More massive datasets: more failure to look at them

According to the BBC news, MI5 do not have time to examine the very large amounts of evidence gathered on recent terrorists.

The BBC says:
“In February 2004, counter-terrorism officers began round-the-clock surveillance of the key suspects, including recording bugged conversations.
The complete operation included:
* 24,000 hours of video
* 3,000 hours of audio
* 33,000 man hours of surveillance
* 80 computers examined after arrest”

According to the BBC again, “In November 2003 the group bought 600kg of ammonium nitrate, which was stored at a self-storage unit in Hanwell, west London. On the other side of the Atlantic, another alleged conspirator was designing a remote-control detonator…But staff at the depot became suspicious and alerted the police. MI5 had already been taking an interest in Khyam because of his suspected links to a key al-Qaeda sympathiser working in both Britain and Pakistan. But it was the call from the storage unit that provided the evidence.”

In other words, despite all the data siezed, it was the public who spotted them and provided the evidence.

This is not a criticism of MI5. I know Eliza Manningham-Buller slightly, and she is a competent and hard-working person. Im sure MI5 did well under her command. My point is that the accumulation of large datasets is not the answer. Most surveillance and data gathering is a waste of time. And although there may be tools to sift data, its clear that either
– MI5 dont have them (whcih would surprise me, gvien current expenditure on these things) or
– they arent much help

Its not ust physical surveillance: again according to the BBC, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, National Coordinator for Terrorist Investigations, told Panorama about the logistical challenge of running surveillance – explaining how resources are the crucial factor.

“An average surveillance team is perhaps 15 to 20 people strong,” he said. “In order to keep one person under 24 hour surveillance youll need a minimum two, perhaps three, surveillance teams for each person. Three surveillance teams could be anything up to 60 people.”

Its reading through all the stuff they report, and all the other material, and making connections, thats the problem. There are limits to what you can do with Google.

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