Name-Recognition Tool Used in Hunt for Al Qaeda Suspect

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-03-21 Print this article Print

Language Analysis Systems, of Herndon, Va., offers a hand in the hunt for suspected al Qaeda associate Adnan G. El Shukrijumah.

To help police, banks and other business institutions search their databases as they try to track down suspected al Qaeda associate Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a maker of smart name-recognition software is giving away a collection of over 500 linguistic name and alias variations. The FBI said on Thursday that El Shukrijumah is possibly involved with al Qaeda terrorist activities and may pose a threat to U.S. security. Language Analysis Systems, in Herndon, Va., responded by making public on its site about 40 of the most common name variations that may be in use by El Shukrijumah, including variations of the aliases identified by the FBI. The company also will give away a more extensive list to certain agencies. John Hermansen, CEO and founder of LAS, said that examples of organizations that have a demonstrated need are police departments or joint terrorism task forces. Other organizations or individuals would be deluged by the number of possible name variations, he said.
According to LAS, its Arabic name experts believe that the aliases provided—among them, "Abu Arif" and "Jafar Al-Tayar"—could mean one of a few things. The first could translate to "father of Arif" or could be a nickname for a knowledgeable person. The word "Tayar" could be a nickname for "pilot," which would make the second alias translate into "Jafar the pilot."
Police and others checking their databases for name variants would likely do a simple search on the top names, Hermansen said, whereas financial institutions or government agencies would need LAS search technology—which includes the products NameClassifier and NameHunter—to make use of the entire list. NameClassifier is software that identifies what cultural background a given name comes from. Names translated from Chinese, Korean, Hispanic and Arabic, for example, have distinct spelling variations that crop up when translating from a non-Roman alphabet to a Roman character set. NameHunter is software that takes the search one step further after the culture of a name is identified by using language-specific parameters. For example, "Abdul" is a common identifier in Arabic and appears in the left string of name characters, much like "Ms." or "Mr." in English. NameHunter would therefore place emphasis on characters that appear in characters to the right. The abbreviated list of name variations is available here.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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