CSII: The Eyes and Ears of the Caribbean

first_imgBy Dialogo April 01, 2013 The Cooperative Situational Information Integration system (CSII) is an ambitious project that integrates radar and sensor feeds to show the movement of vessels and airplanes. This technological tool developed by the U.S. Southern Command is a nonproprietary, open-standard system, with the following capabilities: So far, CSII creates a unique operational image from radar signals that reach JIATF-S through an unclassified network. Among these signals are those from the Tethered Aerostat Radar System at Cudjoe Key, Florida, and the Maritime Safety & Security Information System, a U.S. Department of Transportation data collection and distribution network. Participating nations exchange feeds from maritime transponders installed on cargo and passenger boats, and the Dominican Republic has made the signals of three air radars available to the group. Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Harmon, who was in charge of coordinating the CSII project from SOUTHCOM, said the command expects to add feeds from the Relocatable Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHR), a U.S. Navy radar mainly used to combat drug trafficking, and plane tracks received from Federal Aviation Administration radars in the Caribbean. Additional national radar feeds and other sensors from CSII participants will also be integrated. Harmon explained that the current system is based at SOUTHCOM and protected by strict physical and cyber security measures. In terms of effectiveness, he added, one of the main advantages of the transition from CNIES to CSII is that the latter does not require either specialized software or a dedicated computer, just an Internet connection. In the near future, this will make it possible for the U.S. Coast Guard and partner nations’ ships with Internet connections to access CSII information. For Demier, who knows perfectly well the expectations and needs of the operators’ community, the capacity to grant usage privileges in accordance with the role of each operator is one of the most significant characteristics of the new technological tool. “The administrator assigns roles to each user and determines what information each one can see. The participating nations can determine with which countries they want to share the feeds from their radars,” he said. At the moment, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have already signed Memorandums of Understanding and Aerial Intercept Assistance Agreements. These legally binding bilateral documents prohibit the use of U.S. information to disable, damage, destroy or threaten civil aircraft in service, which would violate U.S. law and international civil aviation conventions. These countries have started the transition toward CSII, and it is only a matter of time until the rest of the nations already using CNIES take the leap into the new technology, Harmon said. Like Demier, he agreed that beyond its value to capture criminals, CSII has broader potential. “The primary purpose of CSII is to support U.S. government and partner nation efforts to counter illicit trafficking, but it will also support other missions, such as search and rescue, monitoring of fishing waters, exercise support and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief,” he concluded. For more than a decade, in the JIATF-S operation center in Key West, and in similar centers in 20 nations of the Western Hemisphere, CNIES operators have closely followed the movement of vessels and planes that, in the system display, are represented by dots and lines. To the trained eye, these dots and lines symbolize radar and sensor signals that are fundamental for quickly detecting the presence of drug trafficking boats and planes, as well as prompting coordination of international efforts to go after them, arresting the operators and seizing their illegal cargo. “Any time you see in the news there is a partner nation either interdicting an illicit trafficking movement at sea or an aircraft that illegally flies into a country carrying out an illicit movement, coordination takes place between U.S. and partner nations’ operation centers allowing those interdictions to happen,” said Cal Demier, SOUTHCOM’s JIATF-S operation center’s chief and coordinator of the individual country centers in the Western Hemisphere. “The great thing about this system is that it is not just one person in the U.S. operation center looking at that information, but also partner nations’ operation centers looking at the same information. They are experts on activities that should be moving in their countries, so when they look at those dots and see a surface vessel or an aircraft and realize that they should not be moving this way, they can take coordinated action with us and among themselves,” he said. Thanks to that information exchange, air, maritime and land forces from nations taking part in the system can coordinate interdictions that start in international waters, continue along the maritime borders of a certain nation, and end up on the coast of another one. CSII, the new system created by SOUTHCOM, integrates live feeds from sensors, radars and identification systems into a platform using Internet-based software and social media tools available worldwide. “In 1998, when we started, the users of CNIES had never seen the Internet, [they] had no idea of what a chat was,” Demier said. “But by now, all of them are used to Facebook, Google, Twitter … and they are looking at new capabilities to do more.” Several technologies have been tried over the years, but CSII really showed the promise to build on what the community had developed through CNIES, according to Demier. With the recent emergence of the CSII, that community of operators now has a system that considers the needs they have identified in practice and incorporates the technological advances from the past decade. For instance, integration with Google Maps provides geomapping to visualize air and maritime tracks. And an easy-to-use alert system allows the community to know what an operator recognizes as a suspicious activity. A Leap into the Future More Flexible, More Secure center_img CSII in Brief CS-I I on the Internet is an open invitation to hackers working for our enemies – clearly a mistake. As long as the efforts are focused on fighting drug trafficking and other illegal activities, I think it’s good, and we congratulate Southcom, for improving and practically replacing CNIES with CSII, which makes things more difficult for the transnational criminals. Alerting of suspicious activities by marking them on the map with geolocalization data. Chatting between users and translating messages from English into Spanish and vice versa. In the future, other languages of the Western Hemisphere, including Portuguese, French and German, will be added. Secured access through double-factor authentication (user name and password), as well as using a smart card with public key infrastructure certification or a VeriSign RSA token. Choosing who will have access to the signals from certain radars or sensors. Assigning visualization privileges in accordance with roles assigned to each operator. Sandra Marina/Diálogo Staff In Key West, where the Florida Peninsula overlooks some of the islands of the Caribbean, the Cooperating Nations Information Exchange System (CNIES) has been carrying out a backstage role since 1998 in the regional battle against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. But now a revolutionary new information exchange platform – the Cooperative Situational Information Integration system (CSII) – is using state-of-the-art technology to make multinational cooperation faster, easier and more seamless for participating nations. Financed by a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, and coordinated by the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the CSII project responds to the need to reinforce the multilateral exchange of counternarcotics information among partner nations, and to take better advantage of each country’s resources to fight illicit trafficking and transnational organized crime. “Agreements like the CSII one are the developmental foundation that regional domain awareness and Caribbean security are built upon,” said Rear Admiral Charles Michel, Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) director, during his presentation at the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC). The conference, organized by SOUTHCOM, was held December 11-12, 2012. last_img