Taylor: Preventing Another Underwear Bomber

Posted March 19, 2010 at 3:09pm

The intelligence community faces challenges daily. No example is more emblematic of the problems faced than the so-called underwear bomber of 2009. As threats emerge, the hunt for “persons of interest” must occur in a more reliable and efficient manner because the consequences of inaction can be catastrophic.

[IMGCAP(1)]We are all aware of the “indicators” that exist signaling the intelligence community to the possibility that they’ve come across a person of interest. Common indicators include: a person traveling to a number of countries associated with known terrorists, a person participating in online communities associated with terrorist connections, a person purchasing plane tickets with cash, and so on. Unfortunately, the data that we are able to collect exist in a number of different silos. As a result, one must integrate all of these observations from multiple individual analyses in order to arrive at a complete picture. Such a process can take time, when the luxury of time is not an option.

A complete picture can only be formulated if information from different and diverging sectors can come together in a coherent fashion. Data are worthwhile when they are fully integrated and can only be used if they are understood. Obviously, all of these steps consume the resources of an already strained intelligence community. The output of any analysis needs to be acted upon by other parties. This means that a “person of interest” needs to be assigned an owner, and in turn the owner needs to take action to utilize the output. Finally, any backlogs of activity must be identified and resources adjusted so that no opportunity to prevent a known problem is missed.

In order to prevent another underwear bomber incident, our government needs to have a new model for analysis. The problems our government faces are not unique; private industry faces similar struggles. The reality is that we know the things we should look for, but we struggle to “operationalize the insights.”

What’s the solution and what needs to be done? In principle, the solution is simple: We need to speed up processes and to collect data in a more efficient manner so as to ensure that we arrive at a complete picture as soon as possible. More specifically, this means using the Continuous Analysis and Event Processing system that my company currently employs for different businesses and government agencies. Through the use of the CAEP system, our government will be able to gather and analyze data and manage workflow in a more efficient fashion. Users will only have to develop specific analytics as new scenarios emerge. These new scenarios can then be plugged in to the CAEP platform and are automatically “operationalized.” Where necessary, systems can be deployed without requiring the aggregation of information that, by law, must be kept separate.

The bottom line is that at present information is being gathered and analyzed in different silos. As a result, the information is not being integrated with the speed required of government and private industries. In order to change this reality and prevent future terrorist incidents we need to collect, gather, analyze and form a more complete picture of the information we are gathering in less time. This can only occur if we use a system such as Continuous Analysis and Event Processing. The CAEP will help saves lives and will thwart future terrorist attacks before they occur.

Patrick Taylor is CEO of Oversight Systems.