NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Intelligence Analysis Software Could Predict Attacks

October 11, 2001

Intelligence analysis software being developed in the U.S. could be used to predict future terrorist attacks, claims a research company.

When development of the software is complete, it will be capable of sifting through and analyzing existing databases of information, both public and private, and spotting suspicious patterns of activity.

The software is called Knowledge Aided Retrieval in Activity Context (KARNAC) and uses "profiles" of different categories of terrorist attacks to seek out key components of possible events.

KARNAC will raise concerns about privacy of information, however. There are also technical challenges:

  • The information for KARNAC would come from both structured and unstructured databases.
  • The former includes gun registrations, driver's licenses and criminal records.
  • The latter would include the Internet and newspapers, journals and county records.

For example, the system might send an alert if someone tried to buy materials that could be used in bomb making, and booked a large truck and a hotel room near a government office. This is the kind of information that was available on databases before Timothy McVeigh detonated his bomb in Oklahoma City. One problem is that most of these government agencies don't want to share their information. And computer assistance in sifting the vast quantity of data would be required.

Nonetheless, KARNAC may have an even greater obstacle -- the realization that even very smart technology can be rendered impotent by terrorists intent on carrying out previously unimaginable atrocities.

Source: Duncan Graham-Rowe, "Intelligence analysis software could predict attacks," New Scientist, October 2, 2001.


Browse more articles on Government Issues