Sunday, October 19, 2008

Security Theater

Airport security procedures run by the TSA are a complete joke, and we all know it. It's "security theater", designed to create a perception of security, while being hopelessly indifferent to the real thing. Jeffrey Goldberg proves it (HT Cheryl), traveling around the country intending to raise alarm by carrying tools, weapons, and overtly terrorist literature. All that was ever consficated was a Leatherman and some bottled water. At one stop, during an individual baggage search, Goldberg was found with a full-size Hezbollah flag, purchased from a Hezbollah gift shop in Lebanon.
The officer took the flag and spread it out on the inspection table. She finished her inspection, gave me back my flag, and told me I could go. I said, “That’s a Hezbollah flag.” She said, “Uh-huh.” Not “Uh-huh, I’ve been trained to recognize the symbols of anti-American terror groups, but after careful inspection of your physical person, your behavior, and your last name, I’ve come to the conclusion that you are not a Bekaa Valley–trained threat to the United States commercial aviation system,” but “Uh-huh, I’m going on break, why are you talking to me?”
In a post-9/11 age, it's unlikely terrorists will attempt the same trick. Cockpit doors have been reinforced, and since passengers know the script of airplane hijackings has changed, they will resist, just as passengers on United 93 did. In fact, unless they all had first-class tickets (which would hopefully raise someone's suspicions), I suspect a gang of would-be kamikaze-bombers would have a difficult time even making it to the cockpit door, which they would find to be reinforced and locked.

Of course, terrorists could still try simply to blow planes up midair, as they have long done, but the precautions against this need be no more onerous than the security in place long before 9/11. Bombing a plane is showy, but bombing a train or a rock concert is far easier, and potentially more devastating. Terrorists are, after all, concerned like anyone else with the return on their investment. TSA costs us $7 billion a year which could be going to (still under-staffed and under-trained) offensive counterrorism efforts, rather than passively "securing" our airports. It's well time we started to consider the return on our investment.

1 comment:

Shane said...

I was gonna be all "READ BRUCE SCHNEIER HE'S BEEN SAYING THIS FOR YEARS" and then I realized he was actually part of the Atlantic article. That is all.