I’ve been attentively watching the media tempest around the things the FBI and CIA missed before September 11th. It seems that we had all the clues and just didn’t put them together. There seems to be a lot of gnashing of teeth over this. The rhetoric is hip-deep and rising, and it amazes me. Knowledge management is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, much less implement reliably. While things could have been done better, I don’t think crucifying Directory Mueller is going to help anything. From everything I’ve seen and read so far, he’s doing what needs to be done. He’s streamlining the processes of the Bureau, implementing better knowledge management and will probably fix it.
I’ve been thinking about how complex a knowledge management system would have to be to have figured out all of the things congress and the media were expecting this mythical system to figure out. The system would have to take data in many formats (wire taps, field reports, eye witness statements, satellite scans, etc), index it, compare it against all other documents in the system, find links between people, all their aliases, organizations, their leadership, membership, locations, etc and spit out usable results. It’s a massive task, one that from what I know of Government bureaucracy, hasn’t been built yet, and will take a long time to get done. I work at a very large company, and we don’t have a company-wide knowledge management system, even though I’m sure it would save us millions of dollars every year in saved effort and combined infratstructure. We rebuild the wheel over and over because we don’t know what the group next door is doing.
If big business, who actually keep track of the money they make and spend, can’t keep track of its own institutional knowledge, how can we expect the slow moving leviathan that is the government to figure this out overnight, or even in six months.
I hope the Government (and all their institutions public and secret) get the clue and come looking to the private sector and education to figure this problem out.
I’ve got some ideas, and I’ll probably talk about them some more later (and this would probably make more sense if I weren’t watching The Wire while trying to write this).