Showing posts with label 24. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 24. Show all posts

December 29, 2009

What Hollywood Can Teach Us About Fighting Terrorism

U.S. law enforcement officials have thwarted about two dozen known terrorist plots since 9/11 and there are probably lots more that haven’t made the papers. Some of them, like this month’s “Underwear Bomber” have nicknames, like the “Shoe Bomber” (2002), the “Lackawanna Six,” (same year), and the “Virginia Jihad” (2003). Others are known by geographical location, such as Fort Dix (2007) and the foiled plot against synagogues in the Bronx (2009). But one thing they all have in common is their determination to threaten and even destroy our freedom and way of life.

As a person who is deeply dedicated to America’s safety and security, both personally and professionally, I worry about the rise of terrorism that has sprung up in the past few decades. Terrorists are relentlessly determined to destroy our lives even if it means taking their own lives to do it. But what is even more frightening is that despite all the actions we have taken to fight terrorism, our culture remains deeply reactive. Can we really stay one step ahead and lucky forever?

The best example of our relative complacency in the face of a deadly threat is the policy of taking off our shoes for screening only after the case of the Shoe Bomber came to light. Now again, we waited for an Underwear Bomber before talking seriously and publicly about full body screening for all?

There is a saying that you can’t drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror, but unfortunately that seems to be the way our culture approaches the fight against terrorism. The focus should not be on stopping the last threat, but on anticipating and countering the future threat before it ever materializes.

To do this, we need to think like the bad guys do as well as conduct more exercises to expose our own security weaknesses (red teaming), rather than be surprised when the terrorists find our next Achilles heel.

In the particular case of the Underwear Bomber, it was particularly shocking that we knew this person was a threat. His own father warned us, yet we didn’t put him on the terrorist watch list or revoke his visa (as the British did). And just today I read that this individual told investigators there are literally hundreds more just like him, all waiting to strike.

Think about that for a second. There are seemingly endless terrorists out there, and they can have a 99% failure rate and still be “successful.” Yet U.S. and global law enforcement can’t fail at all—not even once—without dire and deadly consequences on a massive scale.

However, instead of gripping that unbelievable reality and treating it as the dire situation it is, there is actually talk about “rehabilitating” the terrorists. As if we have succeeded at rehabilitating “normal” criminals…now we are going to try and “deprogram” people who are religiously “inspired” to commit their diabolical deeds?

To adequately manage the new reality we face today, we must not only stay ahead of known threats, but also proactively envision new potential attack scenarios, prepare for them, and thwart them before they become potentially lethal.

A great place to start would be Hollywood; our entertainment industry has done a pretty good job of imaginatively exposing potential attack scenarios—in dozens of films from Air Force One to The Sum of All Fears, Executive Decision to The Peacemaker, and Arlington Road to The Siege, and many more.

There are also television shows like 24, with now seven seasons and counting, that keep Americans riveted to their seats week after week with terrorism plots that play out before our very eyes. We seem to generally view these as serious threats that are possible in our time.

I respect the President for openly acknowledging the "systematic failure," but it is going to take all of us to commit and follow through with ongoing security measures. It is not a one month or one year event (or even an 8 year event post 9/11), but rather a complete new security mindset that stays with us always.

We can and should learn from the visionary talent in our vibrant entertainment industry and from wherever else they may reside, and adopt creative and proactive thinking about terrorism and make this a regular part of our security culture. I understand that there are many forces at play here, and that most of us are not privy to some of the more sophisticated ways that we fight terrorism every day. But what I am talking about is our collective, public culture, which still seems to shrug off the seriousness of threats against us. For example, just today, I saw a sign in an airport that directed wheelchairs through security screening. It seemed almost an invitation to sew explosives into a wheelchair (although I understand that these are actually screened).

I have the deepest respect for the men and women who serve to protect us every day. But as a culture, it is long past time to wake up. We don’t have the luxury of collective denial anymore. We must embrace security as a fact of life, fully and in an ongoing manner.

Further, as we approach 2010, let us resolve to learn from the most imaginative people in our society about how we may think out of the box when it comes to combating terrorism.

In the real world, we must act now to quickly deploy new, more advanced screening technologies to our airports, marine ports, and border crossings, and employ our most creative minds to “outwit, outplay, and outlast” the terrorists who plot against us—whether in their shoes, their underwear, or wherever else their evil schemes might lead them.


September 29, 2007

24 TV Series and Enterprise Architecture

“24, last year’s most Emmy Award-winning television series with five Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Kiefer Sutherland) and Outstanding Drama Series, is one of the most innovative, thrilling and acclaimed drama series on television.” (

What makes 24 so thrilling?

Well there is the drama, the intrigue, the ever twisting plot and constant terrorist threats, and of course, Keifer Sutherland and the rest of the 24 team.

There is also the technology and its application to track the terrorists, communicate effectively, and the business intelligence to decipher the terrorist plots. While the technology is not perfect and often it is used by the terrorists to thwart CTU as well, it still comes across quite impressively.

On a Bluetooth technology website, I found this:

“Fox's hit television show ’24’ has always displayed the latest in cutting edge technology.CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) agents and terrorists alike. But which model of Bluetooth headsets are they actually wearing?” ( During this season (Day 5) of 24, Bluetooth wireless headsets can be seen constantly being used by both

The technology used in 24 is viewed as cutting-edge and trend-setting (i.e. everyone wants to know which model CTU is using).

On another site, Government Computer News, 7 January, 2007, it states: “Federal superspy Jack Bauer battles fate and countless foes on the hit TV show “24”—a drama unfolding in real time and depicted on several windows within the screen. Like the Bauer character, who himself is the fictional successor to an earlier superagent who liked his tipple “shaken, not stirred,” federal IT users frequently will have to share information quickly if they hope to prevail or even survive in 2007.” (

Again, the 24 series is viewed as a model for information technology users and IT sharing.

In the same GCN article, Homeland Security Department, G. Guy Thomas, the Coast Guard’s science and technology adviser for the Maritime Domain Awareness Project, states: “The ultimate goal that technologists and policy-makers should strive for is user-definable interfaces, which would provide a ‘common operational picture [COP] that serves as an interface to a collaborative information environment.’”

The COP contains an operational picture of relevant information shared by more than one command and facilitates collaborative planning and assists all echelons to achieve situational awareness. This type of operating picture is often seen being used in CTU to track and ultimately catch (with Bauer’s help) the terrorists.

For Homeland Security enterprise architecture, 24 can serve as a target state forsynthesizing business process and technology. For example, the integration between the business processes and the technology is virtually flawless in CTU, where business intelligence at the Los Angeles office is communicated and made virtually immediately available to the agents in the field for quickly following up on leads and cornering conspirators.

Additionally, even the character Jack Bauer himself displays not only tremendous heroism and patriotism in his efforts to protect this nation and its citizens, but also his innovative and can-do persona is a model for enterprise architecture development of creative yet grounded target technology states and transition plans for our organizations.

Additionally, from a User-centric EA perspective, we need to look outside our agencies at business and technology best practices in the public and private sectors, and yes, even at fictional portrayals. It is even from dramas like 24, and maybe especially from such visionary elements that EA can adapt information, creativity, and innovation to plan a genuine target state for our enterprises.