Totally Unacceptable. Those were the words that greeted me on Christmas Day as Barack Obama responded to the Nigerian Pants Bomber aka Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his attempt to blow up a Detroit bound plane. Lambasting the security services, Obama said: "It's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system because our security is at stake and lives are at stake. I consider that totally unacceptable."
Hang on a minute. In my pre-holiday parting post I said:
Much is made of the intelligence community’s Intellipedia efforts post 9/11. On face value it is a compelling story. An inability to ‘connect the dots’ where there was ample evidence in stovepiped organizations is said to have worked against the US intelligence community from being able to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Today, we are told that information sharing has made a demonstrable difference to analyst effectiveness.
Who's kidding whom here? I went back to Andrew McAfee's New Enterprise 2.0: Collaborative Tools For Your Organization’s Toughest Challenges to check out exactly what was said. Throughout the analysis which spans pages 104-117 the emphasis is on the ability to make new connections. From page 114: "Most of the responses...stressed the ability of ESSPs (emergent social software platforms) to convert potential ties into actual ones, as well as the novelty and value of this ability." Nowhere in the analysis can I find examples of exactly how Intellipedia has improved the nation's security services' ability to counter terrorism. Perhaps that would be asking too much given the sensitivity of the topic.
A New York Times post sheds light on what is likely to have happened:
Last week's failed plot to bomb a U.S. passenger jet has exposed lingering fissures within the U.S. intelligence community, which had information from interviews and clandestine intercepts but did not put the pieces together, officials said.
Turf wars between U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies are nothing new. But lapses that allowed a Nigerian suspect to board a Detroit-bound plane with a bomb on Christmas Day, and the finger-pointing that followed, have raised questions about sweeping changes made to improve security and intelligence- sharing after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The NYT goes on to say that a combination of internal conflicts and gaps in processes designed to red flag individuals contributed to failure. This sounds horribly familiar and represents a key problem when considering technology introduction.