Finding the Missing Links and connecting the dots…
Technology Helps FBI Unravel Criminal and Terrorist Networks
One of the ways the FBI does that is “Network Analysis”
“It’s said that success often depends on ”who you know.” For criminals, it can be their undoing. Try as they might to hide behind phony phone numbers, fake names, and bogus credit cards, new technology can pick up their tracks and use evidence of their social networks, money trails, and phone trees to nail their true identities.” FBI website
Social network analysis
Social network analysisexamines the structure of relationships between social entities. These entities are often persons, but may also be groups, organizations, nation states, web sites, scholarly publications.
Since the 1970s, the empirical study of networks has played a central role in social science, and many of the mathematical and statistical tools used for studying networks have been first developed in sociology. Amongst many other applications, social network analysis has been used to understand the diffusion of innovations, news and rumors. Similarly, it has been used to examine the spread of both diseases and health-related behaviors. It has also been applied to the study of markets, where it has been used to examine the role of trust in exchange relationships and of social mechanisms in setting prices. Similarly, it has been used to study recruitment into political movements and social organizations. It has also been used to conceptualize scientific disagreements as well as academic prestige. More recently, network analysis (and its close cousin traffic analysis) has gained a significant use in military intelligence, for uncovering insurgent networks of both hierarchical and leaderless nature.
Link analysis is a subset of network analysis, exploring associations between objects. An example may be examining the addresses of suspects and victims, the telephone numbers they have dialed and financial transactions that they have partaken in during a given timeframe, and the familial relationships between these subjects as a part of police investigation. Link analysis here provides the crucial relationships and associations between very many objects of different types that are not apparent from isolated pieces of information. Computer-assisted or fully automatic computer-based link analysis is increasingly employed by banks and insurance agencies in fraud detection, by telecommunication operators in telecommunication network analysis, by medical sector in epidemiology and pharmacology, in law enforcement investigations, by search engines for relevance rating (and conversely by the spammers for spamdexing and by business owners for search engine optimization), and everywhere else where relationships between many objects have to be analyzed.
Case in point:
Saddam Hussein – In 2003 Saddam Hussein literally pulled a disappearing act. How was he located? Largely by tracing his ties to others, using network analysis.
DC Snipers –
The hunt for snipers terrorizing the D.C. area was narrowed using the same technology. In the case of the “Virginia Jihad Network,” a group of 11 Northern Virginia men who trained for war against the U.S. in the days after 9/11, FBI analysts used link-analysis technology to visualize the connections between members as a pyramid, with the group’s leader, AliAli al-Timimi, at the top.
“From there, we wanted to see how strong the connections were and how they were connected to each other,” said Dawn, an intelligence analyst who worked this last case. She plugged in photos of the suspects, along with their phone records and a raft of other clues culled from databases and gathered by agents. The software revealed patterns and connections illustrating a vivid and intricate web of links among the accused jihadists. The picture helped crystallize al-Timimi’s place at the center the organization. He was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison.
“It’s just easier to get a sense of what’s going on if you can see a picture in front of you,” Dawn said. “It’s also a good tool if someone’s saying they didn’t know somebody.”
HOW IT WORKS:
Studying a group’s social network for clues is not new to investigations—we’ve all seen mob bosses fall when underlings sing. What’s new is using technological tools to visually connect suspects.
“Any kind of number structure data you can get, it will link it together,” said Jack Israel, the FBI’s chief technology officer.
FBI – TRAINING ALL ITS INTELLIGENCE ANANALYSTS THIS WAY
The Bureau licenses the software and trains all its intelligence analysts to use link analysis for intelligence and for investigations of everything from mortgage fraud to terror networks.
“It’s absolutely essential when we are trying to figure out a bad guy’s social network,” said Israel. “It shows you the network. And when you start taking apart the network, that’s when you can disrupt the operations.”
According to Shane Hornibrook: “Social Network Analysis is a method of analyzing and presenting data that contains link information, such as “who knows whom,” “who calls whom,” “who does business with whom”: information linking individuals or entities together. In a graphical context, each point or “node” is connected to other nodes on the graph by lines, called “edges” or “links”. These node and edge graphs neatly summarize relationships between entities. Data that would otherwise occupy thousands of lines in a database can easily be represented by a graph that can be understood by the eye. Without Social Network Analysis methodologies, the full extent of the interconnections and structure of the network would be lost in the sea of data.”
See “Degrees of Separation: Social Network Analysis Using The SAS System” by Shane Hornibrook, Charlotte, NC http://www.nesug.org/proceedings/nesug06/an/da21.pdf
Learn more about the FBI http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/intelligence/intel-driven/intel