Robert X Cringely used to publish on www.pbs.org and now publishes his own blog at www.cringely.com. He has done a bunch of cool things related to the PC industry over the years – including being the author of Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date which I really loved.
Anyway, he writes about US Security every once in a while and recently published the following regarding how hard it was for US Officials to determine whether this Christmas Day Bomber was a terrorist:
“Instead of just complaining, let’s take a look at the issue from another angle. Contrast these three situations: 1) you are sitting in a hotel bar in Mongolia and want to use your Visa card to buy a round of drinks for your friends, and; 2) your Mom is at the check-out counter at a Sears store when the clerk asks her if she wants to apply for a Sears credit card and save 10 percent on her order, and 3) a possible terrorist with a dubious travel record and suspected al-Qaeda connections is standing in line at a European airport waiting to board a flight to the U.S. that leaves in an hour. What happens in each of these cases?
In Mongolia the bartender takes your card and authorizes it in seconds across a 12,000-mile round-trip. At the Sears store the transaction is not only authorized in less than a minute, but a new account is created and both your Mom’s identity and her creditworthiness are established and calculated on the spot, along with her discount. Meanwhile the airline, airport, local security, European police, Interpol, Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Customs Service, FBI, CIA, and NSA can’t between them figure out in an hour whether this guy standing in line in Holland should be allowed on the plane or not.
How is it that we can run our credit card operations so well and our national security so poorly?”
He’s right and has every right to be mad. Read the full article: http://www.cringely.com/2010/01/predict-me-im-from-the-government.