In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Darwin magazine, of which I was then the editor, ran an article that proposed technology as a way of "connecting the dots", a phrase now freighted with very specific 9\/11 meanings. As the hearings of the commission charged with examining the causes of those events unfolded recently, it is clear that the lack of sufficiently robust data-mining technology was the least of the problems. Inattention, clumsy organizational structures, entrenched value systems and competitive cultures, dysfunctional communication pathways, impoverished institutional imaginations and open borders in an open society all contributed far more to the failure to discern what was available to see than the fact that there was no big honking database churning through terabytes of "total" information.Because the reputation of CXO Media (CSO's parent) as a publishing company was built on a thoroughly nuanced understanding of information technology, we have always tried to remember that IT has its limits. A corollary to that principle is that humans invariably underestimate those limits and overstate IT's capabilities. The Darwin article was an instance of forgetting on our part. My excuse for that error in judgment is that, at a time of confusion and anguish, an excess of hope overpowered experience.Last month, at our first ever CSO Perspectives conference, Adm. John Poindexter spoke with great conviction about many of the programs he formerly oversaw at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (an in-depth interview with Poindexter will appear in an upcoming issue). Some of these initiativesmost notably the Total Information Awareness conceptare highly reliant on muscular database technology set to seek needles in a haystack of data. As Bruce Schneier has cogently observed, there is a finite number of needles; the idea of seeking them in a haystack of nearly infinite magnitude appears to make the problem larger rather than smaller. And in the end, humans will have to apply analysis and judgment to winnow the potentially high rate of false positives down to some manageable few.I don't mean to suggest that technology has no useful role to play in fighting terrorism. Applied against problems where it can perform without producing diseconomic levels of false positives, IT can be highly useful. But there are always going to be human factors that will either retard or enhance its effectiveness. This is the crux of what we have learned in nearly 17 years of covering this topic: Two enterprises can purchase identical technology but achieve radically different results. The intangibles are always decisive. Leadership, vision, strategy, training, communication, management excellence, organizational structure and cultural readiness must all be addressed for the work to succeed. Translated to government settingsfrom the White House to the FBI, CIA, Justice Department and sundry other elementsthese are the missing ingredients that made those deadly planes appear to us as a great surprise.