<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What the Data-Miner Saw 

We hate to link to Willam Arkin every twenty minutes, but . . . .
In April 2000, Able Danger, only months old, was abruptly shut down. Caught violating Reagan administration Executive Orders and Defense Department and Army regulations restricting intelligence agencies from collecting information on United States "persons," the highly compartmented cell within the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) was halted in its effort to use data mining and link analysis to characterize the worldwide nature of the al Qaeda terrorist network . . . .

[Anthony] Shaffer and others use words like "out-of-the-box" and "entrepreneurial" to describe the LIWA intelligence collection. The buzz words suggest, of course, that other intelligence efforts were in-the-box and boring, that only the LIWA and other compartmented workers were motivated and insightful enough to take chances, that if the lawyers and the bureaucrats and the Clintonistas and the other villains had just gotten out of the way, there would have been no 9/11. If only…

But in 2000, the problem was also a pretty simple one: An off-the-books intelligence effort once again abused the "force protection" justification to collect information on Americans. Military commanders, mindful of the law and regulations, shut down the operation . . . .

According to military sources familiar with the Able Danger legal side, the effort stepped over the line when LIWA contractors purchased photographic collections of people entering and exiting mosques in the United States and overseas. One source says that LIWA contractors dealt with a questionable source of photographs in California, either a white supremacy group or some other anti-Islamic organization . . . .

[Thomas] Gandy says "there was no perceived imminent threat" or "imminent crime going to occur" that might have justified retention of the gigantic database. Under the regulations, LIWA could have argued that it indeed was on to something and sought justification to continue, but the truth seems to be that while LIWA workers and contractor might have seen what there were doing as actual detective work to uncover terrorists, Able Danger and SOCOM saw the project mostly as an experiment to prove the usefulness of the technology.
Since then, of course, everything has changed. And nothing has changed.

Categories: , ,

| | Technorati Links | to Del.icio.us