September 6, 2009

Technology To Thwart Applied Islam

Sometimes we must give proper thanks to the technology weenies, as here:

From a Silicon Valley office strewn with bean-bag chairs, a group of twenty-something software engineers is building an unlikely following of terrorist hunters at U.S. spy agencies.

One of the latest entrants into the government spy-services marketplace, Palantir Technologies has designed what many intelligence analysts say is the most effective tool to date to investigate terrorist networks. The software’s main advance is a user-friendly search tool that can scan multiple data sources at once, something previous search tools couldn’t do. That means an analyst who is following a tip about a planned terror attack, for example, can more quickly and easily unearth connections among suspects, money transfers, phone calls and previous attacks around the globe.

Palantir’s software has helped root out terrorist financing networks, revealed new trends in roadside bomb attacks, and uncovered details of Syrian suicide bombing networks in Iraq, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the events. It has also foiled a Pakistani suicide bombing plot on Western targets and discovered a spy infiltration of an allied government. It is now being used by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Yet Palantir — which takes its name from the “seeing stones” in the “Lord of the Rings” series — remains an outlier among government security contractors. It rejected advice to hire retired generals to curry favor with the agencies and hired young government analysts frustrated by working with slow-footed technology. The company’s founders knew little about intelligence gathering when they started out. Instead, they went on a fact-finding mission, working with analysts to build the product from scratch.

“We were very naive. We just thought this was a cool idea,” says Palantir’s 41-year-old chief executive Alexander Karp, whose usual dress is a track-suit jacket, blue jeans, and red leather sneakers. “I underestimated how difficult it would be.”

Technology like Palantir’s is increasingly important to spies confronting an information explosion, where terrorists can hide communications in vast data streams on the Internet. Intelligence agencies are struggling to identify and monitor such information — and quickly send relevant data to the analysts who need it. U.S. officials say the software is also crucial as the country steps up its offensive in difficult theaters like Afghanistan. There, Palantir’s software is now being used to analyze constantly shifting tribal dynamics and distinguish potential allies from enemies, according to current and former counterterrorism officials familiar with the work.

“It’s a new way of war fighting,” says former Assistant Secretary of Defense Mary Beth Long. While there are many good systems, Ms. Long says, with Palantir’s software “you can actually point to examples where it was pretty clear that lives were saved.”

Just thought I’d share. It’s nice to know that the Geek Squad is on the ball and pitching in where they’re needed.

The article is definitely a good read.

by @ 5:43 pm. Filed under Security, Technology
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8 Responses to “Technology To Thwart Applied Islam”

  1. Shoprat Says:

    That’s not too bad. The kids are smart.

  2. Seth Says:

    Shoprat –


    Nice to see them using their smarts to help protect our country and people, an idea which too many young people today don’t seem to think is a worthwhile pursuit.

  3. BB-Idaho Says:

    ..and good to know those geeks have no interest in
    us folks ..yet.

  4. Seth Says:

    BB –

    ..and good to know those geeks have no interest in
    us folks ..yet.


    But…but according to their site, the one you linked, they should be every liberal’s dream in that they stress their avoidance of violating anyone’s civil liberties.

    I understand that the rank & file liberal fervently believed that the real reason the Evilll Bush/Cheney regime wanted to possess the capabilities Palantir has developed was so they could monitor the savings account balances accumulated by young lads off their paper route profits and spy on the average citizen to learn whom they were dating and where they were having dinner, rather than to protect us against terrorism, but the “..yet” part sounds like a smidgeon of paranoia may be afoot somewhere in the wilds of Idaho. :-)

  5. Always On Watch Says:

    Seth! You’re still around?

  6. Seth Says:

    AOW –

    Kinda’ sorta’ in and out, at the moment. :-)

  7. BB-Idaho Says:

    Seth, well libs have to have at least one thing in common with libertarians. We know the black helicopter thing was far out..cuz they missed all the backwoods meth labs and mountain marijuana gardens. Got my own interlopers..neighbor’s dang mule got loose and tromped up by back yard. I grow grass…actual grass, not the frisky kind….

  8. Seth Says:

    BB –

    Has it occurred to you that maybe the black helicopter folks might be partners in the backwoods meth labs and mountain marijuana gardens? With all the paranoia about such government units, the “powers that be” might be having trouble funding these things, y’know, so with a little help from the cookers and growers in them thar IdaHills… After all, don’t the vast majority of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists go libertarian? How far a jump from there would it be to fear of the dreaded black helicopters? :-)

    neighbor’s dang mule got loose and tromped up by back yard.

    LOL, sounds like you may need, next time he comes around in his truck, to buy a bottle of Haney’s “Surefire Durn Mule Repellant”.