Let me oversimplify for the sake of brevity: Middle Eastern terrorist leaders seem inclined toward an algebraic approach. (I note in passing that the Middle East is known as the birthplace of algebra, mostly because of the key role played in its development by Al-Khwarizmi, a Persian. Others find multiple cultural origins for algebra.) By "algebraic" I mean essentially that someone starts by wanting to know "x" -- an unknown. The case I discussed below (see Oct. 3 post) of identifying a spy, displays an example of algebraic reasoning: inductions, deductions, logic, balance, variables and their relationships: all came into play. (See also my articles, "In Search of The Silver Bullet for One-Person, One-Vote Reapportionment," and "A Formula to Achieve One Person, One-Vote Reapportionment.")
The United States Government, for its part, employs more of a geometric approach. By "geometric" I mean a focus on spatial shapes and configurations, which implies, more often than not, invariant properties. Whenever a U.S. government presentation on terrorism occurs, you can count on seeing at least one diagram of "spatial" relationships among individuals and/or groups. An organization chart: you can see why this approach would appeal to a bureaucracy.
Algebra versus geometry: I wouldn't say one is inherently "better" than the other. That sort of judgment ultimately comes down to individual temperament. Personally, I think the U.S. government approach is too static. Relationships -- and relationships of relationships -- change over time. To adequately represent change between variables, one ends up applying algebraic thinking. In the spy case presented below, we knew there was a spy in our party's caucus, who was in touch with the leadership of the opposing party: so much for spatial relationships and sociometrics. The challenge was to go on from there, to identify the unknown informant -- "Mr. X." I must stress that our problem was a real life one, arguably the hallmark of algebra.
And so, we are left with two ships passing in the night. In order to test their communication lines, the terrorists discuss attacks. The U.S. government, on the other hand, focuses on the attacks per se mentioned in the terrorists' communications. The government's approach, albeit limited and predictable, makes sense in that the government's most immediate responsibility is to protect its citizens. The government needs to go on from there, however.
As for who gains the most once the terrorist "chatter" ends and the travel warning is lifted, I'd give the advantage to the terrorists. The U.S. intelligence services and academia have yet to understand the terrorists' mentality, which I submit is inextricably linked to middle class rebellion. Over 30 years of research convinced me that there is precious little that is geometric about the latter. I say that because, when all is said and done, we are confronting an ideology. To understand it requires seeing the unseen.
In answer to your other question: yes, I knew John E. in the late 1950s. A good friend of my father, he was retired from the State Dept., living in Guadalajara. His wife was French, short, full of life. John's hobby was building ships, putting them in bottles. I was a teenager, didn't know who he was. Bill told me in 1979, when I was managing his campaign.