CIA’s CTO Gus Hunt On Big Data: We ‘Try To Collect Everything And Hang Onto It Forever’ — And a Few Things Most CTOs Do Not Compute

Government, IO Impotency
Theophillis Goodyear
Theophillis Goodyear

CIA’s Gus Hunt On Big Data: We ‘Try To Collect Everything And Hang Onto It Forever’

NEW YORK — The CIA’s chief technology officer outlined the agency’s endless appetite for data in a far-ranging speech on Wednesday.

VIDEO 28:30

Speaking before a crowd of tech geeks at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in New York City, CTO Ira “Gus” Hunt said that the world is increasingly awash in information from text messages, tweets, and videos — and that the agency wants all of it.

“The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time,” Hunt said. “Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever.”

CIA CTO Gus Hunt
CIA CTO Gus Hunt

Hunt’s comments come two days after Federal Computer Week reported that the CIA has committed to a massive, $600 million, 10-year deal with Amazon for cloud computing services. The agency has not commented on that report, but Hunt’s speech, which included multiple references to cloud computing, indicates that it does indeed have interest in storage and analysis capabilities on a massive scale.

The CIA is keenly interested in capabilities for so-called “big data” — the increasingly massive data sets created by digital technology. The agency even has a page on its website pitching big data jobs to prospective employees.

Hunt acknowleded that at some scale, data storage becomes impractical, adding that he meant “forever being in quotes” when he said the agency wants to keep data “forever.” But he also indicated that he was interested in computing capabilities like 1 petabyte of RAM, a massive capacity for on-the-fly calculations that has heretofore been seen only in computers that simulate nuclear explosions.

He referenced the failure to “connect the dots” in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” who was able to board a plan with an explosive device despite repeated warnings of his intentions. In that case, a White House review found that the CIA had all of the data it needed to identify the would-be bomber, but still failed to stop him. Nevertheless, the agency does not seem to have curbed its ambitions for an endless amount of data.

“It is really very nearly within our [NSA’s] grasp to be able to compute on all human generated [digital] information,” Hunt said. After that mark is reached, Hunt said, the agency would also like to be able to save and analyze all of the digital breadcrumbs people don’t even know they are creating.

“You’re already a walking sensor platform,” he said, nothing that mobiles, smartphones and iPads come with cameras, accelerometers, light detectors and geolocation capabilities.

“You are aware of the fact that somebody can know where you are at all times, because you carry a mobile device, even if that mobile device is turned off,” he said. “You know this, I hope? Yes? Well, you should.”

Hunt also spoke of mobile apps that will be able to control pacemakers — even involuntarily — and joked about a “dystopian” future where self-driving cars force people to go to the grocery store to pick up milk for their spouses.

Hunt’s speech barely touched on privacy concerns. But he did acknowledge that they exist.

“Technology in this world is moving faster than government or law can keep up,” he said. “It’s moving faster I would argue than you can keep up: You should be asking the question of what are your rights and who owns your data.”

Related:

Penguin: The CIA About To Sign $600 Million Deal With Amazon — Six Years After Robert Steele Proposed Amazon as the Hub for (an Open) World Brain

Phi Beta Iota: [NSA’s] and [digital] added above.  The above appears to confirm this is an IT initiative and not a CIA Open Source Center (OSC) initiative.  Here are a few facts most CTOs simply do not compute.

01  Digitally accessible information is less than 10% of all human accessible knowledge including unpublished local knowledge.

02  Within the digitally accessible information, Google processes less than 2% and NSA processes less than 5%.

03  Any digital enterprise that is not migrating immediately toward Open Source Everything (OSE) is both unaffordable and unscalable.

04  Any digital enterprise that lacks a whole systems model for collection management, processing prioritization, and analytic visualization is hosed from day one.

05  Most if not all Information Technology (IT) provides a NEGATIVE return on investment, and makes bad management worse (then DoD CTO Paul Straussman).

06  Information that cannot be shared is generally not worth very much.

07  Anything, digital or analog, that cannot be translated, put in historical and cultural context, and applied to a real end-user need, is relatively not worth the price of storage.

Directly Related:

Richard Wright: Secret Intelligence Cloud, Charlie Allen’s Warning, Comment by Robert Steele

Thomas Briggs: Comments on the US Secret Super Cloud — Dead Since 1995 — With Two Thoughts from Robert Steele

See Also:

Game Plan & Logo

John Heidenreich: The Intelligence Community’s Neglect of Strategic Intelligence

Manifesto Extracts

Open Source Agency (OSA)

Patrick Meier: A Research Framework for Next Generation Humanitarian Technology and Innovation

Public Intelligence 3.1

2008: Creating a Smart Nation (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

2006: Information Operations – All Information, All Languages, All the Time Technical Preface by Robert Garigue (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

2008: World Brain as EarthGame (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

2009 Fixing the White House & National Intelligence

2009 Human Intelligence: All Humans, All Minds, All the Time

2009 Intelligence for the President–AND Everyone Else

2010: OPINION–America’s Cyber Scam

2010 The Ultimate Hack Re-Inventing Intelligence to Re-Engineer Earth (Chapter for Counter-Terrorism Book Out of Denmark)

2011 Thinking About Revolution in the USA and Elsewhere (Full Text Online for Google Translate)

2012 PREPRINT: The Craft of Intelligence [Full Text Online]

2013 Public Governance in the 21st Century: New Rules, Hybrid Forms, One Constant – The Public [Work in Progress]

2013  Intelligence with Integrity Chapter 1: Public Governance & Public Intelligence

2013  Intelligence with Integrity Chapter 2:  The InfoSphere & Its Enemies

2013 Intelligence with Integrity Chapter 3:  The Human Factor – Theory & Practice

2013 Intelligence with Integrity Chapter 4:  Four Domains for Applied Intelligence

2013 Intelligence with Integrity Chapter 5:  System Thinking & True Cost Economics