Monday, October 26, 2009

Where The Flying Death Squad Gets Its Information

This is an interesting article outlining the very successful anti-Muslim terrorist program being run against the Taliban and al Qaeda.  The only thing that could make this program better would be to expand it 100 fold.  I'm on the fence about getting our troops out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but if the administration would take unfetter our troops by lifting the dangerous ROE that has been imposed, out military would have a fair chance of smashing Muslim terrororism in the area.

IMHO, what we need to do is pull back most troops into critical areas, greatly increase our Special Operations troops and out Predator and Reaper strikes.  In effect we need an updated, greatly expanded Phoenix program, similar to the extremely successful methods used in Viet Nam.  There, the Phoenix program concentrated on eliminating the Viet Cong Infrastructure (VCI).  After only a few years, the VC were virtually eliminated from active terrorism.  While that brought in the NVA, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is no equivalent of the NVA to fill the void of dead Islamic commanders.  Cut off the head, and the snake will die.


Where The Flying Death Squad Gets Its Information

October 25, 2009: The American flying death squad of Predator and Reaper UAVs over Pakistan and Afghanistan have a target list of about 420 Taliban and drug gang leaders. The CIA handles most of the data collection, and actual hits on the targets. Finding these targets is a much larger operation than the effort to keep twenty or so armed UAVs in the air.

The CIA and Department of Defense have enormous databases of people, including basic information like names, physical descriptions, family connections and so. But there is much more, like video and still images of the subjects, their vehicles, hideouts and work places.

The proliferation of video cameras on the battlefield (in UAVs, ground robots, for base security and in the hands of the troops) has provided a huge library of images that show bad guys doing what bad guys do and what they look like while doing it. This can range from moving around carrying weapons, to using those weapons, to the particular driving patterns of people up to no good. This is a unique resource, and the U.S. is putting together a library of these images. This is similar to older still pictures libraries, which were eventually used by pattern recognition software to let machines examine the millions of images digital photo satellites began producing decades ago. The basic problem was that there were quickly too many pictures for human analysts to examine. Computers had to do much of the work, or else most of the images would go unexamined. This technology was quickly adapted to the kind of combat encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan, and terrorist operations in general.

Research has shown that people staring at live video feeds start losing their ability to concentrate on the images after about twenty minutes. This problem has been known for some time, and the military (not to mention civilian security firms) have been seeking a technological solution. It's actually not as bad with UAVs, because the picture constantly changes, but cameras that are fixed can wear operators out real quick.

The basic tech solution is pattern analysis. Since the most common video is digital, it's possible to translate the video into numbers, and then analyze those numbers. Government security organizations have been doing this for some time, but after the fact. It's one thing to have a bunch of computers analyze satellite photos for a week, to see if there was anything useful there. It's quite another matter to do it in real time. But computers have gotten faster, cheaper and smaller in the last few years, and programmers have kept coming up with more efficient routines for analyzing the digital images. Commercial firms already have software on the market that will analyze, in real time, video, and alert a human operator if someone, or something (you are looking for) appears to be there.