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April 4, 2006
Able Providence Background

Earlier today, I wrote about the funding of a new program the promises to use the "engine" of Able Danger to develop leads on potential terror cells, both here and abroad. The new program, Able Providence, wants to produce data as a shared resource for all intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, placed under the joint supervision of the DNI and the Joint Chiefs. For those of us who have followed the Able Danger effort and worried that a vital effort had been abandoned, this is exceptionally good news.

However, it is not a shock, as the intelligence-community magazine Government Community News (GCN) wrote a little-noted article about the Able Providence proposal last October:

A draft proposal floating behind closed doors would reconstitute and improve upon a former Army data-mining program called Able Danger.

Able Providence, as the new program has been dubbed, would establish “robust open-source harvesting capabilities” to give military and law enforcement agencies the information to take the initiative in the war on terrorism—that is, to be able to plan and execute offensive measures—in addition to continued defensive actions.

In addition, the program would be driven by a presumption that use of weapons of mass destruction within the United States is possible. As a result, Able Providence would need to detect, track and target terrorists as they move from location to location and reorganize their cells.

As one part of the new data-mining effort, the proposal suggests using information about terrorist financing and the Islamist system worldwide to identify correlations.

The proposal, which GCN has seen, would place the Able Providence project within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, with the Defense Department having joint oversight responsibilities.

A first-year budget of a little more than $26 million would cover the cost of a director drawn from the Senior Executive Service, a deputy director from SES (or a brigadier general), five planners, software and hardware, and office space.

The program itself is not classified, but also has not received much attention, especially in light of the treatment afforded to the Able Danger team members who have fought to have their successes recognized and repeated. Able Providence appears to be the program that they have desired, and the with the funding now in place, the datamining should soon commence as soon as their team forms.

One improvement over the experiment of Able Danger is a recognition of the enemy being targeted. AD had been a toss of the dice to determine whether the datamining concept could succeed in identifying potential targets. Now that the model has been proved, the focus of the data being mined can narrow towards the Islamofascists. Able Providence has already taken this focus into account, as this slide from the unclassified briefing shows:

We can see that the new program correctly focuses on those areas that bore fruit in Able Danger. The new datamining will pay attention to the mosques and the interaction between them, presumably the most radical in nature getting first priority. It's refreshing to see a government agency accepting the religious nature of the conflict, even in a low key. The effort is explicitly pre-emptive, designed to stop an attack before it happens rather than pursue an investigation amid the smoking ruins, as on 9/11.

More to come ... in the meantime, be sure to keep up with Mike Kasper's Able Danger coverage, including more information on Able Providence. Mike also has a good post on Sandy Berger's fundraising for Curt Weldon's opponent in Pennsylvania. That sounds rather ironic -- the man who stole key materials from the National Archive raising funds against the man who stood up to the 9/11 Commission to ensure our national security.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 4, 2006 2:01 PM

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