Too much intelligence collection overwhelms US agencies
January 12, 2010 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The broad debate about America’s recent intelligence setbacks has centered on the view that US spy agencies do not share enough information with each other. Several days ago, however, Politico’s Laura Rozen noticed an important remark by an anonymous former intelligence official, buried in a longer piece in The Washington Post about the Christmas Day bomber. The official told the Post that “[t]he real story line internally [in the Christmas Day bomber affair] is not information-sharing or connecting dots [...]. Information was shared. It was separating noise from chaff. It’s not that information wasn’t passed around, it’s that so much information is being passed. There’s an inherent problem of dealing with all the data that is sloshing around” (emphasis added). This view may in fact be closer to reality than the more dominant ‘turf war’ argument. It is substantiated by a recent New York Times report, which revealed that the US Air Force airborne intelligence units are currently overwhelmed by unprecedented quantities of video intelligence, collected by remote-controlled drones deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. So much footage is collected by these drones, said the paper, that it would take 24 years to view the videos filmed in 2009 alone. This problem will only intensify as more drones are added to the USAF’s fleet, with some of them using multi-camera systems to film in several directions at once. Remarkably, nobody thought to equip USAF with enough video footage analysts to sift through the material. Automation through electronic image recognition is one solution, but, as a USAF Colonel said, there are limits on what automated systems can do. “You need somebody who’s trained and is accountable in recognizing that that is a woman, that is a child and that is someone who’s carrying a weapon”, he said.