In the recent years, the nature of threats and the perceptions around these have radically changed at a global scale, leading to a transformational shift resulting in the creation of a new genre of intelligence capabilities amongst various international intelligence and security agencies. Amongst all the changes there are a few well defined forces at play, in fact primarily three relatively new forces to which the intelligence community and the governments in the world are responding;
- for the first-time-in-history (even) the large countries have proved to be highly vulnerable to the security, social and political risks arising from seemingly small non-state actors, (many with a very little physical footprint, with significant part of their operational activities existing only in the ‘virtual cyber-world’ a la web 2.0 and 3.0!)
- the transnational nature of these risks where international borders and country specific allegiance do not seem to matter i.e. the interconnected-world is a global village in more ways than one – from an economic to the security and the risk perspectives; and
- the increasing convergence of humanintelligence and technical-intelligence means and sources for the intelligence gatherer, brought about by the wide adoption of new networkedcommunication systems and information technology platforms i.e. the human-int takes a form where it creates intelligenceleads and evidence-chain on technical platforms. These major changes have created not just significant challenges but also opportunities for the intelligence gatherer and the analysts. By all indications, the above trends are bound to intensify further.
But as the uncertainty and threats in the world increase, while its ability to tolerate the manifestation of these risks is actually decreasing at the individual and the psychological level to the economic and the operational levels, the opportunities, the scope and the means available for the intelligence community are expanding manifold.
Yet, some things have remained unchanged, for one, the social, political, ideological and psychological motivations behind the new-age threats are more or less the same as before.And therefore, the focus of the intelligence efforts continues to be to track, monitor and predict the actors, events and forces that either arise from or influence these motivations for future safety.
Evolving a Solution to the New-age Intelligence Requirements
We at ORKASH have studied and carefully researched the above described phenomena and the emerging patterns over the last many years. What resulted from this R&D is an enterprise class information- technology platform called the Unconventional Conflict & Intelligence management System or the ORKASH-UCIMS. Designed to automate intelligence creation at the tactical and the strategic levels, with the former being the ‘actionable intelligence’ module.
The ORKASH-UCIMS if a first of its kind platform designed exclusively for the new-age threats, and one that can work with unstructured data (i.e. text based information sources) and undertake complex analysis on such information sources without any human input.
So, it largely removes the human operator that is needed to analyse text based inputs, be these open-source intelligence such as news items and internet based inputs, or int-reports, communication intercepts, email traffic etc. It has integrated artificial-intelligence based expert-engines that facilitate the automation of the processes of pattern mining,
link analysis, association and clustering, network analysis, and tracking of entities/events/locations, and many other powerful features and analytics for both unstructured and structured data.In brief, it develops target-centric intelligence in an automated manner, and provides detailed inputs to its human users for decision-support in evaluating these inputs.
ORKASH-UCIMS was developed as a network-centric platform from the very beginning. It takes information inputs from multitudes of networked or independent information/data channels simultaneously (through human input, the internet and the automated input of any information source in digital format).
Additionally, the backend of the ORKASH-UCIMS operates within a super-computing software-hardware environment, with networked thin-client based Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) with the ultimate users. This architecture is the key to its powerful enterprise class capabilities and ease-of-use for nontechnical personnel. This architecture also gives the platform the capability to handle truly large amounts of information (which can be in hundreds of tera-bytes or even peta-bytes) for realtime intelligence and complex scenario based simulations and analytics for decision support.
Intelligence Trends and Challenges for India – Looking but not seeing
In India the need for a modern perspective on intelligence management was in many ways ‘thrust upon us’ suddenly only after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, with a number of new agencies, initiatives and mandates being created. This has resulted in some extraordinary work and achievements by the intelligence community in the period since, though largely hidden from the public eye due to their covert nature and a lack of the culture of professional and public oversight. That said, these initial successes are attributable more to individuals rater than institutional capability enhancement, with large gaps between institutional intent and the resolve to execute. To move ahead from where the Indian intelligence capabilities currently are, and without commenting on the policy level issues here, there emerges a clear set of operational requirements critical to intelligence capability enhancement:
- Community Based Intelligence Models: The new age threats and their motivations are community based, be it cyber-communities of like-minded hackers or social-communities within which non-state actors such as terrorists, extremists and organised crime mafias find sustenance to operate. Availability and gathering of background demographics data of such communities is the key to interpreting and predicting events, trends and associations that have great intelligence value. It goes without saying that governance controls and oversights must in evolve in tandem with such capability creation.
- Automating Data Analysis is the Key: Collection, interpretation and analysis of data, that too huge amounts of data and in real time, is the key to successful intelligence efforts. It does not matter if the source of this data is Human-int or Tech-int in nature. This requires huge effort in creating technology systems that would enable availability, sharing and analysis of very large repositories of information. Further, most of the data or information resides in text based formats. Technological capability to automate analysis of such information is therefore a critical need. Currently, neither the repositories exist not there are systems for sharing and analysis. (NATGRID happens to be one important but small step in this direction.)
- Actionable Intelligence: The desire for actionable intelligence can be like a mirage – it is there but not there. Actionable intelligence is critical to combat unconventional conflict like situations; it is also one of the most daunting tasks for the investigative agencies. One of the main challenges in combating unconventional conflicts such as insurgencies and Naxalism is that they exist in the midst of civil populations, with complex sociopolitical as well as demographic forces at play. Increasingly, with a network-centric mode of functioning, the success of today’s unconventional conflict/anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations, lies largely in the ability to technically sieve ‘background and historical information’ for intelligence creation and operational planning, identifying patterns, creating counter strategies and real-time monitoring for command and control of tactical operations.
- R&D: Much more than the defence sector, it is critical to develop homegrown capabilities for development of Intelligence related technologies and products as no foreign agency, even where it sells an intelligence system to India, would give us access to the real algorithms at work within the system. Public-private partnership would be the key given India’s huge technology base, particularly in the IT sector. A mistake that must not be made is to mandate just one or few government agencies for the R&D as has happened with DRDO for the defense needs. Intelligence and decision-support systems are very complex, and the country would need access to a wide R&D base and rapid prototyping for successful product development.
—The author is the Founder & CEO of Orkash Services Pvt Ltd. He served in the Indian Army and was awarded a Vir Chakra for gallantry given to him by the President of India.