Category Archives: Egypt

Why the State Department Needs Better Threat-Risk Assessments

Obviously, the tragedy in Libya this week focused the world’s attention, not just on the bodies of our countrymen returning home, but made me wonder about the risk assessments and threat assessments that are routinely done in these extremely sensitive locations.

Unfortunately, the threat assessments tend to be more political forecasting and less about the reality of the situation on the ground.  One problem with these simple manual threat/risk assessments is that they take too long to complete.  Maybe they spend a few days looking at the physical controls, and then a week writing up a report, and much of it may rely on anecdotal incidents or reports of questionable value.

That’s why I am a believer in automating these threat/risk assessments, and in a potentially dangerous area like the whole country of Libya, they should be at least weekly, or bi-weekly, or even daily when tensions are running high.  It allows you to get a quick assessment in less than 30 minutes, and allows for quick updating, which is critical in situations like this week.

And no, I don’t believe a threat/risk assessment would necessarily PREVENT a terrible tragedy like the death of an American Ambassador, but I do think that having these updated assessments allows for safeguards to be continuously checked, measured and improved, and also may expose weaknesses that can be exploited by a terrorist group when the opportunity presents itself.

The practice of running continual assessments is not used very often, but when it is, it’s very effective because when the situation goes south, you already the blueprint of what to do right in front of you, and it allows better decision support under such stressful conditions.

The information-sharing done by different groups can be wrapped up in the risk assessment and combined, so that maybe a higher threat condition can be identified, in time to relocate, leave the country, or whatever else it takes to protect the lives of our diplomatic staff.


What do they want? #egypt


Watching events play out on CNN, a saw a commentator ask, “What Do They Want?”, meaning what do these protestors want?   

I know what they want. I know because I have been working with people all over the world for years – both in person and online, by blog, by email, by phone.

Everyone wants the same thing – personal dignity and the chance for a better life for themselves and for their children. The desire for upward mobility is built into our DNA. It is built into the idea of evolution. It is why animals compete for the best perch, the best cave, the best tree, the best nest, the best plumage, the best mate……

You can apply all the slogans you want and make a list of the emotions people everywhere want to feel:


And what that means, as I see it, is that they want:
A better life for their children
To be able to Laugh
To fall in love and have a family
Better education
Stable food supply
Basic healthcare
Affordable basics – like food and housing and energy
Freedom to be themselves.

The internet is sort of like God, without all the judgement. In many ways – the internet is THE GREAT EQUALIZER. That’s why the 60-year old man can hide and pretend to be 27 again on a dating site – or even pretend to be a woman!   When you communicate on the internet, all the external things that people use to stereotype, pigeonhole and judge people are eliminated because of the way the message is communicated. (Remember – the MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE….)

So it doesn’t matter what you look like on the internet – it doesn’t matter about your religion, race, sex, formal education, job – nothing. The only things that matters are your words – what you choose to tell the world about yourself.

That creates GREAT freedom and the way the internet lets you search and research and look around – so that a person in Cambodia living on one dollar a day can get online and see that amazon has 50 million different things to buy.   And look at those things – and see how much a bag of crackers cost in the US.

So these events in the middle East are earth-shaking for a lot of reasons, but mostly because this yearning for equal opportunity and the yearning to make your own life better is the irresistible siren call. It cannot be stopped. It cannot be silenced and just because it is starting in Egypt, doesn’t mean it is going to take over the world. Because I think it is.