DHS plans major data fusion project

The Homeland Security Department is building a major intelligence program that will use data mining and state-of-the-art analysis tools to discover and track terrorism threats against the United States.

The new initiative is laid out in a report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner.

The purpose of DHS' new Intelligence and Information Fusion (I2F) system, which the report said is in early development, is to provide the agency with an integrated intelligence and information capability, the report said. The system will use advanced computer processes for collecting, tagging, classifying and organizing data to gather and analyze information about potential terrorists.

I2F will "enable intelligence analysts to understand relationships that would otherwise not be readily apparent," the report said. It will use commercial software and integrate government programs, the inspector general stated.

The report, which is a survey of data mining activity at DHS, describes nine programs already in operation and three more in development within the agency, including the intelligence fusion system.

The report does not mention political controversies about data mining. Several previous counter-terrorism data mining programs initiated by the government, including Total Information Awareness sponsored by the Pentagon and the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II sponsored by DHS, were discontinued over privacy concerns.

DHS programs reviewed in the report are classified into five groups: expert systems, association processes, threat and risk assessment tools, collaboration and visualization processes, and advanced analytics.

The report names 12 data mining programs that are being used and developed by Customs and Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among other units.

For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is using several data mining programs, including the Law Enforcement Analysis Data System to identify criminal activity patterns, and the Numerical Integrated Processing System to assist in identifying criminal activity such as immigration violations, customs fraud, export violations and terrorism, the report said.

The Science & Technology directorate also is developing an advanced analytics capability, called the Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement tool, to integrate information and facts from many different types of data.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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