A new kind of combat

Intelligence-sharing technology developed by the military may help intelligence agencies analyze information about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and possibly help prevent future attacks.

The Defense Advanced Research Proj.ects Agency has offered technology it developed under its Genoa project to the intelligence community. The sophisticated collaboration tools are being installed in some offices and may soon be used by the National Security Council in the White House situation room, according to sources close to the project.

Since 1996, DARPA has been developing next- generation technology for sharing intelligence information, such as information on known terrorist groups.

Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Dyer, Genoa program manager at DARPA, said Genoa's goal is to produce better national decisions through structured, collective reasoning. "President Bush has asked for exactly that—the ability to nip things in the bud earlier and to have more options for doing that," he said.

Federal Computer Week interviewed Dyer before the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.

Genoa is rooted indirectly in another national crisis—the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981. Soon afterward, Vice Adm. John Poindexter was called in to review how well the White House situation room had performed.

He concluded that the White House's crisis management efforts required the use of automation tools.

"At that time, personal computers were just coming out, and information technology was much younger than it is today, and we got limited interest," said Poindexter, who is now senior vice president of information systems at Syntek Technologies Inc., an Arlington, Va.-based technical services firm. He heard of Genoa in 1995 and has been deeply involved in the program as a contractor.

With Genoa, DARPA uses peer-to-peer computing, sophisticated data-gathering software and a powerful, cutting-edge search engine.

A demonstration CD-ROM provided to FCW includes a fictional scenario in which high-ranking intelligence officials search for information on Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group, Al Qaeda. Three officials from the National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency meet online, share research and publish it—complete with supporting evidence in HTML—directly to Intelink, an intelligence network.

"At this point, the project is in the experiment and evaluation stage, and we don't know for certain that it would have helped," Poindexter said, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks.

John Pescatore, a former National Security Agency analyst and now vice president and research director of network security at Gartner Inc., warned that the U.S. intelligence community has not focused enough on human intelligence. But he said the Genoa program can help.

"My bottom line is that the intelligence community definitely needs better communications across agencies and better tools to reach conclusions more rapidly," he said.

Work is also in progress on analysis tools to assist in monitoring sensitive areas and detecting crises that are just beginning to develop. Dyer said that with Genoa technology, intelligence is also subjected to more rigorous scrutiny.

"Without this structured argumentation, our problem is that what the analysis people are doing is invisible, individual, intuitive and sometimes incorrect," Dyer said.


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