Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bruce Schneier's work isn't peer reviewed. He has no peers.
December 30, 2009 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Is aviation security mostly for show? An essay by Bruce Schneier.
posted by grouse (96 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
The essay is excellent. It echoes many of the thoughts I had as I traveled through three airports today. I want to send a printout of it to Barack Obama with only two words written on it: READ THIS.

But it also strikes me that CNN, which is publishing this essay, is party to exactly the kind of fearmongering that the essay describes. Today, while I ate lunch with my parents in an Alabama restaurant, we saw on CNN a headline that read something like "POSSIBLE TERRORIST ATTACK IN TIMES SQUARE." Since I live in New York, I immediately pulled out my phone to check the news. The "possible terrorist attack"? An abandoned van.

No wonder it says at the bottom of the essay "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Schneier." They sure as hell don't seem to be shared by CNN.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:56 PM on December 30, 2009 [13 favorites]


I wish I could do advertising work for Amtrak or Greyhound once the hilariously invasive scanning machines are in place in all the airports. It will be like shooting fish in a barrel. "Greyhound: we keep your privates private." "Amtrak: your junk, your business."
posted by mullingitover at 11:04 PM on December 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


yes, next question
posted by caddis at 11:05 PM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


538 has an informative essay on the odds of being in a terrorist attack on an aircraft.

The final paragraph is worth quoting:
There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.
posted by sien at 11:08 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Doesn't everyone know this? It's like a scholarly essay refuting creationism: no matter how well argued it lends implied credibility to bullshit.
posted by GeckoDundee at 11:09 PM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Schneier's:

"Our current response to terrorism is a form of "magical thinking." It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time."

misses the real dynamic here -- C Y A. Given partisan politics and agency turf-wars, Bureaucrat Man requires all known attacks be defended against lest the opposition gain an attack card to play, should a known attack succeed where no defensive measure was taken.
posted by tad at 11:14 PM on December 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


I wish I could do advertising work for Amtrak or Greyhound once the hilariously invasive scanning machines are in place in all the airports.

The funny thing about the scanning machines is that they're slow, much slower than a regular metal detector... so while it's scanning, they have to wave everyone else through the metal detector instead. Last week I was one of three or four people who trooped on past the poor guy doing the Star Trek routine... so how does putting one out of every five people through the Naked Scanner(tm) count as "better security", especially since they let you decide whether or not to get in the line that has it, and it takes twice as many TSA employees to run the damn thing? What a joke. We'd get more use out of a lucky rock that keeps terrorists away, and at far less cost.
posted by vorfeed at 11:16 PM on December 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


Excellent and well worth reading. Unfortunately, no one will heed this and customers will continue to be stripped of rights, privacy, and otherwise screwed over in the name of "security".

Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.

I wish I could favorite this.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:16 PM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Of course not. Airplane security is mostly to stop people hijacking or blowing up planes. Is it well-implemented or sensible most of the time? No. Could it be improved in millions of ways? Of course.

But when you're saying stuff like "Terrorism is rare" - come on, man. Doesn't a sensible, rational person, arguing in good faith, have to admit successful terrorist attacks are rare in part because of security? Would anyone argue that if we took away all security tomorrow, there wouldn't be a rise in successful terror attacks?

I am all in favor of being sensible, and I would never prioritize security over civil liberties. But the term "security theater" is tired, silly, and doesn't help.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:19 PM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


vorfeed: "We'd get more use out of a lucky rock that keeps terrorists away, and at far less cost."

vorfeed, I want to buy your rock.
posted by mullingitover at 11:20 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I generally agree with Schneier's conclusion, but his logical is confusing...

"Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets."

Yet...

"To be sure, reasonable arguments can be made that some terrorist targets are more attractive than others: airplanes because a small bomb can result in the death of everyone aboard, monuments because of their national significance, national events because of television coverage, and transportation because of the numbers of people who commute daily."

Seems like a contradiction to me.

"If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money"

So our shopping malls are defenseless, yet the terrorists keep trying to blow up airplanes.

Are we just lucky?

I agree wholeheartedly that current airport security is absurd, but I don't think we're protecting the wrong targets.
posted by mullacc at 11:21 PM on December 30, 2009


The response to this week's failed bombing has made explicit the sad fact that despite living through the last decade we have learned absolutely nothing from it.

Are we just lucky?
Or is the enemy incompetent? Or.... what?
posted by mek at 11:24 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


But when you're saying stuff like "Terrorism is rare" - come on, man. Doesn't a sensible, rational person, arguing in good faith, have to admit successful terrorist attacks are rare in part because of security? Would anyone argue that if we took away all security tomorrow, there wouldn't be a rise in successful terror attacks?

Nobody is arguing for "t[aking] away all security", but for limiting it to things that actually work instead of putting on a show and inconveniencing everyone.

You may wish to read the entire essay if you haven't already:


Unfortunately for politicians, the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities -- both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur -- and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare.

posted by cmgonzalez at 11:25 PM on December 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


Asked in another post of someone; 'so how do we do security? what can we do?'

Unfortunately for politicians the security measures that work are largely invisible. Such measures include enhancing the intelligence-gathering abilities of the secret services, hiring cultural experts and Arabic translators, building bridges with Islamic communities both nationally and internationally, funding police capabilities -- both investigative arms to prevent terrorist attacks, and emergency communications systems for after attacks occur -- and arresting terrorist plotters without media fanfare. -Bruce Schneier.


This.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:25 PM on December 30, 2009


Without even clicking the link I know the answer is yes. If you read his blog, you'll know he's been saying this ever since about 10/2001.

What shocks me is how many people haven't figured it out yet.

One of the first times I went to Las Vegas, I saw Penn and Teller. They did a bit where he does something insanely silly with a broken vodka bottle (like juggle it with his teeth or something). In the build up, they talk about how no two bottles break in the same way and start to go into the differential equations that govern the process and then he says something like "who here is good at math? Oh wait, you're all in Las Vegas; nevermind."

See also.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:26 PM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


...or are we locked into a politics of fear which demands the creation of enemies, and security circuses to comfort the fearful?
posted by mek at 11:26 PM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


[...] misses the real dynamic here -- C Y A.

I thought the article was straight up common sense, but you're also dead right about this.
posted by Edgewise at 11:27 PM on December 30, 2009


which demands the creation of enemies

No, I suspect the enemies are real.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:29 PM on December 30, 2009


If they weren't real before, they are becoming more real day by day as a result of current policy.
posted by mek at 11:31 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Zeus was both the original and the most effective terrorist.
posted by mannequito at 11:39 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Trust me - he doesn't miss the real dynamic. I've been following his blog for years now and he often says that it's all about CYA and not about stopping terrorists.

Here's something to consider about the frequency of terrorism. Remember the DC sniper stuff? Remember how for a while there everyone thought that it must be the second Al Qada attack? OK, if it hadn't been a half-witted Zodiac Killer wannabe sending love notes and Tarot cards to the police, how long do you think they'd have been looking for a white truck. What security measures have been put in place since then to keep people from doing exactly what they did?

I think a sensible, rational person, arguing in good faith, has to admit that we haven't had another sniper situation in part because there just aren't that many people out there who are too keen on shooting people at random for the purpose of creating mayhem.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:43 PM on December 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


the new internationalist article mentioned as 'source' at the bottom of the cnn article;
also has these as further readings...
Further essays by Bruce Schneier on some of the topics covered in this article:

Rare risks and overreaction:

Refuse to be terrorized:

Harassing photographers:

War on the unexpected:

Aeroplane security:

Seven habits of highly ineffective terrorists:

Portrait of the modern terrorist as an idiot:

Terrorists using our infrastructure:

Data mining for terrorists:

Movie-plot threats:

posted by infinite intimation at 11:44 PM on December 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


See also this previous test of the TSA, which Schneier helped to coordinate: "A first-class traveler cleared security with a phoney Twin Cities-to-Washington boarding pass for Northwest Airlines, no photo identification and wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt under his coat as part of a test of airport security in this post-9/11 world."

Really, airport security is a joke, and a bad one at that. Remember the bomb-sniffers that were supposed to go into all of the airports? They couldn't tell a bomb from my ass. Invent a new high-tech security measure, one that need not even work, and you can earn millions of dollars buttressing the sets on the stage of security.

My thoughts are that the terr'ists are just the recent replacement for the communists, an excuse to keep the world's wealthiest nation locked in a state of perpetual fear to keep them paying for a state of perpetual war. Good on those who point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes, that Al Qaida are in a shambles and can apparently only occasionally find literate people to cotch their attacks, and that not all actors are gay communists trying to eat the brains of our children. Shit, the only thing that pulled the US out of the Red Scare was the collapse of the soviet union. And even now one can hear certain segments of the population fear-monger about the rising threat of China...

Security theater is theater, certainly, but it is not designed to make us feel secure. It is designed to make us afraid, worried needlessly about an invisible and anonymous Enemy who could strike at any moment. One for whom the only defense is the expenditure of hundreds of billions of tax dollars and the murder of brown people on the other face of the planet. In this sense, you could say that airport security is the latest chapter in the world's greatest viral marketing scheme, which sells an insulated public on the vicissitudes of war. All you gotta do is follow the money.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:46 PM on December 30, 2009 [21 favorites]


God damn, I loves me some Bruce Schneier. That guy is awesome.

He's saying here what I've been trying to say, but less effectively, for many years:
Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country's way of life; it's only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we're doing the terrorists' job for them.
Terrorists can't destroy America. Only our reactions to terrorism can -- in our frenzy of fear, we ruin the things that made us great. There is simply no way that even ten thousand angry jihadis are even vaguely an existential threat, but losing the rule of law, and the rule of sense, most emphatically can and will destroy us.

Good old Abraham Lincoln said a lot of smart stuff, and I have one favorite quote of his that I've posted here numerous times. I'll do it again, because I'm so fond of it:
"At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
The largest actual threat this country has ever faced was the Soviet Union; a population of three hundred million people, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, capable of destroying every major city in the country within an hour. And we faced them down into ultimate defeat without leaving behind our principles.

I mean, christ, people. Look at the scale difference here. Twenty-five guys in turbans have fucked us up more effectively than an industrial superpower ever managed. And they didn't do it... we did it to ourselves.

America has turned into probably the most cowardly nation that has ever existed. We are a quaking bunch of lily-livered pussies. Our grandparents dealt with the very real possibility of death on a daily basis for decades, and we're paralyzed in fucking terror because of a guy with explosive underpants.
posted by Malor at 11:47 PM on December 30, 2009 [115 favorites]


Sometimes one's fingers get ahead of one's slightly inebriated rant. By 'cotch,' of course, I meant 'botch.'
posted by kaibutsu at 11:48 PM on December 30, 2009


While not by Bruce Schneier, this article looking at the Israelification of Airports, certainly echoes him a bit.
posted by polluxopera at 11:50 PM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


The foremost factor in keeping us safe from terrorist attacks is the inherent stupidity of religious fanatics.

One would think that the willingness to end your own life in servitude of your ideals would make you a pretty formidable threat. If your sole ambition is to spread terror and you got no regard for your own safety, the opportunities to harm people are so numerous that one would imagine that it would be next to impossible to defend against. Yet the number of foiled attempts are significant. Go self selection!
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 12:01 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


But when you're saying stuff like "Terrorism is rare" - come on, man. Doesn't a sensible, rational person, arguing in good faith, have to admit successful terrorist attacks are rare in part because of security?

"Because of security", maybe.

"Because everyone has to take their shoes off and also we banned an entire form of matter so you have to buy your bottled water for $3.50 at Hudson's News"? No.

If we really wanted serious, obvious airport security, we could have it: it involves armed guards, highly-trained people who know what they're looking for and how to find it, and separate screening areas behind bombproof glass. None of those things have anything to do with micromanaging the natural behavior of passengers... nor do they have anything to do with American airport security, more's the pity. Security is not about forbidden liquids, cigarette lighters, corkscrews, toenail clippers, or shoes.

I am all in favor of being sensible, and I would never prioritize security over civil liberties. But the term "security theater" is tired, silly, and doesn't help.

Maybe so, but it's also entirely accurate. Making people do the hokey pokey and turn themselves around is, contrary to popular belief, not what it's all about... and we all need to keep pointing this out, because the potential cost (both in human lives and in wasted time, effort, and social trust) is staggering.
posted by vorfeed at 12:13 AM on December 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


But when you're saying stuff like "Terrorism is rare" - come on, man. Doesn't a sensible, rational person, arguing in good faith, have to admit successful terrorist attacks are rare in part because of security?

if I recall correctly, at 43, finding a husband is rarer, amirite?
posted by infini at 12:19 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


See also this previous test of the TSA, which Schneier helped to coordinate: "A first-class traveler cleared security with a phoney Twin Cities-to-Washington boarding pass for Northwest Airlines, no photo identification and wearing an Osama bin Laden T-shirt under his coat as part of a test of airport security in this post-9/11 world."

It's suggestive, definitely, but I'm just surprised a cryptographer with as strong a mathematical background as Schneier would argue that a single sample would be representative. Put a hundred first class travelers into different parts of the system with falsified papers etc. and let's see what happens. One person getting through, not great, certainly, but a statistically speaking, any system can never be 100% foolproof. If a hundred tests are done and more than a few get through, that would be pretty damning.

That aside, the largest problem with Schneier isn't that he's right or wrong, but that his views have been mostly limited to his blog and those who read his works. So to get printed on CNN is important for getting this issue more exposure and more discussion by regular folks, beyond the usual cynical grousing (and, worse, tolerance of what appears to be a broken system) by a largely docile public.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 AM on December 31, 2009


Rachel Maddow interviews Bruce Schneier on December 28th.
posted by netbros at 1:15 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of course it is for show. Does ANYTHING the TSA does really have a chance of stopping terrorism? Come on.
posted by Kellster at 1:29 AM on December 31, 2009


Nice Post and analysis by peers

But. And there is always a but.
What brings planes down is not carried on board by passengers.. that is a false premis.
What brings down airliners is,
1. Mechanical failure. 66%
2. Pilot doofus. 33 %
3. Terrorism 1%

Lockerbie happened because the world did not believe in suicide bombers.
Now it does.
And Airline security is so fierce now that said people would not even think to
take that path.

Think like your enemy is the maxim.
I'd go for on ground maintenance.

Boaz
posted by Joachim at 1:30 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It never ceases to amaze me how inane so called commentators are. This article is the perfect example. I have heard better arguments on this matter down the pub. People who already know it is for the show do not need to read such an article and those who don't think it is BS will not be persuaded my such tame witterings.

I agree mostly with what the above posters have said. I mean that news conference in Schipol, Netherlands yesterday with the minister saying we are going to introduce body scanners asap. Bolt Horse Door springs to mind. How many destinations have flights going into the States? How many of them are tin-pot states where the security is non-existent and or capable of being overcome with a little incentive for the security personel?

The most absurd example of this airport security rubbish was this insanity ordered by Blair back in 2003.
posted by numberstation at 1:33 AM on December 31, 2009


Question: I've never flown out of an Israeli airport: do they ban liquids like everyone else does?

The largest actual threat this country has ever faced was the Soviet Union; a population of three hundred million people, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, capable of destroying every major city in the country within an hour. And we faced them down into ultimate defeat without leaving behind our principles.

Not really. State Secrets Privilege was first formally recognized by the courts during the Cold War. If that isn't a massive flouting of Constitutional limitations on the power of the state and the Founders' intent, then I don't know what is. And then you had the cover-up of the effects of nuclear weapons testing on the population. And the CIA involvement in overthrowing legitimately-elected leaders in Iran and Chile. (And etc., etc. - I have to go to work!) We've been abandoning our principles at a pretty steady clip over the last few decades. The Bush Administration was just the most unrestrained and unabashedly flagrant of our recent Presidental administrations to do so. (And yes, the Obama Administration is included in that list as well, sadly.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:50 AM on December 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Longdaysjourney

Disagree.
The USSR Was not 300 million people armed to the teeth.
It was an autocracy of the presidium that was willing to sacrifice 200 million to get what it wanted.
What confused them was the fact that in the early 60's the US could have carparked the USSR. With little loss [comparatively] to it'self. Why did'nt they?
Because the constitution [ a thing this naive fool believes in] says they could not.
And im not even an American.

Im a stochastic geopolitician.. Laugh Out Loud

Boaz
posted by Joachim at 2:01 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that these tactics might just be a giant feint; I mean really: shoe bomb, liquids, flaming undies -- they all seem a bit 'amateur hour'.

Perhaps the idea is to systematically get people wired tight about airport/airplane security while in reality the terrorists are plotting against a much larger and significant target, such as a nuclear power plant.

They've got to be thinking that they want to one-up themselves after 9/11.
posted by bwg at 2:02 AM on December 31, 2009


Yes, but I don't think intentionally.
posted by mr dodo at 2:13 AM on December 31, 2009


bwg

Exactly.
Think like the enemy.
Cause an overheat and stall the scram. and there goes virginia.
posted by Joachim at 2:14 AM on December 31, 2009


Perhaps the idea is to systematically get people wired tight about airport/airplane security while in reality the terrorists are plotting against a much larger and significant target, such as a nuclear power plant laughing like drains at how little actual damage it takes to make the Great Satan want to beat itself senseless.

FTFY.
posted by flabdablet at 3:57 AM on December 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


I saw Penn and Teller

I miss the days when airport security was just something you could have fun with.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:10 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aviation security is the ceremony we hold to celebrate the closing of the barn door while the horse is still galloping over the horizon. Oh, and we only end up managing to move the door about an inch closer to the frame.
posted by tehloki at 4:13 AM on December 31, 2009


And the barn is tens of thousands of kilometers in diameter and there are only 6 horses in it
posted by tehloki at 4:13 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like a number of MeFi readers I have seen Schneier mentioned here before and his position really hasn't changed that much over the years. It is good to see him getting more mainstream media exposure, though. Unfortunately too few people in power seem to be getting the message; for example, Obama nominated someone with what look to me to be solid law enforcement credentials to head the TSA, and he is being held up by Republican Jim DeMint not because of his credentials, but because he might let TSA employees join a union!. Ironically, Senator DeMint represents a state that has a history of being a far greater threat to the United States than any terrorist group.
posted by TedW at 4:52 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


While Bruce may "have no peers", Matt Blaze is at least his equal. Today he wrote Fighting Terror with Uncertainty, and the impact of game theory on all of this. As always, the TSA is fighting the wrong battle against the wrong sort of enemy.
posted by petrilli at 5:03 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is aviation security mostly for showareholders?
posted by larry_darrell at 5:16 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Something to keep in mind also regarding why terrorists might go after planes vs. shopping malls when one is protected and the other isn't is that our attention is clearly focused on what we are trying harder to protect. If they blow up a plane everyone freaks out about our security failing us and it compounds the psychological impact of the act because it implies a larger failure of the government to secure the people than if they went into a place that is for all intents and purposes unprotected.
While not all terrorists are Al-Qaeda, as far as they are concerned its been shown that they are very media savvy and would likely consider this line of reasoning. I know if my goal was to demoralize my enemy and rally support to my cause I would choose the method most likely to thoroughly shame them. When you undermine all of the resources we've thrown into the TSA its much more of a propaganda victory.

I really like Bruce's message and I think its in line with the message in Denialism; its sort of asinine to operate in the world without making our decisions evidence based. Where is the information that backs up the TSA being an effective approach? Observation alone can tell us it is not an effective strategy. Just throwing gobs of cash at a problem and putting essentially untrained people in uniforms to hassle tens of thousands of people while the real systems that could plausibly protect us are still not integrated to a point where real information sharing happens seems ridiculous to me. Lots of things seem ridiculous to me anymore in America, so I guess this shouldn't be an exception.

As an added note, I can see the value of "security theater" in that it provides a sense of safety but to my mind it makes more sense to divert those funds to creating actual security.. two birds with one stone and all that.
posted by zennoshinjou at 5:23 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Terrorism itself is theater. It's called "terrorism" because it's supposed to scare people. Therefore, the best "defense" is counter theater. The problem only arises if sufficient numbers of people find the counter theater unconvincing, but that doesn't seem to be happening. News is very much like entertainment and people know to willingly suspend their disbelief.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on December 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Bomb sniffing dogs are effective both for luggage and personnel searches. It requires about 6 months and costs about $10k to train a bomb sniffing dog, and periodic retraining expenses cost roughly $5k per year. We can easily afford one dog and handler per shift per metal detector, although the job can likely be done with fewer. Our only limiting factors are the supply of trainers and the supply TSA employees intelligent and humane enough to be handlers.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:48 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The largest actual threat this country has ever faced was the Soviet Union; a population of three hundred million people, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, capable of destroying every major city in the country within an hour. And we faced them down into ultimate defeat without leaving behind our principles.

Hey, yeah, murdering dissidents and democratically-elected leaders of foreign countries while spying on Americans and provoking dissenters to violence in order to have an excuse to arrest them is totally in line with the principles set out in the Constitution. Destroying the lives and careers of human beings for having at one point been associated with somebody who knew someone with politically unpopular opinions? Absolutely what George Washington would do. Giving political power to barely-disguised theocrats because they scream and wail the loudest about the spectre of communism? Completely compatible with the Enlightenment ideals and theories the Founding Fathers based America on.

Were you born in 1990 or just profoundly historically ignorant?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:55 AM on December 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


What theocrats? Bush II came after communism had fallen. You mean Carter? not! lol

American politics were remarkably intelligent during the later cold war decades. The sciences were well funded. Even the arts were funded. Btw, Jackson Pollock was funded by the CIA. Left wing ideas like welfare and housing projects were given respectable attempts. etc.

We could easily launch an artistic war against radical Islam by creating good television programming that dealt with issues like women's and gay rights is a supportive, positive, and relevant manor, and broadcasting these shows all over the world for free from satellites.. but nobody cares.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:28 AM on December 31, 2009


Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.

Is that really true? They actually do seem to have a preference for airplanes. Maybe it's a residual thinking from when they were soft targets, maybe it's because they want to remind people of 9/11 and just make plane flight scarry, or make airport security worse.

And by the way, even though it's a joke it would make sense for terrorists to want to make Airport security worse. After all, it's clearly something that really irritates us and something they actually have some control over.

If all this guy wanted to do was blow a bunch of people up, he could have flown here, landed safely, had a bomb shipped in and blown up a bunch of people at a football game, or something.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 AM on December 31, 2009


Though he attempts to dispell the "movie-plot" terrorist myth, he still seems to fall into the trap of paining all terrorists with the same broad brush. Some terrorists are ideologically driven suicidal plotters who wish to make the biggest impact with the largest effect, others are driven by hatred and want to kill as many people as possible, but perhaps live. Others don't want to harm any people at all but want to create fear or break some system they see as wrong. There are combinations and nuances beyond all of this. Saying things like:

Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.

paints all the "Terr'ists" with the same fear dripping brush as "they hate us for our freedoms."
posted by Pollomacho at 7:20 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bomb sniffing dogs are effective both for luggage and personnel searches. It requires about 6 months and costs about $10k to train a bomb sniffing dog, and periodic retraining expenses cost roughly $5k per year.

And just sniffing dogs are cheaper. What you do is you take a trained professional with a dog that sniffs everything and watch for the people who start to act very nervous. A small fraction of them will be people who are afraid of dogs. The rest will be people who are afraid of bomb and drug sniffing dogs.

The fear-of-dog factor would be easier to manage if everyone wasn't convinced that all police dogs are German Shepherds. Yes, I know that's not true, but the image people have is that of the Cop with the German Shepherds, and it's that image that makes this work.

Of course, you do want some fully trained dogs. But the common theme in effective screening isn't the questions, or the systems, it's watching how people react to them. That's why it's hard, and why it's expensive -- you need very trained screeners, and you need time for the reactions to happen.

The expensive part isn't the dog -- trained or not trained. It's the officer with the leash, who needs to know how to work with the dog while watching people.
posted by eriko at 7:24 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Think like the enemy.

All right. If I were a terrorist, I'd get the USA airport security lines so backed up that there were hundreds and hundreds of people in the airport lobby and then I'd drive an explosives laden Hummer right into the JFK Airport lobby.

Or, if I didn't want to damage my hummer, I'd just set off the most effective bomb I could make from my carry-on suitcase in the lobby. Perhaps once I reached the middle of the ticket line.

Or I'd do like they did in Spain and go after a crowded Subway station.

I mean, maybe terrorists romanticize airplanes or something, but there's a lot of other, better ways to kill and frighten people than airplanes.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:24 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fear-of-dog factor would be easier to manage if everyone wasn't convinced that all police dogs are German Shepherds. Yes, I know that's not true, but the image people have is that of the Cop with the German Shepherds, and it's that image that makes this work.

I was on a KLA flight from Amsterdam one time when the customs guys came in, out of uniform, with the cutest, happiest little beagle. They walked him around and let the kids pet him and he'd like them and wag his tail. In between he'd sniff people and bags. They got to me and I scratched his head, then they moved to the next guys, two hipsterish guys in the late 20s who did not even look at the dog but stayed focused on the bagage conveyor, robotically focused. Then happy dog gave them a sniff and let out a little muffled snarf, not a bark, just a little grunt. Off they went to another happy petting family. Two seconds later the black clad stormtrooper types popped out of nowhere and dragged the hipsters off to what on can assume was a very lovely experience in a back room.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:32 AM on December 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


Al Qaeda took credit for the plot to blow up that plane. Which is kind of weird on the face of it, as usually people or organizations try to avoid taking credit for failures.

Unless of course, it's not that Al Qaeda is all that interested in blowing up planes and killing people, but making the US freak out and live in fear instead. Which means, way to go Al Qaeda, another successful mission.
posted by nushustu at 7:37 AM on December 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


Are we just lucky?
Or is the enemy incompetent? Or.... what?


Or perhaps we're not as under attack as we are led to believe.
posted by sourwookie at 7:38 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where can I buy one of these terrorist-repulsing rocks?
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 7:38 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Terrorism itself is theater. It's called "terrorism" because it's supposed to scare people. Therefore, the best "defense" is counter theater. The problem only arises if sufficient numbers of people find the counter theater unconvincing, but that doesn't seem to be happening. News is very much like entertainment and people know to willingly suspend their disbelief.

While the purpose of terrorism may be to scare people, I'd say it's more than just mere 'theater' because it does manage to kill people. It's theater in the John Wilkes Booth sense. So, I think we need more than just 'theater' to protect against it. If people are hating on all of the new BS TSA screening processes it's not because it's unconvincing theater - it's because none of it does a damn thing to keep us safe.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 7:43 AM on December 31, 2009


It's suggestive, definitely, but I'm just surprised a cryptographer with as strong a mathematical background as Schneier would argue that a single sample would be representative. Put a hundred first class travelers into different parts of the system with falsified papers etc. and let's see what happens. One person getting through, not great, certainly, but a statistically speaking, any system can never be 100% foolproof. If a hundred tests are done and more than a few get through, that would be pretty damning.

Well, you certainly learn something with a single trial, but I think that was just one of many, many trials where undercover operatives got through with all kinds of weapons and fake bombs.

But Josh Marshall made a good point:
It's pretty hard to find any part of the terrorism story that isn't suffused and tainted by partisan politics. But one example that keeps coming back to me is this example of the "backscatter" body scanners which would dramatically increase security but also, allegedly, create unacceptable intrusions into personal privacy.

but when it comes to submitting to a quick scan that might show a vague outline of boobs or penises (almost certainly no more than is exposed in most bathing suits), that's a bridge too far.
Something about that doesn't compute to me. And what I like about this is that there's no clear partisan division on this one. Everyone seems to agree. It just tells me that at some level we're not really serious about this.
If we cared, we would be doing the body scans, But we don't care that much. It's just that some people are want to see people from Muslim countries put through extra security so that they, personally, don't have to get hassled. No inconvenience is too great for other kinds of people to deal with.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our current response to terrorism is a form of "magical thinking." It relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.

Totally nailed it.

When I flew back to the US on the 27th, I understood that the safety measures were put in place as a response to the attack, but I also understood that they were simply to make us feel better as the likelihood that someone would try exactly the same thing two days later when it hadn't even worked the first time was slim to none.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well conversation about what "the terrorists" want is, frankly, a bit ridiculous. I go down to the airport tomorrow with a bomb in my trousers and suddenly I become part of the pattern, the conspiracy, and all of you have to figure me into your thinking about what "the terrorists" want. That's nonsense. I'm an individual. This latest uproar is over the actions of an individual. Why did that guy go for a plane as opposed to another, easier target, is the question. I can only think that the hysteria raised wrt air travel -- given that he would clearly be fanning those flames -- is exactly why.

It occurs to me that these tactics might just be a giant feint; I mean really: shoe bomb, liquids, flaming undies -- they all seem a bit 'amateur hour'.

So again, Mr. Amateur goes and does something ten times as stupid tomorrow. You're going to conclude something about "the terrorists" on the basis of that?
Come on.

This strikes me as just another form of the talisman-grasping we see from those who are actually comforted by TSA nonsense -- that there's a pattern where, if you ban the right stuff, figure out the motive, make the appropriate sacrifices, you'll be ok. Bullshit. A math lesson is what everybody needs. There is danger everywhere.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:00 AM on December 31, 2009


eriko, I bet you can get by using less experienced officers if your dogs are actually trained for sniffing out bombs, well you can train the dog and handler in 6 months, but the caliber cops your discussing have years of experience.

I'd imagine the dog's size is mostly cultural since the animal and handler need some rapport. American cops will more commonly be big dog people, while Europeans often use small dogs for drug and bomb sniffing. Labrador retrievers would make a good compromise between keeping the dog friendly and non-threatening while also appealing to handlers.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:17 AM on December 31, 2009


I agree that the US has significantly backpedaled from its commitments to civil liberties following 9/11, though this backpedaling is not the first curtailment of “freedom” in the US.

But let’s be honest here. The term “security theater” is accurate enough. I’m down with that. But decrying airport security measures as “security theater” seems to me decrying the inconvenience to air passengers. The effect of “security theater” on my sense of civil liberties is as a major irritant at worst.

I’m much more troubled by those invisible systems of security Schneier approves. You know, things like warrantless wiretapping and the preemptive disruption of protests as happened at the 2004 and 2008 RNC conventions. I’m also furious at the ongoing refusal to respect the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.

I understand security theater wastes time and money and that it strikes fear into the heart of the airborne masses, but a serious curtailing of civil liberty it ain’t.
posted by mistersquid at 8:20 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was on a KLA flight from Amsterdam one time when the customs guys came in, out of uniform, with the cutest, happiest little beagle. They walked him around and let the kids pet him and he'd like them and wag his tail. In between he'd sniff people and bags. They got to me and I scratched his head, then they moved to the next guys, two hipsterish guys in the late 20s who did not even look at the dog but stayed focused on the bagage conveyor, robotically focused. Then happy dog gave them a sniff and let out a little muffled snarf, not a bark, just a little grunt. Off they went to another happy petting family. Two seconds later the black clad stormtrooper types popped out of nowhere and dragged the hipsters off to what on can assume was a very lovely experience in a back room.

Oh, man, the TSA beagles. Boston has a whole squadron of those guys patrolling baggage claim on international flights, and every time I don't declare foodstuffs at customs, those adorable little beagle faces are the bane of my existence, because my 'OMG PAT THE PUPPY' impulse overwhelms my 'must keep surreptitiously smuggled dried meat products away from customs people' impulse, and I have to circle around to the other side of the conveyor belt before I get myself dragged off to the oubliette.
posted by Mayor West at 8:27 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't everyone know this? It's like a scholarly essay refuting creationism: no matter how well argued it lends implied credibility to bullshit.

Perhaps, but the presence of bullshit does not outweigh the need for the truth.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, the TSA beagles.

Heck yes. On my Houston-bound flight recently the cute widdle puppy and the enthusiastic handler bypassed all the incoming South American flights and planted themselves at the Paris baggage claim. Who'd've expected that one??! Thankfully someone else's suitcase full of cheese came out before mine did. Never have I carried so much weight so far, so fast, in my life.
posted by whatzit at 8:48 AM on December 31, 2009


But let’s be honest here. The term “security theater” is accurate enough. I’m down with that. But decrying airport security measures as “security theater” seems to me decrying the inconvenience to air passengers. The effect of “security theater” on my sense of civil liberties is as a major irritant at worst.

Schneier isn't speaking as a civil libertarian. He's speaking as a security expert. Regardless, encroachment on civil liberties is important, though he's not really addressing that.

Security theater is a big problem because it's ineffective, and because it promotes a false sense of security. Theater with no real security to back it up is expensive and worthless.

I understand security theater wastes time and money and that it strikes fear into the heart of the airborne masses, but a serious curtailing of civil liberty it ain’t.

Well, that is your opinion, though as for Schneier's role, see above.

As for the irritant aspect, I won't fly anymore unless I have to. I consider it to be a major encroachment on my civil liberties and my human dignity.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we cared, we would be doing the body scans, But we don't care that much.

No, if we cared, we'd be doing what works, not overreacting.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:58 AM on December 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


That 538 article sure is junk. He really should stick to analyzing polls.
posted by smackfu at 9:01 AM on December 31, 2009


Is that really true? They actually do seem to have a preference for airplanes. Maybe it's a residual thinking from when they were soft targets, maybe it's because they want to remind people of 9/11 and just make plane flight scarry, or make airport security worse.

Honestly, I think if I were a terrist, I'd target planes specifically because that's where we've built up our security theater.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:04 AM on December 31, 2009


Pollomacho, your story reminds me of an event that I witnessed once. I used to fly from Amsterdam to London very regularly. One one flight two incidents occurred and I'm sure they're related. Soon after everyone boarded the flight crew announced that the baggage handlers had managed to put the entire plane's baggage onto another plane. Realising this error, the handlers had removed the baggage and placed it on the tarmac. The entire flight had to disembark, individually identify their luggage so that it could be put into the hold. As you can imagine, this took some time.

Upon arrival in London the entire flight had to queue up for extra screening; some questions, a look through everyone's hand luggage and a once over from a dust-buster thingy. The whole flight was waiting to be screened and most people were not in a good mood. However, this was to change. It would transpire that one of the first people off the plane had been busted carrying some rancid (and I mean rancid) porn DVDs. He seemingly hadn't had the foresight to take them out of the packaging and one of the customs officials, in confiscating them, walked down the line with them staked up on one hand, spines with none too creative titles showing, his other grasping the horny perpetrator's arm. I have no idea why he didn't cover up the DVDs (I suppose they were trying to make an example of him) but it did enable me to get a glimpse of one the titles which suggested that the story had something to do with animal husbandry. This must have been the most embarrassing moment of this young lad's life. A ripple of laughter started down the line. I was halfway down the queue so by the time the official and our hero had got to me we were duly primed. I've never seen such a diverse group of people laugh at something so taboo. There were old ladies and uptight businessmen, mothers and children. As far as I could tell, the entire line burst out laughing, some people had tears rolling down their faces.

Once it came time to have one's bags searched the customs guys were their usual arsehole selves, but that really didn't matter as they had provided entertainment enough. Since that day I can't walk through a customs line without hoping that I'll see something like this again.
posted by ob at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2009


The whole flight was waiting to be screened and most people were not in a good mood. However, this was to change. It would transpire that one of the first people off the plane had been busted carrying some rancid (and I mean rancid) porn DVDs.

So ... it's illegal to bring porn through customs into London? I wasn't aware of that, or that it would pose any danger. I guess it's funny, but it's actually pretty sad that someone would be in trouble with the law for that.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:08 AM on December 31, 2009


Yeah, at least it used to be. This would have been 2001, maybe 2002. I don't know if things have changed.
posted by ob at 10:21 AM on December 31, 2009


It would transpire that one of the first people off the plane had been busted carrying some rancid (and I mean rancid) porn DVDs.,.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT REALLY???????????? It's not funny, it's not even sad, it's real fucking troubling and upsetting. "Come with me sir, you have some thoughtcrime on you and must be reprogrammed" Unless it was child pornography, the poor chaps liberties were totally stripped, and he was humiliated for harmless printed material. How will you feel when it's someone being led away for having copies of Ulysses or Naked Lunch or the Kama Sutra or Metafilter: the Coffee Table Book? How about if it was a stack of gay porn?

I mean, SERIOUSLY? They came for him and you didn't speak out because LULZ TEH GROSS PURVERT. Is this really what London is like? WTFF? A young man was detained because he had pornographic DVD? Interrogated? Roughed up for being a faggot? Who's next?









You.
posted by fuq at 10:51 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who's next?









You.


Only if crossword puzzles and stuffed koalas are considered pornographic. If anyone found my life interesting enough to be *worthy* of thought crime, it would be a very sad day.

(I see your point, I'm just noticing how very, very boring I am as a human specimen.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:55 AM on December 31, 2009


If anyone found my life interesting enough to be *worthy* of thought crime, it would be a very sad day.

A very sad day indeed. So, are you a religious person? Ok... and what, exectly, do you believe in? I see... Did you vote in the last election? MmHm, and for whom? Alright... What race were your parents?... Thank you, that will be all.

You need to come with me right now, everyone is guilty of thoughtcrime to someone.
posted by fuq at 11:02 AM on December 31, 2009


Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks of this, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
posted by maortiz at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2009


HOLY FUCKING SHIT REALLY???????????? It's not funny, it's not even sad, it's real fucking troubling and upsetting.

Yes it's true. The material was illegal in the UK (at least at the time.) Why the hell would I speak out? The material was illegal. You're projecting a whole bunch of things onto this. If you're at an airport and someone gets detained for doing something illegal are you going to stand up for them? To reiterate, as far as I coul tell this porn involved animals, something which, at least at the time was to the best of my knowledge illegal in the UK.

Whether it should be illegal or not is another matter, but the point was really that if you are going to break the law at least try and be subtle with it. Clearly they were looking for drugs but they came up with porn. Do I agree with censorship? No, not at all, but it's alive and kicking in the UK.

How will you feel when it's someone being led away for having copies of Ulysses or Naked Lunch or the Kama Sutra or Metafilter: the Coffee Table Book? How about if it was a stack of gay porn?

Different. That is not a rational argument.


I mean, SERIOUSLY? They came for him and you didn't speak out because LULZ TEH GROSS PURVERT. Is this really what London is like? WTFF? A young man was detained because he had pornographic DVD? Interrogated? Roughed up for being a faggot? Who's next?

Wow, you've taken that to a whole new level of shrill. Not once did I say anything about gay porn let alone gay bashing. Where the flying fuck did you get that from?
posted by ob at 12:46 PM on December 31, 2009


Also, that being the UK, I'm pretty sure that the customs officer was going to take him into a room and tell him that he really shouldn't have brought the material into the country before letting him go. I very much doubt that he was even arrested or even cautioned for that.
posted by ob at 12:50 PM on December 31, 2009


Stuffed Koalas? THAT IS SICK!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:52 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, what I really was going to comment on was this:

I’m much more troubled by those invisible systems of security Schneier approves. You know, things like warrantless wiretapping and the preemptive disruption of protests....

Uh, is this Irving Schneier, your corner grocer you're talking about? The troubling dissolution of privacy is something Bruce Schneier comments on pretty frequently.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2009


Lastly, not that I brought it up, but as you did, I feel that I should point out that the UK is quite a long way ahead of the US in terms of gay rights. Just in case you projected from my story that the UK was some kind of fascist gay-bashing distopia.
posted by ob at 12:58 PM on December 31, 2009


A surprising amount of outrage on behalf of pig-fuckers in this thread.
posted by delmoi at 1:56 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


fuq, did yo read the story? It was about animal porn, for god's sake. From wikipedia's entry on "Zoophilia and the Law," in reference to UK bestiality porn laws:

Possession of pornography was criminalised in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The law on pornography is broader than that of actual acts: it also covers oral sex; it applies to dead animals as well as living; images are illegal even if they are faked. Thus an image of a legal act may be illegal to possess. The first prosecutions for bestiality pornography occurred in 2009.

Gay and straight human porn is no problem. Calm down dude.
posted by Monsters at 2:37 PM on December 31, 2009


The material was illegal. You're projecting a whole bunch of things onto this. If you're at an airport and someone gets detained for doing something illegal are you going to stand up for them?

My bunx. I guess I was puking Americanism all over the place, which I grant you is in poor form. But I probably would have given the officer a hard time "Hey don't you have some real crime to enforce?" That is one reason why I'm bad at security theater. In any case, I have no plans to ever travel to London, so it's not my problem.

What motivated my antagonistic response is that some people's reaction to bestiality is uncomfortably similar to many people's reaction to homosexuality? You might not be as uptight about it as I am since, as you say, the UK is more progressive as far as gay rights than the US, and I grew up in the American South. Not long ago, and not far away, (see: Uganda) gay pornography would be in the same category as bestiality porn. In some counties in some states, I think it still may be. Blah blah blah. I'm relieved to know that the person would have only received a talking to.

It makes me very upset when a police apparatus takes issue with someone's sexuality when it is expressed in pornography. (Though, bestiality is extremely objectionable due to the fact that the animals can not consent.) Keep in mind that Naked Lunch was declared obscene and banned (in America at least) and Ulysses went through an obscenity trial too, which makes them similar to the obscene, banned material the subject caught flack for. What I'm saying here is that yes, I am very shrilly against censorship, even when it's the censorship of pig-fuckers. I am also extremely obnoxiously against people being humiliated for their sexual kinks.

Anyway, I have derail this train and I'm sorry about that. I think we can all agree that confiscating porn and humiliating someone doesn't make us safer.
posted by fuq at 2:38 PM on December 31, 2009


On the subject of such things, here is a happy story about marital aids and airport security. I once traveled back from Europe with a cool new, uh, massager I'd picked up in Amsterdam. I was flying out through Munich and at the time I spoke very little German.

The frau in charge of security questions at the check-in line asked me in English, "do you you any battery operated devices in your luggage?" Being a straightforward, sex-positive sort of gal, I told her that yes, I had a travel alarm, a camera, and a vibrator. She looked confused-- "Vibrator?" she asked. I thought for a moment, put my hand on my groin and said "Bzzzzz."

She laughed and waved me on.
posted by Monsters at 2:46 PM on December 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


"Keep in mind that Naked Lunch was declared obscene"
__________________________________________
agree. humanity is absurd no?
And Gratuitous killing movies like SAW have posters in street windows for kiddies to look
at decapped bodies.

A trick i learnt in bankok international.. go to declared line and then say i cant wait and give them 500 baht..works every time
posted by Joachim at 2:57 PM on December 31, 2009


fuq, totally cool, I thought that you must have misread what I wrote. As a Brit living in the US I quite understand that everyone's perceptions of things are coloured by one's cultural background and upbringing. Anyway, we're on the same page here.
posted by ob at 2:59 PM on December 31, 2009


A surprising amount of outrage on behalf of pig-fuckers in this thread.

At the risk of beating to death a well-worn cliche ...

"First they came for the pig-fuckers, and I did not speak out, because I did not fuck pigs ..."
posted by krinklyfig at 3:50 PM on December 31, 2009


Unless of course, it's not that Al Qaeda is all that interested in blowing up planes and killing people, but making the US freak out and live in fear instead.

Now you're thinking like your enemy.

Al Qaeda has been sending a pretty consistent message to the US for a very long time now. Essentially: look what we can do! We can cost you billions of dollars, and induce your own leaders to undermine your much trumpeted freedoms! We can do this easily! We can do it by spending far less money on you than you do on us, and losing far fewer of our lives than of yours! If you wish us to stop doing these things, you need to persuade your leaders to get out of bed with the corrupt Saudi princes, and get your troops out of our holy land; and while you're at it, start enforcing UN resolutions against your Israeli friends instead of vetoing every single one.

And you know what? They're right. They can do these things.

And you know what else? Their demands are reasonable, and doing all those things would actually be in the US's best medium to long term interest even if Al Qaeda didn't exist.

What's absolutely tragic about the whole mess is that Al Qaeda is also thinking like its enemy, working from the premise that dramatic demonstrations of power beat slow, faltering diplomacy when in fact all they do is harden the opposing positions and make meaningful change take longer. How is anything supposed to change, when any change can so easily be construed as appeasing the terrorists / knuckling under to the Great Satan?

Just as security theater is an ineffective response to terrorism, terrorist power theater is an ineffective response to global injustice.
posted by flabdablet at 4:09 PM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]



Where can I buy one of these terrorist-repulsing rocks?

Drop me an email. I have a great selection of TRR's. All proven effective with lifetime guarantees. I will even include a special "carry" certificate that will allow you to carry your terrorist-repulsing rock on all national and international flights.
posted by notreally at 6:33 PM on December 31, 2009


Joachim wrote:
Cause an overheat and stall the scram. and there goes virginia.


There is this thing, it is called a containment building. It holds things, even many nasty things.
posted by wierdo at 6:36 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


CUI BONO
for gods sake
posted by dougiedd at 11:50 PM on December 31, 2009


in other words, NO it is not mostly for show. it is for profit and creating fear.
posted by dougiedd at 11:56 PM on December 31, 2009


« Older MAN is one of a number of animals that make things...  |  Portraits of the Hadza people ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments