March 26, 2001: The Washington Post reports on a major improvements of the CIA's intelligence gathering capability "in recent years." A new program called Oasis uses "automated speech recognition" technology to turn audio feeds into formatted, searchable text. It can distinguish one voice from another and differentiates "speaker 1" from "speaker 2" in transcripts. Software called Fluent performs "cross lingual" searches, even translating difficult languages like Chinese and Japanese (apparently such software is much better than similar publicly available software) as well as automatically assessing their importance. There's also software that can turn a suspect's "life story into a three-dimensional diagram of linked phone calls, bank deposits and plane trips," and other software to efficiently and quickly process vast amounts of video, audio and written data. [Washington Post, 3/26/01] However, the government will later report that a number of messages about the 9/11 attacks, such as one stating "tomorrow is the zero hour" weren't translated until after 9/11 because analysts were "too swamped." [ABC News, 6/7/02] Doesn't that contradict the automated aspect of much translation?
April 4, 2001: The BBC reports on advances in electronic surveillance. Echelon has become particularly effective against mobile phones, recording millions of calls simultaneously and checking them against a powerful search engine designed to pick out key words that might represent a security threat. Laser microphones pick up conversations from up to a kilometer away by monitoring window vibrations. If a bug is attached to a computer keyboard it is possible to monitor exactly what is being keyed in, because every key on a computer has a unique sound when depressed. [BBC, 4/4/01]