteration tool developed jointly by the intelligence community and a commercial firm is helping eliminate the problem of misidentified foreign names and places in databases. These types of errors can allow a potential terrorist or plot to slip though security if analysts cannot identify common proper nouns and establish valuable links.

The new system helps avoid this problem of misidentification arising from different interpretive spellings of names from a language that does not use Western-style Roman lettering. This problem has become an issue when terrorists’ names are not matched in different databases because their spelling is interpreted differently. Analysts are not able to put together the pieces in a puzzle to develop an accurate picture that shows a potential threat.

Information Sharing Takes on New Shape

October 1, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

U.S. intelligence agencies soon will be able to share information with each other in a single common computing environment. This effort will increase intra-agency cooperation and efficiency while cutting information technology operating costs through the use of shared services.

The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) is part of a broad strategy led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and supported by the chief information officers (CIOs) of the five major intelligence agencies. ICITE replaces the old agency-based information technology model with one using a common architecture operating as a single enterprise across the intelligence community.

Launched in 2012, ICITE is not a formal program of record but a development effort directed by the ODNI and agency CIOs. ICITE has five major goals: create a single, standards-based interoperable enterprise architecture for the intelligence community; provide seamless and secure collaboration tools for person-to-person and data-to-data information sharing; establish a standardized, consolidated business process to support agency missions; set up a governance and oversight process; and create partnerships in the intelligence community, across the U.S. government, international partners and industry.

A New -INT Looms for Social Media

October 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The Arab Spring, which rose from street-level dissent to form a mass movement, might not have come as a surprise to intelligence agencies if only they had been able to read the tea leaves of social media. The characteristics of social media that differentiate it from other messaging media are compelling intelligence officials to change the way they derive valuable information from it. As a result, experts are calling for the creation of a new discipline that represents a separate branch of intelligence activity.

The type of information found on social media is far different from that intercepted via any other type of messaging media. It is pushed by its sender out to large numbers of people. It often consists of information about individuals that is not readily available elsewhere. And, it can represent an indication of groupthink that is not discernible from traditional intercepts.

Sir David Omand is a visiting professor, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London. He is a former U.K. intelligence and security coordinator and the former director of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which provides both signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance as one of the United Kingdom’s three intelligence agencies.

“This is more than a shift from one kind of communications medium to another,” Omand declares. He points out that SIGINT experts have accommodated the shift from copper wires to fiber because the same messages were being carried by the different media. The only change was the transport mode.


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