Friday, January 08, 2010

Juan Cole, Eugene Robinson on counterterrorism (with video)

Juan Cole, with video (Informed Comment):
Obama to fix Security Flaws; but Could he Please Fix Stupid Racial Profiling?--I think two things could help fix the intelligence failure. One is just better software. If you had fields for Nigeria and Yemen it should be easy enough to have a program flag two such entries as possibly related. The other is better community sensitivity training for field officers. For Umar Mutallab to turn his son into the CIA was a big thing; families protect their own in that part of the world. If the field agent knew Hausa and more African culture he would have realized the seriousness of the situation.

The truly W.-level stupid thing Obama is doing is singling out passengers from specific countries.

The only good thing about this asinine new Obama administration order that persons from or traveling through 14 countries would be subject to extra pat-downs and inspections of carry-on luggage is that in all likelihood it mostly will not be implemented.
Eugene Robinson (WaPo):
"Connecting the dots" is a lousy metaphor that creates unrealistic expectations. The phrase suggests that the only thing our intelligence analysts have to do is draw a line from the point labeled "1" to the point labeled "2" and so on, and soon they're looking at the unmistakable outline of a terrorist plot. In reality, though, the page is so crowded with dots that they almost touch. Most are irrelevant, and not a single one is numbered.

The clues that would have alerted authorities to the Christmas Day underwear bomber were buried under mountains of intelligence data. Gathering pertinent information is a challenge, but in this case that challenge was met. What the system failed to do was manage the data well enough for the right bits and pieces to be picked out.

It seems to me that as President Obama tries to minimize the possibility that the next Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab might succeed in blowing an airliner out of the sky, the focus shouldn't be on shuffling boxes around an organizational chart. It should be on finding a better way to inventory and collate what we already know.

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