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    New York Times: Military Is Awash in Data From Drones

    As we continue to discuss data-mining, analysis of data in search of a discernible terrorist or criminal pattern, the New York Times has a story about the military being flooded with data from drones (unmanned aerial vehicles that transmit data back to its headquarters).

    Notably, in 2008, the National Research Council released a report saying that data-mining programs don’t really work. “Automated identification of terrorists through data mining (or any other known methodology) is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts,” the council said in “Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment.” For more information on federal datamining programs, here’s a recent report from the Department of Homeland Security.

    The New York Times reports:

    As the military rushes to place more spy drones over Afghanistan, the remote-controlled planes are producing so much video intelligence that analysts are finding it more and more difficult to keep up.

    Air Force drones collected nearly three times as much video over Afghanistan and Iraq last year as in 2007 — about 24 years’ worth if watched continuously. That volume is expected to multiply in the coming years as drones are added to the fleet and as some start using multiple cameras to shoot in many directions.

    A group of young analysts already watches every second of the footage live as it is streamed to Langley Air Force Base here and to other intelligence centers, and they quickly pass warnings about insurgents and roadside bombs to troops in the field.

    But military officials also see much potential in using the archives of video collected by the drones for later analysis, like searching for patterns of insurgent activity over time. To date, only a small fraction of the stored video has been retrieved for such intelligence purposes.

    Government agencies are still having trouble making sense of the flood of data they collect for intelligence purposes, a point underscored by the 9/11 Commission and, more recently, by President Obama after the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger flight on Christmas Day. […]

    Instead of carrying just one camera, the Reaper drones, which are newer and larger than the Predators, will soon be able to record video in 10 directions at once. By 2011, that will increase to 30 directions with plans for as many as 65 after that. Even the Air Force’s top intelligence official, Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, says it could soon be “swimming in sensors and drowning in data.”

    He said the Air Force would have to funnel many of those feeds directly to ground troops to keep from overwhelming its intelligence centers. He said the Air Force was working more closely with field commanders to identify the most important targets, and it was adding 2,500 analysts to help handle the growing volume of data.

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