Red Teams and Fifty Rupee Balls

International National Politics

Necrickettw Orleans Like many I’ve read the Osama Bin Laden deathwatch and Seal 6 commando raid stories, word for word, and line by line.  I’ve found it fascinatingly educational.

Reading Leon Panetta, the USA CIA director’s accounts of the search for Bin Laden, I found it telling that one of the last steps before presenting to President Obama for final decision was his statement that when they thought they had the whole piece nailed several months ago they then “red teamed” it with outside experts.  The story in the Times presented this process as turning over all of the documents and analysis to “outside experts” to see if their assessment of the likely of Bin Laden’s presence in the hideout was the same and whether or not they agreed with the plan.

When I read that, I have to admit, I said to myself, “thank goodness!  Man, that’s smart!”  My reaction probably reflects a lack of confidence in the in-bred cultures of the American sky and military apparatus, and in truth, who knows if the “outside experts” weren’t just retreaded, portfolio consultants only one step removed from the CIA and military itself, but the process was right.  Testing internal information and decisions against an outside “reality” check that trumps the bureaucracy and identifies vulnerabilities is an invaluable management technique that may be resented internally, but is essential to good decision making.

The lingo of “red teams” comes from the military of course and field exercises where some soldiers and commanders become the red team in mock maneuvers to test military strategy and tactics.   When a red team “wins,” heads roll and ranks are stripped off the sleeves of the big brass at least in the movies, where we get most of our information these days.

If “red teaming” was an insight, the only chuckle I’ve found reading all of these stories is an article the other day on how it is possible to “hide in plain sight,” which was my son’s immediate insight and is frequently noted in the articles.  Some neighbors and kids in the area of the compound were interviewed by reporters and one told a story about a ball having gotten over the 12 foot high fence, undoubtedly in some rabid cricket match so common in the streets and vacant lots of India and Pakistan.  Trying to retrieve the ball, a guard at the house gave the kids 50 rupees (north of a dollar) to just buy a new ball.  The kids then regularly replayed this scam to raise money, and found it a surefire way to net the difference between 50 rupees and the ball.  In the story it indicated that Bin Laden’s folks always paid.   Such a common scam with such an unusual result in that area of the world, anyone who knew about that would have wondered what was really up in that joint!

Oh, and this guy is soooo dead, but I don’t want to even go there.  He’s been “dead man walking” for a decade.  I can’t believe that’s even news.