The Underwear Bomber: Why They Didn’t “Connect the Dots”

10. January 2010

 January 8, 2010, Tom Davenport (the most authoratitive author about “Competing on analytics”)  

Everybody, including President Obama, is criticizing the U.S. intelligence agencies for not keeping accused underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab off the Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Why didn’t they “connect the dots” or “put the pieces together”? This is the same problem the intelligence agencies encountered with 9/11 — lots of clues that were not integrated in time.

But is this really a fair criticism? Just how easy is it to connect the dots? Granted, there were numerous indications of Abdulmutallab’s evil intent. But it would have been difficult to put them together before the flight. Combining disparate pieces of information about people — whether they are customers or terrorists — is akin to solving a complex jigsaw puzzle. And in defense of the intelligence agencies, hardly anybody — in either the public or private sectors — does it well.

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