The media in the last week has been harping on the failure of the United States’ intelligence agencies to prevent the “Underwear” bomber plot. Obama’s forthright admission of failure was good, but of only temporary importance. We need to improve and fast. From all of this coverage, I still do not understand why better computer-based systems were and are not put into place. Yes, there were bureaucratic issues. Yes, there were individual failures. But why could we not, according to the cliche, still “connect the dots”?
There were two elements I have found most disturbing in the post-attempt analysis.
1. That our security systems depends on individuals to synthesize vast amounts of discrete facts into coherent patterns. Has the the United States government failed to modernize and implement computers into its intelligence protocols? Why are we not relying upon good software and search algorithms which categorize and classify information according to individual terrorist names and the risks they pose? Maybe the United States should hire Google or Visa (which handles billions of financial transactions) to do a better job at handling massive amounts of information. Either way, it is not hard to imagine a computer program capable of handling these tasks and even prioritizing certain cases over others, based on the imminence of particular threats.
2. That there is no common computer base to store and review all terrorist-related information. Of course, the above program would be only good as the information you feed into it. If you do not have all the information, then it is impossible to make connections. But enough already, it is not hard to agree to put everything onto one area of cyberspace!