How the NSA helped the military spot the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan

Fox News:
Relentless attacks on American military personnel at the height of the Iraq war made the U.S. intelligence community confront a dire problem: They needed real-time intelligence to take Al Qaeda off the battlefield and dismantle its bomb-making factories.

This realization was the start of a highly secretive program, developed by the National Security Agency, to put NSA specialists on the battlefield in order to send “near real-time” intelligence to the troops so they could avoid ambushes and root out insurgents. For the first time, going in depth with Fox News, senior NSA leadership is speaking publicly about that program, called the Real Time Regional Gateway or RT-RG.

"Starting in 2005, we started seeing a big uptick in casualties caused by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and ambushes," NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett told Fox News. The RT-RG program created to combat those attacks, he said, “was really a complete change in how we provided signals intelligence support to the tactical war fighter.”

The program, parts of which were classified until now, has dispatched thousands of NSA experts into war zones since 9/11. It has put those experts – from an agency most-known for its controversial surveillance programs – at grave risk across multiple theatres. But in the process, officials say, RT-RG has saved the lives of fellow Americans.

Col. Bob Harms, one of the first people on the ground for the NSA at Baghdad's Camp Victory, said the goal was to “get in front of our adversaries.”

Exclusive images shared with Fox News from Camp Victory show the basic set-up, which took traditional streams of intelligence and married it up with information gathered from raids – for instance, taking satellite images and combining that with on-the-ground information about an insurgent’s movements and contacts, to pinpoint threats.

Some of the most useful information came from captured operatives – information known in the intel world as "pocket litter." Harms said this included “pattern of life” details including “when do they go to sleep, where do they go to sleep, where do they work and those types of things."

The NSA's goal was to compress the timeline for crunching all this information from a period of weeks or days, to just hours or minutes. Think of it like a phone app -- but instead of giving directions, it's flagging threats.

"[Battlefield commanders] would actually feed us information … so that we could give them a roadmap to the next site,” Harms explained.

Ledgett said the program harnessed big data, in a way that it could be used immediately on the battlefield. Ledgett said RT-RG "integrated hundreds of pieces of information," and then software was developed to draw connections that could "put things on graphical displays" so it was easy for analysts and operators to understand.
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There is more.

The program helped to reduce the advantage of the insurgents who rely on the ambiguity of the time and place of attack.  This allowed troops to avoid ambushes and target terrorists in their liar.    It also reduced casualties from collateral damage because it allowed pin point attacks on the perps.

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