community could benefit from the establishment of a new discipline of sociocultural intelligence.
When dealing with terrorists, one of the most difficult problems to overcome is that they are mostly hidden, so that it is difficult to identify them and follow what they are doing. In his presentation, Hsinchun Chen of the University of Arizona described how he has used information from the Internet—forums, chat rooms, video postings, and so on—to identify potential terrorists and to map out their web of connections.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Chen developed a system called COPLINK that provides a way to link information from a large number of criminal justice databases, such as collections of detailed criminal reports from local police departments (for additional background information, see Hauck et al., 2002). He also developed a variety of software tools for analyzing the collected data, such as one called COPLINK Detect, which searches for the presence or absence of links among people, vehicles, places, and offenses in the police reports, allowing investigators to notice connections that might otherwise be overlooked.
After his work on COPLINK, Chen said, he became interested in the area of international security when he read the book Understanding Terror Networks by Mark Sageman (2004). “He was making the claim—and also providing the data—that most international jihadists are using the Internet as a recruiting, assignment, training, and communication tool,” Chen said. “He says this is leading into something called leaderless jihad.” This description of the terrorist world convinced Chen that he could develop tools to help in this area as well.
His academic background is in computer science, Chen explained, and specifically in the discipline of intelligence and security informatics, which he described as using information technology systems, databases, software models, and other computer-based tools to deal with security-related issues (see Chen, 2006). Although COPLINK is not directly related to the work he has been doing on terrorist networks, the two share a common approach: that of combing through vast amounts of information looking for understanding and insights.
When he first started work on his new project, which he called Dark Web to refer to people who were present on the Internet but trying to remain hidden or “in the dark,” his goal was to “collect all the terrorist-generated content in the world.” He looked at Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and other domestic groups in the United States. He looked at Arabic-speaking groups and Spanish-speaking groups. Eventually, however, he decided to focus mainly on jihadist groups, Islamic-inspired groups, and