Intelligence: April 7, 2005


The U.S. National Security Agency was a pioneer in the development of software that can identify key words in tape recordings of telephone conversations. But now theres a more portable, and unclassified version of that software available as a commercial product. An Israeli company, Natural Speech Communication, has been able to release a commercial version of software used by Israeli intelligence troops during the recent counter-terrorism campaigns against Palestinian groups. Given the close relationship between American and Israeli military intelligence, the new program, Key Word Spotting, is probably already used in Iraq. The software works very well with Arabic. The Israeli version, in order to be effective, had to be adapted to deal with several dialects of Arabic, and the American military version was probably further tweaked to deal with the Iraqi dialect. Key Word Spotting can monitor actual calls, in real time, or recordings of calls. Given the growing popularity of cell phones in Iraq, and the terrorists need to communicate, in order to avoid capture, software like Key Word Spotting would be a valuable tool in chasing down terrorists. The commercial version is mainly intended for call centers, so that supervisors can monitor service, and be more quickly alerted when a worker is having a problem with a customer. The military prefers to use commercial software, when possible, because it is cheaper, better maintained, and often more robust and effective than custom built stuff. Being unclassified also helps, as that means less time and effort has to be devoted to making sure no one steals it.


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