The idea is to give U.S. commanders the ability to “identify high-value targets in his sector,” Blackbird vice president and retired Lt. Col. Timur Eads told Danger Room in an interview last year. That commander can also use the tags to trace the routes and attack points used by insurgent bombing networks.
Or, the officer can give the devices to his own troops, keeping track of their whereabouts on a handheld device. The gadgets can also pass encrypted text messages to one another, giving the troops way to communicate silently and over long distances. Today, if the average infantryman wants a capability even remotely similar, he has to be in his vehicle or wearing several pounds of specialized gear…
Blackbird doesn’t just track targets. Once that person is located, Blackbird specialists also work to unlock the data from his or her computers, discs and drives. “Like, if you found Osama’s laptop,” a former employee says. (The interview was conducted before the raid on bin Laden’s compound. Since then, Blackbird hasn’t responded to multiple requests to comment for this story.)
According to the Washington Post, Blackbird developed “a compact, rugged, powerful, all-in-one kit” to pull out this information. “Its capabilities include detection of chemical and biological agents, extraction from cellphones and PDAs, scanning and translation of documents, computer forensics, collection and transmission of biometric data, and digital photography.”