The aftermath of almost any spectacular terrorist attack follows an almost predictable pattern. Once the immediate shock of the barbarity wears off, there is the inevitable media scramble for information about the perpetrators. A parallel search for information goes on within the U.S. Intel Community. This is true almost every recent case: San Bernardino, Paris, Fort Hood, London, Madrid, Mumbai and even after 9/11 – although I’ve already testified that some of us had the warnings on that one.
This type of reaction to a violent attack is totally understandable. Unfortunately, part of the discovery process comes with the realization that much of the needed information about the attackers is already available. Hidden amongst varying reports, databases and even open source media stories are the bits and pieces of information that would’ve told us a lot about the attackers; who they are, how they chose their targets, and – in some cases – the reasons why they were motivated to take such drastic action. This is the enduring challenge of intelligence analysis; it is much harder to accurately predict and preempt an attack than run an investigation of it afterwards.
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