UK Spends Billions to Force Rail Terrorists to Drive a Little Further

Makes no sense:

Passengers at Liverpool's Lime Street station face airport-style searches and bag-screening, under swingeing new anti-terror measures unveiled yesterday.

And security barriers, vehicle exclusion zones and blast-resistant buildings will be introduced at airports, ports and up to 250 of the busiest train stations, Gordon Brown announced.

Of course, less busy train stations are only a few minutes away by car.

Posted on November 22, 2007 at 6:28 AM • 53 Comments

Comments

MikeNovember 22, 2007 7:00 AM

Sadly, this kind of nonsense seems more designed to make people get used to intrusive searches than to deter any potential terrorists.

cassielNovember 22, 2007 7:28 AM

Indeed... and potential terrorists don't even have to choose another target, since the system isn't closed: if someone wanted to bomb Liverpool Lime Street station with its security barriers, then they would catch a train *to* Liverpool from a small, unprotected station and find themselves inside the security cordon. Job done.

SupersmartNovember 22, 2007 7:50 AM

@cassiel

Don't tell them! These terrorists are simultaneously the biggest existential threat that Western civilization has ever faced, and too dumb to figure out that they could get on at the next station.

JoNovember 22, 2007 7:58 AM

I'm sorry to say this, but this kind of security theatre seems popular with the unthinking masses. They actually like to be inconvenienced because they think it makes them safer. They like people snooping into their private lives because they have "nothing to hide".

It seems to me that when people in power introduce measures like this then they get a pat on the back because they're seen to be doing something about terrorism.

Which of course they're not.

It's not security theatre, it's mind magic. Security Mentalism, if you will.

AdrianNovember 22, 2007 8:11 AM

But at the same time, this same government sends out two CD's holding the personal details of 25M (yes thats MILLION) UK citizens via a couier with only a password protection. This includes name, address, post code, National Insurance Number, Bank Account, sort code, Date of Birth. Yes, barring your mothers maiden name, that is everything to generate false or stolen ID's.

Informed comment has it that this was highly likely to be an Access DB that was zipped and had a WinZip password applied.

And today they claim that ID Cards (holding a wealth of biometric information) are going to make us SAFER! ***

So is anyone suprised that our "leaders" are telling us that this airline-style security is going to make us safer? It will create chaos, make for massive hold-ups when the system overloads through lack of staff (Heathrow? July 2007?), all of which makes for alovely target rich environment. One nail bomb in a crowded railway station should do it nicely.

Of course, we all know that terrorists never read blogs and cant read time tables, so this won't occur to them.


*** Yes, I am on this list of lost data. As is my wife and two kids. Yes I am bitter.

Chris FlemingNovember 22, 2007 8:11 AM

I've now been stopped and searched three times in three weeks on my way to work in the morning.

The officers were very nice about it and seemed to indicate to me that they had better things to be doing than hanging around train stations hassling commuters.

jimNovember 22, 2007 8:38 AM

The thing is, there doesn't even seem to be a reason for it. Are people plotting to blow up railway stations? (People that actually have a prayer of succeeding at it, I mean, not that the media are capable of distinguishing between a well-organised and well-equipped terrorist gang and some student with a pad from WH Smiths and a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook.) Are the Scouse Liberation Front getting bolshie again?

So what's the real story?
- Some of Brown's mates in industry are a bit strapped for cash right now and would like a nice lucrative government contract to build pointless "security" features for stations.
- Blair and Brown's attempt to run the country has degenerated into a train wreck of such Biblical proportions that this sort of thing is the only way they can hope to distract people from their own massive incompetence. (See Adrian's post above.)
- They really are trying to fast-track the police state.

"Refuse to be terrorised" is all very well, Bruce, but the stuff "my" government is trying to pull terrifies the shit out of me.

Adam LockNovember 22, 2007 8:53 AM

There are thousands of miles of railway track in the UK. I don't see the point of protecting the stations unless they also intend to patrol the main lines that trains will be hurtling up and down on. How hard would it be to cause a major accident even without using explosives?

gregNovember 22, 2007 9:17 AM

the question is: What do we do about it?

I really mean that. I mean what about petitions? what about education (I the mainstream where aware of there ineffectiveness?). What about protest?

Lets not fail to act, because we always can.

But perhaps its more fun to read blogs and post comments. ;)

AnonymousNovember 22, 2007 9:20 AM

Britain loses personal data of half its population

About a month ago, a junior official of HMRC sent two CDs, not encrypted, only password protected, containing personal details of 25 million people who claim child benefits — almost half of Britain’s 60-odd million population — to the National Audit Office. By unregistered, unrecorded post. The CDs were lost in the internal courier service. The loss was discovered about three weeks later, after the data was again sent to the NAO, again on CDs, this time by registered post. Mr Darling has admitted this did not follow security and transit rules.

The missing CDs contained names, dates of birth, addresses, bank details, spouses’ details and so on of 25 million individuals, 7.25 million families, and all the 15.5 million children in Britain. The government says the CDs have not fallen into criminal hands. Experts, however, say a treasure trove like this can be hoarded for years, and with all the data available, ripping off identities and hacking into bank accounts will be, well, child’s play for criminal fraudsters.

Michael AlexanderNovember 22, 2007 9:56 AM

@Supersmart

I hope you were merely being sarcastic. Most modern terrorists organizations are actually quite intelligent, clever, and patient. They study their target like a chess master would his opponent and develop a plan while thinking several moves ahead. Until we plan like them, they'll never be beaten. What most govts do is make these policies "by the seat of their pants" so to speak. Nothing that I have seen so far has gotten us 1 inch closer to slowing them down, much less stop them.

Michael AlexanderNovember 22, 2007 9:59 AM

@ Adrian

A similar instance happened here in the US with veterans info. I, being a veteran, received a letter saying that we should monitor our credit, etc. Luckily, nothing bad came of it, at least not for me. I hope the same for you.

SnarkNovember 22, 2007 10:01 AM

Unfortunately, ridicule doesn't stop governments from such insanity.

I was in the UK last week when these provisions were announced, to much derision from the public.

But that didn't deter Brown from setting his idiot scheme in motion!

Michael AlexanderNovember 22, 2007 10:08 AM

@ Snark

You're absolutely right about that. Just look at the Bush Administration. Bush has done a few "in your face" press conferences that basically told the American people that he doesn't care what we think and that he's going to do what he wants. I have a video of Bush speaking out on Donald Rumsfeld's behalf that does exactly that - "In your face!!" It's sad that we allow him to go against the people rather than for them.

RoxanneNovember 22, 2007 10:33 AM

The goal is to get us used to the idea that the prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures" is outdated. They pretty clearly want to get us used to being searched any time, any where, without benefit of legal review.

I partially blame gated communities, which give the bland impression that to truly be safe, you have to live in a prison. You're in danger if you leave home...

As Juvenal asked two thousand years ago: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will watch the watchers?

Colossal SquidNovember 22, 2007 10:35 AM

Surely this new bag-screening is going to create choke-points at rush-hour?
Say Terrorist 1 has a bag full of dubious electronics. He gets pulled, his bag searched and a large crowd of disgruntled commuters builds up.
Terrorist 2 further back in line sets off his nail-bomb.
Chaos ensues.

Colossal SquidNovember 22, 2007 10:39 AM

"As Juvenal asked two thousand years ago: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will watch the watchers? "

The obvious answer is to create a new reality TV show: 'Terrorist Watch'.
'This week, Jerry and Rob get more than they bargain for when they open a suspiciously large tube of toothpaste.'

dragonfrogNovember 22, 2007 10:41 AM

@ Michael Alexander

"Most modern terrorists organizations are actually quite intelligent, clever, and patient. They study their target like a chess master would his opponent and develop a plan while thinking several moves ahead."

Is this why the current crop of modern terrorist organizations, as manifest in the West, consist of idiots incapable of making a car bomb blow up, or even of parking one properly, and/or plotters allegedly developing a liquid bombing scheme so devious it's probably scientifically impossible?

Michael AlexanderNovember 22, 2007 11:02 AM

@ dragonfrog

Exactly what organizations would these wannabe terrorists belong? I'm not talking about these single individuals that want to create a stir. I'm speaking in terms of true terrorist groups. Those groups with large followings and branch cells, not John Doe wanting to get back at his employer for terminating him. If you don't think there are smart terrorists out there (some of them with IQ's of genius stature), you are in for a rude awakening. Sure, there are some dumb terrorists out there, but they are a long way from being in charge of an actual organization. If they blow themselves up before reaching their target, good. That means lives were saved. Speaking of "Western" terrorists, I can think of one off the top of my head that did make a car bomb go off. How about Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995?

AndyNovember 22, 2007 11:36 AM

Yeah, we have to have these now, because it's not like the IRA ever attacked the rail network, is it?

madtechNovember 22, 2007 11:40 AM

And it's not just HM gov't doing silly things: spending a few days theme park-hopping in FL this week.

Pretty much every park except Disney(*) prohibits bringing in food or drink for 'security reasons'. This is presumably more for protection of their profit margins than any real security.

Cypress Gardens gate security searches bags when it is quiet, but relies on walk-through metal detectors when busy. I walked through one with camera, pocket change, cellphone, keys, a huge steel beltbuckle and a whole pile of other metallic crap - and it didn't bleep.

Feh!

OK, keeping guns and knives out may restrict violent crime (not that I've heard this is a problem in theme parks anyway) but that's all the post-9/11 restrictions will do - and violent crime has existed far before that.

If you wanted to mount a terrorist attack on a theme park, using a large SUV in the un-monitored parking lot with homebuilt mortars would be easy enough - but not a handgun, knife or a bottle of coke!

I suspect that an IED in a backpack or stroller in a crowded shopping mall on Black Friday is a far greater threat - but one that no-one seems to try and address.

(*)Disney has tiny lockers at park entrances for those who forgot to leave pocketknives and other prohibited items back at the car. They are showing a little common sense, at least.

Wandering around, it occurred to me that a competion to plan an attack at a theme park might be instructive - but it really is too much like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Clive RobinsonNovember 22, 2007 11:42 AM

It makes perfect sense when you think about it the right way...

The UK Gov (Currently the Labour Party) spends "Billions" with the "Hi-Tech" companies that make the scanners etc that are going to be used.

The Same Hi-Tech companies (that get awarded the work) are also Labour Party Donners either directly or indirectly...

So a little of those Billions gets funeled back into the Labour Party coffers...

Make Sense Now ?

AndrewNovember 22, 2007 1:12 PM

Hey, let's spend a bunch of money to stimulate the economy, I mean defend us from the evil terrorists!

I have less problem with this kind of poor environmental design and disguised corporate charity than some others I think.

As for the headline, nice work.

"I see in your budget that you have millions for defense, but not one penny for the poor."

"Yes, yes, when they revolt I will be READY."

Nomen PublicusNovember 22, 2007 1:13 PM

The major problem (other than the shear pointlessness) is that the only useful "protection" against suicide bombers are blast walls to contain the explosion and limit the casualties. There is no chance of protecting a public railway station with searches and bomb detectors for obvious reasons.

But the blast walls would restrict movement and should there be an event much more likely than a suicide bomber, such as a fire or a crazed gun man, the number of casualties may be higher.

Anon CowardNovember 22, 2007 2:16 PM

Just like in the NY subway system, where roving trios of police conduct "random" but optional searches of riders entering the system. No one is required to submit to a search; if you refuse, though, you can't enter at that stop.

This is effective, of course, only against mentally-challenged terrorists.

AnonymousNovember 22, 2007 2:39 PM

The problem is democracy.

About any given issue, there are overwhelmingly more people who won't give it the thought it deserves to come to a reasonable decision about it. These people (and everyone is one of these people about most issues) wind up with their votes influenced by what *sounds* good. Here, "Did something about rail security."

I don't really have an alternative to recommend. It's quite true that, as Winston Churchill phrased it, "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." I don't know what changes to the system might alleviate this sort of problem.

A start may simply be to recommend that you vote based on what you know, even if it's not what you care most about - if you care more about something else, take the time to learn about it in detail before you let it influence your vote.

robNovember 22, 2007 4:35 PM

Seems like the alternative to "nothing to hide" is "no-one to fear", it is now really easy to wreck somebody's day by "tipping off the authorities".

I remember the days when "shot while trying to escape" was a euphemism.

EdNovember 22, 2007 4:41 PM

@supersmart Though they went through flight school etc. to put aircraft into buildings, thats planning...

Robert MerkelNovember 22, 2007 6:18 PM

Madtech, my favourite piece of stupid Florida security is that the Kennedy Space Center visitor's center has banned you bringing in GPS units.

Clearly, GPS-guided cruise missiles are the terrorist weapon of choice down Florida way, and these terrorists have never heard of Google Maps...

NE PatriotNovember 22, 2007 8:21 PM

How many truly effective anti-terror measures were used in WWII, simply because the resources weren't there in sufficient supply to endure stupidity?

There is only one solution for this. "War" will continue as long as it's profitable. As long as someone's making money from selling bomb-sniffing machines, or security con$ulting, or cement barriers, we will be stuck with the insanity. Regrettably, for the sake of this argument, we live in an age where materiel is in robust supply.

Yup...

MikeNovember 23, 2007 2:58 AM

I think the tin-foil-hat brigade need to realise that yes this may seem stupid, but the government has to be seen to be doing something.

And by doing something at the more busy stations you're increasing the defence against the terrorist favourite - the spectacular.

Look at what the IRA used to do looking for large easy targets - criticise them for spending this money but imagine what would happen if they didn't spend the money and something did happen?

MarkNovember 23, 2007 3:16 AM

@Adam Lock
There are thousands of miles of railway track in the UK. I don't see the point of protecting the stations unless they also intend to patrol the main lines that trains will be hurtling up and down on. How hard would it be to cause a major accident even without using explosives?

Consider what happened in France a few days ago on several TGV lines. IIRC most of the damage was to signalling and communications cables. Several years ago a fire in cable duct at London Bridge station caused massive disruption due to failure of signalling.
No doubt a bunch of terrorists each armed only with a can of petrol and a box of matches could bring the entire UK rail network to a halt.

MarkNovember 23, 2007 3:34 AM

@Adrian
But at the same time, this same government sends out two CD's holding the personal details of 25M (yes thats MILLION) UK citizens via a couier with only a password protection. This includes name, address, post code, National Insurance Number, Bank Account, sort code, Date of Birth. Yes, barring your mothers maiden name, that is everything to generate false or stolen ID's.

I'm rather suprised that Bruce hasn't mentioned this. Considering that the whole incident involves many security failings.
As well as the whole issue of treating (possibly obscure) facts about a person (and their history) as "shared secrets" for authentication purposes.

MarkNovember 23, 2007 3:48 AM

@madtech
If you wanted to mount a terrorist attack on a theme park, using a large SUV in the un-monitored parking lot with homebuilt mortars would be easy enough - but not a handgun, knife or a bottle of coke!
Wandering around, it occurred to me that a competion to plan an attack at a theme park might be instructive - but it really is too much like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Is that "regular" or "Mythbuster's style".

MarkNovember 23, 2007 4:33 AM

@Nomen Publicus
But the blast walls would restrict movement and should there be an event much more likely than a suicide bomber, such as a fire or a crazed gun man, the number of casualties may be higher.

It also depends what a "blast wall" actually is. One which resists explosion might well result in more casualties due to increasing of overpreassure.

What you really want is an "energy adsorbing wall", which works regardless of which side the blast is on.

MaureenNovember 23, 2007 6:15 AM

I figured Bruce would write about how rail passenger's bags are to be screened and Brown's plan for "fortress Britain" but like others have mentioned in their comments, I'm wondering why Bruce hasn't yet written about how the Government lost 25 million personal records in Britain’s worst ever data protection breach!

EamNovember 23, 2007 12:36 PM

@Mike:
I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. The general consensus here is that this does not increase the real security of the train station.

Are you saying it would be worse "if they didn't spend the money and something did happen" than if they _DID_ spend the money and something still happened?

AnonymousNovember 23, 2007 9:18 PM

@Eam: Are you saying it would be worse "if they didn't spend the money and something did happen" than if they _DID_ spend the money and something still happened?


Disturbingly, yes. "At least we did something!" versus "They didn't even TRY." Politicians prefer the former.

mikedNovember 23, 2007 11:17 PM

The British government use ACCESS for their major databases??

Regarding the news item - I thought Brown was intelligent - or at least had some advisors who had got beyond second-year infant school.

*November 25, 2007 9:25 AM

It would seem that this subject, with a little additional knowledge, is a classic example of thinking by numbers.

OK. Mike is way off beam when he says,

"I think the tin-foil-hat brigade need to realise that yes this may seem stupid, but the government has to be seen to be doing something."

And yet, at the same time, he is inadvertently on point because the government does have to be doing something in order to lay the ground work for what they would eventually like to do.

Colossal Squid nearly hits the nail on the head,

"Surely this new bag-screening is going to create choke-points at rush-hour?
Say Terrorist 1 has a bag full of dubious electronics. He gets pulled, his bag searched and a large crowd of disgruntled commuters builds up."

Roxanne actually hits the nail on the head too when she says,

"The goal is to get us used to the idea that the prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures" is outdated. They pretty clearly want to get us used to being searched any time, any where, without benefit of legal review."

That's exactly what *they* want to achieve.

Michael Alexander also hits the right note except that he uses the word terrorist instead of the word government when he says,

"Most modern terrorists organizations are actually quite intelligent, clever, and patient. They study their target [the population] like a chess master would his opponent and develop a plan while thinking several moves ahead."

This is EXACTLY what the british government is doing. What we are observing here is a classic example of introducing a set of actions that can be modified and refined, in this case with the introduction of RFID technology, at a later point in time. All that the british government has to achieve at this point in time is to get the public used to the IDEA, the CONCEPT of being monitored. Once the idea has been justified and largely accepted by the majority of the people then it could be argued that the objective has already been achieved. Incorporating a new approach (RFID) to monitoring people at a later point in time will likely meet very little resistance because the idea of doing so has already become a common, every day occurrence and an aspect of every day life that, even if it is only ever tolerated, will nevertheless have been generally *accepted*. The reason RFID, possibly in conjunction with a national identity scheme, will meet so little resistance is because it will be presented as making life more easier and convenient for those travelling through the already established *security check points*.

I'm amazed that so many people have commented on this news item but no one has openly stated what I am stating here, because the long term objectives of the british government begin to appear so obvious with even a basic knowledge of the eventual power RFID and other such tracking technologies will afford governments. The only conundrum for government to solve is how to reach the point in time when they have achieved their ultimate objective (RFID monitoring and tracking of the population).

To all *those* departments and employees of the british (and other) governments who read this blog: do not forget that there are some of us plebians who are acutely aware of what you are doing and we are like the audience at a chess tournament and we watch to see you make your next move. But unlike an audience, we will not remain passive. We will be like mosquitoes and we will be an annoyance to you, even if you eventually win the war. We are not numbers, we are free men! In our minds we are free and will remain free until the day you can induce a total and absolute mind control, we are free!

AnonymousNovember 26, 2007 2:49 AM

@*

You proved yourself a part of the community that wear foil hats by refering to the government as "*they*".

- "I'm amazed that so many people have commented on this news item but no one has openly stated what I am stating here"

Because you're both paranoid and beleive that you're so amazingly right. And then you use "*those*" - so you've read 1984 and some conspiracy web-pages and beleive that's what the world is like now.

What's wrong with a government thinking that money needs to be spent on security against large targets because there's a history of terrorists going for the 'spectacular' at a large high profile target.

A spectacular attack on a target like that would cause massive outrage. Look at last year's spectacular in Glasgow, it actually turned out to be a spectacular failure and the terrorists looked like incompetant idiots.

I agree that this doesn't increase the security of other stations, but it's taking the best measures that have available to avert the spectacular.

Personally I think the money would be better in the National Health Service.

My point was to argue against people like yourself that have the highly deluded view that the government is somehow 'out to get us' rather than actually try to help us.

Why don't you lay off the weed and stop reading conspiracies.

AleNovember 26, 2007 8:16 AM

Mike:

The problem with your opinion regarding "the spectacular" is that, even with searches in Liverpool street, a bomb can enter the system in another station (Mile End, for instance, 2 stops away). An "spectacular" attack does not need to use an "spectacular" entry point. "Hardening" any single point of entry of a distributed system is quite probably useless - you need to "harden" all possible entry points. This of course includes the miles and miles of track, rendering the whole exercise a lesson in futility.

The expense is useless, stupid, and unnecessary if your objective is to prevent attacks. If your objective is to implement a CYA propaganda campaign, then the move is quite appropriate.

jayhNovember 26, 2007 3:02 PM

@Mike and *

Alas you're both right and both wrong. Democratic governments are not comic book villians motivated entirely by evil greed, but they do, very much, fall victim to the organizational mindset, which tends to place (even unconsciously) preservation of the organization over all else.

These folks, by and large probably really believe that they are working in the best interests of the population, and sincerely see free society as a threat to be dealt with.

this is perhaps where the danger really lies. They don't see where increased government power fuels increased corruption because they see their motives as benign (there have been interesting psychological studies of self assessment of motivation).

dpawtowsNovember 26, 2007 8:43 PM

@mark,
Re- GPS units at Kennedy Space Center:
The ban is _only_ on stand-alone GPS units. Cell phones, cameras, PDA's, etc, were all fine. So anybody with a device that combines GPS with other functionality can walk right in.
Note: This was my experience two years ago; perhaps they've changed since.

averrosNovember 27, 2007 2:47 AM

Come on... these projects have nothing to do with security.

It is all about politicos enriching pals in the construction companies under the convenient pretense.

Relax, it is just good ole corruption. Has been around for as long as there were governments. Will be around until the last bureaucrat swings from a tree branch.

robboDecember 18, 2007 3:57 PM

wouldn't it be good if some rude boy terrorists blow up every police station in england with gps guided missiles and plunged the country into complete anarchy?

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