A CRYSTAL BALL LOOK INTO THE FUTURE OF INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION
By Victoria Loewengart
30 Sep 10. The recent events of foiled terrorist attacks in the United States and in Europe once again thrust intelligence collection into the spotlight. According to the White House Home Security Web site: “Gathering, analyzing, and effectively sharing intelligence is vital to the security of the United States. In order to prevent threats, including those from terrorism, we will strengthen intelligence collection to identify and interdict those who intend to do us harm.”
What does this directive mean to the future of the intelligence collection? Here are my predictions:
1. NSA will know what we are thinking and we are not going to like it.
In an attempt to identify terrorist networks and “nip them in the bud” NSA is already developing an artificial intelligence system code name Aquaint – “Advanced Question Answering for INTelligence (Bamford 2008, 325-327). This system will use the Internet and thousands of databases for a “brain.” Based upon phone calls, credit card purchases, Amazon book purchases, cell phone geo-location, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, etc., it will be possible to know not just where people are and who they are talking to, but what they are thinking and planning (Bamford 2008, 325).
This type of intelligence collection is seen as an intrusion on privacy by many; there will be new legislature and new privacy laws to deal with it. There also will be an explosion of “privacy” technologies to protect personal information.
2. The importance of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) will continue to rise.
OSINT will become a collection platform of choice for getting information about people. But OSINT is not just “scarping the Internet.” There will be renewed interest in “grey literature”, which is only available through specialized channels, such as trade publications, patents, technical reports, etc.,. Why? Because of the emergence of “dual-use” technologies that are manufactured for civilian use, but also can be used as components to WMDs.
In the very near future we will see an Open Source Directorate in the CIA that will use Internet and modern information processing tools to greatly enhance the availability of open source information to analysts, collectors, and users of intelligence (Borene 2010, 1).
3. Information overload will be managed.
It is a well known fact that different INTs collect more data than it is humanly possible to process. We are talking hundreds if not thousands of Exabytes of data. To put things into perspective – 5 Exabytes are equal to all the words ever spoken by human beings. To deal with this problem, new data mining and analysis technologies will be incorporated into intelligence collection and analysis processes. These technologies will help to zoom in on, and filter the most pertinent information. One such technology named Novel Intelligence from Massive Data (NIMD) is already being developed by NSA (Bamford 2008, 321).
4. Overhead collection assets will overcome cost, fuel and persistence limitations.
The boundaries between satellites and airbreathes will be blurred by introduction of near-space assets. Near-space assets will have the ability of “stay-and-stare persistence of days, months and perhaps years”, yet they will be almost as flexible to navigate as UAVs and less expensive than satellites (Tomme 2005, vi).
In the near future we will see the emergence of the solar powered UAVs.
According to the Queensland University of Technology website, their engineers are creating a solar unmanned airborne vehicle capable of providing 24-hour surveillance without fuel.
5. The United States HUMINT will be greatly strengthened.
Covert and deep cover sources are invaluable in penetrating terrorist networks and obtaining information that is impossible to get by any other means. HUMINT collection will continue to gain importance, which