Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 8, 2010

“The intelligence was posted, but the right analyst never found it among the terabytes”

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing — by Christopher Bellavita on January 8, 2010

Excellent quote about the consequences of complexity at the end of  Karen DeYoung’s Washington Post story on January 7th:  After attempted airline bombing, effectiveness of intelligence reforms questioned

The 2005 quote is from Russell E. Travers, who is a deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center:

“If an organization posts something to its webpage, it can claim to have shared information,” …. “Whether the right people know the information/analysis is there, and actually make use of it, is entirely another matter.

“Indeed, we’ll almost certainly be dealing with precisely this problem in the post mortems of our next intelligence failure [again, this was written in 2005]; the relevant intelligence will have been posted, but the right analysts never found it among the terabytes of available information.[my emphasis]

How much is a terabyte?

One Terabyte = 50,000 trees made into paper and printed

Ten Terabytes = Printed collection of the U. S. Library of Congress


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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 8, 2010 @ 3:28 am

Appears the misspelling of a name might also have outwitted the “system”!

Comment by Matthew Kaney

January 10, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

This is not about the “complexity” of the system. This is a very simple and straightforward issue. We have a list of high risk people. We have a credible businessman MEETING TWICE with the CIA to inform them about his SON. And yet we do not have them adding his name to this list. Some passengers have also spoken out about this incident and indicated this passenger did not just merely slide under the radar as a casual and unassuming passenger who simply did not call attention to himself, because he had some sort of passport issues at the departing airport.

This is not about complexity, this is about incompetence, and it’s getting pretty annoying hearing everyone use “complexity” as a smoke-screen. It reminds me of people talking about how the “realities and complexities” of politics are to blame for Obama not broadcasting negotiations on health care form on CSPAN. To me it is a simple issue of integrity, period. If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make it. If you can’t do your job, you should get fired, just like in the private sector.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

January 12, 2010 @ 2:38 am

Thanks for your comments Matthew (on both this and the “2010 Threat” post). I appreciate your taking the time to share your perspective about how the issue is more “simple and straightforward” than suggested by the post. I think the examples you provide do, in retrospect, support your claim. From what I know — and I have no special information — there are several thousand new data points added to the overall intel system everyday. The folks I speak with in the intelligence community wish it were as simple as your perspective describes.

Comment by Misty Tuck

January 13, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

I realize that there are priorities in how we deal with our intel and that there are other issues that can be invoulved. I just do not understand how we missed the Tell Tell signs.

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