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Book Review: Permanent Emergency

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Security 89

OverTheGeicoE writes "Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley has been in the news in recent months, talking about how the Transportation Security Administration is broken and how it can be fixed. Some of his TSA criticisms in the popular press seem to make sense. This seemed strange to me. Just last March he was defending TSA in a debate with Bruce Schneier in The Economist. Then, the very next month, he's criticizing his former agency as if he was on the other side of that debate to begin with. Why? I felt like I was missing something, so I decided to read his book to find out more about his position. The title of the book is Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security, and it is co-written by Nathan Means." Keep reading for the rest of OverTheGeicoE's review.The book is partly a memoir of Hawley's involvement with TSA, which predates his appointment as its administrator. Hawley helped architect the TSA shortly after it was first authorized. He left government service once that was finished, but came back again in 2005, appointed by President George W. Bush to become TSA's third administrator in four years. He stuck with the job until the exact moment Barack Obama was sworn in as President in January of 2009. If you're looking for insight into TSA's most controversial policies, the extensive use of body scanning and pat down searches, you won't find that in this book. Those policies were put in place by Hawley's successor almost two years later. The phrase 'body scan' is used exactly once.

The book breaks from the memoir style at times and changes to that of an action-suspense thriller. It is interwoven with segments of prose similar to a Tom Clancy novel. In these segments we learn about the life, and possibly the ultimate death, of an Al Qaeda operative who goes by multiple names throughout the course of the book. Raised in Austria, we follow the terrorist through training with Al Qaeda in Pakistan and his connection with various airline-related terrorist plots against the United States. Under Administrator Hawley, TSA uses all its intelligence resources to track his moves and act to thwart the terrorist's nefarious schemes.

The Clancyesque sections are a severe weakness of the book, bordering on laughable at times. For example, there's a description of a Casio watch that reminded me of a Dave Barry parody of Tom Clancy. The action-suspense writing style also tends to over-dramatize and exaggerate TSA's actual accomplishments. The intelligence sources TSA uses all belong to conventional intelligence agencies, both US and foreign. The event leading to the most dramatic moments of the book, the disruption of a liquid bomb plot, was the work of British intelligence and law enforcement in the UK. The authors describe in great, suspenseful detail that while the British are rounding up actual Al Qaeda cell members, TSA in the US is waging war against an entire phase of matter, one that covers about 70% of Earth's surface. Thanks to their determined efforts, TSA was able to ban liquids from carry on luggage literally overnight. However, in this and all other terrorist plots covered in this book, the authors never offer any evidence that TSA's use of its borrowed intelligence ever allowed TSA to disrupt any specific, credible, and imminent threat. So, if you like the idea of a Tom Clancy book where the Jack Ryan character agonizes over intel a lot but never actually does anything of provable value with it, this may be the book for you.

Although the writing style was problematic at times, it didn't totally undermine the value of the book. It helped me understand why mainstream media is so accepting of TSA. During Hawley's tenure, TSA made strong, successful efforts to woo the press, including interviews with CBS' 60 Minutes and appearances on Oprah. The good relationship established during Hawley's administration apparently continues to this day, despite the dramatic changes in operations imposed by his successor. The book also gives an amusing mini-bio of TSA's 'Blogger Bob' Burns, who has been called 'the Tokyo Rose of the modern age' for his defenses of TSA under John Pistole.

I've often wondered why TSA seems so unresponsive to the American public, and this book offered me a plausible explanation. Hawley seems to view TSA almost exclusively as a weapon in the US war against Al Qaeda. When TSA implements policies that seem crazy or ineffective to the rest of us, it doesn't use outside opinions to judge the effectiveness of its policies. Instead it uses information gathered from the intelligence community unavailable to outsiders. A policy change is considered effective if Al Qaeda reacts in a desirable way. For example, if a TSA operation deploys VIPR teams at public transportation centers and suspected Al Qaeda operatives leave the US afterwards, the operation is considered successful.

This book also helped me better understand Hawley's recent press comments. It sounds as if Hawley is saying that TSA's most controversial policies can be terminated if intelligence shows Al Qaeda to be on the decline. Now that he is outside TSA, Hawley seems to see what the American public does, and sees a reason to change security. If intelligence shows an increase of Al Qaeda activity, security can be raised again as needed.

This understanding of how TSA works is also confusing. What we're actually seeing from TSA is an expansion of their activities in recent years, with no meaningful or significant easing of its invasive passenger screening being proposed. Could that mean Al Qaeda is actually on the rise in some way not obvious to the general public? If not, Hawley's successor is a real bungler, and I would expect Hawley to call him that when given a chance. Instead, Hawley specifically refuses to second guess his successor at the end of his book, leaving me puzzled about how the US war against Al Qaeda is actually going.

Permanent Emergency is an interesting book. It certainly has flaws. The writing style is inconsistent and often unsatisfying. It is not entirely factually correct in many of its stories; TSA classifies a lot of information, and the authors admit to changing or concealing details for that and other reasons. The book does not attempt to tackle the most controversial aspects of today's TSA policies. Still, the book gives insight into how TSA was formed, what problems it was designed to address, and how it operates. TSA is so new, there are few sources of this type to examine right now, so any firsthand account is useful. I recommend this book to anyone concerned by TSA's operations, as it helps us understand how TSA became what it is now.

You can purchase Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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89 comments

Kip's an interesting fellow. (4, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40485995)

He was once my boss and I thought he was a pretty level-headed guy with a pretty good vision. Perhaps it's this politics and government stuff which makes him look like a fish out of water.

Re:Kip's an interesting fellow. (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486557)

It's hard to be serious and honest when your job is to put on a circus.

Re:Kip's an interesting fellow. (2)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#40490991)

As one of the techies there as things were being created daily in the last days of the FAA/early days of the TSA, I should write a book of my own from the trenches. The view from above really didn't match what was actually happening in the training, and many of the problems we face now are down to just a few chance events from the early days that became embedded in methods.
Such a chaotic time in my life, but worked with some of the hardest working people who were dedicated to the best job they could do (with the chaotic nature of the program trashing many a traditional project manager).

But it IS a decent book, well worth a read. Learned a lot myself. Just by mid 2002 onwards, anyone joining wasn't helping the madness going on, just layering on another level. It was far too late for any changes to effect positive change.

Re:Kip's an interesting fellow. (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 2 years ago | (#40496175)

And who knows, maybe the debate with Bruce Schneier convinced him that he just couldn't keep going with the cognitive dissonance.

Aliens (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486001)

The next threat after terrorists.

Re:Aliens (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486109)

The next threat after terrorists.

Too late -- we were all a lot of peaceful, sharing people, about 10,000 years ago .. then came the aliens and it's been warfare ever since.

Dr. Wossname calls them 'the instigators, wants to fly there in a space vessel and give them a super-wedgie.

Re:Aliens (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486327)

Sadly, the constant blaring of the klaxons is likely to create a devastating scenario where a real threat goes unnoticed. Classic case of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Well, they've been crying wolf for quite some time now. Can't wait to see what slips through the net due to their negligence / power schemes; smart money would say it will be something new.

Re:Aliens (2)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487783)

It will be something low tech and simple, like 9/11 which was just an exercise in social engineering to gain control of the aircraft and then all you had to do was point the planes at the buildings as the planes via their, fly by wire systems, flew themselves.

Re:Aliens (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488601)

Well, they've been crying wolf for quite some time now. Can't wait to see what slips through the net due to their negligence / power schemes; smart money would say it will be something new.

My money, smart or not, says nothing will slip through for the same reason nothing has slipped through since 911 -- there is nothing.

The way they crow whenever they "catch" some numbnut who can barely put one foot in front of another you would expect massive coverage of an actual terrorist being thwarted. But there hasn't been even one. Anybody even remotely dangerous - shoe/underware bombers - never hits domestic security anyway, always boarding the plane overseas.

Re:Aliens (2)

loupgarou21 (597877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40489793)

A problem we're actually seeing in Minnesota. We have "tornado sirens". I put it in quotes because there is no actual standard for when they're sounded other than for a monthly test at 1pm on the first wednesday of the month.

Some jurisdictions sound them at the drop of the hat, when there isn't necessarily a tornado, but when the weather is bad enough where it *might* cause some damage. Others wait until an actual tornado is pretty much on top of you before sounding the sirens.

This, along with the monthly testing, has caused issues where people have been seriously injured or killed because they ignored the sirens because they assumed it was just another siren going off when nothing serious was actually happening.

Re:Aliens (1)

berashith (222128) | more than 2 years ago | (#40494205)

I have some of these near my house. I can barely hear them on a good day, due to distance and geography, and if the windows and doors are closed there is almost no chance of them getting my attention. If the wind is blowing enough to push the trees around then I have to go outside to listen for the sirens that would let me know that it is dangerous to be near doors or windows. Wonderful technology.

Re:Aliens (2)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486913)

Only the Illegal ones -- and then only if they want the "good" jobs.

Re:Aliens (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487045)

The real threat don't come from outside, but which is depends on which side are you. TSA is there to protect just one of those sides, of course.

It's all very logical see (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486037)

They are making air travel so inconvenient and humiliating so we'll all start taking the train. Oh yes, thanks to the machinations of the TSA and train lobby, soon we'll all be coasting along at 50 miles and hour. Crossing the country may take several days, but the scanners and body cavity searches will be history!

Re:It's all very logical see (5, Informative)

gregulator (756993) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486173)

You must have missed this:
Bill put forth to expand TSA into Mass Transit. - http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120627/00501819503/rep-jackie-speier-puts-forth-bill-to-extend-tsa-to-mass-transit.shtml [techdirt.com]

Re:It's all very logical see (5, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486489)

They don't need a bill. The TSA has already been patting-down and inspecting luggage at train stations. Also bus depots. And at the post office, unemployment center, mall, and during the recent Chicago summit (including yanking people out of cars so they could prform illegal warrantless searches). The SS seems to have time-traveled from the 1940s to the present day America.

Let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40489843)

You have spotted TSA posing as Santa Claus, and he pats down the kids. Right?

Re:It's all very logical see (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40490315)

There are many who consider the US a fascist nation these days. Yeah there's a veneer of democracy: You get to choose between the two wings of The Party.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | more than 2 years ago | (#40492243)

I demand citation on the illegal warrant-less searches in Chicago.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40492481)

They don't need a bill. The TSA has already been patting-down and inspecting luggage at train stations. Also bus depots. And at the post office, unemployment center, mall, and during the recent Chicago summit.

Is that what the gay guys keep telling you!

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486685)

Aha! It's a plot to get us to start walking more! The walking lobby is obviously involved. This will end the obesity problem for sure!

Re:It's all very logical see (4, Insightful)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488921)

Methinks the "terrorists" are smarter than the DHS. Who would board a train to blow it up when it can be done much safer from a distance? Thousands of miles of unguarded track and hundreds of unguarded bridges make easy targets. Buses can be targets of roadside bombs.

No, the "terrorists" aren't the dumb ones. The American public wins that award. Watch for a false flag operation coming to a neighborhood near you.

Re:It's all very logical see (4, Insightful)

micheas (231635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486251)

If we ever built high speed rail taking the train would be a lot more viable. LAX to SFO with no checkin and an average speed of 165mph it would be a two hour trip.

Of course that happening in a sane way probably needs California to partition so that Sacramento has no say in the matter.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486465)

For the California mess, they are already talking about using existing rail. Yeah, high speed.

You know they have already spent $500 million and have boo to show for it beyond some boards and committees staffed by people with the right friends?

To support this thing one has to [1] be utterly batshit insane [2] have their head seven feet up their ass or [3] have the right friends and get appointed to a six figure position on one of the committees.

There is nothing else. It's taxpayer rape orgy by connected people.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40492127)

That just goes to show how screwed up American politics are. You know those socialist Europeans and in particular the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, the French? Somehow they made high-speed rail work. Across France, East to West, North to South, and further North to Belgium and Amsterdam, and East to Cologne. Heck, despite all the corruption, from politicians to contractors, the Chinese are likely to get high speed rail before any part of the US does. At this point it wouldn't be surprising if India gets high speed rail before the U.S.A. NYC-DC has to have more of a market than Paris-LeMans.

Re:It's all very logical see (4, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486617)

I would apply the same process to this Train trip as I do to Airplane travel. How much time does it ACTUALLY cost, once you include (1) driving to the port/station (2) waiting upto 1 hour for your ride to arrive (3) the actual trip (4) waiting for your luggage at the conveyor belt (5) finding and paying-for a rental car on the opposite end (6) driving to your hotel.

Two years ago I did a lot of travel between Oklahoma City and Minneapolis, and I discovered that my coworkers who flew took almost as long as I did in my car. (10 versus 11 hours). I suspect this high-speed rail would have a similar result.

So I continued driving. And pocketed the ~$1000 I was paid for mileage. Basic Rule of Thumb: I will drive to my destination unless the trip is longer than one day.

Re:It's all very logical see (5, Interesting)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487219)

Trains are a lot more convenient then aircraft. There's security theatre, but there's less of it. You typically don't have to show up an hour before your train leaves. Rail stations are also usually located in fairly densely populated areas, rather then way out in the boonies. It's actually practical to show up 15 minutes before the train leaves. You still have to park somewhere, but since rail stations also tend to be on mass transit lines you can generally park anywhere in the City (including right in front of your own personal house), leave an hour before your train leaves, and still make it.

And then for the next ten hours you can play on your computer, read a book, bone up on the info you'll need for your business meeting, etc. instead of trying to navigate traffic yourself. And there's none of that "turn off your personal electronic devices for a half-hour before take-off and landing" BS.

The problem in the US is that train routes just don't exist. To get from Cleveland to Detroit by train, for example, you have to a) go through Chicago (which is two states out of the way) or b) go through Canada. The most sensible route (via Toledo) just isn't there. I did an experiment to see how quickly you could get to OKC from Minneapolis and Amtrak's website was unable to tell me. Apparently you have to go through Arkansas and Texas because the only passenger line into Oklahoma is Fort Worth-OKC.

If the feds were willing to put some money into passenger rail, so that you could actually make these trips, and incidentally upgrade the main rail lines so the trains could go 80, it would be a really good thing for the country. We'd use less oil, be less vulnerable to terrorism, and we'd have more travel options. But that ain't happening anytime soon.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488941)

Well I suspect if we both left home at the same time, me by car and you by train, we'd arrive at L.A. about the same time. As for "reading" I listen to audiobooks while driving, so I don't consider it wasted time. There are tons of them: Escapepod, Dunesteef, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, etc. (And I'm getting paid for it.)

Re:It's all very logical see (3, Insightful)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40489605)

Your probably right about the tie if we did the rail system I mentioned. But I'd still have a major advantage because audio books are not cheap. If your boss is still paying you mileage and the mileage is actually cheaper then gas and wear on your vehicle; you probably come out ahead. But for a vacation I win hands down.

But if they did a system like the French made in the 70s my trip velocity would be more then 170 MPH. That's trip velocity, so in in five hours I've gone 850 miles, counting stops. It'll take you 9 hours to catch me, assuming your gas tank doesn't need re-filling and you don't get hungry.

There's a reason liberals read a Conservative say: "But with our low population densities trains are inefficient," and simply walk away. Montana needs 170 MPH transportation a hell of a lot more then NYC does.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40495669)

>>>I'd still have a major advantage because audio books are not cheap.

Neither are the actual books you have to buy to read on the train. BESIDES we both know you don't actually need to pay for anything. Did you see the websites I listed? They are all free. (Also there's tons of radio podcasts and college lectures I listen to while driving... all free.)

>>>But for a vacation I win hands down.

I don't "vacate" often, but when I do I usually stay home and just enjoy the time off. My last major vacation was a drive across the states..... the drive was the whole point, and riding a train would have not been the same (looking at tall weeds growing alongside the track gets boring).

As for the claim of train travel across 850 miles in 5 hours... not true. You have to add another 2 hours for various stops along the way (dropping-off and picking-up passengers). Plus an hour to leave your home and drive to the station/check your baggage. Plus another 2 hours to find a rental car at the opposite end, go through their annoying checkout/payment process, and drive to your hotel for the night.

About 10 hours total. Same amount of time it took my coworkers who flew by plane across the same distance. In contrast my drive time was 11.

And no Montana doesn't need high speed rail..... almost-all the population is concentrated in one spot (Billings). Where else would they need to go? The tiny 1000-person village of Glendive??? Doubtful. You'd have a superspeed billion-dollar trainline from Billings to Glendive, and just 1 passenger. That's called: Waste.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40497251)

Plus another 2 hours to find a rental car at the opposite end

2 hours? Really? Since we can't trust you to properly estimate that, we cannot trust any of your time estimates. Congratulations on completely invalidating your claim.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | more than 2 years ago | (#40505341)

>>>I'd still have a major advantage because audio books are not cheap.

Neither are the actual books you have to buy to read on the train. BESIDES we both know you don't actually need to pay for anything. Did you see the websites I listed? They are all free. (Also there's tons of radio podcasts and college lectures I listen to while driving... all free.)

$8 paperbacks are a lot cheaper then any Audiobook I've seen.

CD Audiobooks in particular seem to cost as much as a full TV series on DVD.

>>>But for a vacation I win hands down.

I don't "vacate" often, but when I do I usually stay home and just enjoy the time off. My last major vacation was a drive across the states..... the drive was the whole point, and riding a train would have not been the same (looking at tall weeds growing alongside the track gets boring).

As for the claim of train travel across 850 miles in 5 hours... not true. You have to add another 2 hours for various stops along the way (dropping-off and picking-up passengers). Plus an hour to leave your home and drive to the station/check your baggage. Plus another 2 hours to find a rental car at the opposite end, go through their annoying checkout/payment process, and drive to your hotel for the night.

About 10 hours total. Same amount of time it took my coworkers who flew by plane across the same distance. In contrast my drive time was 11.

The French have 170+ MPH trip-speed. Actual train-speed is 200 MPH. So you've lost two hours. You're also being quite pessimistic in assuming that a) car rental is actually necessary, b) that it would take an hour, and c) that the Hotel would be 60 miles from the station.

Moreover I'm being pretty generous in saying you get 850 miles in 10 hours. That's 85 MPH trip speed, which is technically above the speed limit almost everywhere. It also assumes you can maintain that 85 MPH despite physically stopping to buy junk-food and gas up at least once.

You can probably get away with that out West, but I live in Ohio. the cops here will let out-of-staters get away with 85 on the toll road, but you try that shit on 94 with a Oklahoma plates and you're gonna spend at least an hour getting speeding tickets. Hell you go the actual speed limit here you're in trouble. Quotas are technically illegal, but the police don't act like it, and they know perfectly well if they stop an Oklahoman he's not gonna be able to make a Court date in Akron.

And no Montana doesn't need high speed rail..... almost-all the population is concentrated in one spot (Billings). Where else would they need to go? The tiny 1000-person village of Glendive??? Doubtful. You'd have a superspeed billion-dollar trainline from Billings to Glendive, and just 1 passenger. That's called: Waste.

Billings is only about 10% of the population. Missoula is 6-7% and 350 miles from Billings on the roads. Helena's 240 miles from Billings by car, another 2-3% of the population, and on a straight-line from Billings to Missoula. And even if Billings was a half-million people they'd still have plenty of places to go out-state.

And yes, if we're forced to the studies of ridership you;d insist on it would be too low. But a) nobody insists on ridership studies for highways, and b) I'm only claiming Highspeed rail would be more useful for MT residents then high-population density places, if the Missoula-Helena line was part of a massive line connecting NYC to Seattle...

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | about 2 years ago | (#40600853)

You're discounting the risk associated with traveling by car. Though, of course, that risk isn't nearly as huge on the wilds of the Interstate as when you're close to a city. But it's definitely greater than traveling by train.

Also, I've gotten tons of useful work done on train trips. There is no way that's happening in a car if you're paying enough attention to drive safely.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40489965)

We'd use less oil ... But that ain't happening anytime soon.

And that's why it's not implemented. The previous president(s) wanted to increase reliance on oil, not reduce it*. I can't say anything about current/potential Presidents, because, honestly speaking, I don't know anything about american politics.

* [CITATION NEEDED]

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Maritz (1829006) | more than 2 years ago | (#40491021)

We'd use less oil, be less vulnerable to terrorism,

Sounds like a complete anathema to the current American political class. Hawking the terrorist bogeyman appears pretty essential.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40491043)

Trains are even more convenient in Europe. The mass transit systems for getting you to the station are more efficient - and if you're traveling, you're probably staying at a hotel that's walking distance away from the station anyway. I had a trip to Europe recently for a couple of conferences, and found the train system wonderful.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40492369)

They need to build entirely new infrastructure. Freight has priority over people on existing rails. Some places only have one rail connecting them so the traffic can only go one way at a time between the stations. We need something along the lines of TGV speeds (357mph) connecting the major airport hub cities. Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Miami, and New York would be a good start. I'd ride one just for fun, it's FAST [youtube.com] .

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Unknown Lamer (78415) | more than 2 years ago | (#40500131)

Actually, Amtrak has priority over freight travel. The FRA was pretty lax in enforcement, but over the last 3 years things have improved substantially. Private rail companies / many states were getting away with murder for a long time there though... (e.g. building sidings that couldn't fit most freight trains ... I used to loathe travelling through Virginia).

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40492497)

Forget Canada.. VIA is actively shutting down passenger service up here through a combination of fare increases and service cuts. And when we rattled and shook our way across Canada last year it was obvious that the railbed is being allowed to deteriorate. And the train has been rerouted to avoid the population centers like Thunder Bay. We can drive to Toronto or Ottawa from where we live for roughly $50 in gas or take the Megabus for the same cost (round trip). VIArail is almost 4x that (or 8x if you want business class -- same seats but a glass of wine and lunch). This is in the same cost ballpark as flying although there is less security theater.

Re:It's all very logical see (4, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488051)

I would apply the same process to this Train trip as I do to Airplane travel. How much time does it ACTUALLY cost, once you include (1) driving to the port/station (2) waiting upto 1 hour for your ride to arrive (3) the actual trip (4) waiting for your luggage at the conveyor belt (5) finding and paying-for a rental car on the opposite end (6) driving to your hotel.

I think this is why many Americans don't want rail - they think it's just a slower airplane.

What's not obvious is that rail is (often) closer to where you want to go. As an example, when I was in Tokyo and took the Shinkansen (high speed train) to a neighboring city, we left the hotel about 30 minutes before the train was scheduled to leave, took the subway to the Shinkansen station, bought tickets, walked aboard with our luggage, left our wheeled bag at the end of the car, then 10 minutes later, the train left. When we got to our destination 2 hours later, we just grabbed our bag on the way out the door, and a 10 minute walk later we were at our hotel in the center of the city. Flying would have taken at least an hour longer, cost more, and would have been less convenient since we would have had to plan ahead and bought our tickets ahead of time so we would have missed out on the chance to spend the morning with a friend from the 'states that we unexpectedly ran into the night before. With the Shinkansen we knew that even if the train we wanted to take was full, there was another one 45 minutes later (and several non high speed train options to choose from). Trains don't often run at 110% capacity like airlines do - they don't have to overbook to break even.

The HSR between SF and LA is supposed to take around 2:30 in travel time. Add 15 minutes to get to the train in SF and 15 minutes to get from the train station in LA to where ever you're going, so that's 3 hours.

To fly, you'd leave for the SFO airport at least an hour before the flight (travel time is around 30 minutes with normal traffic), spend 1:15 in the air, and then you've got at least 45 minutes to pick up luggage and travel from LAX to Union Station, so that's 3 hours.

Plus in the train, you have more comfortable seating, Wifi (many planes have that now too) and better meals with real silverware.

Granted, if you're not going from city center to city center, travel times could be higher by train, but if the majority of travelers are going to/from the city centers, those people will find the train to be more convenient. And getting to the city center from other areas is also convenient. I don't know about LA, but in the Bay Area, if you live in Marin, you can choose to take a bus or ferry to downtown SF to catch the train. Or from the East Bay you can take BART or Bus or Ferry. Or if you're on the Peninsula, you can go to the SFO or Palo Alto HSR station directly, no need to go to downtown SF.

Re:It's all very logical see (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40489015)

Comparing Japan trains to the U.S. doesn't really work. They are are much, much denser country. Hell they have inferior DSL for their internet, because they are so dense! (And yet still the 3rd fastest average speed in the world.) Just as DSL is not a viable option for far-flung, mostly-empty U.S. neither are trains. What works in Japan doesn't work here.

The only place dense enough is in the giant city known as the Northeast I-95 corridor (from Washington to Boston). That's about it.

Compare it with Japan in the 1960s (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40490851)

Compare it with Japan in the 1960s or France in the 1970s when their first high speed trains ran. It was lower density back then but still viable, and the transport corridors have had some influence on density since.

Re:Compare it with Japan in the 1960s (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40495435)

Look: I don't want to ride an inconvenient train to work (or have to pay for it through gas/road taxes being diverted to train maintenance). I had the option when I was working near D.C. and could have rode the train like my coworkers, but it took them 1.5 hours! My car did the same job in only 45 minutes.

Re:Compare it with Japan in the 1960s (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#40496699)

Nobody is going to commute from San Francisco to Los Angeles for work. To drive takes at least 5 hours (and I honestly don't buy the "2.5 hours" estimate for high-speed rail for a minute).

Re:Compare it with Japan in the 1960s (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#40496905)

Look: I don't want to ride an inconvenient train to work (or have to pay for it through gas/road taxes being diverted to train maintenance). I had the option when I was working near D.C. and could have rode the train like my coworkers, but it took them 1.5 hours! My car did the same job in only 45 minutes.

The problem is that most urban areas don't have the space to accommodate more car traffic. in the SF Bay area, If the BART system shut down, CalTrans would need to build another multi billion dollar Bay Bridge just to accommodate the extra traffic from people that were riding the train. But the problem isn't just getting cars to the city - it's what happens to them once they get there. Bridges are (comparatively) easy to build, but adding additional traffic capacity to city streets is nearly impossible. As is adding enough parking spaces for all of the cars.

The reason you enjoyed your 45 minute car commute was because your coworkers were on the train. Without the train, you would have spent much more time in the car, and might not have had anywhere to park once you got to work.

The DC Metro system has pretty good coverage of the DC area, if you're commuting during normal business hours, I'm surprised that you found your driving commute to be twice as fast as the train. Google maps says that to go from the Shady Grove end of the red line to the Smithsonian (which requires a transfer) takes about an hour on transit, and an hour by car in current traffic.

Of course, the people building trains don't want you to have to ride an inconvenient train anywhere, they want you to ride a convenient train. But it would take decades for the USA to build up enough train and other public transit infrastructure to get to the point where it's convenient for most people. Part of the convenience means living in transit oriented development. Where I live now, I'm a 5 minute walk from the train, a grocery store, a Costco and several restaurants. I either bike or take the train to work, so my car is generally only used on weekends - driving to work is faster, except when I take into account the time to find parking and walk to the office.

Re:Compare it with Japan in the 1960s (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40497407)

Look: I don't want to ride a train to work

FTFY.

There's nothing wrong with disliking trains. But there is something very wrong with sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!! TRAINS ARE INCONVENIENT/STUPID AND THAT IS THE END OF THE DISCUSSION NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS!!! LALALALA!!!" when people point out the benefits associated with trains. All that does is prove to us all how much of a 2 year old you still are.

Bullet train and TGV are long range (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40501865)

It would be more like New York to Washington at 300+km/h instead of suburban travel at 50km/h or whatever your train does with all the stops.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40492771)

Advantages of Car: One can stop & stretch & eat. One can carry a lot of luggage.

Advantages of Rail: One can stretch & eat, without stopping. One won't be illegally searched by a VIPR team at every state border. Trains can (should) have express services, which don't stop for 4 or 5 hours.

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486981)

Don't tell me you feel for the Browndoggle

Re:It's all very logical see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40488265)

<hunger>

It's all very logical. The TSA is really a conspiracy supported by isolationist, global warming activists, the buy-local movements to reduce our greenhouse gas emmissions by reducing our ability to move throughout the country. This is to prepare the country for a global warming apocalyptic event which cause mass famine and split our country into 12 regions... And then we'll have to start fighting each for entertainment...
</hunger>

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Teresita (982888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488801)

History. Sure. Right up til the first time a bomb derails a passenger train in the Rockies and makes the whole thing fall down a 50,000 foot cliff.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

Roger Lindsjo (727951) | more than 2 years ago | (#40493825)

Must be a big bomb to make a train fall 50,000 feet from a 14,440 feet mountain.

Re:It's all very logical see (1)

pepty (1976012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40489893)

They are making air travel so inconvenient and humiliating so we'll all start taking the train. Oh yes, thanks to the machinations of the TSA and train lobby, soon we'll all be coasting along at 50 miles and hour. Crossing the country may take several days, but the scanners and body cavity searches will be history!

Simple solution - Just fly first class!

It's that stupid? (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486139)

For example, if a TSA operation deploys VIPR teams at public transportation centers and suspected Al Qaeda operatives leave the US afterwards, the operation is considered successful.

So there are people we SUSPECT are Al Qaeda ... but we're not going to arrest them when they try to leave the country.

I mean, what possible information could they have that would be useful?

None of this makes any sense.

Re:It's that stupid? (2)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486439)

Perhaps for the same reason known Soviet spies were not arrested; they're easier to watch.

The thinking goes that at any given time in a country, there are a fair number of spies from foreign powers. The naive approach is to arrest them, and deport / imprison them. The pragmatic approach is to watch them, see who they meet / what they are doing, because if they are officially caught, a foreign power will just replace them with new spies, who may not be discovered this time. Lots of exhaustive manpower, as it may take multiple agents to track a single spy, let alone discover one, and a local power's resources are finite.

But they aren't Soviets. (1, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486487)

Perhaps for the same reason known Soviet spies were not arrested; they're easier to watch.

But this is about when they leave the country.

Even if everything else is correct (and I find it difficult to believe that Al Qaeda has that many operatives who could fit into US society) what difference does it make when they are leaving the country?

Why not arrest them on the way out?

Re:But they aren't Soviets. (2)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486773)

You don't arrest them because then the enemy would know you've been onto them. Instead, you can use them for both collecting information and passing bogus information to the enemy. As soon as they are arrested, the enemy may change their tactics and disregard all the information you have fed them through the operative.

Sounds too much like a TV show. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487341)

As soon as they are arrested, the enemy may change their tactics and disregard all the information you have fed them through the operative.

Given that they haven't switched their tactics yet I don't think that is the reason.

Getting a bomb onto a plane is a bit difficult.
It is much easier to get a few guns and go shoot up a mall or school or whatever.

Re:Sounds too much like a TV show. (1)

oxdas (2447598) | more than 2 years ago | (#40499805)

They probably have changed tactics (many times even), but not everything is aimed at the U.S. People forget that Osama's goal was to overthrow the Saudi monarchy (for several reasons, one of which was allowing U.S. troops). They attacked the U.S. when Osama concluded that American aid and military power was making his goal impossible.

Personally, I am not privy to the current plots of Al Quaeda inside the United States, so I can only really speculate, but assuming a terrorist force has some tactical flexibility is probably prudent.

Re:But they aren't Soviets. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486899)

It seems quite possible that "suspected Al Qaida operative" covers an extremely large group of people against whom there is only the flimsiest evidence that would never hold up in court. Then you can watch them but you have no reason to arrest them since, in all likelihood, only very few or none of the people you are watching are in fact Al Qaida operatives. The group is still very useful to watch because in a large group of some of them are going to leave the US each year and you can then use that to justify TSA activities.

Re:It's that stupid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486449)

Also, if a bunch of Al Qaeda operatives successfully board an international flight after a TSA operation, they celebrate?

Re:It's that stupid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486555)

So there are people we SUSPECT are Al Qaeda ... but we're not going to arrest them when they try to leave the country.

I mean, what possible information could they have that would be useful?

None of this makes any sense.

This is consistent with TSA SOP. We have items that are so dangerous they cannot be let onto a plane, but there are no penalties whatsoever for TRYING to carry them onto the plane. They just confiscate them and toss them into a barrel.

It does make sense, however, and it's been mentioned repeatedly by Bruce Schneier. The TSA is CYA (cover your ass) security theater. It's to make the flying public FEEL safer, not actually BE safer. It shows they're doing something, anything to address the problem. If they didn't, they could be blamed when something happens. If something happens now, at least they were trying their hardest, even if it doesn't really make you safer.

Re:It's that stupid? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40488951)

So there are people we SUSPECT are Al Qaeda ... but we're not going to arrest them when they try to leave the country.

I'm not entirely sure where you're going with this. Are you saying that the TSA should arrest people just because they suspect someone is involved in a terrorist organization? I suppose they should then beat this person until he tells them what they want to hear.

Re:It's that stupid? (1)

ami.one (897193) | more than 2 years ago | (#40495431)

Well, if your suspicions are so flimsy then please don't use this to justify that your operation was successful just because they flew out of the US.

You can't have it both ways.

Anyway, one could suspect anyone of anything - unproven suspicion can't be used to justify anything. And proven suspicion should lead to arrest & investigation.

Re:It's that stupid? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40494209)

So there are people we SUSPECT are Al Qaeda ... but we're not going to arrest them when they try to leave the country. I mean, what possible information could they have that would be useful?

There are an infinite number of people you might suspect are Al Qaeda. If you can effectively harass them into leaving the country and call that a victory, you can have unlimited victories. If you arrest them and they turn out to be innocent, you can have an unlimited failures. This is one of the problems with policies that target people who might do something wrong, instead of people who do something wrong. And it inevitably leads to corruption.

Assosiation to 1984 (5, Insightful)

ZorroXXX (610877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486243)

The phrase "Permanent Emergency" made me think of "war is peace".

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486641)

Emergency is peace. As long as there is an emergency, there are no terrorist acts. If we stop the emergency, the terrorist acts will happen again. So, if we stop the emergency, there will be no peace.

Of course, every one of those statements is wrong. The opposite statements are the truth. Hard to spot too. In fact, it's getting easier to doublespeak now than it was in the past. Orwell was ridiculously ahead of his time.

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40493225)

Emergency is peace. As long as there is an emergency, there are no terrorist acts. If we stop the emergency, the terrorist acts will happen again. So, if we stop the emergency, there will be no peace.

Of course, every one of those statements is wrong. The opposite statements are the truth. Hard to spot too. In fact, it's getting easier to doublespeak now than it was in the past. Orwell was ridiculously ahead of his time.

No, he was not. He was writing about what was happening in his own time and in his own place. The whole "1984 was about warning us about some possibility that could happen in the future" thing is terrifying to me. Orwell was writing about things he saw happening (or metaphores for those things). He set the book in the future so as to give someone a perspective on these things from an outsider's frame of reference. The idea was to make it easier to see it happening in the now, not to keep it from happening in the future.

    The fact that so few people actually grasp this concept is one of the reasons none of these things have changed, or if they have changed they have gotten worse.

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487907)

The phrase "Permanent Emergency" made me think of "war is peace".

It made me think of "Disaster Capitalism: It's not just for third-world countries anymore".

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40489401)

Oral sex isn't sex

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (4, Informative)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40490345)

It's perfectly in line with The Shock Doctrine [wikipedia.org] . Gotta have your regular shocks. Manufacture them if there aren't any.

Re:Assosiation to 1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40496397)

Well, at least they finally "got" Goldstein... I mean, bin Laden....

He learned from Bruce (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486339)

From reading Bruce's and Kip's arguments over time, and their debate, I feel that Kip has actually learned from Bruce, and that's why he's taken up his arguments.

Not surprising (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486401)

From TFR(eview):

However, in this and all other terrorist plots covered in this book, the authors never offer any evidence that TSA's use of its borrowed intelligence ever allowed TSA to disrupt any specific, credible, and imminent threat.

Which is pretty much about as surprising as the Sun coming up in the east to anyone with any knowledge of security. That's not how security measures work, or how they're meant to work, or anything but an assumption created of whole cloth by armchair experts.
 
I didn't double check the locks on my doors when I left this morning because I knew a specific burglar was coming to my door today - but because further up my semi rural road, their has been a string of break in's and closer down to me a car has been spotted prowling. Nor am I under any illusion that locks will stop someone determined - but they will deter the less determined. Simple, basic, bog standard security theory and practice.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40487099)

Yes, but burglaries are much more likely to happen and locks are much cheaper.

Re:Not surprising (3, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#40489199)

Be that as it may, you didn't call a press conference and announce the success of your door locks in thwarting a break-in today, right? Because that would be the difference.

Yeah, it's a strange big world (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486417)

This seemed strange to me.

Well, you see, adults can have complicated and nuanced points of view that don't just see everything in pure black and white.

Re:Yeah, it's a strange big world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40487175)

Yeah, but around here we call nuance "doublethink".

According to a number of Australian articles (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40486519)

A number of Australian articles about the farce of the TSA search and detection methods have been posted by scientific friends of mine in Australia, which point out what I and other people with counter-terrorism experience have long known - more than 80 percent of all the methods and techniques the TSA use are proven to not work.

Given that, and other objective evidence, reading a book on this subject would be best classified under Absurdist Comedy, or Satire.

Not Science.

Is the conclusion "get rid of it"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40486699)

I'm pretty sure that's the only way to fix the TSA.

William Shatner and the TSA (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40487703)

Just read This story [torontosun.com] from Fark. FFS America....

for or against (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40490223)

am I for the TSA or against the TSA? BUY MY BOOK to find out!

Book sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40490565)

"When TSA implements policies that seem crazy or ineffective to the rest of us, it doesn't use outside opinions to judge the effectiveness of its policies. Instead it uses information gathered from the intelligence community unavailable to outsiders. A policy change is considered effective if Al Qaeda reacts in a desirable way. For example, if a TSA operation deploys VIPR teams at public transportation centers and suspected Al Qaeda operatives leave the US afterwards, the operation is considered successful. ... It sounds as if Hawley is saying that TSA's most controversial policies can be terminated if intelligence shows Al Qaeda to be on the decline. Now that he is outside TSA, Hawley seems to see what the American public does, and sees a reason to change security. If intelligence shows an increase of Al Qaeda activity, security can be raised again as needed. ... What we're actually seeing from TSA is an expansion of their activities in recent years, with no meaningful or significant easing of its invasive passenger screening being proposed. Could that mean Al Qaeda is actually on the rise in some way not obvious to the general public?"

Someone who used to work for the TSA writes an allegedly insightful book in favor of the TSA. It's a win-win situation, it makes his former job look important and good, it makes him look good and important, it makes the TSA look good, and it makes him look like an insider with information that no one else knows. This is good for selling books and it's good for everyone and it's not something the government will oppose since it makes them look good. News at 11.

Clancy fits perfectly (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40490785)

The character of the untrained, uneducated "expert" with zero experience that somehow using inborn instinct is the best man for the job would be the perfect idol for a TSA clown.

I'm not sure what books that was out of but even Fleming's Bond was way more believable because he'd done things to become what he was. I got a very strong anti-intellectual vibe to the point of it even coming off as hating apprenticeships from Clancy.

www.brand-onlinerabat.dk,nike free 0,5 til kvinder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40491419)

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A war on ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40492649)

... suspected Al Qaeda operatives leave the US afterwards, the operation is considered successful.

So the TSA is the armed resistance to the population of the USA. It isn't a 'war on terror' its a 'war on residency'.

The Watchtower (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40493947)

Sounds rather similar in style to the "Watchtower" magazine dropped off by a pair of kindly, well-dressed men at my door the other day who also seemed manically concerned for my well-being.

After they left, I read the literature they left. It didn't offer anything terribly unexpected, though I can commend them on their use proper grammar and punctuation while expressing faulty logic and begged questions.

Though, after looking into that one fellow's lifeless eyes while discussing spiritual matters, I'm no longer sure if these kinds of people (JWs and TSA folks are the same breed, I'm certain), are actually stupid, or just evidence of lower life forms trying their very best to grasp our confusing world. Do you mock a donkey for lacking the ability to think beyond its limited parameters?

Problem is, unlike the TSA, donkeys don't carry automatic weapons. Which, when you think about it, puts the TSA beneath the JWs!

Adopt the Israeli model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40509451)

If you fit the profile of the terrorist aka young dark skinned muslim you get extra checks.
Otherwise aka 60 year old grandma with a strong southern accent you get to pass with no checks at all.

All the staff and that means all the staff working for the agency that does the checking are highly paid (a bit less than IT) and have to undergo a substantial background check and a polygraph test.

The main part of the screening is an interview with a highly trained interviewer.

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