Could some IA work have helped avoid 9/11?

This may seem a big reach for some. But if you read Seymour Hersch's article in this week's New Yorker, and you actually DO information architecture for enough people to see the connections, it starts being pretty clear that the US government intelligence and law enforcement communities suffer from pretty much the same thing as any very-large corporation, only on a much bigger and more tragic scale.

Here are two telling quotations:

"These guys are buried under a mountain of paper, and the odds of this"—a report about suspicious passengers—"coming up to a higher level are very low." Even today, eight months after the hijacking, Onstad said, the question "Where would you effectively report something like this so that it would get attention?" has no practical answer.

And this one...

The F.B.I.'s computer systems have been in disarray for more than a decade, making it difficult, if not impossible, for analysts and agents to correlate and interpret intelligence. The F.B.I.'s technological weakness also hinders its ability to solve crimes. In March, for example, Leahy's committee was told that photographs of the nineteen suspected hijackers could not be sent electronically in the days immediately after September 11th to the F.B.I. office in Tampa, Florida, because the F.B.I.'s computer systems weren't compatible.


You might think that what this points to is a lack of needed technology. But I think we all know that throwing a big CMS portal at a problem isn't effective in and of itself ... it takes intelligently researched and designed information architectures to create the connective tissue between a behemoth IT solution and the actual people who use it. Obviously, the problem isn't that they don't have ENOUGH intelligence & information. They just don't know what to do with it. Isn't fixing exactly this kind of problem our calling?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Completely Agree

Knowledge management within the FBI (and with other agencies such as the CIA to share intelligence) appears to be curiously absent.

While the FBI should implement a knowledgement management solution, I am afraid the old men who have worked in a technology deficient government environment all their lives will not entertain such a solution. First, such a solution is foreign and, second, there may be little understanding of such a recommendation from lower ranks.

Sadly, it appears the FBI is taking a different approach and is not tackling its problem with a real solution.