could minimize the space in which terrorists hide
and make tracking easier,” says Ewan Lawson,
senior research fellow for military influence, Royal
United Services Institute, London, England.
Such data projects aim to help counterterrorism organizations keep pace with transnational
militant groups such as the Islamic State. Yet
despite a surge in initiatives to better share data
and link intelligence systems across borders,
experts warn that true progress could be frustratingly slow, as project leaders contend with
bureaucratic obstacles and IT challenges.
The Counter Terrorism Group project tackles the latter challenge by improving a common
database approach. Networks built around a “pull”
model require users to perform specific searches
(or pulls) for information. “If the network is built
so that data relies on pull, which is generally the
simpler model, then it requires the user to know
the right question to ask to retrieve valuable information,” Mr. Lawson says.
When the European Parliament approved legislation
in mid-April to green-light the Passenger Name
Record (PNR) project, many heralded it as a step
forward in the European Union’s push to counter
terrorist attacks. The PNR initiative, which enables
intelligence agencies to collect and share personal
information of European flight passengers, is just
one of a spate of counterterrorism data projects
proposed or underway. The deadly attacks in Paris
and Brussels in November and March, respectively,
highlighted the need for governments to coordinate across borders.
In the U.S., the National Consortium for the
Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism
(START) completed a project to build a database
of all terror incidents. The Counter Terrorism
Group, an independent body of European agencies
chaired by the Netherlands, is slated to complete
a data network project in July that will enable 30
countries to share counterterrorism information.
“The Counter Terrorism Group’s virtual network
Brussels after a
space in which
—Ewan Lawson, Royal United
Services Institute, London,