I’ve been spending the past few days talking to fellow colleagues in the conflict early warning community about the recent carnage in Mumbai. Were there any credible early warnings of the terrorist attacks? Macro-level conflict early warning models forecast specific “events of interest” but rather assess structural risk over longer time spans. So these models did not forecast the attacks. Any likely warning would have to originate from intelligence sources, just as occurred in Kenya.
News is now just coming in that warnings had been communicated to The Taj Mahal Hotel. The chairman of the company that owns the hotel noted how ironic it was that “we did have such a warning, and we did have some measures” but he did not elaborate on the warnings or what security measures were enacted (1). While I recognize that the warnings may not have been particularly specific, what surprises me is why the residents of Mumbai themselves were not alerted about the increased security risk?
Given that 75% of Mumbai’s residents have mobile phones, it would have been feasible to set up a dedicated phone number for residents to send text messages in case they saw something suspicious. The intelligence community tends to be highly hierarchical and centralized, which limits the number of “sensors” or “feelers” it has access to. We’ve been talking about crowdsourcing conflict information, why not crowdsource intelligence since 96% of all intelligence information is open source to be begin with? Especially since the first news of the attack was disseminated on Twitter?