[Paleopsych] A Vision of Terror

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Wed May 11 13:51:53 UTC 2005

By John Gartner May 10, 2005 Page 1 of 
</articles/05/05/wo/wo_051005gartner.asp?p=2> next 
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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