Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bruce Schneier on Security Theater

I don't usually put up blog posts that are simply links, but I think for this essay it is worth doing.


dWj said...

A friend of mine reports that she just took ice through security. Liquids are forbidden, but it's not liquid, so it was okay.

Anonymous said...


Mike Huben said...

Terrorism is in large part political theatre. No surprise if countering it is also partly political theatre.

It's basic headology.

Rex Little said...

Schneier's "security theater" comments are motherhood and apple pie--no one disagrees. I'm pretty sure even TSA officials would echo Schneier if you strapped them to a polygraph.

But his "building bridges" drivel is bizarre for someone who invokes CHurchill and FDR. Did they respond to the fall of France and Pearl Harbor by building bridges to Germany and Japan?

Unknown said...

"Did they respond to the fall of France and Pearl Harbor by building bridges to Germany and Japan?"

I don't know if our author really meant to invoke Churchill and FDR for any purpose other than to illustrate the type of psychological response he would like to see to acts of terror.

I'm sure the "building bridges" rhetoric is more of an exhortation to take a look at whether or not our policies in other parts of the world actually make us safer.

Does any of that makes sense?

Rex Little said...

If Schneier meant that it's crazy to attack and occupy a country which had nothing to do with terrorist attacks on the U.S., I agree with him--but there are much clearer ways to put that. "Building bridges" implies that we can and should make friendly overtures to people who are commanded by their religion to kill us.

Gray Woodland said...

"Did they respond to the fall of France and Pearl Harbor by building bridges to Germany and Japan?"

Yes. Big time. Quickly.

Admittedly, they did some rather rougher things to Germany and Japan first, in the course of obliterating their previous regimes and winning a conventional war.

The current situation really isn't very similar, and I don't think Schneier was suggesting a particularly close parallel - except to hint that, now as then, there are some bridges to be built that are existential threats to the enemy, and that we are still better at that sort of thing than they are.

It isn't the effect of liberalism on the non-Islamic world that has the jihadists dynamiting their pants, eh?

Gary McGath said...

Bruce Schneier assumes that the purpose of security theater is to make people feel safer. I don't think so. It's to make people feel scared, so they'll accept draconian laws and violations of their privacy. As he notes, it's a highly counterproductive way of either creating safety or giving a sense of safety. But it's a very effective way to pump up people's fears, and to get the maximum effect out of each failed terrorist incident. That's its purpose.

The Man said...

This was a fairly long article. What exactly did you like about it?

Some very smart people out there think that airline security is underfunded -- for example, Marilyn vos Savant (http://twitter.com/VirtualMvS).

She notes that even failed attacks generate global publicity. I'd be interested to know how you would respond to her point.

Anton Sherwood said...

Schneier's piece contains a sentence of the form "If we do this and terrorists do that, we've wasted our money." I'd write instead: "If you politicians do this and terrorists do that, you've wasted our money."

Beastin said...

Fabulous article. Thanks for linking to it David.