Words and Action: How Text Analysis is Transforming the War on Terror – Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin

An Automated Alternative to Manual Processes

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.45.13 PMAt the time of the June 2003 directive from the CIA, a Cambridge, Massachusetts based company named Basis Technology was already developing an automated technology solution, now called Highlight, which is enhancing manual, text-authentication practices.

Basis Technology started out in 1995 as a commercial services firm, focusing on helping enterprises do business globally. Since that time, the company has developed a suite of products that provides morphological analysis, entity extraction, name matching and name translation for enterprise software applications.

An early customer was Google, which brought Basis on board when it expanded to China and required support to perform text segmentation in search functions. By May 2002, Basis made its products available to the federal market, where its enterprise text analytics software is now utilized throughout the DOD and IC.

In 2006, the company introduced the first version of Highlight to the IC. With this new solution, IC analysts and linguists could automate the entire process or use it to improve and speed up their existing workflow. The incremental cost of adding a capability such as Highlight as a productivity tool to the linguist or analyst’s workflow is approximately 0.7 percent of the cost of a person working without the technology.

The original contract for what is now Highlight began as a joint project sponsored by four different IC agencies in 2006. The program then funded by ODNI and administered by DIA. The goal of this ongoing project is to provide a Microsoft Office plugin that supports linguists and analysts when they need to correctly render names of people and places that are being transliterated from non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic.

In one example from 2008, Highlight was used by Coalition Forces to standardize a list for the Iraqi 52 Military Intelligence government, one involving the names of 93,000 “friendly” Iraqi militia military members who were contributing to the U.S. effort. The members were set to serve solely for Iraq, and all 93,000 names had to be translated in a standardized manner to Arabic before the hand-off could take place. Because Basis brought automation to what previously was a manual undertaking, the entire project was completed in days, as opposed to months.Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.45.13 PM Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.45.27 PM

With Highlight, there is no integration, as the solution functions as a plug-in which can be immediately downloaded and added to existing Word/Excel/Office tool sets. It is compatible with Windows 8. If there is a non-Windows environment for which Highlight is desired, managers can contact Basis to see if a custom configuration may be arranged. Highlight complies with a broad range of network security clearances and certifications.

The latest version of Highlight (6.0), due to launch in October, has a very user-friendly interface, and is designed to empower–but not replace–the analyst. Analysts/translators call up a document and then select a particular name or place with their cursors. With this, Highlight immediately presents the best translation options. The user decides if the software will work interactively or automatically, depending on their workflow. This is because, as with spell-checking tools, humans should have the option to make the final decision, rather than relying on machines to do so. (Spell-check programs typically will offer incorrect “best recommendations” based upon misinterpretations on the part of the software program. Highlight operates with this potential technology- based error potential in mind.)

“Allowing users to control their workflow and utilize the level of automation they need will be a huge boost for our teams,” Bemish says. “Highlight serves as a force-multiplier for our linguists and analysts, giving them increased speed, accuracy and control over all the names within their documents. This simple software plug-in is a great example of inter-departmental cooperation in the effort to accomplish a mission.”

In the future, Basis Technology will continue to merge its enterprise text analytics abilities into Highlight, providing more robust processing and intelligence capabilities into the Office plug-in. One future feature of interest is Basis’s capability to provide “entity resolution” which can crossreference names of entities (people, places, and things) within multiple documents and link them to each other and automatically April – June 2013 53 connect every entity reference to a matching entry within a database such as Intellipedia. Basis will also continue to add additional language support such as Korean or Russian, as requested by its users.

To find out more about acquiring Highlight for your organization, contact Jennifer Flather, Highlight Program Manager, DIA, (202) 685- 6783 or


[hs_action id=”5192″]