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June 19th, 2007

Overhauling Intelligence

The U.S. intelligence community needs to harness the promise of advances in fields such as the biosciences, nanotechnology, and information technology. The new Intelligence Advanced Research Program Agency seeks to do just that, much as a similar Department of Defense program is doing to drive leading-edge technologies to meet defense requirements. One fruit of that effort was the development in 2004 of Argus -- named for the giant from Greek mythology with one hundred eyes -- which monitors foreign news media and other open sources for early indications of epidemics or other serious biological incidents, such as increased absenteeism, failures of health-care infrastructure, and other disruptions of normal life. At the outset of the avian flu outbreak in November 2006, Argus became fully operational and provided rigorous, validated information on the disease. Today, it monitors more than one million reports a day from nearly 3,000 sources in 21 major languages in 195 countries. In the future, Argus may be able to use open-source reporting to more rapidly detect other causes of societal disruption -- especially in closed societies -- such as nuclear accidents and environmental disasters.


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