SuperFreakonomics Book Club: Can a Banker's Algorithm Help Catch Would-Be Terrorists?

This week we're offering up "Ian Horsley." By day, he is employed in the anti-fraud department of a large British bank; but in his every spare moment for the past few years he has been working hard in collaboration with Steve Levitt to build an algorithm that can identify potential terrorists by their retail banking data.

Weapons Get Weirder and Weirder

The latest in weird weaponry.

How to Improve Intelligence

Robert Jervis writes in the Boston Globe that to improve intelligence, CIA investigators should stop thinking so intuitively, pay more attention to what they see in front of them, make assumptions that can be disproven, and realize that terrorists don't see the world like they do.

The Unintended Consequences of Secrecy

Washington, D.C., is underlaced by miles of fiber optic cables that carry information for the nation's intelligence agencies. The exact locations of these cables are kept secret so that terrorists and other enemy agents can't snip the lines. The secrecy has indeed kept the cables safe from terrorists. Instead, the danger comes from well-meaning construction crews, who occasionally sever these sensitive conduits during the course of an innocuous building project. That's when the men in the black SUV's show up.

When Was the Last Time Someone Answered "Yes" to One of These Questions?

In order to become a U.S. citizen, one has to complete the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Form N-400. How long do you think it has been since someone answered “yes” to question 12(c) in part 10(b): Between March 23, 1933, and May 8, 1945, did you work for or associate in any way (either directly […]

After Google Earth Is Banned, What's Next?

For all the good that Google Earth has brought to the world, it's been a boon for ne'er-do-wells and mischief-makers as well. In the U.K., teenage hooligans allegedly use it to scope out private pools they can crash for impromptu parties. On a darker note, insurgents in Iraq used images from Google Maps to guide their attacks. And the terrorists who killed 170 people in Mumbai last November supposedly used Google Maps images for help navigating the city.

The Cost of Fearing Strangers

What do Bruce Pardo and Atif Irfan have in common? In case you’re not familiar with their names, let me rephrase: What do the white guy who dressed up as Santa and killed his ex-wife and her family (and then committed suicide) and the Muslim guy who got thrown off a recent AirTran flight on […]

Did Anti-Terror Enforcement Help Fuel the Financial Meltdown?

The Times (of London) recently reported that “The F.B.I. has been forced to transfer agents from its counter-terrorism divisions to work on Bernard Madoff‘s alleged $50 billion fraud scheme.” This might lead you to ask an obvious counter-question: Has the anti-terror enforcement since 9/11 in the U.S. helped fuel the financial meltdown? That is, has […]

Is Aviation Security Cost-Effective?

Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent $6 billion a year on aviation security to prevent a similar attack. The two most direct efforts to prevent airliner hijackings have been the hardening of cockpit doors and increased presence of air marshals on flights. These measures alone have cost the government and airlines $1 billion a year. […]

Torture Royalties

We’ve tackled the future of music distribution and we’ve taken on the War on Terror. But what happens when the two intersect? Apparently, guards at Guantanamo Bay have been playing David Gray‘s “Babylon” at all hours of the day and night, to distress detainees and soften them up for interrogation. Since this arguably constitutes a […]