Monday, December 31, 2007

An amazingly apt term.

Whoever coined the phrase "Security Theater" hit the bullseye with frightening accuracy. Ninety-nine percent of all the drama that has been added to our daily lives in the name of combating terrorism is of about as much use as a kickstand on a tank. There's nothing in the world as comic as the Brazil-like experience of watching grandma get probulated by the TSA agent at the airport while your Blackberry informs you that the landing gear wells of jumbo jets are disgorging non-paying passengers who happen to be named Osama. It doesn't take much of a cynical turn of mind to come to the conclusion that it's all theater designed to comfort the bovine herd who confuse prime time TeeVee with entertainment, while leaving more agile intellects to while away their standing-in-line time with the academic exercise of devising ways to smuggle the bomb onto the plane.

Previously, my favorite piece of Security Theater had been the Removing Of The Shoes ritual before boarding anything bigger or more dangerous than a Piper Cub, but it has finally been replaced with something even funnier. While driving on I-75 southbound through Kentucky the other day, I came to a bridge that had no nearby exits which could be used for easy detours. Just before the bridge were large signs warning something along the lines of "Achtung! No stopping on bridge! Bridge is monitored!" because, you know, Achmed would have to actually stop his ANFO-packed eighteen wheeler on the bridge to shut down I-75. Or something. Maybe if they took the money they'd spent on the farcical signs and cameras and spent it on something else, it could have actually prevented a bridge collapse. But that wouldn't have been theatrical at all...


ibex said...

"...kickstand on a tank..."


Anonymous said...

AFAIK, it was Bruce Schneier who originated the term 'Security Theater'.

Anonymous said...

"Bridge is monitored."


Did any of these people ever think how long it takes for a response to something stopped on their bridge?

Considerably longer, I'm thinkin', than it takes Achmed to mutter "allahu akbar" and push a button.

And money saved on the signs and cameras would have been spent on Much More Important sports stadiums.

Word verification: mfohwbm. Make of it what you will.

Happy New Year, Y'all!

Anonymous said...

Where the rubber meets the road. I have a friend who commutes weekly from her home in Dallas to New York City. She is a tall attractive blonde and she always gets pulled out, checked and rechecked. She knows what to carry and how to dress so it does not take long for the extended check, shoes, etc., and she explained what she discoved about the system.

It is kind of like like playing tag and none of the Security People what to be it so they all chose the least likley person that might be a threat and spend the most time they can get away with making sure they don't have to interact with a bad guy.

They know they are not paid enough to actually have a dangerous encounter so they pick the 89 year old grandmother with a pair of embroidry scissors, the little old bald head guy (me) or the nice looking blonde to spend time with.

They are then commended for doing a good through job and they put in their time, take their paycheck and go home. Of course it is also kind of fun to mess around with people going places and have a little power over them for a short time. Just one of the perks.

Zendo Deb said...

The best "security theater" was right after 9/11 (I did a lot of flying then because it was dirt cheap.)

They had national guard troops in the airports, standing guard, - doing absolutely nothing.

Not looking for bombs, not using drug sniffing dogs, just standing their. Looking good for the sheep (cows are insulted that you call the average American traveler "bovine."

They always looked like they were just about to fall asleep.

Anonymous said...

What TSA really stands for.

Anonymous said...

I go to B'ham and Nashville regularly for flights and on a crowded day if Jihad Johnny wanted to waste a few hundred people it would be in the cattle lines at the ticket counter.
Pish, a plane wouldn't hold a third of what he could get with a few strategically placed suitcases and don't forget...they only examine them just before they put them on the conveyor belts.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that Bruce Shneier is an advocate for gun control. You'd think he'd know better about "security theaters".

Word verification: axuiyqv (it's complete jibberish)

jeff said...

I always thought that area just after the checkpoint would be an excellent medium for the dispersement of a chemical or biological weapon. All those nice, moist bare feet. . .

Anonymous said...

Heck, if you blow or contaminate the security checkpoints, you've effectively shut the whole airport down.

But you didn't hear that from me.


ibex said...

Anonymous: Bruce Schneier is an advocate for victim disarmament? I'm surprised, do you have a source for that?

Anonymous said...

Ibex, I can verify that, at least to some extent. I haven't heard him get Brady-level vocal about it, but it's popped into a few things he's written from time to time. I first encountered it in his book, "Beyond Fear", IIRC, and was quite surprised.

My copy of that book is in a box, someplace, so I can't even attempt to find the reference.

Anonymous said...

You know, when I clicked on the link to read the story of the stowaway, the page was blank. CNN's banner, etc were up but no story.

Somebody's trying to tell me something I think. But, I feel much safer knowing that sign on I75 exists.