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Jan 25 2013

Terrorists and Their TPS Reports

Anyone who has ever worked an office job or been in the military knows how annoying paperwork can be. A great deal of time is spent making sure that requisitions and reports are filled out in triplicate and sent to the proper office. Turns out Al Qaeda has the same problem:

Consider the following memo, captured in 2008 but dating back to the 1990s, from Egyptian Al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef to a subordinate. Atef, a former agricultural engineer, wrote: “I was very upset by what you did. I obtained 75,000 rupees for you and your family’s trip to Egypt. I learned that you did not submit the voucher to the accountant, and that you made reservations for 40,000 rupees and kept the remainder claiming you have a right to do so…Also with respect to the air-conditioning unit…furniture used by brothers in Al Qaeda is not considered private property…I would like to remind you and myself of the punishment for any violation.” That’s right: Al Qaeda required a T&E report. Neither allegiance to a cause nor the threat of “punishment for any violation” was enough to keep the troops in line. Even Al Qaeda, the networked org of the future, has got bureaucracy and red tape.

He obviously didn’t get the memo on the importance of the TPS reports.

H/T: Andrew Sullivan

10 comments

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  1. 1
    baal

    I’m looking forward to leaked Al Qaeda performance reviews next. This was hillarious.

  2. 2
    theschwa

    “Heyyyyy, I’m going to need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday. I’m gonna need you to go ahead and suicide bomb on Sunday, too. Thaaaaanks.”
    -Mohammed bin-Lumbergh

  3. 3
    lldayo

    I wonder if their cave hideouts have cubicles and water coolers?

  4. 4
    Wes

    I could totally see bin Laden freaking out at a printer that keeps blinking “PC Load Letter.”

  5. 5
    Michael Heath

    I recall one company who had no process justifying employee travel prior to booking a trip, and yet assumed the worst when reading over their travel expense reports after the trip. (This was not a company I worked for, but one I knew well.) They’d have saved money if they balanced that while not losing so much good will with their staff.

    Slightly off-topic: effective business processes and regulatory environments can reduce paperwork. From 1989 to 2001 I did quite a bit of business internationally where I found things which are very easy to do in this country, e.g., company-to-company purchase change-orders, can be extremely cumbersome in other countries, e.g., Italy, Brazil. In Italy’s case the government simply didn’t trust business and seemed to go out of its way to make things difficult for companies to act quickly as conditions changed.

    In addition I observed that cultures where people act in good faith and are trustworthy also enjoy more streamlined transactions whereas the more you can’t trust those you do with business with, the greater need for more cumbersome processes, which in turn reduces economic growth. This is a primary reason I’m so strident on honesty and willing to get nasty with people who lie or defend liars. There are a lot of unintended consequences, nearly all bad, when we promote or enable liars.

  6. 6
    gwangung

    In addition I observed that cultures where people act in good faith and are trustworthy also enjoy more streamlined transactions whereas the more you can’t trust those you do with business with, the greater need for more cumbersome processes, which in turn reduces economic growth.

    Hm. That fits in with a feeling I had about how we as a government handles things such as food stamps, welfare, etc. I think there’s a cycle of distrust and it actually increases people taking advantage of loopholes and increases costs and decreases effectiveness.

  7. 7
    steve oberski

    I wonder what the punishment is ?

  8. 8
    John Hinkle

    Al Qaeda better start worrying if they find out someone is skimming fractional pennies from their accounts. It won’t be the US gov., it’ll be disgruntled freedom fighters who have a beef with the printer.*

    * For those not in on the joke, these are references to the movie Office Space.

  9. 9
    d.c.wilson

    But did he get to keep his Swingline stapler?

  10. 10
    peterw

    If Al Qaeda starts using PowerPoint, the west will have won the war on terror.

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