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Time To Close the Security Theater

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the homeland-security-should-stay-out-of-my-pants dept.

Security 457

An anonymous reader writes "An editorial at Forbes calls for the dismantling of the TSA, pointing to recent headlines as the latest examples of 'security theater' at its worst. From the article: 'The problem isn't that the TSA is harassing the wrong people. The problem is that the TSA is harassing anyone. The TSA is encroaching on fundamental liberties and providing no discernable benefit. ... Naturally, the TSA responds to incidents like these by saying that the agents are highly trained and that they have followed proper procedure. This indicates a signal failing for the agency: if "doing it by the book" involves touching people in ways that would be considered sexual assault in virtually any other context or telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives (as happened to a friend's grandmother), then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten. Better yet, it needs to be replaced with a competitive market for air travel in which the airports, the airways, and the airliners are in private hands. Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.'"

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TSA = Federal Government (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633590)

Couldn't you just replace TSA with Federal Government in that story?

"An editorial at Forbes calls for the dismantling of the Federal Government, pointing to recent headlines as the latest examples of 'security theater' at its worst. From the article: 'The problem isn't that the Federal Government is harassing the wrong people. The problem is that the Federal Government is harassing anyone. The Federal Government is encroaching on fundamental liberties and providing no discernable benefit. ... Naturally, the Federal Government responds to incidents like these by saying that the agents are highly trained and that they have followed proper procedure. This indicates a signal failing for the agency: if "doing it by the book" involves touching people in ways that would be considered sexual assault in virtually any other context or telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives (as happened to a friend's grandmother), then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten. Better yet, it needs to be replaced with a competitive market for air travel in which the airports, the airways, and the airliners are in private hands. Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.

Re:TSA = Federal Government (1, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633620)

Couldn't you just replace TSA with Federal Government in that story?

Couldn't you all vote to replace the Federal Government if you all really disliked it so much?

Re:TSA = Federal Government (3, Informative)

Methuseus (468642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633818)

Tried that, unfortunately it hasn't worked yet.

Re:TSA = Federal Government (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633940)

You may have voted that way.

Obviously "all" or even most didn't or else the current crop of ReDemoPublicrats wouldn't still be in office.

(Ok, so we'd just have a different crop of similar critters, perhaps under differently named parties.)

Re:TSA = Federal Government (5, Interesting)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633932)

Couldn't you just replace TSA with Federal Government in that story?

Couldn't you all vote to replace the Federal Government if you all really disliked it so much?

Yes, and we have the opportunity to do so with great regularity: 1/3 of the Senate every two years, the entire House of Representatives every two years, the the President every four years. We, as in the US voters, fail to re-elect a new government with equal regularity. Even with in-the-sewer approval ratings, Congressional incumbents tend to enjoy a remarkable re-election rate (I've seen figure in excess of 90%).

I worked with a guy who had the right idea: whomever the incumbent is, vote for the challenger. Don't worry about party affiliation, they're both essentially the same anyway. The effect on the Senate would be less dramatic then the House, since only 1/3 of the Senators are up for re-election at the same time. Can you imagine a House of Representatives where all 435 members were replaced at the same time?

Re:TSA = Federal Government (3, Insightful)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634070)

replaced with what?

democracy has turned into picking the less of two evils

Re:TSA = Federal Government (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634020)

Couldn't you just replace TSA with Federal Government in that story?

Couldn't you all vote to replace the Federal Government if you all really disliked it so much?

You don't vote for bureaucrats. And its their job to entrench themselves so deeply they cannot be removed.

Re:TSA = Federal Government (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633848)

No kidding.

"Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

Competitive mechanisms promote corner cutting. See: Continental 3407, pilot pay and rest requirements, FAA's policy of promoting airline business over safety, and outsourcing of heavy maintenance. ST Aerospace, a maintenance provider, has committed some especially egregious offenses (see "Flying Cheaper" by Frontline).

Re:TSA = Federal Government (5, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633956)

A first post AC who has something insightful to say? Color me shocked. The gist of the editorial isn't that the security theater is ineffective, it is that the government shouldn't be groping grandmas when the free market could provide security without having to grope grandmas. This is nothing but the standard trope of "government is evil" mixed with taking advantage of people not understanding security.

But that's a sham.

#1 Physical profiling doesn't work. Terrorists would just do dry-runs until they find a combination of people and materials that is outside the profile.
#2 Behavioral profiling is somewhat better, but requires much more expensive training. It is unlikely to be implemented in all airports.
#3 This leaves random sampling. In order for random sampling to work, grandmas and babies have to be groped. Otherwise, we're right back at #1.

Do people have to be groped? Honestly, I'm not up-to-date enough on the latest explosives to know what kind of damage a fake boob or a full diaper's worth of C4 can do to a plane. I'll leave that decision to the experts.

What I can guarantee you though is that the free market doesn't have a better solution for this? Why? Money.

There are two ways to pay for it: airports and airlines pay for it, or travelers pay for it.

If airlines and airports pay for it, the motivation is to keep bringing as many people in as possible - which, since everybody thinks they're innocent and shouldn't be hassled, means a reduction in safety. If individuals pay for it, they'll want to pay for it only when they travel, which is a huge individual expense. The only people able to afford proper security are the wealthy, and at that point, they might as well rent a private jet.

If the American people want airport security, the only way to do it right is through a government agency that takes a little bit from everybody to provide some expensive security to a small subgroup of people.

It is a jobs program. Doesn't actually do anything (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633616)

Security theater. Education theater. Infrastructure theater.

And near impossible to get rid of once established.

I would bet you will see TSA checkpoints on street corners before we get rid of this cancer at airports and train stations.

Re:It is a jobs program. Doesn't actually do anyth (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633754)

"but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

This is just a free market troll. Competitive mechanisms favor the group that cuts costs, reduces quality and undercuts the higher quality competitors. The end result is the dodgy group raising prices sky high once a monopoly has been achieved.

No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633628)

The fact is you either get security at the cost of freedom, or freedom at the cost of security. No amount of precautions and countermeasures will prevent the worst from happening; just like with computers and viruses. Doing damage is the easiest thing to accomplish, but prevention is a very inefficient, resource burning measure. Not saying any amount of prevention is necessarily wrong in itself, but it goes to prove my point.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (5, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633670)

Incorrect. True security *has* stopped another 9/11.

That 'security' includes exactly 2 things:

Reinforced and 'locked' cockpit doors.

Flight #93 passenger response.

Those 2 things will prevent another 9/11 from happening. The TSA is preventing bombs 'on' planes which is *not* what 9/11 was. It was using planes as flying missles. Very. Different. Threats.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (5, Insightful)

BlueToast (1224550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633760)

Incorrect. True security *has* stopped another 9/11.

That 'security' includes exactly 2 things:

Reinforced and 'locked' cockpit doors.

Flight #93 passenger response.

Those 2 things will prevent another 9/11 from happening. The TSA is preventing bombs 'on' planes which is *not* what 9/11 was. It was using planes as flying missles. Very. Different. Threats.

Reinforced and 'locked' cockpit doors are things that should have naturally been implemented into design by common sense. That would be passive security that works on its own without further human intervention after fabrication and production.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633988)

Reinforced and 'locked' cockpit doors are things that should have naturally been implemented into design by common sense.

No argument on this. I'm just saying that implementing these 'common sense' ideas was the only security that is really stopping another 9/11.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634104)

911 changed the rules of hijackings.

Hijackings used to be like bank robberies where everyone was supposed to cooperate and "not be a hero".

911 increased the stakes and altered all of the basic assumptions. Now someone getting hijacked has every expectation of dying while being used as a flying bomb.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633826)

And "competitive" security let all of the terrorists thru their respective entrances for the four flights. The charade and harassment that is the TSA is both mean-spirited, and rife for abuse. We are free, in these United States. The TSA operates above the rule of law, extra-constitutionally, IMHO.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (3, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634136)

Because, at the time, no-one saw box cutters as a risk. The security then was aimed at non-suicide terrorists - either trying to put a bomb on an airliner, then leave it, or with a gun which provides a credible hostage situation. No-one had foreseen a certain-suicide attack in which the intention was not to hold the plane hostage but to use it as a missile.

This was not a public/private problem, but a foresight problem. And what we have now is a hindsight problem. The TSA, and other security agencies, are trying to prevent repeats of every attack that has happened in the past. Shoe bomber? Check shoes. Underwear bomber? Design machine to check underwear.

The trouble is that we have here a situation resembling that by which the US defeated the USSR Essentially, the US outspent the USSR, which simply could not keep up. But that was a level playing field, which the US won by being richer and able to throw more money at defence. This is an asymmetric situation, in which an attack, even a failed attack, by terrorists which costs a few thousand dollars causes a response by the security forces which cost hundreds of millions or billions. How much did it cost the hidden powers of Al Qaeda to set up the shoe bomb attack? How many extra sniffer machines have been bought and how many millions of hours wasted in queues as a result?

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633850)

We still need one additional security measure.
SAMs for defense on all buildings taller than 1000'
If the WTC had that, there would have been no successful tower strikes.
It doubles as defense for a large section of major metropolitan areas.

The amazing part is that it was thermal failure that brought them down, not the impact.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633896)

SAMs for defense on all buildings taller than 1000'

why do you hate the Pentagon building?

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36634008)

Great. That way the baddies can take over the SAM and shoot missiles all over the city.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (2)

mjeffers (61490) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634068)

[blockquote]We still need one additional security measure.
SAMs for defense on all buildings taller than 1000'
If the WTC had that, there would have been no successful tower strikes.
It doubles as defense for a large section of major metropolitan areas.[/blockquote]

So instead of having towers that fell largely within their own footprints we'd have shot down a large airliner flying at low altitude over 2 really populated areas. How is that better?

We'd also have commercial real-estate developers with responsibility or access to SAMs. I'm not sure I'm ready to trust Donald Trump with missiles.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633992)

And even if they didn't, I do not think that that is a reason to violate peoples' rights. Some people seem to be greatly overestimating the chances of a terrorist attack actually happening (as well as greatly overestimating how useful the TSA actually is).

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (4, Insightful)

asylumx (881307) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634022)

Also, 9/11 changed our mindset around hijacking. Previously, everyone on the plane would have thought "They'll get us to the ground safely, they just want us as hostages" so complacency had much lower risk than heroism... but 9/11 showed that some folks want to use the plane as a missile and don't care about the people on board. That means if someone attempts to hijack the plane, even with a bomb, the passengers have plenty of motivation to respond because the risk of complacence is now *higher* than the risk of heroism.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (3, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634026)

I would add one more thing: The FBI. They've stopped some actual terrorist plots from getting past the planning stages. But if a terrorist manages to elude the FBI, the TSA isn't going to be more than a minor inconvenience.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (2)

lisany (700361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634078)

The cost of always locked cockpit doors is that no longer will children be able to go up and check out an airplane cockpit flown by a real life pilot. That's a pretty sad thing, as someone that did get to check out the cockpit many years ago.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (5, Interesting)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633790)

The Israel's airport security model is very effective. But it is very difficult to follow in the US. You can google for a number of sources such as this [forward.com] . Excerpt:

While American and European security procedures rely mainly on technological solutions for screening luggage and passengers, Israel’s security philosophy is based on a mix of advanced detection devices and personal interaction with the passengers.The multi-layer system begins outside Israel’s biggest port of entry — Ben Gurion airport. Cars approaching the terminal are stopped by guards and asked one or two questions, usually about where they are coming from or what is the purpose of their visit. A nervous response, or one revealing an Arab accent, could trigger further scrutiny even before entering the airport.

When walking into the terminal, visitors pass by another set of security agents searching for passengers behaving suspiciously. The next stop for human evaluation is before the check-in counter, where passengers are required to show their travel documents and answer a series of seemingly standard questions from trained security personnel. (Did you pack your bags by yourself? How long did you spend in Israel? What was the purpose of your visit?) Screeners are interested more in the tone and body language than in the content of passengers’ replies.

This is also the point where profiling takes place: While most Jewish Israeli citizens will be waved through after the brief conversation, others, mainly Israeli Arabs and non-Jewish visitors, will be taken aside for lengthy questioning and a thorough luggage and physical check.

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (5, Insightful)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633810)

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
        -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Re:No amount of security will prevent terrorism (1)

ArrowBay (2326316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633858)

So how about we privatize it? One airline can advertise ease of us -- low security checkpoints, with lower prices! Another airline can advertise how safe they are -- tough security measures, with premium prices! The former would outsell the latter 100 to 1, I bet.

This would require some restructuring of the government-subsidized airports, to be sure.

You could knock me over with a feather (0, Troll)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633640)

Wow, so Forbes magazine wants to dismantle a government organization and replace it with private industry? What a surprise.

Yes, TSA rules are sort of insane and should be fixed. I'm absolutely mystified by why they think industry would do better. "Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out." Right, Forbes, like they weeded it out before, you know, 9/11 happened? Give me a break.

Re:You could knock me over with a feather (0)

Whatsisname (891214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633774)

The private industry probably would do better. They would take a look at the odds of anything happening, and say "fuck it" to dealing with anything beyond metal detectors.

And that is the absolute right choice. We don't need this absurd "security".

Re:You could knock me over with a feather (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633838)

You do realize that if exactly the same security rules and procedures existed today as existed on 9/11, it would be impossible for hijackers to recreate 9/11 (even discounting the fact that the World Trade Towers are gone) or anything similar, don't you?

Re:You could knock me over with a feather (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633902)

It just appeared to be another call for privatizing another industry.

My fear is that the result would be that the TSA (whom in the end is held accountable by the people in Congress) would be replaced by whomever is the lowest bidder.

Private security firms tend to be scary. In the past, the old Pinkertons were hired on just to shoot up rioters. Then, there is the allegations against Blackwater.

Once something is in private hands, there is no going back. I'll take a public organization that ultimately is accountable, versus a private company that is completely immune to any laws our country has.

My problem with "let private industry do it" (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633908)

My basic problem with the ultra-deregulationist, privatize everything crowd is the Bell Curve.

"It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

On average, yes, but there will always be poorly managed companies, which will quickly die, but not before causing harm.

That is to say, that the "Free Market" is generally good at, eventually, ensuring that most of the companies do a good job most of the time. But there will always be companies which are screw-ups.

So, privatizing everything, with no regulation, it seems to me, usually gives you about a 95% solution. That is it's good 95% of the time and bad about 5%.

Arguably, that *might* be better than the government. Personally, I like well-regulated markets, not completely free markets, and not government doing everything. The government should be the law-giver, not the business.

The main trouble is making sure the regulator is well-run by the government (e.g. the Minerals Management Service fiasco). That's what our elected officials are *supposed to be doing* - providing oversight of the government to make sure the bureaucracies are staffed with competent people doing a good job, not corrupt incompetents.

Re:My problem with "let private industry do it" (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634088)

In this case, I'll take a bell curve to being on the wrong side of a hockey stick.

Re:You could knock me over with a feather (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633918)

Wow, so Forbes magazine wants to dismantle a government organization and replace it with private industry? What a surprise.

Yes, TSA rules are sort of insane and should be fixed. I'm absolutely mystified by why they think industry would do better. "Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out." Right, Forbes, like they weeded it out before, you know, 9/11 happened? Give me a break.

Or like how you keep seeing stories like passengers accidentally carrying knives onto planes, mock security tests smuggling bombs onto planes that get missed over 90% of the time, theft of items screened, harassment of all kinds?

Fact: the TSA is no more effective than any private security screening company prior to their mandate. Instead, the blank check and supra-legal status gives them the right to demand all sorts of crazy surrenders and procedures while completely ignoring factors that private industry would find important.

The public just needs to wrap their head around the fact that a sufficiently dedicated attacker will find a way, because security practices are always a compromise between functionality and protection, and group holding the bag, government or private industry, doesn't change that.

Re:You could knock me over with a feather (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634046)

The TSA has just successfully unionized so it's no big surprise to see official opinion on them as voiced by the big US propaganda outlets do a 180.

It's a blog, not an editorial. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633644)

Just another blogger.

Competition (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633656)

"but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

My ass. No they do not. The feedback loop is way too complex and lengthy (time-wise) to allow for reasonable judgment by consumers that would lead to a functioning market mechanism. Market forces are great where they can work effectively, but that is definitely not everywhere. This is a perfect example of where they not only do not work, but cannot work.

No discernible benefit? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633674)

The discernible benefit is no repeats of the September 11th bombings while still allowing random travel. Is it really a problem that people boarding a device that could be considered a guided missile be carefully screened for weapons and explosives? I don't think so.

Re:No discernible benefit? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633728)

You only get to use that argument if you can prove that they've stopped attempts - specifically attempts that would have succeeded even taking into account how cockpit doors are now locked, and pilots+passengers know what could happen if they let the hijackers pilot a plane.

Re:No discernible benefit? (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633772)

The discernible benefit is no repeats of the September 11th bombings while still allowing random travel.

The TSA didn't have a damned thing to do with that. You can thank our intelligence and law enforcement agencies for most thwarted attacks in the last ten years.

Re:No discernible benefit? (3, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633776)

Who cares. Around 3000 people died on 9/11. That's over a decade ago and since then, not much else has happened.

We put up with orders of magnitude more deaths on the highways over the same time period because the states' DMVs are too protective of an individuals "right" to drive a car to keep incompetent morons off the roads. Want to save lives? Have the TSA fondle everyone who is trying to juggle a Big Mac, fries and a milkshake behind the steering wheel.

>Personally, I'm willing to put up with ~300 fatalities a year to not get groped while boarding an airplane. I'd also be willing to fly on an airplane if anyone with a concealed weapons permit was permitted to carry onboard. Go ahead. Try to storm the cockpit with box cutters.

Re:No discernible benefit? (1)

heptapod (243146) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633872)

Hey friend, I wish you hadn't posted anonymously.

I'd like to tell you about an exciting revenue generating program based upon proven technology. I own land in New Mexico which is full of rocks which repel tigers and prevent tiger attacks. For the past decade I have carried one of these stones, no larger than a US twenty five cent piece, and have never been attacked by a tiger. My supply is vast but far from being unlimited. I have several men and women scouring the USA for other sources of these rare stones to keep up with demand.

For just $5 and a paltry investment of $.25 a month ($2.50 for the whole year if paid in a lump sum) you can ensure that families, citizens and friends will be forever safe from tiger attacks. Reading your post only emphasizes your intelligence and I'd like to have you as a business partner.

Re:No discernible benefit? (1)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633982)

I invite you to prove that claim.

I've managed to fly halfway around the world and back, with little or no fear of the plane being flowing into a building, despite not being groped and x-rayed in violation of whatever rights I may have been entitled to under the constitutions of the countries I was traveling between.

Perhaps our government might like to consider why some of its policies make it a target of extremist terrorists. Perhaps if we weren't assassinating people and supporting corrupt and repressive regimes then the terrorists might find someone else deserving of their attention.

The problem with "competitive" pressures (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633676)

is that they aim to fly as close to the line as possible.

In a system where safety rating is part of the commercial offering, you'll end up with cheap, dangerous, low margin airlines because (and it's a shame it has to be said so often) enlightened self interest is a myth.

of course the rest of this stuff is spot on. The TSA should be disbanded.

Re:The problem with "competitive" pressures (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633736)

Generally, you're wrong. Snapper Lawnmowers are doing well. However, since terrorism is statistically very rare, the free market won't handle it very well; what you'll get instead is the cheapest security theater that convinces customers that they're safe.

Re:The problem with "competitive" pressures (1)

lpp (115405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634116)

you'll end up with cheap, dangerous, low margin airlines

The TSA already hires cheap labor, there have already been documented failures of the TSA to catch folks who tested the TSA's security measures and while the result might be a low margin approach, right now it's a government monopoly and not a particularly effective one.

Re:The problem with "competitive" pressures (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634132)

Actually, if the TSA were to focus on actual crime prevention and intelligence, instead of buying machines and machine operators we would be much safer. It would cost an order of magnitude less, and the security theater could be abandoned as it simply doesn't work.

Free Groping Anyone? (1)

pwileyii (106242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633678)

No discernible benefit? You get a free groping and you don't even have to tip. What more could you ask for?

Re:Free Groping Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633930)

A happy ending?

weeding out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633680)

large firms tend to weed out competitive behaviour

Great fucking plan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633686)

Definitely just privatize and let the free market sort it out. I mean, after a few years it'll be pretty obvious which airlines have lost the fewest planes, and we can all just fly those.

Just like Animal Farm.. (5, Insightful)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633688)

All animals are created equal, yet some animals are more equal than others.

The problem is that those people that created the TSA should have to go through this type of security screening. Make these invasive procedures personal to those in power. They'll have a change of mind when Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi are getting groped instead of hearing stories about some random grandmother. Too bad those three women always fly privately. I guess we're all equal under the law unless you get elected to office.

Re:Just like Animal Farm.. (3, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633854)

You politicians are what you make of them. Your government departments are what you let them get away with.

The difference between a slave and a free person is the right to say no. Next time you feel that authority oversteps it's demands upon you, don't be a bloody slave, simply but firmly state, "Freedom, I wont".

Either you are a free citizen of a country with constitution that provides you with inalienable rights or you are a slave destined to spend the rest of life afraid to say 'NO' and, condemning your family to the same.

Show some genitalia by refusing to have it radiated and exposed or groped, just say "NO".

Re:Just like Animal Farm.. (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633876)

They'll have a change of mind when Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi are getting groped instead of hearing stories about some random grandmother. Too bad those three women always fly privately. I guess we're all equal under the law unless you get elected to office.

Technically, they fly publicly. It's just us normal people dont get to fly with them. Those flights are paid out of our tax dollars.

Re:Just like Animal Farm.. (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633936)

No, we're all equal under the law unless we have enough money and/or power to buy a better form of equality.

Re:Just like Animal Farm.. (3, Informative)

Pachooka-san (88633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633952)

And if Congress had to participate in Social Security, ObamaCare, or any one of a thousand indignities and injustices inflicted upon the American people, they wouldn't have lasted 15 minutes in debate, let alone get passed. Maybe we need to take a cue from Libya, Egypt, and Dhubai and get rid of the privileged overlords.

False dichotomy (4, Insightful)

eobanb (823187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633692)

This isn't an either-or situation. The TSA's perpetrated a number of civil liberties violations, yes. On the other hand, some kind of free market libertarian fantasy should not come at the expense of public safety either.

The TSA needs to be re-imagined, but we shouldn't revert to the system we had before. But c'mon. A free market system has no incentive to improve in this kind of situation (oh, you died in a terrorist attack? Fine, go to some other airport next time!)

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633726)

Quite.

Re:False dichotomy (5, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633866)

The TSA has done no better and no worse than pre-9/11 airport security in terms of hijacking/terrorist attempts.

But it has had a noticeable, negative impact on traveler experience, dignity and basic rights both legal and social. I'm hardly anything approaching a"free-market" advocate but what we have now does nothing but cost taxpayers money. I have no problem paying taxes in general but I'd at least like to see some tangible benefit from it, y'know? We can go back to "normal" airport security and put that money towards investigative efforts where it will actually do some good.

Let's be honest, if a terrorist plot gets to the point where the airport security catches him, we have already failed. Next step is to just blow themselves up while waiting in line to be groped... all the airport security goons in the world couldn't stop that. We don't need the TSA.
=Smidge=

Re:False dichotomy (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633948)

Why shouldn't we revert to the system we had before? The only reason that the 9/11 hijackers were successful was because the passengers on three of the four planes assumed that they would be flown to some destination such as Cuba, negotiations would be conducted, the hijackers would release the passengers for some consideration and the passengers would be flown to the destination of their choice. The only harm being the loss of several hours to several days.
Now people know that that outcome is not likely to be the case and they will attempt to overwhelm the hijackers.
However, my recommendation would be to revert to the basic system we had on 9/11, except that the TSA gets reorganized as security inspectors. The job of the TSA would be to inspect the security procedures of various airlines (including passenger screening) and fine those airlines that failed certain objective standards (such as allowing a gun onto the plane--something the TSA has on several occassions failed to prevent).

Re:False dichotomy (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634062)

Not to mention there's a distinct lack of competition in most areas. "Oh you don't like our security? Well, you're free to drive to our nearest competitor. Of course, that's an eight hour trip. Is that a problem?"

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36634080)

Yes we should go back to the old pre-911 screening process. The additional security hasn't made us safer at all, every terrorist attempt to bring a bomb on a plane has succeeded, everyone! Please enlighten us oh guru of why we shouldn't go back to the old way. How many more billions do we need to spend to make cowards like yourself "feel" better?

Typical Forbes (5, Insightful)

sonamchauhan (587356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633704)

They're a one-tune-band.

Private enterprise. Rah Rah Rah. Solution to everything .... blah blah blah... Capitalism, the savior of us all... blah blah blah. privatise airports, roads, the police, fire brigade, army, air, water, everything.... right to property, profit, business efficiency.... Private enterprise. Rah Rah Rah.

Re:Typical Forbes (2)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633926)

I agree. Privatizations of infrastructure rarely go well. We end up with the nuisance of toll roads. And the track record of computer security in private firms has taught us that private enterprise is terrible at proactive security: it is almost entirely reactive.

People who call for capitalism as the solution for everything generally don't understand what capitalism is. We don't have pure capitalism: we have regulated capitalism, with some socialism. Pure capitalism is not stable: it evolves into feudalism, in which there are a small number of clans who have grabbed up everything and built a system for holding onto it, and everyone else is a serf to those clans. Pure capitalism results in consolidation into monopolies. Pure capitalism is not free enterprise or a free market: to maintain a free market in a capitalist system requires extremely active intervention, to prevent monopolies from forming. The US has not been very good about that.

Capitalism is the best allocator of resources, as long as a free market is maintained. But that qualifier is a big one. Companies use every trick they can to manipulate us and to consolidate their power. Just as government cannot be trusted, companies cannot be trusted. And unregulated transportation companies - without a TSA - can be counted on to cut corners wherever they can, to deceive us about that, and to put us at risk.

Re:Typical Forbes (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634144)

Capitalism is the best allocator of resources, as long as a free market is maintained. But that qualifier is a big one. Companies use every trick they can to manipulate us and to consolidate their power. Just as government cannot be trusted, companies cannot be trusted.

Very few people who say they are capitalists, really are. Most are monopolists in capitalist clothing.

Capitalism is a contest, like a track race. Imagine a track star that wanted to "win" by crippling his opponents, rather than running faster than they do. Monopolists want to eliminate the competition, then sit back and "win" without having to do any of that difficult running stuff.

Re:Typical Forbes (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634014)

Without massive government subsidies to airport infrastructure and amazingly low cost loans and grants to airlines commercial air travel would be what it was back in the 50's, the domain of the rich and connected who just didn't have enough scratch to afford their own private aircraft.

The capital investment in new aircraft alone is staggering, can you imagine if Delta or MergerAir had to cover the cost of building and maintaining all of those airports? Or, as the more likely scenario with the privatization crowd, can you imagine the extortionist payments that the private company who ran the airport would demand from air carriers? Where else are you going to park your planes or pick-up passengers? Competition? Good luck getting the land and the use permits to build a new airport anywhere close to any sort of built up area.

Yeah, some things just don't need to be privatized.

 

Re:Typical Forbes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36634056)

What's the difference at this point? The government is run like a corporation anyway. I don't think people who want to privatize understand how little things will change.

Amen, but good luck (1)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633714)

Here's the bs reply I got when I complained about the TSA security theater to my US Senator, Scott P. Brown (R, Massachusetts):

Dear Mr xxxx,

          Thank you for contacting me regarding the recent changes in Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) security procedures. I always value your input on all issues and appreciate hearing from you.

          As you know, on June 24, 2010, Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) introduced the SAFER AIR Act, which would implement new forms of airport screening technology. S. 3536 would authorize the use of full-body scan machinery to search for weapons, explosives, or other hazardous materials that are otherwise undetectable. While this bill is currently under consideration by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Administration is testing this type of program and has implemented it in select airports nationwide. Many of the concerns recently voiced about these procedures have surrounded the health implications of millimeter wave technology utilized by these full-body scan machines. The TSA has assured travelers that the non-ionizing radio frequency energy emitted by the machines is safe, and gives off about 100,000 times less energy than that of talking on a cell phone.

          For those concerned about their privacy as a result of images taken by the full-body scanning machines, please know that the TSA worked closely with the manufacturers of these machines to make sure that the capabilities to store and send the images were removed prior to installation. Additionally, S. 3536 would go even further by specifically prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security from retaining images used in airport scanning, and also would require that faces of individuals be blurred. You may be interested to know the imaging technology is of lesser quality than that of basic photography and does not present sufficient detail to be used for personal identification.

          In addition to the full-body imaging machines, the TSA has also implemented new pat-down procedures for those air travelers who opt out of using the full-body imaging machines. According to the TSA, these new pat-down procedures are designed to prevent another "Christmas Day" style attack, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear.

          The TSA has stated that these new pat-down procedures are part of a multi-layered security protocol that, along with explosive trace detection, the full-body imaging technology, and canine teams, has been implemented to ensure the safety of the traveling public. Most recently, on November 19, 2010, the TSA agreed to let airline pilots skip the security scanning and pat-downs in response to pilot groups voicing concern about the bolstered security. As the TSA continues to receive feedback from the public, there could be other revisions to parts of the new security procedures.

          Our nation's number one goal when it comes to airport security must be the deterrence of terrorist attacks. I certainly understand the concerns of some regarding the new screening procedures, and I agree these procedures must be as non-intrusive as possible and respectful of Americans’ privacy concerns. But when it comes to our families’ safety, I come down on the side of caution. Protecting American lives is the most important thing to me during these times of potential terrorist threats. As a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, I will continue to be actively engaged in these issues and related policies, and I will monitor the implementation of these new security procedures.

          Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact me or visit my website at www.scottbrown.senate.gov.

                      Sincerely,
          Scott P. Brown
          United States Senator

Highly-trained my ass (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633724)

Most of the TSA officers I've seen look like they just stepped out of the ghetto with their shiny new high school diplomas. I don't even think they're salaried employees. It looks like a barely-above-minimum-wage job. You can't expect to get professionals on $10 an hour.

Re:Highly-trained my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633894)

NO ONE answering an ad on a pizza box is "highly trained".

Re:Highly-trained my ass (1)

BlueToast (1224550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633958)

The TSA is the new Gestapo ;)

How much risk do you want? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633730)

"It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out."

Well, competitive methods only weed that out if you allow some plane to go down. As the companies cutting corners get hijacked, consumers will learn which companies are cutting corners, and then the market will correct them. But the market doesn't do squat before-the-fact. So you have to decide that some failure is acceptable before you let the market take over anything.

We have this same problem all the time in American politics. "The market will fix it." Sure, it probably will, *after* bad things happen to make it fix it.

Personally, I'm willing to accept a lot more risk that seems popular these days, but that's the choice. The market isn't magical.

TSA in fundamential violation of 4th Amendment (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633732)

The Fourth Amendment does not make an exception for domestic air travel. The TSA needs to be abolished entirely. We have the right to travel within our own country without being stopped or searched. That applies to on foot, on horseback, in a car, bus, train, and yes even on a plane. The mode of travel does not make a difference.

There are plenty of other countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633734)

Why should anyone want to be in the USA?

Re:There are plenty of other countries (2)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634028)

"Why should anyone want to be in the USA?"

A: Because I've got a better overall standard of living for the work I do than I would have in many other countries.

B: It's home. My family and friends are here.

C: (Fill in one of a large number of reasons people stay in the country they were born in.)

Time to close the security theater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633738)

Only to re-open it as a business? Are these people high?

Free market my ass (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633756)

" Better yet, it needs to be replaced with a competitive market for air travel in which the airports, the airways, and the airliners are in private hands."

Because what my city really needs is ten private airports taking up space, right? These Forbes guys have got Big Corporate's dick so far up their asses that it's putting pressure on their brains...

Re:Free market my ass (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634038)

Good luck getting new airports built anywhere close to a city.

Private security would work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633768)

I mean, it works great for the prison system right? And why would a private firm do better? Do they have special threat sensing psychics? Unless the private industry has a Total Recall like scanner they will do the same thing. Maybe America should do a gut check and ask whether they want the security or not. Don't want it then get rid of it. Don't replace it with a mirror image and say it's better just because it's privatized.

Blackwater/XE was worse than the military when sent in. I don't see how a company like Blackwater/XE will be any better than TSA in this situation either. This article just wants the US to stop wasting money on TSA and start wasting it on a private company.

Re:Private security would work. (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634142)

Actually, what I read was stop wasting money on security theater, period.

Can't Agree With The Article More (4, Insightful)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633792)

This article one of the better I've read, and the author is right: the TSA is flawed to the core. The TSA also makes the case that law enforcement should never be above the law... sexually assaulting people, stealing people's stuff (taking away contraband) and creating a system of checkpoints with a do not pass list all are contrary to existing law and at least as bad as anything Eastern Europe had to offer in the 1960s and 1970s. If we are exempting law enforcement from sexual assault and theft laws, then we need to change that as there is not one good example where law enforcement should be able to rape, molest or steal from a citizen, EVER. The TSA also has little regard for citizen health as seen in it's apparent lack of safety testing for backscatter detectors and their treatment of people in wheelchairs.

TSA isn't impossible to get rid of. All it takes is one Senator or member of the House to stand up and hold public hearings where citizen after citizen get to tell stories of their wives, children, and grandparents being sexually assaulted, relieved of property or denied access to travel without any kind of right of redress, and the people will be more than happy to get rid of the beast the TSA has become. Personally, I have avoided commercial flights since the TSA became more Stalinist in its tactics because I fear that I would lose my temper and be arrested for questioning the TSA's right to sexually assault, irradiate people, steal stuff and impede other citizens right to freely move. I'll continue to fly privately or not at all (if the boarding+flight+bag claim time is under 5 hours, you usually can drive there in the same time) until this changes. In 2001, I flew over 340,000 miles. Last year, I flew 0 on a commercial airliner.

Is airport security ultimately self-extinguishing? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633796)

....when air travel becomes too expensive due to fuel costs or unaffordable at the volumes currently used due to other economic issues?

Re:Is airport security ultimately self-extinguishi (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633888)

This does not change the problem of a organisation that can press out of proportion securty rules.

If there are going to be less flight then they have even more time to harrassand scare people.

Of they are going to do more "security" on sail ships or something like that.

"The wrong people" after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36633798)

The problem isn't that the TSA is harassing the wrong people. The problem is that the TSA is harassing anyone.

If "doing it by the book" involves [...] telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives (as happened to a friend's grandmother), then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten.

Wait. Is it about "harassing anyone" now, or is it about 90-year old breast cancer survivors and such? This very much reeks of "it's about harassing the wrong people" to me after all.

budget cuts (2)

mrquagmire (2326560) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633844)

I hear the government is looking for places they can cut spending. This would be an excellent place to start. The TSA has done absolutely nothing to make us more secure since 9/11, and it's about time people start realizing this fact.

Media opinion slowly turning (1)

CelticWhisper (601755) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633868)

While others have aptly pointed out that the Forbes article advocates (perhaps wrongly) free-market solutions to air security, I've noticed a lot of anti-TSA op-ed pieces in the media of late. Oddly enough it seems that the 95-year-old traveler who was forced to remove her adult diaper, and not the 6-year-old who was molested by TSOs in New Orleans, was the catalyst for massive media criticism. I'd have thought TSA abusing children would have a stronger (albeit only slightly so) impact than TSA abusing adults, even if said adults are senior citizens and/or terminally ill. Either way I'm glad that Forbes, among other news outlets in the US and overseas, is speaking against TSA.

Competitive mechanisms? (1, Insightful)

forand (530402) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633890)

Largely I agree with what the article concludes however, the statement:

Some might object that private firms will have incentives to cut corners on safety. It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out. It is important to remember too that just because competitive markets might not provide the best of all conceivable worlds doesn’t mean that government intervention can.

is just crazy. Competitive markets have been shown, time and time again, that they will not implement safety measures unless they can profit from it (car companies through the 70s, power companies, coal mining companies, etc.). I, personally, do not want to live in a country that has planes falling out of the skys because all that happens when something like this happens is the company goes bankrupt and the government is left to pay for the disaster, I strongly suspect that I am in the majority on this. Having a set of base regulations which prohibit known unsafe behavior on the part of any industry should be considered the responsibility of any government. Living in a completely unregulated world is another phrase for anarchy.

public safety (1)

satsuke (263225) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633904)

Sorry Forbes, but public safety is not one of those things that free market economics has any chance of doing better than government standardized or government run schemes.

It'd be almost an exact parallel of health care in the US. An organization responsible for something generally considered in the public interest, but with motivations other than, and sometimes in direct conflict with, that public interest.

As far as grievous things done by the TSA .. yeah, they are grievous and demand changes to only perform functions that directly relate to security.

As far as the specific example .. it's unfortunate, but as soon as TSA says they won't examine women who have had mastectomy is the day certain nefarious organizations start recruiting women who have had a mastectomy to take a defacto one way flight somewhere.

Airport Competitive Pressure (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633912)

If we rely on competitive pressure with airports, we're likely to get a situation similar to the ISP situation. Most people who want broadband in the US have a choice of one or two ISPs. If they don't like the one they're with, either they are SOL or have to go with the one remaining one. This means that ISPs can do pretty much anything they want and the customer has no choice.

With airports, how many do you think there would be in any given area? Probably just one. So what "competitive pressure" would that airport feel to channel funds to something that doesn't generate money (e.g. Security) versus something that does (a third Starbucks in the food court). You won't wind up with secure airlines by relying on "competitive pressure."

Of course, this isn't to say that the TSA should be kept as-is. They should be scaled back dramatically. At least to pre-911 levels. Do the metal detector thing. Don't require people to take off their shoes. Do scan all bags (including checked bags). Don't grope passengers. Do learn from other countries that do security right (e.g. Israel). If the TSA did all of these things tomorrow, I'd be willing to bet that the incidence of terrorism in the US would *NOT* dramatically rise. It would stay completely flat. Flying would be more enjoyable and the TSA would continue to not catch terrorists. (The FBI tends to catch them pre-boarding and the passengers/flight crew tend to stop them post-boarding.) They should only be there to stop the obvious threats. ("No sir, you can't bring a loaded pistol and a 3 machetes on your flight.")

Valuejet (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633914)

"It is a legitimate concern, but competitive mechanisms tend to weed this out.' - Yea, just look at how the market weeded out ValueJet. Oh wait, they killed 110 people [wikipedia.org] , changed their name to AirTran to escape their tarnished brand, and are doing fine now.

Wow (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633970)

Sure the TSA is stupid, consitution bending (at least), inconveniant, expensive, and doesn't increase security by any useful amount.

But from that we get private airways? Seriously?

So what companies would buy bits of airspace and set the rules in them? So I'd have to make deals with 20 different companies to fly a small plane between two cities? And the communication protocols and frequencies would change as I flew from one company's space to another?

I'm all for the free market, but sometimes there are some things that just aren't suited to it.

Re:Wow (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634126)

You may not realize it, but the TSA and the FAA are not the same thing. All the functions you're worried about being privatized are run by the FAA, not the TSA.

Emotional appeals are annoying (3, Insightful)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36633978)

if "doing it by the book" involves [...] telling a 90-year old breast cancer survivor to remove her bra lest it contain explosives [...], then the book needs to be shredded and rewritten.

That the person is 90, a woman, or a breast cancer survivor shouldn't matter. Perhaps the "book" should be rewritten so that a 20-year-old bra-wearing drag queen otherwise in the same situation shouldn't have to remove his bra, just like the old woman shouldn't have to. Randomly deciding some people aren't dangerous is dangerous.

Every time I hear TSA message at the Airport (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634086)

When I do have to fly for work and I hear the TSA or DHS messages over the P.A. system in my mind I substitute "Terrorists Suppressing Americans" for TSA or "Department of Homeland Stupidity" for DHS. What makes it humorous is that the messages fit if there was an oppressive, terroristic, or just plain incompetent group in charge.

TSA abridges First, not just Fourth, Amendment. (4, Insightful)

jabberw0k (62554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634102)

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of association -- that means the freedom to travel and meet whoever you like. We used to laugh at the Soviet Union for requiring "internal passports" to travel. America, we proudly said, was a free country and we do not have "identity papers," much less need to carry them. Now you cannot board an airplane or train without Identity Papers in what we used to call America. The terrorists have won, we have become Nazi Germany, and nobody seems to care.

When Bombers want to Bomb.... (1)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634124)

... They blow up security checkpoints.

Do a search on "bombing security checkpoint". Terrorists world wide (outside the U.S.) bomb security checkpoints as a matter of course. Terrorists know to do this, and in the U.S. we line people up in dense groupings at our security checkpoints.

If we are going to be bombed, we are going to be bombed. However, ANY huge, predictable, static crowds of people outside security is just BEGGING for an attack. Maybe we need a swift surface security check before an intensive one. But whatever, what we are doing now is obviously stupid.

Toss the TSA, and go back to sane, "walk through the detector" security. Spend the money looking for suspicious behavior, and utilize non-intrusive technology like dogs and electronic bomb sniffers. X-Ray luggage. Follow up on intelligence.

But can the hugely expensive, useless security theater.

If a frog had shock absorbers: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36634146)

It wouldn't bump its butt when it hopped.

You can propose all you want, but does anyone seriously think that in the lead up to a presidential election year this has an ice cubes chance in the infernal regions of happening?

If the politicians don't change anything, they can be mildly criticized if there is a successful attack. They can point to all the money they're appropriating to the TSA, and hold congressional investigations and say how horrified they are and puff themselves up as the great protectors of the flying public. Regardless that they really did nothing.

If they change anything, especially a major change like this, any successful attack will be blamed on the change and in turn, them.

Why would they do something that has at least some chance of hurting them politically when they can do nothing and be safe?

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