Re: Name Mixup Behind Air France Groundings

From: Tom Emerson (
Date: Sat Jan 03 2004 - 20:35:18 EST

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    Philippe Verdy writes:
    > Do you remember that the CIA, NSA and US Army were recruiting people in US
    > that had good linguistic skills in Pashto and Arabic in preparation for the
    > military intervention to Afghanistan, so that they would better understand
    > linguistic issues in official documents, tape records, and phone
    > interceptions?

    Finding US citizens with skills in Farsi, Dari, Pashto, and Arabic who
    can pass a security clearance was very difficult two and three years
    ago. It's not a whole lot easier now. These people are very busy right

    > Were are those people now?

    Working very hard in various parts of the world.

    > May be these agencies still didn't have enough trained people to
    > work with these languages...

    Absolutely! The amount of material far exceeds the number of people
    available. Hence the great efforts under way right now in the USG to
    develop computational approaches to data analysis, triage, and similar
    efforts, not only for Middle Eastern languages but others more "well
    known" languages like Chinese and Korean.

    > May be the track of Ben Laden has taken all resources for the Middle-East
    > area, and they are unable to work with travel agencies and airlines in
    > Europe that transport many European citizen with Arabic names...

    You are assuming, of course, that European corporations are willing to
    share this information, which they are often not. The privacy laws in
    Europe are much stricter than those in the US, even before the PATRIOT

    > If only the NSA could provide a tiny part of its collossal budget to
    > dedicate some people working in ISO and Unicode transliteration and
    > codification standards... then the international administrations, polices,
    > and airways companies would be able to work with common standards to
    > exchange usable information about people identities...

    The TLAs (three-letter agencies) are quite involved in Unicode and
    other standards organizations... I personally know of at least three
    NSA employees that regularly attend IUC (and probably lurk here), as
    well as several from CIA and parts of the DoD. You also see
    participation from organizations like MITRE, SAIC, and other big
    integrators and contractors. But these groups move s-l-o-w-l-y.


    Tom Emerson                                          Basis Technology Corp.
    Software Architect                       
      "Beware the lollipop of mediocrity: lick it once and you suck forever"

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