Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Brush With Able Danger

I've been following the Able Danger story with some enthusiasm this past week. Unbeknownst to be at the time, I had a very interesting business discussion about just this project several years ago. At least I think I did. Allow me to explain.

As most readers know I've spent most of my career in the financial services sector, and during most of the '90's I was in this area. Sadly, I was not a highly paid deal doer, so lets not start down that road. Instead I ran projects for the firm across most of the business and found myself traveling around the world with a certain degree of frequency that was both exhilarating and exhausting.

At any rate, I'm not clear on the year, but I think it was around 1998, I was introduced to a representative of a very large "consulting organization" at a lunch that a mutual friend arranged. This organization, which despite it's size is one that you probably haven't heard of, wanted to consult with on our global security systems. I'm not mentioning the name of the firm here for reasons that will be obvious.

My introduction to this firm came from a former military official who had been retired for several years. In conducting a little due diligence prior to my meeting I was able to find out that a significant number of this firm's principals had come out of the intelligence field. "They're all former spooks!" was the colloquialism that a well informed friend used. While I believe he was correct I must say I was reasonable impressed with what I was able to find out, and would only add that they were quite obviously, very smart, well connected former spooks. Which come to think of it is probably redundant.

At any rate I went to the lunch and listened to the pitch, and politely turned down any further discussions. The last thing I was going to be responsible for was being the guy who opened the door for "a bunch of former spooks". This is when the conversation turned interesting.

We talked about other things that they were working on, and this guy was quite effusive about the military's enthusiasm for "data mining". He brought this up, because they apparently were doing some work in this area, and it did hold great interest for those of us in financial services. Data is our life's blood in many ways.

I was unfamiliar with military applications and pressed him on this. He said that they were making some good progress, and that data mining could be beneficial in identifying enemy plans, and enemy tendencies. This is where my memory gets very hazy, but I do remember that he also talked about using it to identify enemy agents. I cannot remember specifically if the word terrorist was used, but I'd guess that it probably wasn't.

So, the recent revelations have been quite interesting. More interesting though has been the military's inability to find anything on the Atta connection. What I've heard from the various people that have come forward rings true, and I find it hard to believe that there is no remaining evidence of the Atta connection. Further, I know how relentless military people can be......I was trained by some in project management. For this reason I find it impossible to believe that once the administration changed that these folks didn't try to warn the Bush people.

Finally, Rumsfeld's denials that he never heard of this program seem odd. Here is a guy that was trying to recreate the military to make it more efficient, mobile and technical and he never heard of this project? Hmmmmmm.

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