OSS, SRA team for 'virtual' support to intell community
- By Dan Verton
- Aug 17, 1997
Open Source Solutions Inc. has teamed with SRA International Inc. to provide "virtual" intelligence support to the U.S. intelligence community and other federal agencies.
The aim is to integrate SRA's information technology expertise with OSS' worldwide network of intelligence professionals and subject-matter experts to support the discovery distillation and delivery of open-source intelligence products and commercial imagery to government decision-makers and corporate clients. OSS refers to the concept as "The Information Merchant Banking System."
Robert D. Steele president and chief executive officer of OSS is proposing the idea of creating a virtual online intelligence community to provide expert analysis mapping and imagery products based on commercially available open sources of information. OSS based in Fairfax Va. was founded in 1992.
Hatte R. Blejer SRA's vice president and director for intelligent information systems said "Harnessing open-source information through the use of experts and digitized as well as `hard copy' sources will greatly increase the productivity of intelligence functions."
According to the "Final Report of the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of U.S. Intelligence " "[U.S.] intelligence lags behind in terms of assimilating open-source information into the analytical process and it continues to struggle with how to avail itself of expertise in the private sector. Analysis that is not responsive to consumer needs continues to be produced."
Despite the findings of the commission Steele argues that the CIA has all but boycotted his annual OSS conference which attracts intelligence professionals scholars and hackers from around the world. CIA representative Carolyn Osborn however said the agency currently has two offices the Community Open Source Program Office and the Office of Advanced Analytic Tools that are researching "technologies we can use to help make us smarter faster."
The driving force behind OSS' IT-based intelligence thrust is to strike a balance between unclassified open sources of information and highly classified information that is fragmentary in nature and expensive to collect and process. According to Steele "Classified intelligence has sucked up 90 percent of the [budget] dollars and is delivering less than 10 percent of the knowledge."
Steele contends that the National Information Infrastructure and the Global Information Infrastructure are seriously flawed in that they do not adequately address content and do not provide decision-makers with the basic principles to guide them on how to best make use of distributed centers of expertise.
To help find the proper balance between technology and human expertise in the field of intelligence OSS has turned to SRA. SRA's participation helps OSS deliver intelligence products in a format that is compatible with various agencies' existing hardware and software investments.
One of the tools being developed by SRA to assist intelligence professionals in their daily open-source surveillance operations is the Multilingual Gisting Browsing and Retrieval system which provides monolingual users with the ability to retrieve and browse multilingual (foreign) document collections over the Internet. The system dynamically translates user queries into the target foreign language and returns information in the user's native language. It is currently available in English and Japanese with plans to introduce more languages in the near future.
The firm has also launched a Multi-Media Fusion system which automatically fuses CNN-like news clips with related news articles by using a conceptual clustering algorithm.