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The events leading to 11 September 2001 seem to indicate an interaction of oversights, which, in concert, compromised security. Here, we use a semiotic model to explain some of what went wrong prior to 9-11. Semiotics involves the study of signs and symbols to better understand their meaning and contextual relation. We begin with so-called information. For information to be useful, it must be necessary; and to be necessary, it must be universal in the same way as a mathematical expression is understandable by mathematicians worldwide, regardless of their native language. Current systems literature provides little that addresses what is necessary and why there is a requirement for universality in information representation and processing. Our semiotic model, adapted from the existing domain of semiotic models, provides such a universal model, defining it in five levels.