Just one example of what our money is being spent on in the name of ‘defense’…
The Pentagon’s top researchers have rushed a classified and controversial intelligence program into Afghanistan. Known as “Nexus 7,” and previously undisclosed as a war-zone surveillance effort, it ties together everything from spy radars to fruit prices in order to glean clues about Afghan instability.
The program has been pushed hard by the leadership of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. They see Nexus 7 as both a breakthrough data-analysis tool and an opportunity to move beyond its traditional, long-range research role and into a more active wartime mission.
But those efforts are drawing fire from some frontline intel operators who see Nexus 7 as little more than a glorified grad-school project, wasting tens of millions on duplicative technology that has nothing to do with stopping the Taliban.
“There are no models and there are no algorithms,” says one person familiar with the program, echoing numerous others who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the program publicly. Just “200 lines of buggy Python code to do what imagery analysts do every day.”
During a decade of war, American forces have gathered exabytes of information on its enemies in Afghanistan. Nexus 7 aims to tap that data to find out more about the U.S.’ alleged friends: the people of Afghanistan, and how they interact with their government and with one another.
Not that you’d be able to figure that out, examining the one public reference to Nexus 7. Tucked away in the Pentagon’s gargantuan budget, it makes the program sound like an obscure computer-science project, using “cluster analysis” to find “social networks.” There’s no reference to its operational utility.
On the military’s classified network, however, Darpa technologists pitch Nexus 7 as far-reaching and revolutionary, culling “hundreds of existing data sources from multiple Agencies and Services” to produce “population-centric, cultural intelligence.”
They boast of Nexus 7’s ties to special operations and to America’s most secretive surveillance groups, and its sophisticated tools to “perform automated cross-correlation and analysis of massive, sparse datasets — recomputing stability indicators within minutes of new data updates.”
- DARPA Goes To War (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- DARPA Developing Video Parser (yro.slashdot.org)
- DARPA offers $42 million for ‘revolutionary’ research on social media analysis (rossdawsonblog.com)