C4ADS and the Odessa Network: Understanding Illicit Networks Using Palantir Gotham

C4ADS has been in the spotlight lately. A front-page story in a recent Sunday edition of the Washington Post highlighted the D.C.-based organization’s data-driven research into illicit networks trafficking weapons and other goods throughout various conflict zones. Over the past year, their research into enablers of conflict has led them on a path of analysis from illegal shipments of ‘conflict charcoal’ out of Somalia to commercial ships that may be carrying arms and other sensitive cargo into Syria. In September, C4ADS released a report on a group they called the “Odessa Network,” claiming that this network had been transporting arms to the Syrian government via Ukraine. And as Senior Analyst Tom Wallace put it, C4ADS “couldn’t have done it without Palantir.”

Using the Palantir Gotham platform, C4ADS has been able to bolster their mission of using data to better understand conflict, security and development around the world. This latest analysis relied on Palantir’s ability to combine multiple, disparate open source datasets to reveal a complicated network of ships, transport companies, and key individuals involved in the transactions.

C4ADS’ investigations combined information from news media, court cases, open source business directories, maritime shipping databases, and ship transponder records. These diverse datasets arrived in various formats, and without a unifying analysis layer, they would have provided only a small piece of the puzzle. C4ADS therefore found Palantir’s data fusion platform “transformational” in improving the efficiency of their analysts.

C4ADS recently discussed their findings on the Odessa Network with the New America Foundation, and their work was highlighted at “Conflict in a Connected World,” the October 2013 summit presented by Google Ideas.

Palantir’s software allowed C4ADS analysts to “tease out the important needles in these messy, multi-faceted haystacks” of data, said Wallace, making it possible to “keep track of how we know what we know.”