DARPA's goal is 'total information awareness'

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's homeland security strategy covers everything from biometrics and language processing to predictive modeling and modernized databases.

DARPA is working on 'total information awareness' to detect foreign terrorists and decipher their plans, said Robert L. Popp, deputy director of the agency's Information Awareness Office.

Popp and officials from DARPA, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies spoke at a recent conference in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the Biometric Consortium.

DARPA set up the Information Assurance Office early this year to develop new ways of extracting and analyzing data that could help the war on terrorism, Popp said.

Missed clues

The signal-to-noise ratio for finding traces of terrorist activity is low, he said. Terrorists have left detectable clues, but often the significance is not clear until it's too late.

Among the initiatives that the Information Assurance Office has launched this year are:
  • Genisys, which seeks new ways to design ultralarge information repositories for counterterrorism while protecting the privacy of innocent people. Much of today's relational database technology dates back to the mid-1980s, so Genisys will need to 'reinvent the database,' Popp said.

  • Translingual Information Detection, Extraction and Summarization, or TIDES, will help English-speaking analysts understand messages intercepted in other languages. Popp said TIDES would focus on English, Arabic and Chinese.

  • Effective, Affordable, Reusable Speech-to-Text (EARS), a program to improve speech recognition, also will focus on English, Arabic and Chinese.

  • Evidence Extraction and Link Discovery looks for new ways to combine sparse evidence from classified and unclassified data sources.

  • A biosurveillance program will test methods for extracting data from military and commercial sources to get early warning of a covert pathogen release.

  • The Human Identification at a Distance program is wrapping up a round of tests on facial recognition products.

Results coming

The human identification program manager, Jonathon Phillips, on detail to DARPA from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said results are scheduled for posting at www.frvt.org this month.

West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise also spoke at the conference on several topics: the Defense Department's Biometric Fusion Center in Bridgeport, the federally funded Center for Identification Technology Research at West Virginia University, the newly announced National Biometric Security Project in Morgantown, W.Va., and plans by Security First Corp. of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., to set up a biometric center of excellence in Fairmont.

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