To predict the next shooting — in time to do something about it — we need to be looking at more open source data.
In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the United States, we find ourselves asking the same questions we’ve asked before: Why did this happen? Were there signs we missed? Could we have prevented this? And while there’s never a satisfying answer as to why, we can usually say that yes, there were signs — and they were missed — and yes, we most likely could have prevented this. Which leads us to the next question: how?
Knowledge is power, or so they say. The answers are out there — often in the form of open source data. Open source data, or data that is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection, exists on thousands of social media sites. We’re always quick to think of Facebook and Twitter when we think of social media, but to expand our ability to detect high-risk individuals and predict what, where, and when violence may occur, we need to actively search and probe all social media sites, looking for the Signals that indicate potential violence.
Scott Weber, president of Opera Solutions Government Services and former senior counselor to Secretary Michael Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security, spoke with Fox News about the importance of open source data and why the government should be monitoring more information to prevent this type of violence in the future.
“The government ought to be looking at and combing through open source, Web, and email data to see what information they can gather about the shooter,” said Weber. “You can discern patterns and behavior that can then be used from a preventative standpoint.”
Weber went on to reference the Tsarnaev brothers, allegedly responsible for the Boston bombings. When the older brother, Tamerian Tsarnaev, came back from his trip overseas, he set up a YouTube page with videos of radical jihadists, preachings, and violent videos. The US government didn’t catch that, but, Weber posits, if they had, maybe Tsarnaev would have been back on the radar screen for the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Throughout the interview, Weber also discusses the security clearance process for government employees and contractors, as well as the types of information available in various background checks.
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