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Schneier On the War On the Unexpected

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the security-theater-on-an-escalator dept.

Security 405

jamie found this essay by Bruce Schneier, The War on the Unexpected. (It originally appeared in Wired but this version has all the links.) "We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested — even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats... After someone reports a 'terrorist threat,' the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment... If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security."

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405 comments

Igotthe f (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195017)

my first first post!!!!

My title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195053)

Slashdot On the "your rights online" On the Schneier On the War On the Unexpected

yeah, but (0, Offtopic)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195021)

You're anonymous so it doesn't count.
 

Re:yeah, but (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195379)

This guy claims to be a Christ [arkenterprises.com], actually if you read his page, he is the living Christ, and refuses to pay parking tickets and sends liens to public officials.

However, he already believes the government is out to get him.

sounds about right (5, Insightful)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195023)

people using the excuse of a boogieman in the shadows to lash out against those they don't understand and/or fear?

unheard of in all of human history.

I tip my hat to your sarcasm... (2, Interesting)

Veetox (931340) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195661)

People, en masse, are indeed stupid. (Should I reference Nietzsche?) How ironic that this should come up today; I came into work this morning, and took the back stairway as I usually do, but I passed some wierd looking device that was sitting in the corner of the hallway. The device had been there the evening before, when I left, and it had been "running" throughout the night. It had several hoses coming off of it and I had no idea what it was used for - and I know about ALL KINDS of strange devices in my business (biomedical/biochemical research). So the question arose in my mind: "Should I ask someone who works nearby if they know what this is? ...It could be a ...bomb... and I know some groups that would seriously consider our area for a bomb..." But here's where I drew the line: I examined it for a moment, and decided, "This device is way too complex for a terrorist bomb or a prank." So I just went on my way. Here's why: If a terrorist is going to plant a bomb somewhere, isn't it obvious wisdom to NOT draw attention to it? What kind of dumb-ass does it take to have the knowledge to build a significant bomb, place it without getting caught in the process, but make it horrifyingly obvious that it is a bomb?

Hiding in plain sight (3, Interesting)

FozE_Bear (1093167) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195855)

You didn't call anyones attention to it, did you? You just confirmed to me that a way to plant a bomb where you work is to just make it look compex enough.

Re:sounds about right (3, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195891)

BURNS: Why is that man in pink?!

SMITHERS: Oh, that's Homer Simpson, sir. He's one of your boobs from Sector 7-G.

BURNS: Simpson, eh? Well, judging by his outlandish attire, he's some sort of free-thinking anarchist!

SMITHERS: I'll call security, sir.

BURNS: Excellent. Yes, these color monitors have already paid for themselves...

Dejavu (3, Insightful)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195027)

America is at war with terrorism. America has ALWAYS been at war with terrorism.

Re:Dejavu (2, Insightful)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195179)

America is the terrorist. The freedom quashing, illiberal authority, veiled by the notion that "it's for your own good". It's the quintessential machine. We're now being encouraged to fear ourselves, our neighbours of any colour or creed, our own children; all without bringing any form of logical judgement to the decision.

God help us.

Re:Dejavu (1, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195239)

I don't know where this is coming from. I have friends in the USA, been there plenty myself over the last year alone. I never, not once, got the sense that the citizens were running around informing to the SS troops about what their grandmother said the other day, or whatever.

The states are not perfect, but neither is any other sufficiently large country/organization. And frankly this whole "I'm oppressed" line is getting really overplayed. OMG THEY LIKE SEARCHED MY BAGS AT THE AIRPORT? yeah that's because there are criminals (note the lack of the T word) out there that would love to mass murder air passengers. I say having my laundry looked over is a small price to pay to fly 3000 miles in 6 hours to visit some friends. And it's really not a price anyways, it's not like my XL size fruit of the looms is a secret or something. 20 people saw me buy them at Walmart last night.

Sure there are outliers, people put on watch lists they shouldn't. It'll get smoothed out eventually, but it's not like they're being dragged out into the street and shot "to set example for the other jews" or whatever godwinninian example you are trying to set.

Tom

Re:Dejavu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195293)

It'll get smoothed out eventually

Given the fact that the government refuses to fix errors in the list, your position that "it will all get better" is based on what, other than wishful thinking?

Re:Dejavu (1)

fredrated (639554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195349)

Exactly what post are you responding to? The poster said "We're now being encouraged to fear ourselves, our neighbours of any colour or creed, our own children" and he is exactly correct. Nothing you say in response makes any sense at all.

Re:Dejavu (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195495)

I'm saying that's not actually happening. As in, my friends and people I met in the USA are not running scared for fear of being "outed" to the SS.

As in the poster I replied to is full of shit.

Tom

Re:Dejavu (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195415)

"Sure there are outliers, people put on watch lists they shouldn't. It'll get smoothed out eventually, but it's not like they're being dragged out into the street and shot "to set example for the other jews" or whatever godwinninian example you are trying to set."

You're right, they're not being dragged out into the street and shot. They're being secretly deported, flown in shackles to third-world dictatorships, and tortured by third parties with our implicit consent.

They're mostly Muslims. If it hasn't become clear to you yet: Muslims are the boogeyman whom neoconservatives hype in order to increase their own power, just as Jews were the boogeyman Nazis hyped to increase their own power. No, America is not anywhere near as bad as Nazi Germany at its height, but the direction and modus operandi are extremely similar.

Re:Dejavu (1, Informative)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195733)

Except that only a very small minority of passengers are actually "kidnapped," and in fact they are being released.

It's not perfect, and frankly, probably not right (I don't know both sides of the story, who says they're unjustified? The media?).

It's important to keep tabs and an eye on the situation. It is however, not important to listen to Bruce Schneier as he's just another idiot soap box screamer trying to push book sales. You can be pro-freedom and not listen to Bruce at the same time :-)

Re:Dejavu (4, Insightful)

parcel (145162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195505)

Sure there are outliers, people put on watch lists they shouldn't. It'll get smoothed out eventually...
As long as these watch lists may lead to things like mistaken extraordinary rendition, I would consider that a huge problem.

Re:Dejavu (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195567)

Getting denied a flight (or delayed) is wrong, but you cannot equate that with being rounded up and shot in the street or sent to a forced labour camp.

I'm not saying it's right to delay or deny someone because their name sounds similar to a known criminal. But it's the price we pay to have HUMANS do security. We're not perfect. It happens, it's how you deal with the mistakes that matters.

It's either we form things like no-fly lists, or we just let anyone fly and run the risk of transporting known criminals who may want to harm others. This is also why it's a good idea to check in an hour or two before your flight. So that if you happen to get secondary screened (and it's happened to me even and I'm a white dude with last name St Denis) it's not the end of the world.

Point is, we're not even in the same orbit as how bad things could get. I mean, even during the McCarthy years it still wasn't as bad as during the SS years.

Bruce as usual, is sounding off trying to fight back his obsolescences another day.

Re:Dejavu (1)

parcel (145162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195613)

Getting denied a flight (or delayed) is wrong...
This comment makes me believe that you are not familiar with the term "extraordinary rendition".

Re:Dejavu (-1, Flamebait)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195693)

And this is happening to people you know? You're getting both sides of the story? They're being killed or kept indefinitely?

Here's a tip, if you're Muslim, don't hang out with people who are shady. Just like if you're white, don't tattoo a swastika on your forehead and scream mein kempf all day.

I'm sure millions upon millions of Muslims fly each year without so much as a peep. Yet, you pull one aside for questioning and all of a sudden it's the inquisition...

Tom

Re:Dejavu (4, Insightful)

parcel (145162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195921)

And this is happening to people you know? You're getting both sides of the story? They're being killed or kept indefinitely?
No, nobody I know. But the instances that we do know about have been fairly thoroughly documented. I would disagree that death or permanent imprisonment are the only situations in which things have gone too far. I would certainly include torture.

Here's a tip, if you're Muslim, don't hang out with people who are shady.
As an exercise in how impossible this is, please prove to me that you are not shady so I can continue to converse with you.

Yet, you pull one aside for questioning and all of a sudden it's the inquisition...
This still makes me think you do not understand extraordinary rendition.

Re:Dejavu (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195719)

Sure fine Ok, right gotcha good there champ. Now, before you take this unlisted flight to Syria/and or Romania/Slovenia/etc. Mr. Clueless 00-wtf, do you want the kosher/suicide pill or the halal/pain amplifier pill meal? Please let us know where to send back your toenails if it is not your home address, by filling out this information card. We already know where you are going to stay so you can leave that part blank.

Re:Dejavu (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195769)

I have no idea what you're talking about. I've actually been to Romania, and it took all of 3 minutes to cross the border (from Hungary).

Maybe you people should actually go out and experience life before trying to talk about it?

Tom

Re:Dejavu (2, Informative)

ShiningSomething (1097589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195537)

I don't know where this is coming from.
Well, there's the "If you see something, say something" campaign in New York City. There is the rhetoric of posting the "alert level" daily in Washington, DC. There is the fact that if you're a foreign student you should inform Homeland Security of your whereabouts once you've been admitted into the country, and that if you happen to be studying something like Physics you may be delayed every time you come into the country. No-one's against checking the bags at the airport. There is a day-to-day feeling of mistrust that is obviously not Nazi Germany, but is palpably higher than before 9-11.

Re:Dejavu (1, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195641)

I dunno, I've done the bulk of my trips to the USA AFTER 9/11. I've driven to NY state dozens of times, never with more than a quick search of the car. I've flown to California dozens of times, etc.

You're right that we have to be vigilant to not sacrifice actual freedom for security. Asking people to look out for suspicious behaviour sounds omnimous but you should anyways. Like if you saw someone drop a suitcase by a bridge or bus depot and walk away, wouldn't you think to at least get the persons attention to get the bag they forgot, and if they didn't respond, maybe there was a reason?

It's possible to fall from the precipice we stand on into the realm of "everyone is the enemy." and because of that I agree, a sounding board of reason is a good idea. That being said, we're far from falling. I just don't get the "report to the SS" vibe from the people I meet.

Maybe I'm just not hypersensitive to being asked to follow common sense...

Re:Dejavu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195747)

I think it has to do more with the patronizing, repetitive, salt-in-the-wounds speeches the president dishes out, the perceived incompetence of most everyone in a position of authority (which I'm sure is the same in all places), the ridiculous waste of resources in this 'war on terror', and the appearance of leaning towards corporatism than it has to do with actually being oppressed. Then there's also other egregious abuses of power, such as the illegal wiretapping and the 'just because' security measures.
It's not like the US was up in arms and screening every redneck after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (just reasonable precautions like monitoring sales of certain fertilizers more closely, not every single thing that could go 'pop'), but a Muslim with a paintball gun [findlaw.com]?

We're certainly not being oppressed, but perhaps acting as such will make people aware of what their words, votes, and the lack thereof, actually mean for everyone.
I'm sure it'll all bounce back in a couple of decades. A few choice assholes will always be elected every now and then.

Re:Dejavu (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195893)

Sure there are outliers, people put on watch lists they shouldn't. It'll get smoothed out eventually, but it's not like they're being dragged out into the street and shot "to set example for the other jews" or whatever godwinninian example you are trying to set.
Tell it to Carol Gotbaum. The message being "complain too loud and you'll be 'accidentally' killed".

I say having my laundry looked over is a small price to pay to fly 3000 miles in 6 hours to visit some friends.
This attitude can pretty much justify anything the government wants to do. I believe Thomas Hobbes used it to do just that.

Re:Dejavu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195323)

Mod parent doubleplusgood.

In other news, DHS to change agency name to Ministry of Love.

Re:Dejavu (3, Funny)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195479)

DHS to change agency name to Ministry of Love.
That would make DoD the Ministry of Peace. The media would be the Ministry of Truth. And the Ministry of Plenty would be... what? the oil companies?

Re:Dejavu (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195399)

America is at war with terrorism. America has ALWAYS been at war with terrorism.

Thank you for the obligatory 1984 reference.

The problem is a combination of citizen informants

For the information of those who HAVEN'T read 1984, this is how the thought-police work. It isn't any magical "mind-reading powers". It is mainly brainwashing the children and giving them the authority to turn their parents over to the authorities.

Also, if I may be so bold as to do a little self-promotion (because it is relevant)... if you've got interests in post-modern societies, I would urge you to click the link in my signature to be taken to a page which is hosting a novel that I have written. This work shares some themes which 1984, and it provides some interesting viewpoints in a similar way that Orwell's novel does. Thanks.

The War on Terror (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195055)

Is a war against an emotion... Anything which can cause fear is therefore subject to the war. In that way it's the perfect war for politicians.

 

Terror vs Terrorism vs Terrorists (4, Insightful)

GodWasAnAlien (206300) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195367)

I hear NPR mention a "war on terror", and I want to call in a correction/complaint.

A war on terror or fear is quite different than a war on terrorism.

And a war on terrorism is quite different than a war against terrorists.

And of course a war on terrorists is quite different that a war against a specific group.

A war against an generic term, a tactic or unspecified groups of people cannot be won.
(It cannot be lost either).

Re:The War on Terror (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195805)

Anything which can cause fear is therefore subject to the war.


Like today's news conference on a bill discussing IED's in this country. You think I'm kidding? I saw a blurb this morning on CNN and here's the link [usatoday.com] to USA Today verifying the news conference will take place. Second item in the list.

Re:The War on Terror (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195821)

Colonel Jeff Cooper, a guy who didn't shrink from a fight, felt exactly the same way.

Eliminating people who want to kill you, or who do evil things, is a fine idea but this has been morphed into an exercise for chickenhawks.

i was going to call this stupid (0, Troll)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195067)

but that would be unexpected

praise for this is idea the assumed slashdot lowest common denominator reaction

i look forward to my troll mod for being unexpected

</irony>

Re:i was going to call this stupid (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195205)

I think it's time for new moderator points.
"+1 Terrorist" and "-1 Sheep".
Whether you want to swap the signs depends on your political preference.

High School Politics (5, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195073)

Our whole lives are spent dealing with people and their reactions to what is 'acceptable' and taking the risk that what you try and accomplish is 'unexpected'. Wear long hair in the executive world? Get fired. Dye your hair green in high school? Get teased. Run down a street naked? Get arrested.

Humans are exceptional at detecting differences, its part of our nature, intellectually - we integrate similar concepts and differentiate between different ones. Our brains pick out differences. Thats why profiling at airports actually works.

Its nice to see someone publish something about this, but its hardly insightful.

Re:High School Politics (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195153)

It's not exactly the same though. We have all these "zero tolerance" rules now that are just ridiculous. Completely irrational responses to benign behavior on an unheard of level, etc.

It's exactly what the terrorists want. It's so obvious we are playing right into their hands it just doesn't make sense that our government could be that blind.

Re:High School Politics (1)

johannuhrmann (890366) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195429)

You are right, but Bruce is also right.

You are showing some examples, in which some behaviour is not accepted.

But only the in last example, someone gets arrested for the very
good reason of upsetting other people.

Bruce writes about people getting arrested for no good reason.
History tells us, that "security by amateurs" and "reporting anything
suspicious" leads to Guantanamo, concentration camps and stakes.

Re:High School Politics (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195497)

Meh.

I don't think "Upsetting other people" ought to be enough to get anyone arrested.

the naked rambler dude in the UK recently had his case upheld in court that he was perfectly allowed to wander around in the buff if he wanted to, as it wasn't a sexual or shocking thing. That's a good ruling, IMHO.

Re:High School Politics (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195709)

The ruling now creates a precedent that this is not shocking behavior, and thus it is accepted.

How does ANYTHING become an 'acceptable' practice, without someone trying it and being observed by others? Remember when being gay was shocking?

Re:High School Politics (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195809)

Sure, sure, being gay was "shocking" at some point in the recent path.

This is why the law needs to based on harm, not on social or moral offence. That's a recipe for oppression.

Re:High School Politics (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195887)

Reminds me of a scene in The Painted Bird [wikipedia.org] where the novel's title stems from. This sicko entertains himself by capturing birds, painting them different colors, and then releasing them. When a painted bird tries to rejoin its flock, it gets pecked to death. Of course the whole deal is a metaphor for the main character (a human child.)

Reality (0, Troll)

Ticklemonster (736987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195075)

Sorry kids, but it's just plain wrong to complain about this stuff. Please move away and take some other country and pervert it to your own ideals of free and open and liberal garbage and leave this country alone, or there won't be a "this country" anymore.

Re:Reality (5, Insightful)

a_fuzzyduck (979684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195129)

now that this is out, the terrrrrrrists will change tack. They will blend in, be normal, usual, orthodox. just keep your eyes peeled for ANY non-unusual activity. be alert, be suspicious for ANYONE sticking to their normal routine, doing anything totally within the ordinary. oh, and that boot that stamps on a face ad infinitum

CYA : Cover Your Ass!! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195113)

CYA : Cover Your Ass!! Know you now.

CYA? (1)

jackhererUK (992339) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195151)

What does that stand for?

Re:CYA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195207)

SMS-speak for 'see ya' AFAIK.

Re:CYA? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195467)

It's a whole set of responses to Cover Your Ass, ranging from getting everything on paper and documented, to automatically notifying your superiors that you questioned someone, to automatically following whatever procedures were published no matter how inapplicable or in fact not for this situation.

Its complementary twin is Plausible Deniability, where you very carefully avoid writing down orders that might be illegal, destroy expired records before they can be subpoenaed, and avoid calling their lawyer until the last possible deniable moment.

Re:CYA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195589)

www.google.com

Narrow minded. (2, Interesting)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195165)

After someone reports a 'terrorist threat,' the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment...
You know why they do this? Because several times already, government agencies have learned about possible terrorist acts being planned and didn't act because they didn't consider the source 'credible'. This has nothing to do with your BS tangents about targeting the unexpected, the different, etc. This has to do with agencies trying to save peoples lives.

Re:Narrow minded. (1)

apparently (756613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195261)

Because several times already, government agencies have learned about possible terrorist acts being planned and didn't act because they didn't consider the source 'credible'.

1) Cite some examples. C'mon, you should know that's mandatory.

2) Even if that is the case, why is the proper reaction to just target anybody who's acting 'different'? Why isn't the proper action better training of our apparently inept government agencies? Isn't your point that said agencies aren't intelligent enough to know when a threat is credible or not?

McCarthy-ism (5, Insightful)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195167)

This sounds like a throwback to the 50's and early 60's when "Communism" was the buzz word, and a conforming America was key to not being "outed" as a Commy.

Re:McCarthy-ism (2, Insightful)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195283)

So what McCarthy-ism do you see in the statement of "You are either with us or you are with the Terrorists"?? :-)

Re:McCarthy-ism (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195363)

That is kind of what the article was alluding to. I don't it's that black and white, but automatically assuming unusual behavior could be terrorist related? Don't get me wrong, I want to see all terrorist fry, both foreign and domestic.

Re:McCarthy-ism (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195401)

It goes to demonstrate that the government needs conflict in order to survive and increase their power. I've heard a lot of great things about Robert Higgs' book "CRISIS AND LEVIATHAN: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government" which discusses this aspect in detail. Maybe there really was some kind of threat from communism before it imploded on itself. Whether there was or not, the federal government sure used it as an opportunity to increase it's hand in the pie of our economy. Just look at all the powers we have given up to them since terrorism became all the rage in the world. Strangely enough, I don't feel any safer now than I did in 2000. Actually, we are probably less safe.

Re:McCarthy-ism (1)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195657)

I agree. You should read "The greatest story ever sold" by Frank Rich. It'll all about how the US government manipulates the media and has all kinds of cover-ups to hide they're incompetence. It talks about how 9/11, the war, and Katrina really showed Americans how horribly incompetent the government is (not that most of us couldn't see it). Oh and I support the troops...you HAVE to support the troops. I don't support the stupid asshole president and administration that is wasting the troops' lives with their idiotic mistakes in this war.

The terrorists have won... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195177)

...if their goal was to create fear in the U. S. population.

The fear is real. I hate to admit it, but it affect me.

Everyone knows that there will be further terrorist attacks on the U. S. On the one hand, we're not serious about beefing up homeland security, which is a disappointment to me--I was expecting at least a competent, good-faith effort. But we're doing all the "security theatre" stuff and none of the expensive, difficult, serious stuff. On the other hand, the Iraq war has inflamed passions in the Muslim world and created enemies where we didn't have them before. So the threat is getting worse and our defenses are not getting much better and all the "security theatre" just keeps reminding us of the issue.

On my last plane trip, the gate was near security, and my wife and I were watching as some woman got some kind of very, very extended attention from the TSA people. She was dressed in some kind of dark robe that covered her body, her head, and most of her face; it looked to me like a burkha, but I don't really know anything about such things. She also had a somewhat disfigured face, with a golf-ball-sized lump of some kind on one side of her forehead.

From our vantage point it was all pantomime. I don't know why they were searching her. But they would ask her questions, then wave those handheld metal-detector frisking things, have her sit down for a while, go away and come back with other officials who would ask her more questions and so forth. After about a half an hour she was still sitting there in the security area waiting. They announced that our flight was boarding and we got on and don't know anything more.

What I hated myself for was that I personally was creeped out by this person and her appearance. And what I particularly hated myself for was that the things creeped me out were a) her style of dress, and b) her disfigured face.

Part of me was indignant at what looked from a distance to be discriminatory treatment. And part of it was great relief that she was not on my flight.

Re:The terrorists have won... (1)

Ticklemonster (736987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195265)

??? Won what? Just who the heck declared fear as the determining factor of if we're whipped? what lily livered book worm pacifist came up with that grand scheme? Look kids, life is a lot different from what you think it's like from your ivory towers, so get with the freaking program already.

Re:The terrorists have won... (4, Insightful)

apparently (756613) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195529)

??? Won what? Just who the heck declared fear as the determining factor of if we're whipped? what lily livered book worm pacifist came up with that grand scheme? Look kids, life is a lot different from what you think it's like from your ivory towers, so get with the freaking program already.

If everyone is scared shitless, they've won.
If we're willing to give up rights, they've won.
If our new and improved homeland security is nothing more than security theater, they've won.
If our retaliation is to wage war against a nation that wasn't affiliated with the attackers, thus causing us to waste lives, money, time, and goodwill in an effort that is only destabilizing the region, they've won.

Face it, we were attacked, and 6 years later we still don't have any meaningful protection.
"get with the freaking program", indeed.

Re:The terrorists have won... (4, Insightful)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195507)

Everyone knows that there will be further terrorist attacks on the U. S.

I love how this "fact" is just thrown out there and accepted as true, without giving a time frame. It's technically true, but utterly meaningless. Sure, somewhere between now and infinity years from now, there will be a "further terrorist attack". Great, I better prepare!

By casually using this talking point, you're promoting the irrational fear that you argue that you are trying to avoid.

The important questions, which get glossed over by things like the above declarative talking point, are "What is the likelihood of an attack within the next N, N+1, N+2... years?" and "What is the expected severity/method of such an attack, should it occur?" and "What is the likelihood that any given person will be affected?"

Even if terrorists pulled off a 9/11 once every year or destroyed one shopping mall a week, your chances of actually dying in a terrorist attack are utterly miniscule [reason.com]. A rational person, when confronted with such numbers, should not be afraid.

You're pathetic (2, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195587)

You have more chance of being killed next time you get in a car or try to cross the road. Or being murdered by your neighbour. Or having a heart attack from to omuch fast food.

The terorist threat is TINY and shouldn't have been allowed to affect life at all.

Whether that woman was wearing a burkha or not is immaterial. Your disproportionate levels of fear are the problem here.

Unclear argument (0, Flamebait)

sithkhan (536425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195209)

IMHO, Schneier's argument is poorly-reasoned: were our parents and grandparents who were asked to keep an eye on things here in the States and in Great Britain while the majority of able-bodied men served on the front 'biased'? Were the people who served as police just 'knee-jerk' reactionaries? When did the citizens who become involved, for better or worse, in the workings of the defense of this country, become less-than-capable? So there are false alarms and quick reactions to situations. Should there be a forty-eight hour cooling-off period for any investigation instigated by a citizen's report? Yes, the question is absurd, but so is Schneier's assertion that 'OMG! JacKKKbooted NAZIS are going to have you arrested!' If a perfect world or nation is sought by Mr. Schneier, I suggest he purchase an island in the Caribbean to live alone. He might find harmony and Utopia that way ...

Re:Unclear argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195453)

were our parents and grandparents who were asked to keep an eye on things here in the States and in Great Britain while the majority of able-bodied men served on the front 'biased'?

That depends, how much pressure did it take on your parents or grandparents before they "fingered" their friends, neighbors, and their dog as communists?

When did the citizens who become involved, for better or worse, in the workings of the defense of this country, become less-than-capable?

Ask the government. They don't appear to trust the citizens, why should we? Aside from the "OMG everything is supah sekret!" position the government has taken, there's the less-than-secret position publicly held by Bush about the people who used the Second Amendment exactly as written to form regulated militias to defend the country's borders when he couldn't be bothered to. I guess one or the other must be less-than-capable, no?

So there are false alarms and quick reactions to situations.

If by "quick reactions" you mean holding people for years in prison without charge? It happened once, the Supreme Court refused to rule against it, so there is absolutely nothing preventing it from happening again.

a perfect world or nation is sought by Mr. Schneier

Maybe he just wants one that operates on a rational basis. Pushing for citizens to report "terroristish" people but refusing to brief the citizens on what exactly is "terroristish" is not.

Fun to be a public servant. (5, Insightful)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195211)

Choice 1: Over react and be labeled a fascist.

Choice 2: Do nothing and be blamed when people die.

No wonder we only get shit bags running for public office.

Re:Fun to be a public servant. (1)

Dare (18856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195303)

Choice 1: Over react and be labeled a fascist.
Choice 2: Do nothing and be blamed when people die.


Dude, those are not the only available options. I'd choose "react reasonably".

Re:Fun to be a public servant. (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195371)

What is reasonable varies so much from person to person that it would be ridiculous to even try to come to a consensus of what is reasonable! Don't try to make it seem like there are commonsense measures that are going to satisfy the masses. We have had issues in our society for damn near it's entire existence that people still can't get their heads together on and come to an agreement that doesn't have some party howling about something or other being unjust the second that things quiet down. Especially the media who makes it their job to point out any little missed step and try to represent it as the next downfall of man.

Re:Fun to be a public servant. (1)

BVis (267028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195569)

I agree that "reasonable" is definitely a damagingly subjective description. What I consider reasonable is not what you would, etc.

However, the current batch of idiots isn't even TRYING to find some middle ground. They've decided that in the absence of objective criteria for definitively removing the problem, they're going to go with the actions that give them the most control over the populace (and, consequently, their money.)

[tinfoil]Osama isn't being brought to justice or killed because he's far more useful to the US government as a bogeyman. They can use him to justify just about any horror you can imagine (torture, murder, forced labor, so forth) in the name of "national security". What they're really doing is lining their own pockets. They can stay safe and secure in their panic-room-equipped mansions while enjoying the protection of the US Military, on the taxpayer dollar.[/tinfoil]

Mu (4, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195375)

How about:

Choice 3: React appropriately and install security measures that work, without unduly stressing people?

The problem isn't that there are two extremes the people in power must choose from, the problem is that the two choices you gave are actually being done at the same time.

Re:Mu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195663)

But if he limits it to only 2 extreme choices, it almost looks like he has a point. A sensible choice? Bah! What an unpatriotic, liberal, and surely "educated" response.

We like our solutions to fit on bumper stickers, around these parts.
You're either with us, or against us!
These colors don't run!

Re:Fun to be a public servant. (1)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195603)

4) Realize that it's the terrorists who are to blame when shit blows up. And, get this, shit happens. And anyone who want the government to protect them from everything under the sun is an idiot, and not worthy of being included in the numbers of those who we call "Society."

blame the media for CYA (3, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195217)

people are spoiled and every time something bad unexpected happens they can't accept it. result of living in one of the safest and affluent societies on earth.

so if something does happen the media jumps on it with all kinds of "investigative" reporting about how some insignificant clue had been dismissed or how some proposed law wasn't passed that could have prevented this. and they attack government agencies in the process along with congress getting involved with subpeonas and investigations. so the police to CYA just start to investigate idiotic things and bugging people

Re:blame the media for CYA (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195307)

You know there is a stinging truth to this:

Not too long after the London bus bombings a local TV crew took it on themselves to see if they could infiltrate a local bus depot. So they get in and film themselves walking around buses and sitting in a couple of them. The go and disclose this on TV but never get brought up on charges themselves since it's such an embarrassment to the local transit authority.

So what's it going to be, folks? Police, guards and cameras on every corner to satisfy the media? How much longer can the media get away with watching everyone but having no recourse to actually being honest and fair in their offerings?

The media is, for the most part, a bunch of shitballs. It's unbelievable how much they're able to get away with and how little they're accountable for.

Re:blame the media for CYA (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195583)

You're in London, right? With the world's highest prevalence of video cameras, but no way for citizens to get the records of where they lost their bag of groceries, and no way to know when the authorities use it to track protesters to get warrants to keep them away from the protests at Heathrow?

Re:blame the media for CYA (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195853)

The best warning you can get about the dangers of oppression is from the mouth of one being oppressed.

Mod parent as "realist" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195381)

Mod parent as realist. We get punished for not being paranoid, and then labeled fascist for doing what the public demands, because the media tells them to demand it.

Only one more year left... (0, Troll)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195227)

Until this current administration is gone forever... Only one more year hearing words non stop about "The war on terror .. war on terror.. war on terror" which ironically seems to be remarkably similar to "The war on drugs" campaign in that it is very expensive and can never truly be won... That doesnt stop elected officials using it as an argument to take away every personal freedom we have...

Re:Only one more year left... (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195291)

If you think that the next administration - Republican or Democrat - is going to be substantially different, you haven't been paying attention for very long.

Re:Only one more year left... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195331)

You're fooling yourself if you think things will change in 2009, no matter who gets elected.

Re:Only one more year left... (2, Insightful)

genner (694963) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195435)

Oh things will change....you know that ficus plant that W. keeps round....the liberals are toally getting rid of it when they move into the White House

Re:Only one more year left... (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195571)

This administration? Do you really think that this is where all of this started? Man, you're fairly naive.

Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City.

And even that's not the beginning.

Beyond Fear (4, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195231)

For those interested in hearing Bruce Schneier dispassionately and quite reasonably shred a lot of the "security" measures implemented since 9/11, I suggest reading his book Beyond Fear [amazon.com]. The subtitle says it all: thinking sensibly about security in an uncertain world. The book was reviewed [slashdot.org] on Slashdot not long ago.

The book takes a very general approach to security, analyzing it with the most basic categorizations, while using very clear real-life examples to illustrate. The final chapters deal specifically with security against terrorism, particularly since 9/11. His conclusion is that, from a security standpoint, most of the measures put in place - additional airport scrutiny, massive centralized databases looking for suspicious patterns, the move towards national ID cards, etc. - are largely ineffective as security measures. The massive trade-off of decreased privacy and liberty coupled with enormous cost for these measures make them especially unreasonable. In short, the widespread perceived risk and culture of fear it has fostered has made our response to the new terroristic threat wildly out-of-proportion with the actual risk.

It's mostly preaching to the choir here at Slashdot, but I think this book should be as widely read as possible.

What does this have to do with terrorism? (3, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195251)

More likely the kind of reactions he's talking about has to deal with thrill killers. The 9/11 guys didn't do so much that was out of the norm to ring any real bells (yeah, yeah, I know, if you were there it would have set off the alarms in your head. yeah, I know that.) but the actions of thrill killers is often noticeable by those around them because of long time association and a change in behavior.

But my real wondering is: Since when has Slashdot become the outpost for the war on terror articles? Everything posted here anymore seems to be political. What was that Taco was saying the other day about loosing control of his website? Dude, it's already happened.

Sorry, Bruce, you're just wrong.... (2, Interesting)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195311)

I'm not normally one to disagree with Bruce, but...

All security analysis, whether physical or electronic, starts with looking at patterns. An IDS is a perfect example, it looks for patterns and reports on them. Guess what, Bruce? IDS have false positives, a lot of them. It takes a trained security professional to analyze what the IDS thinks is an alert and determine whether it's a real threat.

Eventually someone came up with IDS systems that analyze your normal IDS traffic, and start to alert on things that aren't normal. For example, if you have a link you only see SSH connections on, and all of a sudden there are FTPs, it will alert. Again, a trained security professional looks at the alert and decides if it's a real threat.

The IDS system is analogous to the people on the street reporting strange events, except the people on the street have more intelligence than a typical IDS system (for example, I've never seen this guy (FTP) in my neighborhood, but someone just moved in across the street, ah yes he just unlocked the door there, must be the new owner). People know what is unusual, what doesn't fit into their neighborhood, more so than IDS systems.

And the police officer is analogous to the security professional. A person (IDS) reports an event to me. I take in as much information as I can, and determine whether it's a real threat. If I don't have enough information, I get it. If I can't, I continue to monitor the activity. If it looks threatening, I escalate it.

However, Bruce, when you say that police shouldn't rely on the individuals on the street to help with security, you're like saying I should take down my IDS systems. It's a ridiculous statement. You say it's amateurish? Well, without individuals on the street calling in things they think is unusual, then police don't know someone is unusual. Just like an IDS system, if it doesn't tell me something is anomalous, I don't know whether to go in and check it.

The simple fact is that because people didn't report the unusual behavior of many of the 9/11 attackers, e.g. taking flight lessons that only focused on flying, getting pulled over without licenses, getting pulled over with illegal immigration statuses.... BECAUSE no one reported that activity, they went and hijacked 4 aircraft and killed 3000 people.

Specifically, Bruce... when you say we've opened up the war on the unusual, this is EXACTLY what more modern IDS/IPS systems do, they don't look at signatures, they look at UNUSUAL TRAFFIC. When it finds UNUSUAL TRAFFIC it REPORTS IT to you, then you INVESTIGATE IT, you QUESTION THE PEOPLE INVOLVED, and if they did something against policy you REMOVE THEM FROM THEIR JOBS. YES BRUCE, THIS IS WHAT YOU DO.

Also, on another rant. What's YOUR solution, Bruce? You tell us how NOT to do it, but you have no solutions yourself. Oh wait, you do... you tell us we should do EXACTLY what you rant against:

We don't want people to never report anything. A store clerk's tip led to the unraveling of a plot to attack Fort Dix last May, and in March an alert Southern California woman foiled a kidnapping by calling the police about a suspicious man carting around a person-sized crate. But these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically asses, not automatically escalate, citizen tips. In criminal matters, law enforcement is experienced in separating legitimate tips from unsubstantiated fears, and allocating resources accordingly; we should expect no less from them when it comes to terrorism.


Yes, I can agree that some people blow shit out of proportion, this happens everyday and is part of the human nature (especially for those that love drama). But that doesn't mean we should stop this activity, law enforcement just needs to become better at detecting the actual threats and escalating incidents at the same time fine-tuning their "IDS" systems to what is real threats. This isn't something that will happen overnight, but doesn't mean we should stop it completely!

actually it is way worst (1)

rozz (766975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195353)

If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong... If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security."
actually, if you ask ThePeople to do the job of the security services, you end up WAAAY WORST !
you end up beautiful things like the inquisition, fascism or the soviet russia ... all those relied on a large part of the population acting as informants and turning in any single individual that acted a bit different.

I'm sorry, but Shneier fails it (2, Insightful)

stupidpuppy (955515) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195387)

Would slashdot post a counter-terror expert talking about computer security if he had no experience whatsoever in that field?

Then why would slashdot post a computer security expert talking about counter-terrorism or law enforcement when he has no experience whatsoever in that field?

"It Just Don't Look Right" is a time-tested law enforcement mantra. It isn't something George W. Bush cooked up after 9/11 -- it's around because so many crimes, and so many terrorist plots have been busted up by investigating the unusual and unexpected.

fear is a wepon but education is better (1)

aulder (1066702) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195519)

as humans we fear that witch is different or what we don't understand that's a fear born of ignorance but a stronger fear is that of understanding because when you understand a object/person/weapon then you know what its capable of and what it can do to you insted of relying on hair say and the shit your government feeds you on a regular ba

Realistic Threat Assessment? (2, Insightful)

EvilTwinSkippy (112490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21195539)

You expect people without a fundimental understanding of chemistry of basic physics to give you a realisitic threat assesment? These are the same folks who have conflated an urban legend about mixing two chemicals, and managed to make it so I can't take a bottle of gatoraid on a flight. And you remember right after 9/11, all of the guardsmen with guns at the airport? Well they all had empty clips.

The real problem is these idiots are in charge. When we start to respect knowledge and wisdom, and elevate those posessing both in abundance, only then will this crap end.

NYC doesn't care about terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21195667)

When I first saw the "See something, say something" ad on a NYC bus, I was horrified by the thought of turning the population of the city into millions of terrorism informants. Then I realized that most crime in NYC happens in front of a street full of people. And I'm not just talking about a few guys torching a chain and stealing a bike, there are people who get murdered on busy NYC streets in broad daylight and nobody stops to do anything! Most people would rather step over a dead body than report it.

Once I decided that it was an anti-apathy campaign rather than some anti-terrorism crap, I felt much better about it. Afterall, who wants to ride the subway with a corpse?

dom
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