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Vanity Fair On the TSA and Security Theater

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the keeping-the-terrists-from-winning dept.

Transportation 256

OverTheGeicoE writes "Perhaps it's now officially cool to criticize the TSA. Vanity Fair has a story questioning the true value of TSA security. The story features Bruce Schneier, inventor of the term 'security theater' and contender for the Most Interesting Man in the World title, it would seem. With Schneier's mentoring, the author allegedly doctors a boarding pass to breach security at Reagan National Airport to do an interview with Schneier. 'To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost.'"

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Oh man.. (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472710)

It's cool NOW? Then I've been cool for ages. (first)

Re:Oh man.. (1)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472722)

Sad. So very sad.

Re:Oh man.. (5, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472884)

Yeah, really, I've been badmouthing the TSA since before it was cool.

I also happen to be really into this band, but you wouldn't have heard of them.

Re:Oh man.. (1)

DC2088 (2343764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473032)

Eh, I was into hearing before everybody heard of it.

Re:Oh man.. (2)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473164)

You probably heard them when you were visiting your girlfriend in Canada.

Re:Oh man.. (0)

boxxertrumps (1124859) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473760)

It isn't so impressive if he's Canadian.

It is impressive because he's on /.

Re:Oh man.. (5, Funny)

unrtst (777550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473376)

I burn my tongue every time I eat pizza... I always eat it before it's cool.

Re:Oh man.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473170)

It only took them an entire fucking DECADE.

Get a clue Big Sis (5, Informative)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472718)

Israels airport security has not been breached since the 70's
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/01/whats_so_great_about_israeli_security.html [slate.com]

"All passengers waiting to check in speak to a polyglot agent. The agents, most of whom are female, ask a series of questions, looking for nerves or inconsistent statements. While the vast majority of travelers pass the question and answer session and have a pretty easy time going through security"

This method requires competence on the part of the interrogator though, so in effect that leaves out TSA employees.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472802)

And it scales well to all three of their international airports.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473020)

Yes, but they live directly adjacent to everybody who wants to kill them (and, in the immortal words of Tome Lehrer - "...and everybody hates the Jews"). We're separated from them by a ocean on each side.

Not that it matters; I haven't heard of security screenings preventing a bomb from getting aboard a US aircraft, and yet we've had several bombs on them since 2001. Luckily, the passengers now understand that the "sit quietly and we'll land in Cuba and be home in a couple days" paradigm for hijacking is no longer valid. If a passenger gets rowdy, you take him down or you might die. And, so far, it's working pretty well.

A simple metal detector and carry-on x-ray is all that is necessary.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (2)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473530)

Luckily, the passengers now understand that the "sit quietly and we'll land in Cuba and be home in a couple days" paradigm for hijacking is no longer valid. If a passenger gets rowdy, you take him down or you might die.

Yeah, it's not like there's no precedence [wikipedia.org] for this sort of thing.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473250)

And it scales well to all three of their international airports.

TLV handles 12M visitors a year (11M of them are international).

If they can make it work at a large airport of that scale, surely a country with the resources of the USA could figure out how to scale it to all of our large airports. There's still plenty of opportunity for ex-TSA execs to get rich, it's just that they would run agent training companies instead of selling scanning machines of dubious effectiveness and safety.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (3, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473516)

the USA could figure out how to scale it to all of our large airports.

Simple. We outsource airport security to Israel.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Interesting)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473582)

Although 12 million is certainly a large number, the US has many more travelers than that. In 2009, Atlanta's airport had something like 90M travelers use the airport. That means that one airport has more traffic than all of the airports combined in Israel.

I agree that their airport security model is superior, and maybe it can scale to large airports in the USA, but if we have dozens of airports with more traffic than their busiest airport, scaling is very far from a simple task.

Source [wikipedia.org]

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473664)

Although 12 million is certainly a large number, the US has many more travelers than that. In 2009, Atlanta's airport had something like 90M travelers use the airport. That means that one airport has more traffic than all of the airports combined in Israel.

I agree that their airport security model is superior, and maybe it can scale to large airports in the USA, but if we have dozens of airports with more traffic than their busiest airport, scaling is very far from a simple task.

Source [wikipedia.org]

It's not as though everyone comes through the same door or goes to the same gate - think horizontal versus vertical scalability.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1, Flamebait)

magarity (164372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472854)

It's all very fine to go on about how great Israeli airport security is but it'll never happen in the USA. The Israeli method relies heavily on profiling and in the USA the ACLU (and CAIR and a slew of other organizations) will come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who even suggests such a horrible, racist, islamophobic idea.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472910)

Well considering CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in relation to the holy land foundation and front for the muslim brotherhood, and has worked hand in hand with the MAS, why anyone would listen to them is beyond me.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472926)

Citation desperately needed. All the cases I've seen of the ACLU stepping in involved racial, religious or other types of profiling that involved profiling for groups not for behavior.

I realize that the ACLU is this conservative bogeyman that's out to prevent the government from doing its job, but let's get serious shall we. There's absolutely no evidence that the sort of profiling that you're suggesting would do anything other than harass innocent civilians for not being white enough.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (2, Insightful)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473190)

Funny. My father always thought of the ACLU as a liberal bogeyman out to prevent the government from doing its job. I was brought up to be objective and observant, and in the intervening years I've concluded that the ACLU is neither liberal nor conservative: they just want to cause trouble. At times the trouble makes sense, and at times it does not.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473076)

let alone the fact that there is only one entry point into Israel via air. you want to see people bitch about delays during flights...

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Insightful)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473340)

There's a big difference between profiling someone that's acting really weird at an airport and profiling someone by assuming that, for instance, they're Hispanic and therefore should have their immigration status checked anytime they come into contact with a police officer.

If there's reasonable suspicion I'm all for investigation. What I'm not all for, for instance, is assuming that every woman wearing a hijab is a potential terrorist and thus warrants investigation based on that fact alone.

Reasonable suspicion is a grey area, I admit, but that's what the courts are for. The courts have emphatically upheld that simply being of a certain minority is not a valid reason to suspect they are breaking the law. Despite what you may hear as of late, all Muslims are not terrorists.

Why do people never learn? Go read up on Manzanar and the Japanese Internment during World War II. That is the road profiling leads us down. They thought they were doing things in the best interests of the U.S. and its security, too...but it was still wrong, and we can all agree on that (I would hope).

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472858)

I have lived in Israel, and went through their vaunted security dozens of times. My own observations led me to suspect this was security theater of a different kind, and my suspicions were later verified by a friend who once worked as one of those security screeners. Their trained goal is to make the passengers think they can't pull one over on the security personnel, and it seems that's enough.

That being said, they do screen baggage very carefully.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473064)

I have lived in Israel, and went through their vaunted security dozens of times. My own observations led me to suspect this was security theater of a different kind, and my suspicions were later verified by a friend who once worked as one of those security screeners. Their trained goal is to make the passengers think they can't pull one over on the security personnel, and it seems that's enough.

That being said, they do screen baggage very carefully.

Part of security is intimidation. If you don't think you can breach the defenses and don't try - that's a win. But trying to use Israel as an example of 'how to do' airport security will fail for the simple reason that the Israelis are trying to protect only one large airport (Ben Gurion) - not hundreds of large ones and thousands of smaller ones. Some things just don't scale.

Further, Israeli security is openly racist -if you look Arabic, you're chances of getting most carefully screened is much higher than if you're Caucasian appearing. That wouldn't (so to speak) fly in the US.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473206)

So you can't scale "intimidation"?

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Funny)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473320)

So you can't scale "intimidation"?

We could, but we'd have to import it from the Mexican drug cartels...

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473268)

It's absolutely untrue that Israeli security is openly racist. It does strongly prejudice against people who are from and/or have traveled to particular countries, such as Yemen where terrorist training is a big problem. If you're an Arabic looking person who has, for example, lived in the United States, or Spain, or China your entire life you won't have much trouble there.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473444)

Correct, and there is a reason Israel doesn't screen by race (at least, not anymore): when you screen by race the people you're trying to catch will simply hire people from races you don't screen for.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473660)

It does strongly prejudice against people who are from and/or have traveled to particular countries

Exactly right. I'm as WASP as they come, and I was pulled aside at Ben Gurion when my passport showed entry visas for Egypt and Jordan. While the questions were very serious, at all times I felt like I was dealing with an intelligent, skilled professional whom I immediately respected. I have no such sense when I'm being barked at by some TSA goon.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473354)

There have been lots of reports that the TSA also treats you inequitably if you look Arabic or have a Middle Eastern sounding name in their opinion.

So your point is?

Venezuela, then? (4, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473740)

I've heard good things about the Venezuelean security screeners (I think it was Venezualean, I heard about it second-hand) ... maybe it was just a single case, and not the way it's all done, but rather than the 'standard 3' we used to get asked (did you pack your own bag, etc.), they'd ask questions like 'What's the color of the inside of your suitcase?'

They were presenting at a conference, and the screener (coming in at customs), asked them to give the presentation to them. If it's someone claiming to be visiting as a tourist, you ask them what hotel they're staying at (and you can check the reservation), and what sites they plan on seeing.

I admit, it's possible to be prepared for all of these questions ... but when they're less predictable (giving the screener the ability to improvise), and it's not just yes/no questions, it's harder to plan for.

Inefficient? (2)

naroom (1560139) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472872)

From the article:

between 2 percent and 5 percent of travelers get singled out for additional screening. The exact selection criteria aren't publicly available, but ethnicity is probably a consideration [...] Secondary screening can involve hours of questioning. Agents have been known to click through all of a traveler's digital photographs. Body searches are common, and agents usually take luggage apart one item at a time.

This does not sound better. Just racist, inefficient, and highly subjective.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472958)

The risk of terrorism is simply not severe enough to warrant that level of investment in security. We will save more lives focusing on clean drinking water, renewable energy, and public health and welfare in general. It would be a lot cheaper too.

If the TSA is ineffective, don't be surprised. It's not intended to be effective. It's intended to be profitable for well connected individuals and corporations. It is quite plainly a fraud on the American people.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (5, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473048)

This method requires competence on the part of the interrogator though, so in effect that leaves out TSA employees.

And now that they're unionized, good luck with that. When was the last time we saw government voluntarily reduce its size and scope?

The only way this is going to be fixed is by wiping out the whole department. There's a primary coming up a candidate who would do that.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473758)

And now that they're unionized

What does ionization have to do with it?

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473096)

And with such airport security Israel has really been safe from terrorists since the 70's. One of Schneier's point is that if you make airport even marginally harder to hit, terrorist will hit somewhere else.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473104)

Israels airport security has not been breached since the 70's
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/01/whats_so_great_about_israeli_security.html [slate.com]

"The agents, ask a series of questions, looking for nerves or inconsistent statements. While the vast majority of travelers pass the question and answer session and have a pretty easy time going through security"

Israel's border security methods are not compatible with the 5th and 14th amendments. Back-rooming a guy just because he looks or sounds too Palestinian would never fly in the US. Annoyed with TSA now? Imagine how fun it would be to let them shake you down for just about any reason they can think of. No thanks. Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473392)

Of course it doesn't fly in the USA, the Palestinian guy is probably in the back room getting a body cavity search by the TSA and missing his flight, that he may not even be able to get on since he hasn't even been informed yet that he was put on a no-fly list because he his last name is similar to someone that is under suspicion of having ties to terrorists. Oh, did I forget to mention that the "Palestinian" is a native born American who's parents were Palestinian immigrants?

It can and does happen. Haven't you been reading the new the past couple of years?

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473112)

Israels airport security has not been breached since the 70's

You know what's wrong with Israeli airport security?
Besides the institutionalized racial/ethnic profiling, It doesn't scale up.

Ben Gurion airport handles ~12 million passengers per year
JFK International* in New York handles ~46.5 million passengers per year.

The number 1 airport in the world is Atlanta International and they handle ~89 million passengers per year.
There is no reasonable way to intensively screen 89 million passengers per year

*Adding Newark and LaGuardia gives you the biggest clusterfuck in the USA & #2 in the world.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473130)

How many people fly in and out of Israel vs. how many people fly in and out of the U.S. The method of interviewing every passenger simply does not scale.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473152)

>Israels airport security has not been breached since the 70's

Or maybe they have but those very few times have not been reported. There was a discussion someplace (this forum or someplace else) that while their airport security is very good, it is not absolute. The myth goes on like Rolls Royce cars never break down (but spoke with a RR owner and he says his car needs maintenance all the time). Then your airports may be secure but everyplace else is not. So then you have to secure everything then the country becomes a prison and basically a non-economy.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473560)

So then you have to secure everything then the country becomes a prison and basically a non-economy.

Have you been paying attention lately? Google "ViPR train station bus station Tennessee highway" and see what you find. Then, turn to the financial section of your local newspaper and read about how our economy has been doing. Can you honestly tell me that the U.S. isn't already there (or at the very least, quickly heading that direction)?

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473214)

"All passengers waiting to check in speak to a polyglot agent. The agents, most of whom are female, ask a series of questions, looking for nerves or inconsistent statements. While the vast majority of travelers pass the question and answer session and have a pretty easy time going through security"

If I was talking to a hot female Israeli polygamous agent, I'd be pretty flustered and would always get selected for secondary screening - what could I do to be assured of having a body cavity search?

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473386)

WTF are you talking about? Security had been breached multiple times. A simple google search would have show that article was total bs.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/18/world/attempted-hijacking-foiled-aboard-an-israeli-airliner.html

The only reason Israel's planes are secure is because they have on board security on EACH flight of EL-AL which is only a few hundred. LAX alone has 1500+ and the US has about 35-40K.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (1)

Canjo (1956258) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473576)

They may have prevented all terrorist attacks (the article only mentions one attempt), but you also have to consider their false positive rate. It says 2-5% of passengers receive secondary screening, which can involve hours of interrogation and privacy violations. This seems unacceptable, especially if your chances of getting the secondary screening (and probably missing your flight) are much higher than 5% when you're not white!

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (4, Informative)

mseeger (40923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473622)

First: Overall security seems better to me in Israel. But experience breeds progress. The U.S. has an abysmal terrorist rate. Should you increase that, the counter terrorists will become better as well. For various reasons i discourage walking that path.

Second: If you carry lot's of gadgets (like me), the check while leaving may take 1+ hours for doing the x-rays alone.

Third: The checks start a lot earlier than the airport.

Fourth: There are good security people and not so good, even in Israel. User experience may vary ;-). Security was more thorough 15 years ago. Seems more relaxed lately.

Fifth: Ask Israeli businessmen what they think about the security people. The don't like them more than their counterparts in the U.S. do.

Sixth: The terrorists already win, when flying becomes more of a burden. Life is a bitch :-(.

Re:Get a clue Big Sis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473714)

First: Overall security seems better to me in Israel.

Only if you live in an airport. Security might not be so good when you are worried about rockets raining down on your house from militants.

Good. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472720)

Hopefully more and more places will start to make a public mockery out of them and the country as a whole will finally agree just how much of a joke the TSA, its practices and its employees really are.

Re:Good. (3, Insightful)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472752)

Nope this is America they will just increase the penalty for this sort of thing and/or legislate it away.

Re:Good. (5, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472792)

"...but if we don't grope your junk and seize your nail clippers and mouthwash, 'the terrorists win'. Don't you see how important it is to make it look like you are safe from a terrorist threat? Never mind that the likelihood of it actually touching you is infinitesimal, or that you have given up, probably forever, precious civil rights. We need to make you feel safer. This is our job."

Re:Good. (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473036)

The backscatter machines are just icing on the cake of suck associated with TSA.

Re:Good. (5, Interesting)

Cosgrach (1737088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473226)

The terrorists have already won. FTFY. They have caused a state of irrational fear. They have changed the lives of every single American alive. They have cost us in the lives of American soldiers in a pointless war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have spent BILLIONS on these wars. They have caused us to spend BILLIONS of dollars in an largely ineffective program of trying to reassure people that they will be safe. While we may not be able to say that they have destroyed our economy, I think that it's a pretty safe bet that a good part of the reason for our current economic stress is either directly or indirectly related to this. One good example is the airline bailout following 9-11. Our Constitution has been gutted and people's rights have been trampled into the ground.

IMO, the real terrorists now are the war contractors, our elected officials and the fucking sheeple who put them there.

Re:...but if we don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473652)

"Specially trained agents must thoroughly probe you with the their trained sensitive areas to prove you are free from dangerous materials. You will receive a receipt which will certify that you are not a terrorist. This receipt will be DNA-Scanned and approved at the final boarding."

Dwight D. Eisenhower quote (5, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472778)

"We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security."

Didn't George Carlin say it before Bruce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472812)

ISTR George Carlin using the term "security theater" in a bit from the 90s...

How to befuddle the TSA: (5, Funny)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472832)

"I see your prohibition is against 'liquids'. Can I carry ice onboard?"

The agent didn't know. Asked his supervisor; she didn't know.

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472892)

That's genius. I imagine even now a high level TSA official is scratching his/her head as they try to decide if they should allow ice or not.

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (2)

SuperQ (431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472964)

You think that's bad, try Peanut Butter.

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472998)

Eh, I think they would stop peanut butter. I had my toothpaste taken away from me by the TSA, and that, like peanut butter, is a soft-paste-like thing. Maybe peanut butter frozen solid?

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473724)

Eh, I think they would stop peanut butter. I had my toothpaste taken away from me by the TSA, and that, like peanut butter, is a soft-paste-like thing. Maybe peanut butter frozen solid?

I'm guessing it depends on the container it's in. I've gone through TSA check points several times with peanut butter sandwich crackers. But I'd imagine they'd stop you for a jar of peanut butter.

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473222)

Peanut butter is a "gel". Gels are only allowed in limited amounts (think those mini-bottles of shampoo).

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473014)

"Can I carry ice?"
"Ice?"
"Ice, baby."

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473166)

Try carrying medications requiring refrigeration but which should not be frozen. Use one of those sealed ice pack things to keep it cool during the drive to the airport and time spent in line. Chances are that the ice pack will start to melt, otherwise it would be too cold and maybe freeze the medication. Now, can that partially melted, medically necessary, ice and water mixture go through the checkpoint?

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (2)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473368)

Try carrying medications requiring refrigeration but which should not be frozen. Use one of those sealed ice pack things to keep it cool during the drive to the airport and time spent in line. Chances are that the ice pack will start to melt, otherwise it would be too cold and maybe freeze the medication. Now, can that partially melted, medically necessary, ice and water mixture go through the checkpoint?

Since the TSA already allows nearly unlimited liquids to be carried on board if they are "prescription" (I once saw a guy take two 32oz bottles of prescription dandruff shampoo on board), I don't see how a medically neccessary ice pack would be a problem.

Indeed, they do allow it:

http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/special_needs_memo.pdf [tsa.gov]

We are continuing to permit prescription liquid medications and other liquids needed by
persons with disabilities and medical conditions. This includes:

...

gels or frozen liquids needed to cool disability or medically related items used by
persons with disabilities or medical condition

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473682)

Yet, despite their rules, TSOs sometimes still prohibit passengers from bringing meds [nydailynews.com] , despite the fact that TSA's regulations say that's okay (disclaimer: TSA officially claims that they allowed the insulin, but not the gel packs to keep it cool; the woman claims otherwise. You decide who is telling the truth).

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473774)

TSA fails on their own liquid policies. I had to fly several times in the last 3 months and only one time was I stopped for the liquids/gels I was carrying. My first time through I managed to carry through an entire 20oz coffee from starbucks.(Hint Hint terrorists, disguise your explosives as tasty beverages). These containers were well over 3oz and I went through airport security a total of 8 times. Thus in my case TSA enforced their policy 1/8 of the time and when they did it was on a bottle of mostly used hair gel which they let pass since there was nothing much left in it. Oh but they did pat me down, check my shoes, and x-ray me. Also a few years ago I accidentally left my fishing knife on my carry-on bag yet they never confiscated it.

Re:How to befuddle the TSA: (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473416)

Nice :) And water ice is pretty identifiable and totally unlike virtually all other 'ices' in the entire universe. (That's literally.) If you don't know, ask a chemist. Heck, almost any physical scientist will remember the oddities of water/ice from school even if they don't have to deal with it in their current field. It really is that weird of a substance.

Does Bruce Schneider always drink beer? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472836)

And if he does, does he prefer Dos Equis?

Re:Does Bruce Schneider always drink beer? (0)

mistiry (1845474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473134)

I'm sorry, but this was pretty fucking funny.

And the reason why, for better or worse (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472842)

Security theater, from this perspective, is an attempt to convey a message: “We are doing everything possible to protect you.” When 9/11 shattered the public’s confidence in flying, Slovic says, the handful of anti-terror measures that actually work—hardening the cockpit door, positive baggage matching, more-effective intelligence—would not have addressed the public’s dread, because the measures can’t really be seen. Relying on them would have been the equivalent of saying, “Have confidence in Uncle Sam,” when the problem was the very loss of confidence. So a certain amount of theater made sense.

After witnessing enough conversations about how TSA is worthless, or worse, yet another part of an effort to acclimate hapless Americans to living in a police state, I think it's valid to consider the reasons for even "appearances" of security, and I'm glad this article laid them out clearly. Even appearances can be a deterrent.

The other points in the article are also valid. I believe we need to ask ourselves the question that if at least some amount of "theater" is appropriate, what is that amount, and what would the damage been to the air transport sector if nothing (visible) had been done? Note I don't pretend to know the answer.

Some say that money might better have been spent "educating" people why such security measures don't work, so they won't be a afraid when they don't see it. That's a task far easier said than done. Alongside the constant drumbeat in some circles that the government is out to get them, it's important to understand there are actual legitimate reasons for things the TSA is doing, seen and unseen.

None of this means that our homeland security efforts should be exempt from criticism or thoughtful scrutiny, but it needs to be done against a backdrop of reason.

Interesting semi-related story:

Skies Are Now So Safe on U.S. Flights That Experts Turn Focus to 'Surface Threats' [wsj.com]

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472922)

The skies aren't safe because of the TSA, it's because nobody really wants to blow up an airplane, jihadi style.

Think about it - the failure rate of the TSA is over 60% at some airports. If the so-called jihadis really want to blow up airplanes, they just need to send 10 people and they'll take out six airplanes, on average.

Or if you believe this liquid explosive nonsense, they can send 10 guys each with 3 oz shampoo bottles.

It may be because ordinary Americans solved the security problem over a field in Shanksville PA just an hour after the 9/11 plot became known.

Or maybe the secure cockpit doors had something to do with it.

Or maybe the 9/11 plot wasn't really carried out by jihadis.

Any of the above could be true, but what's clearly not true is that there currently exists a jihadi threat to airliners.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (2)

Dracos (107777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473082)

Or maybe the 9/11 plot wasn't really carried out by jihadis.

Ding ding ding ding ding!

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (4, Insightful)

rikkards (98006) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473122)

if jihadis really wanted to cause terror blow themselves up in security lines. Forget the planes, they could take out passengers and the TSA

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (2)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473422)

No kidding. They'd functionally stop all flights, and possible cause enough of an overreaction that people who've already gone through security can't go anywhere.

And, of course, there's the other fun attack: taking out the dozen or so bridges that almost all port traffic uses. Car bombs would do it.

The only thing that hijacking airplanes let you do is blow up buildings, and, uh, there are other ways to do that that are easier.

Luckily, al Quaeda is apparently gone, otherwise, I'd fully expect this to start happening now that we've gotten out of Iraq. (Because the entire point of the attacks was to get us in wars in the Middle East, producing people who will give their lives to kill us. The amount of people who will give their lives for religious reasons is quite small. The amount of who will give their lives because a US bomb took out their family...well...)

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (2)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473628)

Any of us can think of many ways to kill a large number of people, if we're unconcerned with our own survival and unconcerned with which specific people we kill. It is noteworthy how rarely any such thing actually happens.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473196)

"Or maybe the 9/11 plot wasn't really carried out by jihadis."

Given all the evidence pointing in this direction, cheerfully ignored because it isn't "convenient", that seems like a good bet.

Ask yourself, "Who benefited from 9/11"? Answer that, and it'll lead you in the right direction.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473252)

Blowing up US planes has been tried four times since 9/11. Each time it has failed because of intelligence, in-flight security or passenger action.

The TSA however been hasn't shown to be worth jack shit let alone a trillion dollars. They haven't stopped or prevented anything.

Passengers who responded in these situation got the full-blown hero treatment in the media. Every now and then the Flight 93 movies and documentaries are rebroadcast which further drives home the message.

IMHO the reason you don't see it much is that it doesn't work any more, not that terrorists don't want to do it. All it does is make heroes of ordinary people, which is not the result terrorists want.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473764)

I dig your use of the term "jihadis."

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (4, Insightful)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472944)

> Alongside the constant drumbeat in some circles that the government is out to get them, it's important to understand there are actual legitimate reasons for things the TSA is doing, seen and unseen.

Name three.

Note that pumping billions into a crony corporation is not considered legitimate.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473118)

Name three.

  1. Jobs!
  2. Convince people not to fly and thus reduce CO2 emissions.
  3. Distract people from the chemtrails.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473232)

>> Relying on them would have been the equivalent of saying, âoeHave confidence in Uncle Sam,â when the problem was the very loss of confidence. So a certain amount of theater made sense.

> After witnessing enough conversations about how TSA is worthless, or worse, yet another part of an effort to acclimate hapless Americans to living in a police state, I think it's valid to consider the reasons for even "appearances" of security, and I'm glad this article laid them out clearly. Even appearances can be a deterrent.

Isn't this an inherently short-term oriented approach? Once the public realizes that it is theater for theater's sake, they will become more distrusting of Uncle Sam than they were before. If the problem is that people don't trust Uncle Sam, hoodwinking them is a pretty deeply misguided solution. Totally aside from the fact that it is condescending as hell, it is creating a bigger problem tomorrow for a smoke and mirrors solution today. We already do that with the budget, do we really need to do it with security as well? Is this our new national credo?

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473306)

After witnessing enough conversations about how TSA is worthless, or worse, yet another part of an effort to acclimate hapless Americans to living in a police state, I think it's valid to consider the reasons for even "appearances" of security, and I'm glad this article laid them out clearly. Even appearances can be a deterrent.

That explains the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. Well, yes, I guess it deterred some people. But, it seems the biggest thing that's protected planes so far is the incompetence of those who wish ill. I mean, sure, people have been brainwashed to inherently trust uniforms--I don't exclude myself from this--even if we know that uniform == Uncle Sam. And then there are those short lapses of confidence whenever there's yet another bomb that makes it through the TSA, and not just from some undercover journalist who'd never use it. But those are quickly forgotten because there's nothing visible to remember. If anything, it's that the WTC fell that did the trick really, since there wasn't the same paranoia from after the WTC bombing in the 90s.

The other points in the article are also valid. I believe we need to ask ourselves the question that if at least some amount of "theater" is appropriate, what is that amount, and what would the damage been to the air transport sector if nothing (visible) had been done? Note I don't pretend to know the answer.

So, we need "theater" to protect the air transport sector... Yep, that's America for you. It's all about tricking the public to keep a key component of the empire running. What was that about bread and circuses again...

Some say that money might better have been spent "educating" people why such security measures don't work, so they won't be a afraid when they don't see it. That's a task far easier said than done. Alongside the constant drumbeat in some circles that the government is out to get them, it's important to understand there are actual legitimate reasons for things the TSA is doing, seen and unseen.

Really? There is? You might make that argument about the DHS, but even that might be a stretch--it's really one of its subordinate departments that's doing the real work. But, everything about the TSA seems to be an eyesore. Waiting to the near last minute for someone to board a plane is a desperate last line of defense fraught with massive false positives given the massive number of travels versus the number of terrorists. It's so bad, I don't see how they could do anything but more harm than good. I mean, it's in the same line of logic of relying upon suspected murderers with a warrant for their arrest showing up at the police station and announcing their real name.

None of this means that our homeland security efforts should be exempt from criticism or thoughtful scrutiny, but it needs to be done against a backdrop of reason.

The reason is based clearly in the irrationality of deception because people are treated as "people". That may be justified for a very brief period after a situation where emotion overrides reason. But, that's a matter of days. It does not remote justify a backdrop that has lasted a decade.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473466)

Except that I remember that there was not that much outcry from the general populace to "do something". There was a lot of "how did this happen?" The big outcry for security theater was from politicians. It would not have been very hard to sell the American people on the idea that the anti-terror measures that work were enough. Most people recognize, or can be easily shown, that the terrorists 9/11 plan would not work today. Any attempt to hijack an airplane today with weapons that only kill one at a time, and that not very efficiently (box cutters, the weapon of the 9/11 hijackers, are not very efficient weapons), would be met by all of the remaining passengers swamping the would be hijacker.

Re:And the reason why, for better or worse (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473748)

Even appearances can be a deterrent.

Sure, but is that worth BILLIONS of dollars? That's what it comes down to - Is this money well spent?

Firefox crash (-1, Offtopic)

XanC (644172) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472938)

Does anybody else's Firefox crash, hard, as in the window just disappears, whenever you load a page on vanityfair.com?

Re:Firefox crash (0)

Krazy Kanuck (1612777) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473070)

Seems ok here, tried it on 6.0.2 and 9.0.1 with no issues, only using 1 addon, ABP.

Re:Firefox crash (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473432)

update ur firefox. it's up to 9+ now

Accident Waiting to Happen (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472990)

Security isn't very good at the White House either:

So off we went to Washington [to have dinner with President Bush]. The dinner was at the Hilton, where Ronald Reagan had been shot. It wasn't long after 9/11, so I was feeling really paranoid about the security situation. Then, when we got there, it was pandemonium. They had about five thousand TV cameras outside, and just one little metal detector with a couple of guys manning it. I had to cling on to Greta's jacket just to get through the crowd. Meanwhile, my assistant Tony -- who's only a little fella -- skipped over the rope and walked behind the metal detector without anyone even noticing. It was a joke, man. I could have smuggled a ballistic fucking missile into that place, and no one would have said a word.

Citation:
Ozzy Osbourne, from the biography "I Am Ozzy"

Re:Accident Waiting to Happen (2)

drainbramage (588291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473042)

He must have a very small missile.

40,000 Dead each year (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473028)

If this same funding had been applied to highway traffic safety, imagine the REAL number of lives
that would have been saved.

It really is a nation of very docile sheep.

Re:40,000 Dead each year (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473490)

If this same funding had been applied to highway traffic safety, imagine the REAL number of lives that would have been saved.

If this same funding had been applied to highway traffic safety, then highway speeds would be a maximum of 35 mph, TSA employees would be touching the undercarriage of your car at every on-ramp, and people would want to fly everywhere, even for a downtown commute.

I should have quit while I was ahead (2)

Minwee (522556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473120)

Good article, but then...

I read the comments after it.

What was I thinking?

provide conceal carry? (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473262)

Regarding incidents of mass shootings, i.e. Columbine and Virginia Tech, a gun enthusiast said all these places are "gun free" zones. He said more and more states are removing gun bans on various places because places that allow conceal carry never had mass shootings. Logic goes that if anyone is allowed conceal carry, then whenever or whereever a madman shooter goes wild, other people (students and teachers) can pull out their handguns and waste the perpetrator. This seems to be the most ridiculous form of security but mentality of people of this country are all going nutzoid these days. Like using logic that there were "no terrorist attacks" in the 1800s (there were but were called something else).

Re:provide conceal carry? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473510)

I understand not liking guns, especially in public. However, responsible gun owners can prevent crimes before or during the act. In general, the police show up after the crime. If you could go back in time and give a gun to a teacher at Columbine, would you? I would. Obviously there is the potential for unintended consequences, but that applies to both sides - if everyone has a gun, it might cause more violence. If only criminals have guns, it might cause more crime. I don't think "ridiculous" is an apt description of this form of security.

Re:provide conceal carry? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473630)

As crazy as it sounds I've actually seen this happen. I work at a pretty rough school, my best students are the ones wearing ankle bracelets. About two years ago we had a drive-by, I guess I should say attempted drive-by. A black Cadillac drove up to the front of the school, the windows rolled down and they started shooting at the crowd with 2 fully automatic guns (I know nothing about guns, to me everything is an AK-47 or an M-16) Students ducked behind cover and started firing back. The guys in the car didn't last long.

The best thing: This was after school (so didn't count as a "school shooting") in a neighborhood with enough shootings that this never showed up anywhere but the local newspaper.

Re:provide conceal carry? (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473690)

Logic goes that if anyone is allowed conceal carry,...

No, the logic goes that people who are planning to shoot up a bunch of people are not going to be deterred by the fact that some place is a "gun-free" zone. As a matter of fact, that makes that place a better choice for shooting up a bunch of people because you know that no one else there will be armed. The argument is that these places should allow those who have been granted a concealed carry permit (a process that usually involves some evaluation of the mental state of the individual and whether or not they have a history of encounters with law enforcement) because then not everybody there would be solely a potential victim.
Of course, the big part of this argument comes from the stories very few people hear of where someone tried to shoot up a place where there were people carrying concealed weapons. Within six months of the first Virginia Tech shootings there were two or three similar attempts that did not make the news because the shooter only got off about six shots before someone with a concealed carry license pulled their weapon and shot him. The thing is, every time someone tries this in a "gun-free" zone, there are a lot of deaths, every time someone tries this where someone is legally concealed carrying there are at most three deaths (two victims and the perpetrator).

You can't even make an argument against it. (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473508)

You cannot make an argument against safety even if what you are doing is wasteful. What if there is an attack right after the TSA is disbanded? This is political suicide and no one will do it. If I want to make the TSA even larger, this is considered improving safety! It's like trying to argue that the speed limit should be raised or even eliminated. Remember: "If even one life is saved, it is all worthwhile!"

Simpsons did it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473540)

When I watched "Much Apu About Nothing", I found it funny. Now that we actually have bear patrol, it isn't as funny.

Another critique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38473598)

http://warbler.posterous.com/us-government-declares-war-on-gooseberry-jam

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