By my calculation, over the past 15 years, the American government has spent $100 billion to $150 billion on failed or unworthy homeland-security programs and on acquiring and maintaining equipment that hasn’t worked. However, as with the equipment procured for port inspections, launching the TSA, and grants for protecting New York’s subway tunnels and running emergency drills in Boston, much more than that was well spent. Steven Brill takes a deep dive into the post-9/11 security state. [SLATLANTIC]
Can common items sold in airports after the security screening be used to build lethal weapons? Yes.
If you’re going to have security theater, you need props. James McCormick was sentenced yesterday in the UK to three ten-year jail terms for selling magic wands - rebranded gag golf ball finders he claimed could detect explosives.
In the latest (ongoing) Economist debate (run Oxford-style), security expert Bruce Schneier and architect of the TSA Kip Hawley are facing off to respectively defend and attack the motion "This house believes that changes made to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good." Overview. Opening statements. Rebuttals. (Surprisingly cogent) comments from the floor.
"Carried to its logical end, TSA policy would have to require passengers to travel naked or handcuffed."
"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ... have made air travel the most difficult means of mass transit in the United States, at the same time failing to make air travel any more secure." Steve Moore has been an FBI Special Agent, head of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force's Al Qaeda and extra-territorial squads, a SWAT agent trained to interdict airplane hijackings, and a pilot. His father literally wrote the book on airline security. And he has come to the conclusion that "TSA is one of the worst-run, ineffective and most unnecessarily intrusive agencies in the United States government." [more inside]
"Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 trillion on homeland security." To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest.
Vance Gilbert is, in his own words, "big in the music business like a barnacle is big in shipping". Performing solo with acoustic guitar, his original music (including songs about Old White Men, Gilligan and the planet Pluto) and some well-chosen covers, as well as his on-stage banter, have charmed audiences all over* for umpteen years. He has made a reply to CeeLo's infamous song, performed alongside Arlo Guthrie while having an attack of gout and in his spare time, he makes free-flying models of antique airplanes. But sadly, he has just gotten the most publicity of his career... as an unwilling participant in one airline's Security Theater. (Story picked up by The Consumerist, the Economist, and James Fallows at the Atlantic.) [more inside]
A little bit of security theater will shut down in April as the Department of Homeland Security will end the color coded Homeland Security Advisory System. The terror alert has not changed from yellow in over four years, unless you are on an international flight. The system has been criticized immensely since its introduction. And don't forget the jokes. [more inside]
This list of commercial airliner bombings appears in the Ask a Rocket Scientist section of Aerospaceweb.org. It presents a comprehensive and descriptive catalog of 86 bombings and attempted bombings since 1933, 54 of which resulted in fatalities, and offers some information that might be relevant to the question of airline security.
Man boards plane in elderly disguise (video) Canadian authorities have detained a young Asian man who was wearing a silicone head and neck mask making him appear to be an elderly Caucasian male. [more inside]
"Better people than I have sacrificed more than their careers, their livelihood, for the cause of freedom. Americans need to wake up and stand up." Michael Roberts, a pilot for ExpressJet, refused to enter the millimeter wave machine. TSA called the police and sent him home. [more inside]
Remember Peter Watts, the Canadian sci-fi writer who in December was arrested and charged with assaulting a border agent, resisting arrest, and being an asshole after being pulled over for inspection while leaving the US because his rental car had Washington plates? He was today found guilty of "failure to comply with a lawful command" by a Port Huron, Michigan, jury. Part Three, The Sentencing, will take place April 26. Watts faces up to two years in federal prison. [more inside]
Is aviation security mostly for show? An essay by Bruce Schneier.
The TSA has accidentally posted their SOP online. Not having learned proper redaction techniques after dozens of other companies and government agencies made the same mistake, the TSA posted their complete "Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures" manual online in PDF format. [more inside]
Clear, the "security service" that allowed travellers to bypass TSA security lines, offered a Father's Day discount if you purchased a one-year membership by June 21. On June 23, Clear ceased operations. Sorry, no refunds.
"Serious problems" found at nation's airport security checkpoints. Local TV station KSTP found that airport employees, including cleaning staff, are often allowed to enter secured areas of airports at night without anyone checking their identification badge or the bags and other belongings they bring into the so-called sterile areas. [more inside]
Biomaterial charges against N.Y. art professor dismissed. A judge has thrown out the charges against Steve Kurtz. Finally. Kurtz's case was previously discussed here and here. [Via]
ACLU Watch List Counter: U.S. Terror List Now Exceeds 900,000 Names. That's an awful lot of terrorists. More Privacy and Surveillance Filter: Bruce Schneier on The Myth of the 'Transparent Society', Glenn Greenwald on The Banality of the Surveillance State, and Stephen Colbert on AT & Treason. [more inside]
Heckuva Job DHS! 5 Years of Corporate Cronyism. CREW and Brave New Foundation have joined forces to create this video and a report, Homeland Security for Sale, documenting five years of waste, fraud and abuse at the Department of Homeland Security. [Via Think Progress.]
Surveillance Society Clock. "It's six minutes before midnight as a surveillance society draws near within the United States." [Via Danger Room.]
Homeland Insecurity. "What happened to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which Democratic leaders promised to make one of their top legislative priorities? What are the most deadly potential terrorist targets no one talks about—and who's lobbying against securing them? What's the one measure that could improve our chances of preventing an attack—without costing a penny? Why are the 2008 presidential candidates—Republicans and Democrats alike—nowhere on this issue? In this seven-part series Mother Jones' senior correspondent James Ridgeway examines how the government has let homeland security languish since September 11, 2001, with dire consequences."
What's the Big Secret? Four surveillance experts try to figure out what the NSA's superclassified wiretapping program really is (hint: it may have something to do with the filters). They don't seem to realize that this kind of reckless public discussion means some Americans are going to die. [Via Threat Level.]
Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check. The passage of the new FISA bill was a hurried response to the revelation that the FISA court recently decided that at least part of the NSA wiretapping program is illegal. It looks to be another step in our gradual transition into a National Surveillance State.
The Psychology of Security. An essay by Bruce Schneier on the difference between the feeling of security and the reality of security. [Via MindHacks.]
Marshals: Innocent People Placed On 'Watch List' To Meet Quota "Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," says one federal Air Marshal. Why? Because a memo from management requires marshals to file one Surveillance Detection Report (SDR) per month, and failure to do so will negatively impact upon their annual raises, bonuses, awards and special assignments. Marshals deny fabricating stories wholesale, but claim to have resorted to creatively stretching the truth to turn benign acts into potential threats and the harm this may cause to people who have done nothing wrong seems irrelevant to the marshals and the TSA officials who created the rules.
Terrorists from Antarctica. Two Seaworld penguins flying out of San Diego airport are sent walking through the metal detector. Better safe than sorry. via BoingBoing, via Schneier
The fish that threatened national security. Lara Hayhurst, a student at Pace University, needed to take one small thing through the checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport: her pet beta fish MJ. This was, however, an apparent threat to the security of the airport and Lara's flight home to Pittsburgh for winter break. Flush the fish or become a felon? Read about Lara's decision and how the TSA forced her hand. Remember, when 2" long tropical fish can freely gain access to our airliners, the terrorists have... yada yada.
What should I pack? According to the official list Toy Transformer Robots are OK (presumably real ones are not), but I'll have to put my throwing stars in my checked luggage.
"Relax, this is your captain speaking." (Chicago Tribune link, use metafilter/metafilter to view) A United Airlines captain made a refreshingly honest, down to earth statement, in the cabin rather than the cockpit, at the beginning of Chicago - DC flight recently. A Chicago Trib reporter transcribed the pilot's remarks, and they seem to be just the kind of no-nonsense reassurance that the flying public could use more of right about now. Would you like to hear something like this the next time you have to fly?
Well, gee, no kidding! The Indiana Education Policy Center released a study yesterday which stated the obvious: strict zero-tolerance policies do not necessarily create safer schools for children and teachers. Expelling students under zero-tol rules doesn't change student behaviour, unfairly targets minority students and can lead to an escalation of dropout rates.