Sometimes our paranoid government wants to do things that technology does not allow or they do not know about yet. As soon as they find out or the technology is developed, then they want it and use it. Case in point is the paranoia that followed 11 Sept 2001 (9/11) in which Cheney and Bush wanted to be able to track and monitor every person in the US. There were immediate efforts to do this with the so-called Patriots Act that bypassed a lot of constitutional and existing laws and rights like FISA. They also instructed NSA to monitor all domestic radio and phone traffic, which was also illegal, and against the charter of NSA. Lesser known monitoring was the hacking into computer databases and monitoring of emails, voice mails and text messaging by NSA computers. They have computers that can download and read every email or text message on every circuit from every Internet or phone user as well as every form of voice communication.
Such claims of being able to track everyone, everywhere have been made before and it seems that lots of people simply don’t believe that level of monitoring is possible. Well, I’m here to tell you that it not only is possible, but it is all automated and you can read all about the tool that started it all online. Look up “starlight” in combination with “PNNL” on Google and you will find references to a software program that was the first generation of the kind of tool I am talking about.
This massive amount of communications data is screened by a program called STARLIGHT, which was created by the CIA and the Army and a team of contractors led by Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL)at a cost of over $10 million. It does two things that very few other programs can do. It can process free-form text and images of text (scanned documents) and it can display complex queries in visual 3-D graphic outputs.
The free-form text processing means that it can read text in its natural form as it is spoken, written in letters and emails and printed or published in documents. For a database program to be able to do this as easily and as fast as it would for formal defined records and fields of a relational database is a remarkable design achievement. Understand this is not just a word search although that is part of it. It is not just a text-scanning tool; it can treat the text of a book as if it were an interlinked, indexed and cataloged database in which it can recall every aspect of the book (data). It can associate, cross-link and find any word or phrase in relation to any parameter you can think of related to the book page numbers, nearby words or phrases, words use per page, chapter or book, etc. By using the most sophisticated voice-to-text messaging, it can perform this kind of expansive searching on everything written or spoken, emailed, texted or said on cell phones or landline phones in the US!
The visual presentation of that data is the key to being able to use it without information overload and to have the software prioritize the data for you. It does this by translating the database query parameters into colors and dimensional elements of a 3-D display. To view this data, you have to put on a special set of glasses similar to the ones that put a tiny TV screen in from of each eye. Such eye-mounted viewing is available for watching video and TV giving the impression you are looking at a 60-inch TV screen from 5 feet away. In the case of STARLIGHT, it gives a completely 3-D effect and more. It can sense which way you are looking so it shows you a full 3-D environment that can be expanded into any size the viewer wants. And then it adds interactive elements. You can put on a special glove that can be seen in the projected image in front of your eyes. As you move this glove in the 3-D space you are in, the glove moves in the 3-D computer images that you see in your binocular eye-mounted screens. Plus this glove can interact with the projected data elements. Let’s see how this might work for a simple example:
The first civilian (unclassified) application of STARLIGHT was for the FAA to analyze private aircraft crashes over a 10-year period. Every scrape of information was scanned from accident reports, FAA investigations and police records almost all of this was in free-form text. This included full specs on the aircraft, passengers, pilots, type of flight plan (IFR, VFR) etc. It also entered geospatial data that listed departure and destination airports, peak flight plan altitude, elevation of impact, distance and heading data. It also entered temporal data for the times of day, week and year that each event happened. This was hundreds of thousands of documents that would have taken years to key into a computer if a conventional database were used. Instead, high-speed scanners were used that read in reports at a rate of 200 double-sided pages per minute. A half dozen of these scanners completed the data entry in less than two months.
The operator then assigns colors to a variety of ranges of data. For instance, it first assigned red and blue to male and female pilots and then looked at the data projected on a map. What popped up were hundreds of mostly red (male) dots spread out over the entire US map. Not real helpful. Next he assigned a spread of colors to all the makes of aircraft Cessna, Beachcraft, etc.. Now all the dots change to a rainbow of colors with no particular concentration of any given color in any given geographic area. Next he assigned colors to hours of the day doing 12 hours at a time Midnight to Noon and then Noon to Midnight. Now something interesting came up. The colors assigned to 6AM and 6PM (green) and shades of green (before and after 6AM or 6PM) were dominant on the map. This meant that the majority of the accidents happened around dusk or dawn. Next the operator entered assigned colors to distances from the departing airport red being within 5 miles, orange was 5 to 10 miles and so on with blue being the longest (over 100 miles). Again a surprise in the image. The map showed mostly red or blue with very few in between. When he refined the query so that red was either within 5 miles of the departing or destination airport, almost the whole map was red.
Using these simple techniques, an operator was able to determine in a matter of a few hours that 87% of all private aircraft accidents happen within 5 miles of the takeoff or landing runway. 73% happen in the twilight hours of dawn or dusk. 77% happen with the landing gear lowered or with the landing lights on and 61% of the pilots reported being confused by ground lights. This gave the FAA information they needed to improve approach lighting and navigation aids in the terminal control areas (TCAs) of private aircraft airports.
This highly complex data analysis was accomplished by a programmer, not a pilot or an FAA investigator and incorporated 100s of thousands of reports that were able to be collated into useful data in a matter of hours. This had never been done before.
As new and innovative as this was, it was a very simple application that used a limited number of visual parameters at a time. But STARLIGHT is capable of so much more. It can assign things like direction and length of a vector, color of the line or tip, curvature and width and taper to various elements of a search. It can give shape to one result and different shape to another result. This gives significance to “seeing” a cube versus a sphere or to seeing rounded corners on a flat surface instead of square corners on an egg-shaped surface.
Everything visual can have meaning but what is important is to spot anomalies, things that are different and nothing is faster doing that than a visual image.
Having 80+ variables at a time that can be interlaced with geospatial and temporal (historical) parameters can allow the program to search an incredible amount of data. Since the operator is looking for trends, anomalies and outflyers, the visual representation of the data is ideal to spot this data without actually scanning the data itself by the operator. Since the operator is visually seeing an image that is devoid of the details of numbers or words, he can easily spot some aspect of the image that warrants a closer look.
In each of these trial queries, the operator can, using his gloved hand to point to any given dot, line or object, call up the original source of the information in the form of a scanned image of the accident report or reference source data. He can also touch virtual screen elements to bring out other data or query elements. For instance, he can merge two queries to see how many accidents near airports (red dots) had more than two passengers or were single engine aircraft, etc. Someone looking on would see a guy with weird glasses waving his hand in the air but in the eyes of the operator, he is pressing buttons, rotating knobs and selecting colors and shapes to alter his room-filling graphic 3-D view of the data.
In its use at NSA, they add one other interesting capability. Pattern Recognition. It can automatically find patterns in the data that would be impossible for any real person to find by looking at the tons of data. For instance, they put in a long list of words that are linked to risk assessments such as plutonium, bomb, kill, jihad, etc. Then they let it search for patterns. Suppose there are dozens of phone calls being made to coordinate an attack but the callers are from all over the US. Every caller is calling someone different so no one number or caller can be linked to a lot of risk words. STARLIGHT can collate these calls and find the common linkage between them, and then it can track the calls, caller and discussions in all other media forms. If the callers are using code words, it can find those words and track them. It can even find words that are not used in a normal context, such as referring to an orange blossom in an unusual manner a phrase that was once used to describe a nuclear bomb.
Now imagine the list of risk words and phrases to be hundreds of thousands of words long. It includes phrases and code words and words used in other languages. It can include consideration for the source or destination of the call from public phones or unregistered cell phones. It can link the call to a geographic location within a few feet and then track the caller in all subsequent calls. It can use voice print technology to match calls made on different devices (radio, CB, cell phone, landline, VOIP, etc.) by the same people. This is still just a sample of the possibilities.
STARLIGHT was the first generation and was only as good as the data that was fed into it through scanned documents and other databases of information. A later version, code named Quasar, was created that used advanced data mining and ERP (enterprise resource planning) system architecture that integrated the direct feed from legacy system information gathering resources as well as newer technologies.
(ERP is a special mix of hardware and software that allows a free flow of data between different kinds of machines and different kinds of software and data formats. For instance the massive COBAL databases at the IRS loaded on older model IBM mainframe computers can now exchange data easily with NSA CRAY computers using the latest and most advanced languages and database designs. ERP also has resolved the problem that each agency has a different encryption and data security format and process. ERP does not change any of the existing systems but it makes them all work smoothly and efficiently together.)
For instance, the old STARLIGHT system had to feed recordings of phone calls into a speech-to-text processor and then the text data that was created was fed into STARLIGHT. In the Quasar system, the voice monitoring equipment (radios, cell phones, landlines) is fed directly into Quasar as is the direct feed of emails, telegrams, text messages, Internet traffic, etc. Quasar was also linked using ERP to existing legacy systems in multiple agencies FBI, CIA, DIA, IRS, and dozens of other federal and state agencies.
So does the government have the ability to track you? Absolutely! Are they doing so? Absolutely! But wait, there’s more!
Above, I said that Quasar was a “later version”. It’s not the latest version. Thanks to the Patriot Act and Presidential Orders on warrantless searches and the ability to hack into any database, NSA now can do so much more. This newer system is miles ahead of the relatively well known Echelon program of information gathering (which was dead even before it became widely known). It is also beyond another older program called Total Information Awareness (TIA). TIA was compromised by numerous leaks and died because the technology was advancing so fast.
The newest capability is made possible by the new bank of NSA Cray computers and memory storage that are said to make Google’s entire system look like an abacus. NSA combined that with the latest integration (ERP) software and the latest pattern recognition and visual data representation systems. Added to all of the Internet and phone monitoring and screening are two more additions into a new program called “Kontur”. Kontur is the Danish word for Profile. You will see why in a moment.
Kontur adds geospatial monitoring of every person’s location to their database. Since 2005, every cell phone now broadcasts its GPS location at the beginning of every transmission as well as at regular intervals even when you are not using it to make a call. This was mandated by the Feds supposedly to assist in 911 emergency calls but the real motive was to be able to track people’s locations at all times. For those few that are still using the older model cell phones, they employ “tower tracking” which uses the relative signal strength and timing of the cell phone signal reaching each of several cell phone towers to pinpoint a person within a few feet. Of course, landlines are easy to locate as are all internet connections.
A holdover from the Quasar program was the tracking of commercial data which included every purchase made by credit cards or any purchase where a customer discount card is used like at grocery stores. This not only gives the Feds an idea of a person’s lifestyle and income but by recording what they buy, they can infer other behaviors. When you combine cell phone and purchase tracking with the ability to track other forms of transactions like banking, doctors, insurance, police and public records, there are relatively few gaps in what they know about you.
Kontur also mixed in something called geofencing that allows the government to create digital virtual fences around anything they want. Then when anyone crosses this virtual fence, they can be tracked. For instance, there is a virtual fence around every government building in Washington DC. Using predictive automated behavior monitoring and cohesion assessment software combined with location monitoring, geofencing and sophisticated social behavior modeling, pattern mining and inference, they are able to recognize patterns of people’s movements and actions as being threatening. Several would-be shooters and bombers have been stopped using this equipment. You dont hear about them because they do not want to explain what alerted them to the bad guys presence.
To talk about the “Profile” aspect of Kontur, we must first talk about why or how is it possible because it became possible only when the Feds were able to create very, very large databases of information and still be able to make effective use of that data. It took NSA 35 years of computer use to get to the point of using a terabyte of data. That was back in 1990 using ferrite core memory. It took 10 more years to get to petabyte of storage that was in early 2001 using 14-inch videodisks and RAID banks of hard drives. It took four more years to create and make use of an exabyte of storage. With the advent of quantum memory using gradient echo and EIT (electromagnetically induced transparency), the NSA computers now have the capacity to store and rapidly search a yottabyte of data and expect to be able to raise that to 1,000 yottabytes of data within two years. A yottabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000 gigabytes or 2 to the 80th power.
This is enough storage to store every book that has ever been written in all of history ..a thousand times over. It is enough storage to record every word of every conversation by every person on earth for a period of 10 years. It can record, discover, compute and analyze a persons life from birth to death in less than 12 seconds and repeat that for 200,000 people at the same time.
To search this much data, they use a bank of 16 Cray XT Jaguar computers that do nothing but read and write to and from the QMEM quantum memory. The look-ahead and read-ahead capabilities are possible because of the massively parallel processing of a bank of 24 other Crays that gives an effective speed of about 270 petaflops. Speeds are increasing at NSA at a rate of about 1 petaflop every two to four weeks. This kind of speed is necessary for things like pattern recognition and making use of the massive profile database of Kontur.
In late 2006, it was decided that NSA and the rest of the intelligence and right wing government agencies would stop this idea of real-time monitoring and begin developing a historical record of what everyone does. Being able to search historical data was seen as essential for back-tracking a person’s movements to find out what he has been doing and whom he has been seeing or talking with. This was so that no one would ever again accuse the government or the intelligence community of not “connecting the dots”.
But that means what EVERYONE does! As you have seen from the above description, they already can track your movements and all your commercial activities as well as what you say on phones or emails, what you buy and what you watch on TV or listen to on the radio. The difference now is that they save this data in a profile about you. All of that and more.
Using geofencing, they have marked out millions of locations around the world to including obvious things like stores that sell pornography, guns, chemicals or lab equipment. Geofenced locations include churches, organizations like Greenpeace and Amnesty International. They have moving geofences around people they are tracking like terrorists but also political opponents, left wing radio and TV personalities and leaders of social movements and churches. If you enter their personal space close enough to talk, then you are flagged and then you are geofenced and tracked.
If your income level is low and you travel to the rich side of town, you are flagged. If you are rich and travel to the poor side of town, you are flagged. If you buy a gun or ammo and cross the wrong geofence, you will be followed. The pattern recognition of Kontur might match something you said in an email with something you bought and somewhere you drove in your car to determine you are a threat.
Kontur is watching and recording your entire life. There is only one limitation to the system right now. The availability of soldiers or “men in black” to follow-up on people that have been flagged is limited so they are prioritizing whom they act upon. You are still flagged and recorded but they are only acting on the ones that are judged to be a serious threat now. It is only a matter of time before they can find a way to reach out to anyone they want and curb or destroy them. It might come in the form of a government mandated electronic tag that is inserted under the skin or implanted at birth. They have been testing these devices in use on animals under the disguise of tracking and identification of lost pets. They have tried twice to introduce these to all the people in the military or in prisons. They have also tried to justify putting them into kids for “safety”. They are still pushing them for use in medical monitoring. Perhaps this will take the form of a nanobot. So small that you wont even know you have been tagged.
These tags need not be complex electronic devices. Every merchant knows that RFID tags are so cheap that they are now installed at the manufacturing plant for less than 1 cent per item. They consist if a special coil of wire or foil cut to a very specific length and folded into a special shape. It can be activated and deactivated remotely. This RFID tag is then scanned by an RF signal. If it is active and you have taken it out of the store, it sounds an alarm. Slightly more sophisticated RFID tags can be scanned to reveal a variety of environmental, location, time and condition data. All of this information is gathered by a device that has no power source other than the scanning beam from the tag reader. A 1 cubic millimeter tag 1/10th the size of a TicTac can collect and relay a huge amount of data, will have a nearly indefinite operating life and can be made to lodge in the body so you would never know it.
If they are successful in getting the population to accept these devices and then they determine you are a risk, they simply deactivate you by remotely popping open a poison capsule using a radio signal. Such a device might be totally passive in a person that is not a threat but might be lethal or it can be programmed to inhibit the motor-neuron system or otherwise disable a person that is deemed to be a high-risk person
Certainly this sounds like paranoia and you probably say to yourself, that can never happen in a free society. If you think that, you have just not been paying attention. Almost everything in this article can be easily researched online. The code names of Quasar and Kontur are not public knowledge yet but if you look up the design parameters I have described, you will see that they are in common usage by NSA and others. There is nothing in this article that cannot be verified by independent sources.
As I said in the beginning of this article, if the technology exists and is being used by the government or corporate America and it is public knowledge, then you can bet your last dollar that there is some other technology that is much more effective that is NOT public knowledge that is being used.
Also, you can bet that the public image of protecting privacy and civil rights have absolutely no limitations or restrictions on the government if they want to do something. The Bush/Cheney assault on our rights is a most recent example but is by no means rare or unusual. If they want the information, laws against them gathering it have no effect. They will claim National Security or classified necessity or simply do it illegally and if they get caught, they will deny it.
Here are just a few web links that might convince you that this is worth taking seriously.