Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Security Theatre

Before I get started, this post is likely to come across as a bit of a rant. If you don't want to read my half-formed, lefty crap, at least read the article by Bruce Schneier on CNN that inspired it. It's much better written, and far more important that it gets wide coverage than my version. ;-)

Having said that, if you're still with me, here goes: wasting money bugs me, especially when it's a government that's doing it for the purposes of appeasing the 'voice of the people' (see the end of this for more on that meme!). When governments spend enormous sums of money on visible security activity at airports this gets me particularly riled because it's pointless. I quote from Bruce Schneier's opinion article on CNN:
Often, this "something" is directly related to the details of a recent event. We confiscate liquids, screen shoes, and ban box cutters on airplanes. We tell people they can't use an airplane restroom in the last 90 minutes of an international flight. But it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack. These measures are only effective if we happen to guess what the next terrorists are planning.
If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money. If we concentrate airport security on screening shoes and confiscating liquids, and the terrorists hide explosives in their brassieres and use solids, we've wasted our money. 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.
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.
Of course, the result of this 'magical thinking' is also the terrible changes that are taking place to the due process of criminal proceedings at law. The introduction of arbitrary periods of detention without charge, the holding of terrorism-related trials in camera, the rhetoric of hatred of any other political or cultural outlook than our own... this is dangerous stuff that just serves to increase the threat from those opposed to our way of life. Back to Bruce:
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.
So, when you're thinking about who to vote for in future (in the UK general election, for example), why not challenge them to stop the damage that's being done to our relatively free way of life, pull back from culturally aggressive stance in international politics, and stop stoking the flames of the conflicts that spawn terrorist acts.

p.s. on the 'voice of the people', it appears the ‘newspapers’ are being deemed to be the ‘voice of the people’ in that mad country, the (dis-)United Kingdom, so a populist, theatrical, approach to security is the inevitable outcome. Of course, it is the broadcast & newsprint media that treat said ‘newspapers’ as ‘the voice’, in addition to their weak lackeys in Westminster. It’s a vicious circle of bullying and subservience maintained by those with the loudest voices, the deepest pockets and the least integrity.

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