[Paleopsych] A Vision of Terror
shovland at mindspring.com
Wed May 11 13:51:53 UTC 2005
By John Gartner May 10, 2005 Page 1 of
A new generation of software called Starlight 3.0, developed for the
Department of Homeland Security by the Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory (PNNL), can unravel the complex web of relationships between
people, places, and events. And other new software can even provide answers
to unasked questions.
Anticipating terrorist activity requires continually decoding the meaning
behind countless emails, Web pages, financial transactions, and other
documents, according to Jim Thomas, director of the National Visualization
and Analytics Center (NVAC) in Richland, Washington.
Federal agencies participating in terrorism prevention monitor computer
networks, wiretap phones, and scour public records and private financial
transactions into massive data repositories.
"We need technologies to deal with complex, conflicting, and sometimes
deceptive information," says Thomas at NVAC, which was founded last year to
detect and reduce the threats of terrorist attacks.
In September 2005, NVAC, a division of the PNNL, will release its Starlight
3.0 visual analytics software, which graphically displays the relationships
and interactions between documents containing text, images, audio, and
The previous generation of software was not fully visual and contained
separate modules for different functions. It has been redesigned with an
enhanced graphical interface that allows intelligence personnel to analyze
larger datasets interactively, discard unrelated content, and add new
streams of data as they are received, according to John Risch, a chief
scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Starlight quadruples the number of documents that can be analyzed at one
time -- from the previous 10,000 to 40,000 -- depending on the type of
files. It also permits multiple visualizations to be opened simultaneously,
which allows officers for the first time to analyze geospatial data within
the program. According to Risch, a user will be able to see not only when
but where and in what proximity to each other activities occurred.
"For tracking terrorist networks, you can simultaneously bring in telephone
intercepts, financial transactions, and other documents?all into one place,
which wasn't possible before," Risch says.
The Windows-based program describes and stores data in the XML (extensible
markup language) format and automatically converts data from other formats,
such as databases and audio transcriptions.
Risch says that as the volume of data being collected increases, the
software has to be more efficient in visually representing the complex
relationships between documents.
"Starlight can show all the links found on a Web page, summarize the topics
discussed on those pages and how they are connected [to the original
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