ClearspeedClient case study

Clearspeed supports SOCOM in vetting and screening Afghan commando recruits

Challenge

Insider attacks — known as ‘green-on-blue’ attacks — have been a deadly and demoralizing reality for United States forces operating in Afghanistan. 

Afghans who are hostile to the U.S. presence in the country try to gain acceptance to U.S. military training and employment as an opportunity to attack U.S. personnel. Insider attacks are a serious threat to U.S. forces in the region, and investigations into previous green-on-blue attacks have highlighted the challenges of reliable vetting for Afghan partner forces using existing processes. Reducing the impact of internal and external human-based risk is paramount.

2018: An opportunity to leverage new technology in an overseas, tactical military screening and vetting environment

 

United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) needed to vet hundreds of Afghan commando recruits to train and expand the country’s defense capabilities without jeopardizing the safety of U.S. personnel. 

Commando recruits were drawn from the local population and existing Afghan National Army soldiers. Soldiers transferring in from other units already had an army identification number, whereas civilian recruits had nothing to identify them within the military system. The existing commando enrollment process was hampered by the lack of immediately available, actionable data regarding current insider threats, plus the increasingly effective countermeasures of high-risk applicants in defeating that process.

DNA comparison, for example, with a database of known IED manufacturers, and cellphone analysis were the most likely methods to provide actionable information about recruits – and also required the most time to obtain. The fastest analysis of submitted information took 10 days, although two weeks was the usual turnaround time. While U.S. personnel awaited results, commando training continued. During training, recruits were issued rifles and live ammunition, which presented many opportunities for insider attacks. 

To make the job of counterintelligence screening easier and more effective, SOCOM searched for an insider vetting process that:

  • Operated reliably and affordably in the field 
  • Provided insights not available through other vetting methods 
  • Delivered results in a quick and timely manner (i.e. hours or days vs. weeks)
  • Lowered the risk of assaults against U.S. personnel

Solution

SOCOM selected Clearspeed to screen its commando candidates by leveraging its simple yes/no questionnaire.

The specially constructed, modular facility contained nine interview rooms plus one control room. Questionnaires were conducted in tandem with the established bio-enrollment process that included:

  • Personal biographical information (name, age, father’s name, etc.)
  • DNA swab
  • Photograph
  • Iris scan
  • Fingerprinting
  • Various technological exploitation methods 

The team screened 715 recruits in just 20 hours, in both the Dari and Pashto local languages. Clearspeed personnel worked to accommodate the meal and prayer times and working practices of the recruits, and provided SOCOM with a daily informal briefing.

Clearspeed questionnaire responses were analyzed and assigned a low-to-high risk level. The results were used as an additional data source to SOCOM’s initial and on-going insider threat vetting processes. People flagged as low or average risk could be cleared through the process much faster, unless there were other indicators to the contrary. Individuals with a high-risk level may have required additional follow up based on the question and the risk profile of SOCOM and the role of the commandos. This allowed SOCOM to focus their counterintelligence resources on the areas of highest risk.

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Outcomes

Clearspeed identified 100% of those commandos flagged as ‘at risk’ by the existing analytic process. In addition, Clearspeed identified eight candidates who were confirmed as ‘high risk’ but not identified by the current process, and three candidates who, upon notification of being flagged for risk, went AWOL — indicating the potential that they were not identified as ‘high risk’ by the current process. During this project, Clearspeed demonstrated a >97 percent accuracy rate, and no false negatives. 

“The biggest challenge we face is how to identify risks before they become threats. This tech has proven it identifies risk we miss, there’s simply nothing else like it,” says a Commanding Officer, U.S. Security Assistance Office, Afghanistan.

Operationally efficient implementation with minimal resources

Identified high-risk candidates not flagged by current process

Sped up interview time and results delivery

Key Results

  • >97% accuracy rate
  • Reduced interview length to five minutes from 90, with results delivery next day vs. weeks
  • Unbiased (age, ethnicity, language, military rank, military unit, place of residence did not influence results)

The biggest challenge we face is how to identify risks before they become threats. This tech has proven it identifies risk we miss, there’s simply nothing else like it.

Commanding Officer, U.S. Security Assistance Office, Afghanistan