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Schneier, Journalist Poke Holes In TSA Policies 296

Posted by Soulskill
from the leave-my-shoes-alone dept.
Fallen Andy points out an article in The Atlantic written by Jeffrey Goldberg. He and Bruce Schneier teamed up to put the TSA's policies to the test at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. They found plenty of evidence for security theater, and rather less for actual security. Quoting: "'The whole system is designed to catch stupid terrorists,' Schneier told me. ... As I stood in the bathroom, ripping up boarding passes, waiting for the social network of male bathroom users to report my suspicious behavior, I decided to make myself as nervous as possible. I would try to pass through security with no ID, a fake boarding pass, and an Osama bin Laden T-shirt under my coat. I splashed water on my face to mimic sweat, put on a coat (it was a summer day), hid my driver's license, and approached security with a bogus boarding pass that Schneier had made for me. ... 'All right, you can go,' [an airport security supervisor] said, pointing me to the X-ray line. 'But let this be a lesson for you.'"
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Schneier, Journalist Poke Holes In TSA Policies

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ironix (165274) <.steffen. .at. .norgren.ca.> on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:05PM (#25419787) Homepage
    I wouldn't doubt that the whole system isn't there to catch actual terrorists, but to simply condition the populace into accepting this kind of routine as a the standard quo. Fo
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DriedClexler (814907) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:34PM (#25421015)

      I wouldn't doubt that the whole system isn't there to catch actual terrorists, but to simply condition the populace into accepting this kind of routine as a the standard quo. Fo

      You left off "shizzle".

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slarrg (931336) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:25AM (#25421937)

      We have a financial system that is built upon the government, huge corporations and consumers borrowing insane amounts of money to keep the myth of a strong US going. The TSA's primary purpose is to create a show designed to make the public-at-large feel safe and keep spending their money by flying. If a significant percentage of people stopped flying because of fear, the entire airline industry would collapse.

      After 9/11, Bush was all over the airwaves telling people to continue to go to work and not stop spending their money because we need to keep the economy strong. Of course, when an anthrax tainted letter was found in a congressional mail sorting facility, congress closed its doors. But we simple consumers need to just keep borrowing money and consuming to keep the economy strong and if that means creating a government agency to create a theater show, then that's just what our government will do.

      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @01:42AM (#25422249) Homepage

        ... telling people to continue to go to work and not stop spending their money because we need to keep the economy strong. Of course, when an anthrax tainted letter was found in a congressional mail sorting facility, congress closed its doors.

        Sadly, I think one of the best things you could do for the economy would be to get congress to run away more often...

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday October 18, 2008 @01:39AM (#25422237) Homepage

      I wouldn't doubt that the whole system isn't there to catch actual terrorists, but to simply condition the populace into accepting this kind of routine as a the standard quo.

      I know people desperately want to see this as a subtle plot by hidden puppetmasters, but really, as with all conspiracy theories, Hanlon's Razor needs to be considered:

      "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

      The desire to seek explanations involving some controlling individual or group is as old as humanity itself. The vast pantheon of gods invented to explain the frighteningly random whims of nature bear witness to this. Unfortunately, that's simply not the way it is. Nature is implacable. Tornadoes and tidal waves are inevitable, as is stupid security theater. Security theater is itself a kind of appeal to "the gods" to keep us safe. The truth is, people are just plain fucking stupid, particularly large groups of people put in charge of something that can't really be prevented. Yes, they do think this is to "stop terrorists". It's not logical, it's just blind reaction. In its own way, this is actually worse than the machinations of a secret cabal, because there's no central controlling authority to expose and thwart. It's just a giant morass of human nature. Half the population has an IQ of under 100, and many of them work for the TSA. All we can do is keep explaining their error and hope they learn.

  • Schneier bothers me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:06PM (#25419807) Homepage Journal

    While he occasionally manages to pass on common sense to people who are confused by propaganda, he still manages to pass on the propaganda! Where this journalist is saying that TSA policies are not there to catch terrorists, they're just there to make people feel better, Schneier is giving advice on how to improve the policies to catch terrorists. They're not interested in catching terrorists Bruce!

    He rocks the boat, but he never connects the dots.

     

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:11PM (#25419867) Homepage
      I agree. I miss the Schneier who was the author of Applied Cryptography [amazon.com] , an icon for the cypherpunks who seemed to foretell a coming golden age of privacy, where the average man would sock it to the Man with strong crypto. I understand his view that crypto isn't everything anymore, but he has gone from being an inspiring figure to a guy who seems like he just wants to look sagely and get lots of clients for his consulting business.
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) * on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:21PM (#25419957) Homepage
        Besides which, he's just flat out wrong sometimes:

        Schneier told me the recipe: "Get some steel epoxy glue at a hardware store. It comes in two tubes, one with steel dust and then a hardener. You make the mold by folding a piece of cardboard in two, and then you mix the two tubes together. You can use a metal spoon for the handle. It hardens in 15 minutes."

        Just fly first class. Use the steak knife.

        OTOH - just what do you plane to do next chucko - stab your way into the cockpit cabin? The whole article is pretty inane - Real Terrorists(TM) don't wear Hezbolah T-shirts. It appears that the TSA crews that he encountered by and large accurately pegged him as a harmless goof.

        Of course, these are largely the same group of fine folks that let my wife go through three checkpoints with a pair of bright orange, one inch diameter explosive flares that said "FLARE" in big black letters that were sitting in plain view in the mesh pockets of her backpack.

        Sigh.

        • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:46PM (#25420179)

          No no, it all makes perfect sense. It's all about behavior profiling. You see, any terrorist will take pains to hide his activities. Therefore anyone who looks like a terrorist most certainly isn't one. Anyone who carries guns, bombs, or other contraband openly is by definition safe, and so doesn't need to be searched.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745)

          Well, you gut the first attendant, while they are on the ground screaming in pain the other passengers will look on horrified and panic.

          Kick the cockpit door in(there pretty easy) and make your demands, meanwhile your partner(s) also gut a few people to keep everyone in order.

          Sound familiar?

          • by Carnildo (712617) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:05PM (#25420345) Homepage Journal

            Kick the cockpit door in(there pretty easy) and make your demands, meanwhile your partner(s) also gut a few people to keep everyone in order.

            At this point, you're going to run up against the one advance in airplane security that *has* been made post-9/11: you're not getting through the reinforced cockpit door with anything less than a battering ram.

            • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:11PM (#25420391)
              At this point, you're going to run up against the one advance in airplane security that *has* been made post-9/11: you're not getting through the reinforced cockpit door with anything less than a battering ram.

              No, the one advance in security is not the door to the cockpit, it's the understanding on everyone's part that cooperating with a hijacker isn't in anyone's interest anymore, and the half a dozen guys (and maybe a few women) who will be beating the terrorist to a bloody pulp as the rest of the passengers applaud.

              United 93 was a test. The next time, the plane won't go down while the bad guys get killed.

              • by besalope (1186101) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:57PM (#25420757)
                Wouldn't it be easier to just fly "SouthWest"?
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by tha_mink (518151)

                United 93 was a test. The next time, the plane won't go down while the bad guys get killed.

                Yep. Had to happen once, but won't happen twice.

                • It depends. If the hijackers managed to get on board with something a little more deadly than a box-cutter knife, it's hard to say what would happen. Trained soldiers can go up against real firepower and maybe win out, but a mass of average citizens wouldn't know how. It's not enough to just throw your life away: if you're up against an enemy that seriously outguns you, you really have to know what you're doing. It can still be done, but it's not so simple as overcoming a guy with a knife.
              • who will be beating the terrorist to a bloody pulp as the rest of the passengers applaud.

                Of course, what you're forgetting is that there's still the occasional hijacker who really does just want to fly to Cuba.

                • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:19PM (#25420903)
                  Of course, what you're forgetting is that there's still the occasional hijacker who really does just want to fly to Cuba.

                  This isn't something I have to worry about forgetting, it's something he better not forget. He's not going to make it.

                  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:11PM (#25421567)
                    I just meant that not all hijackers are trying to make a political statement or kill anyone. Some are just, well ... nuts, and some just want to get somewhere.

                    It's a moot point though: if you hijack a plane with a bunch of Americans on it now, odds are we're going to rip your head off and shit down your throat.
                • who will be beating the terrorist to a bloody pulp as the rest of the passengers applaud.

                  Of course, what you're forgetting is that there's still the occasional hijacker who really does just want to fly to Cuba.

                  Well, he should have thought of that before trying to hijack a flight out of the States, shouldn't he? :3

              • by symbolic (11752) on Friday October 17, 2008 @11:50PM (#25421781)

                I wonder how likely this is to happen. Think about it - we have a government that has systematically become of the most purposelessly invasive influences in our lives, that has routinely skirted the law, and routinely questioned the validity of our constitutional democracy - if we can't stand up to that by throwing out the yahoos in office who vote for this stuff, would they seriously be able to stand up to someone on a plane?

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by berashith (222128)

                  voting someone out requires voting someone else in, and that may not be the best choice. There is also a level of abstraction to the conduct of our government in washington.

                  on the other hand, being confronted by someone who wishes to directly cause harm to you and those around you is not nearly as abstract, and doesnt have to be replaced with someone that you hope has better intentions. The jackass on the plane just needs to be stopped.

                  There are two types of free, I think there are also two types of sheep.

            • by mp3LM (785954)

              I have heard this as well. I also heard the cockpit door was supposed to stay closed the entire time of the flight, which is why I was dis-heartened the last time I was on a plain and I saw them freely opening the cockpit door.

            • by EaglemanBSA (950534) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:27PM (#25420971)
              Or the other one...the pilot with a .40 Glock who's trained to kill people with it under his arm. I know, my brother is one.
            • And then you're trapped, and the passengers WILL start throwing punches. That's another post-911 lesson: I don't think anybody will let you ever hijack a plane, even if it's just going to land safely later.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by T-Bucket (823202)

              Oh, and don't forget the second advance. The FFDO program. (Commonly known as the "Guns in the cockpit program") By the time you get your second kick in on that door the pilot will be responding with a hail of bullets.

          • by murdocj (543661) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:25PM (#25420509)

            Yeah, it does sound familiar, which is why it isn't going to happen. Because immediately after you gut the flight attendent, 200 people who don't want to be flown into a big building are going to jump you. Basically, any kind of "smuggle a knife on and seize the plane from all the cowering people" isn't going to work anymore, because people would rather take a chance on getting knifed, than be killed for sure in plane crash.

        • by jhol13 (1087781)

          Just fly first class. Use the steak knife.

          Never flown first class. Several times gotten steel knives. Sure, they were as un-sharp as can be, but even I could sharpen one in few minutes to be *very* sharp (with a "stone" or diamond sharpener).

          The only time I was stopped was because I a "little" electronics, GPS, MP3, camera, razor, etc. and chargers & car adapter for most of those ...

        • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Saturday October 18, 2008 @12:45AM (#25422025) Homepage Journal

          I knew a guy who worked airport security pre-9/11. One day they were running a security drill, and pulled him aside when he let a guy through the checkpoint with a two-piece rifle. Why did he allow him to pass? "Because it wasn't a working rifle. It wasn't put together."

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:30PM (#25420035) Journal
        You have a point; but I'm not sure whether the change is a result of selling out, or a principled(if very depressing) change in his view of security, based on subsequent experience. After all, the broader cultural appeal of the "cypherpunks sticking it to the man on the unregulable internet that treats censorship as damage and routes around it" has fallen massively. You used to hear it all the time; both from various luminaries and in regurgitated form from flacks and cheerleaders, not nearly as much anymore.

        I suspect that it has something to do with his focus on the human element of security. The fact that you can build a cryptosystem that the feds can't break on your own computer with free tools, a modest knowledge of c, and some acquaintance with number theory is pretty damn cool. The fact that your fellow citizens will cheer as the feds waterboard the key out of you really puts that in perspective, though. It is hard to be a cypherpunk utopian when less than 1% of the population can be bothered to follow a step-by-step FAQ to set up PGP, and even geeks respond to google's data mining of their email by telling you how nice the interface is. Techies can argue, correctly, that the great firewall or any other censorware is full of fairly pitiful holes. That doesn't change the fact that it puts up enough resistance(which isn't much) to keep 95% of china's equivalent of average Joe from trying to get past it.

        In a way, I think that the cypherpunk ideal fell apart when they built it and nobody came. All sorts of strong crypto are available to everybody, for free, and aren't even all that much trouble to use. Almost nobody bothers, probably so few that those who do just stand out by doing so.

        I don't like the idea; but I strongly suspect that Schneier's decline in inspiration has more to do with his assessment of the state of security than it does with any specific sellout.
        • by mangu (126918) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:48PM (#25420199)

          In a way, I think that the cypherpunk ideal fell apart when they built it and nobody came. All sorts of strong crypto are available to everybody, for free, and aren't even all that much trouble to use. Almost nobody bothers, probably so few that those who do just stand out by doing so.

          Worse than that, it seems like anyone who knows anything about cryptography is automatically suspect these days. "If you have nothing to hide, then why do you need that"?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ScrewMaster (602015) *

            In a way, I think that the cypherpunk ideal fell apart when they built it and nobody came. All sorts of strong crypto are available to everybody, for free, and aren't even all that much trouble to use. Almost nobody bothers, probably so few that those who do just stand out by doing so.

            Worse than that, it seems like anyone who knows anything about cryptography is automatically suspect these days. "If you have nothing to hide, then why do you need that"?

            Sad but true. Of course, if people actually thought about this, they'd all have strong crypto. If the Feds grab your laptop, for example, they'll look for anything they can nail you on, "terroristic" or not. This confiscatory behavior on the part of the TSA is officially called "intelligence gathering" but what it really is is a widespread fishing expedition.

            If any of you carry computers around with you that are used regularly by, say, your co-workers ... would you really trust that machine to pass scrut

    • that's because he's a security expert, not a political pundit. people turn to him for analysis & advice about security practices, not about political issues.

      i think it would weaken his credibility if he tries to overstep the bounds of his expertise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by neapolitan (1100101)

      I agree on one hand, but in a way I think that he is asking the TSA to do what I don't want them to do in many ways, which is behavioral profiling. This also does not work (at least has a very low specificity and sensitivity), and could make our lives a lot worse by harassment instead of uniform policies.

      Stopping somebody because they are sweating is a bit ambitious, and is similar to what has been going on:

      http://govtsecurity.com/transportation_security/TSAsSPOTunit/ [govtsecurity.com]

      which is worse for most nerds. I am no

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekmux (1040042)

      He rocks the boat...

      And therin lies the fundamental difference between a noted expert in the Security field and the average joe. Bruce can and does rock the boat, where the average joes opinion would barely make a splash against the side of an inflatable raft.

      While I agree there seems to be more grandstanding nowadays, if anyone is going to effect some level of change, the chances are far greater with his sig at the bottom of the Security report.

      As with all things Security, it's always taken in baby steps unless something VER

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Obfuscant (592200)
        ...if anyone is going to effect some level of change, the chances are far greater with his sig at the bottom of the Security report.

        That's a danger, not a benefit.

        He missed the most obvious problem with his plan on "closing the triangle". He wants an id check when the person gets on the plane because only a stupid terrorist won't know how to steal a credit card and avoid the "do not fly" check by using a fake name when he buys the ticket.

        Only a stupid terrorist won't be able to get a fake id to go with

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:13PM (#25420867)
  • lol (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:07PM (#25419825) Journal

    "'But let this be a lesson for you.'"

    Yes, the security checks are total bogus. Glad we have shown that in the open right now...

    • Re:lol (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aranykai (1053846) <slgonser@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:22PM (#25419979)

      George Carlin had that nailed years and years ago when he said security is there to make the white middle-class feel safe. There is simply no way to make it safe, too many variables.

      RIP George.

      • Re:lol (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Prikolist (1260608) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:43PM (#25420157)

        It's not intended to make people safe or feel safe, that's just the excuse and the reason why the excuse works. Really TSA is just another step to reduce people's rights and move to a de-facto authoritarian state... Never doubted it, this story just proves it: they never even cared that it's effective to catch terrorists, nothing to do with that, just get people used to random unwarranted searches and seizures and arrests. It's the government and media that sucks up to it that keep people scared, keep them afraid, keep them in a state of terror... oh wait, isn't that what the evil terrorists are supposed to do not the government that "protects" from them? Does anyone even remember what does the word "terrorist" mean? Sorry for rent, it accumulates every once in a while...

      • Re:lol (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:14PM (#25420415)

        No, it's not there to make you feel safe. It's there to make you feel like you should feel safe, and be grateful for it, while feeling nervous enough to ask for more.

  • It *is* good theater (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grizdog (1224414) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:09PM (#25419841) Homepage
    Harry Shearer collects "Tales of Airport Security" for Le Show [harryshearer.com], and some of them are pretty funny. Search on "airport" and you'll get them, although I recommend the whole show.
  • Obamaism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:13PM (#25419877)

    When I went through at JFK and asked questions about why they were segregating my bag the supervisor came over and accused me of suffering from "Obamaism".

    I complained and TSA dismissed my complaint that the supervisor was making a joke. Really? TSA thinks that a citizen asking about his rights is a joke? Really?

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:17PM (#25419927)

    After all, they didn't arrest, because he didn't present a threat. And he didn't. So it's a bit difficult to say that the system failed, based on this story.

    However, it's interesting to see exactly how little actual security there is at the airport. Bruce is right - the only thing new is better cockpit doors and passengers who'd rather die than get high-jacked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      But you knew that already. Everything Bruce says is common knowledge. Do you really need him to reaffirm it?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Exactly right. Bruce is missing something that he normally understands quite well. Security begins and ends with the individual. Anyone trying anything funny on an airplane for the next 30 years will immediately get swarmed by the rest of the passengers who won't give a shit for their own lives so long as they can prevent the terrorist from carrying out his plan.

      There is no system or process you can build that is stronger or more robust than this.

      • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:47PM (#25420193)

        And yet we're wasting billions of dollars of our money building worthless systems on top of that. That's your money, and my money. I want it to stop. The best way to do this is to show how useless it is.

        I think you misunderstand Bruce's objections. He does not simply object to the fact that the TSA is insecure. He objects to the fact that the TSA wastes huge piles of money, and those huge piles of money could be used for better things.

      • by swillden (191260)
        Bruce isn't missing that at all. He cites that regularly as one of the only two things that have actually changed to improve security. He also points out that the two changes that matter are also pretty damned good -- particularly together. A terrorist's odds of getting through that reinforced cockpit door while fending off the passengers is practically nil.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:26PM (#25420953) Journal

        Bruce is missing something

        No. No he isn't. TFA directly quotes him discussing EXACTLY what you say he is "missing":

        "'Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.'"

        The point that you, and many others are missing, however, is a couple lines down:

        "the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. 'Spend the rest of your money [elsewhere, for better effects.]'"

        ie. The security of airlines is NOT at issue. The EFFECTIVENESS OF TSA, is. You would do better to save money by cutting back on TSA, and INVESTING it elsewhere. Elsewhere may be more maintenance on commercial jets, improving air traffic control, or perhaps even a few more air marshals.

        TSA is wasting lots of money, needlessly hassling travelers, and for all that, there's no appreciable improvement in security.

    • the only thing new is better cockpit doors and passengers who'd rather die than get high-jacked.

      Which is all we need. I want my pocket knife back.

    • Okay, how about the 80% of test bombs they let through screening?
  • You would think that if it were effective, they would be capturing people with provable ill intent. And you'd further think that if they did this, they'd want to tell th e world, loudly! After all, they could justify their own existence that way.

    Yet somehow, we haven't heard of one Mighty Terrorist being caught by TSA. ONe must assume that this is because they are not /being/ caught. So... if TSA is not catching terrorists, what the hell are they doing?

    The sole purpose is to make people feel protected (or violated, depending on your perspective). There's a sizeable portion of the population who feels reassured when senior citizens and soccer moms get pulled out of line for a closer search.

    Land of the free.

    Right.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by reboot246 (623534)
      They're too busy catching gray-haired grannies with long pointy knitting needles. Oh, and hassling people with joint replacements.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Question: Whom does this surprise?
      Answer: Lots of people.

      It's the sad truth. I mean, when you think about it, these practices got put in place by people who thought it would be a good idea (for whatever reason). There are also lots of people who just buy in to the security theater of "Oh, they check my ID, so that must filter out the terrorists" that hadn't ever looked at the policies from this point of view.

      Common sense isn't very common.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Apparently they are catching people stupid enough to attempt hijackings [bloomberg.com]. While no technology can be completely effective in blocking those willing to die for their cause, we have certainly cut down on the DB Cooper and asylum seeker types, haven't we?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        How do you figure? In your linked example, it was the passengers who stopped the hijack attempt from succeeding - not any kind of security measures that had been put in place.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alpha830RulZ (939527)

        The security didn't catch this guy, and the passengers subdued him. I'm a little confused as to your point.

  • The best we can do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaandre (526056) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:27PM (#25420013)

    I think the current state of airport security is just that - the best the agency can do, with it's current resources, budget and enormous demand for speedy throughput.

    I myself have pondered the possibility of some kind of conspiracy, but all I'm seeing is an outdated, overwhelmed structure under a lot of pressure.

    This is a very difficult problem to solve:
    - fast processing of people
    - spotting potential threats with minimum resources
    - overstretched, tired, worn-out employees
    - far from state-of-the-art equipment
    - unbeliavable throughput

    If the throughput is 1/100 of the LAX or JFK demands, then maybe it would be possible to look at each passanger, "check in" with them, evaluate their level of nervousness, clothing, carefully check for tell-signs etc.

    With 1 second per passenger that's impossible and the best an agency can do is issue blanket policies including racial/name-based profiling, travel patterns, databases of destinations etc. and hope for the best.

    I truly believe that the security policies are not an adequate protection. I don't think that's by design, rather a limitation of the design.

    No conspiracy theory here, just lots of frustration with what I perceive as needless delay and inconvenience, bordering with disrespect and abuse in some cases (large-scale profiling and temporary detention of people entering the US etc.).

    • by aaandre (526056)

      In short, I think there's a lot of fear behind the policies, and not enough intelligently focused resources which ought to be a solution.

      Being rude and abusive to passengers it not a necessary part of enforcing security.

    • by cptdondo (59460) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:48PM (#25420195) Journal

      I spent a lot of years in the military; threat assessment and defense was a part of my job.... The whole TSA inspection system is a joke. It is nothing but theater.

      I could go on and on....

      I used to fly with the Bomb.... A demonstration computer built into one of those medium sized toolbox cases. It had a bare board embedded computer, an LCD screen, a PLC, wires and cabling all over the place, the case was lined with a grounding plane, and it had bolts all over the case holding the guts in. It even had a remote control I built with 20 toggle switches and a bunch of LEDs. I hand carried this monster on dozens of flights and *never once* did anyone at TSA express any curiousity about this case.

      Anyway, the Europeans do it much better than the TSA. Chase everyone out of the gate, set up the checkpoint, and screen and scan everyone as they board....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think the current state of airport security is just that - the best the agency can do, with it's current resources, budget and enormous demand for speedy throughput.

      I agree that actual proper security isn't viable given the resources available, but the current state of affairs is far from "the best the agency can do." Currently the security system wastes millions of dollars and costs travelers massive inconvenience and countless hours of time all to create the illusion of security. I agree that real security in the airport may be more or less impossible, but the best the TSA could do would be to get rid of all the completely ineffectual security and stop wasting mill

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:50PM (#25420723) Homepage Journal

      I think the current state of airport security is just that - the best the agency can do, with it's current resources, budget and enormous demand for speedy throughput.

      Sure it's the best they can do. The point, though, is that the best they can do is COMPLETELY ineffective -- and yet they still spend $7B per year doing it. Why?

      Suppose you had <insert incurable disease>, and I told you that for $10,000 per year, I would sell you a cure.

      "Does it work?" you ask.

      "No," I respond "but it's the best anyone can do."

      Would you buy it? Or would you spend your $10K on something else that actually gives you value?

    • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Friday October 17, 2008 @09:00PM (#25420787)

      This is total bullshit. You're making the common mistake of examining their current budget, their current results, and assuming that achieving more results would require either more money or less speed.

      This is simply false. It is false because it overlooks a simple fact: the current use of the budget is horrendously inefficient. In other words, better results can be achieved without making things slower (and indeed, while making things faster) on the same budget.

      Most of what the TSA does is useless. Eliminate that, and suddenly you have a bunch of free money sitting around and people going through security faster. Take that money and put it into things that are actually useful. Now you have faster, better security for the same amount of money.

      Why doesn't this happen? Mainly because this better security would be a lot less visible. This makes moron travelers feel less safe (even though they are actually more safe) and opens bureaucrats up to blame in the event that someone gets through it. All rationality flies out the window in the ceaseless finger-pointing that follows any failure, and the vast majority of bureaucrats are far more concerned with protecting their own asses than protecting the country.

  • by Airw0lf (795770) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:27PM (#25420017)
    I skimmed through the TFA and the author talks about how various items of terrorist propaganda didn't raise an eyelid:

    The flag features, as its charming main image, an upraised fist clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle. Atop the rifle is a line of Arabic writing that reads Then surely the party of God are they who will be triumphant. The officer took the flag and spread it out on the inspection table. She finished her inspection, gave me back my flag, and told me I could go. I said, "That's a Hezbollah flag." She said, "Uh-huh."

    Correct me if I am wrong, but all the TSA crew are meant to watch for is if you are bringing anything onto a plane that could then be used to bring it down or hijack it.

    Propaganda on the other hand cannot possibly bring down a plane from the sky, and it is surely protected to some extent by freedom of speech.

  • How does Schneier putting on theater test whether they can detect a real terrorist? This is like those experiments where the researchers set up shocks or some such for the monkeys, they provide bogus explanations for the monkeys' behavior that totally excludes the fact that there were researchers behind the scenes doing things, which the monkeys were aware of.
  • Possible tag: shootingfishinabarrel ?
  • No self-respecting Islamic Terrorist would call himself "Jeffery Goldberg". Oh, wait, now we are giving the terrorists ideas -- they're gonna start disguising themselves as Jews! (A tactic that has obviously worked so well in Israel.)
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday October 17, 2008 @08:06PM (#25420357)
    The first time I checked in online I thought how easy it would be to modify the boarding pass I was printing on my own printer. Duh. The experience taught me how to enter UNICODE in a postscript file (United encodes some data for passengers in UNICODE).

    Much of the article talks about someone not getting things that are not illegal to fly with confiscated. He makes a big deal about carrying a flag. The screener looked at the flag. It wasn't confiscated. BIG DEAL. It isn't illegal to carry a flag on board. He wasn't arrested for ripping up paper in a bathroom. BIG DEAL. It isn't illegal to rip up paper in a bathroom. He wasn't stopped for wearing a teeshirt.

    He starts out by saying he was doing things that terrorists wouldn't do, and then complains because he wasn't questioned about doing those things.

    Then the "saline solution" hole. Yes, every time you create exemptions from rules you create loopholes for bad guys to get through. Thanks for advertising the saline solution loophole, I'll remember it. Do you think that the TSA screeners should be testing fluids for what they are? There are an awful lot of different things, and any false positive is going to be lept on as another example of TSA stupidity while some poor schmuck is detained for nothing.

    So, a terrorist who isn't stupid steals a credit card and buys a ticket under someone else's name. He prints a fake boarding pass with his real name (?) to get past TSA. Then he uses the original pass to get on the plane. We're told that this hole can be closed by simply checking the names at the time someone gets on the plane.

    Uhhh, hand raised here. Question? If a terrorist is smart enough to steal a credit card with someone else's name to buy the ticket, won't he be smart enough to get a FAKE DRIVER'S LICENSE WITH THE SAME NAME so he can get past your new, stricter policy? You haven't closed the triangle at all. You've just made everyone feel more secure when they aren't. That's the game you are complaining about.

    Hey. Every security measure can be bypassed by someone intent enough on doing it. TSA didn't find some of the things this guy was carrying that he shouldn't have been. Gee. Humans aren't perfect. Combine that and the ability to bypass anything, of course you get the logical result that we might as well not do anything to stop people from taking whatever they want on board.

"Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward" -- William E. Davidsen

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