Latest News on the War on the Unexpected

Offshore oil rig evacuated after someone dreamed of a bomb.

Sheridan College under lock-down because someone notices a tripod.

Man arrested for posession of an MP3 player.

Posted on February 14, 2008 at 6:57 AM • 105 Comments

Comments

Timothy ClemansFebruary 14, 2008 7:37 AM

This sort of stuff really annoys me. I take the ferry in Seattle 4 times a week and lately the ferry staff have been reminding us that we can't leave our stuff any of it unattended. It really sucks for me because I bring a cello with me since I take the ferry to go to and from cello lessons. I want this stupidness to end. With all the damn loopholes if we were really at risk there would have been another major terrorist attack in the US by now.

Colossal SquidFebruary 14, 2008 8:03 AM

More importantly, man arrested for possession of an MP3 player now has his a DNA sample on the National DNA Database ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_National_DNA_Database ) despite having been released without charge; as per the Criminal Justice Act 2003 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Justice_Act_2003 ).

Oh and can you not link to the Daily Heil, the same article is on the BBC and other reputable news sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/staffordshire/7243299.stm

Robert HerbigFebruary 14, 2008 8:05 AM

That poor mechanic whose only crime was listening to his MP3 player... Somehow, I'm expecting that the DNA, fingerprints, and mugshot of him won't be purged from the system.

DanFebruary 14, 2008 8:07 AM

Love these comments from The Scotsman: "...on the face of it, there does appear to have been a bit of an overreaction," and "...this is the first serious security incident of this kind..." Serious?

Robert HerbigFebruary 14, 2008 8:11 AM

On the topic of the tripod scare, the article at Canoe: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2008/02/09/4836936-sun.html mentions that some students hid in a closet and didn't come out even when police gave the all-clear:
"They asked us to come out but we didn't come out," Barron said. "The mood was a little bit untrusting. It was quite frightening, actually."

It's interesting that they didn't even trust the police.

BrettFebruary 14, 2008 8:19 AM

This is completely out of hand now, obvious. How long will it take until this turns into a "boy who cried wolf" world. If people keep reporting EVERYTHING, won't we reach a point where authorities don't respond because they *know* it's fake?

Another thought, which politician will be first to take credit for creating new jobs in the law enforcement arena? We're going to have double our police force to chase down all the punk kids with back packs and people carrying umbrellas that could be bombs. Good political move-- fear stimulates economy. I suppose that's not so new.

BrettFebruary 14, 2008 8:26 AM

"I got off and started walking home. I saw this cop gesture at me and at first I couldn't hear what he was saying. I turned the music off and they were telling me to put my hands up in the air."

He's lucky he didn't get shot when he reached for the mp3 player to turn it off.

JakeSFebruary 14, 2008 8:34 AM

These incidents, and others, have in common that when someone imagined a threat and reported what they thought they'd seen, the authorities *had* to respond with the full works. If someone cries Wolf!, the person on the other end of the phone can't say "you fool, there's no Wolf!" because this time there just might be one. So the helicopters and SWAT teams get called out and innocent people get arrested or shot.

On the North Sea incident, don't forget that 20 years ago an explosion on a North Sea platform (Piper Alpha) killed 167 people. It was an accident, not a bomb, but the effect was much the same. The memory of that night is still very much alive in Scotland. Nobody wants to risk a repeat.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 8:49 AM

I know this looks ridiculous, but can any of us state with authority the events that led to the evacuation? Maybe the woman was a nut, and was telling people in a way that made people believe this was firsthand knowledge and not a dream. If that's the case, then they rightfully evacuated the rig.

The media does have a way of distorting the story in a manner to sell papers -- "Woman's dream causes evacuation" is more newsworthy than "Crazy woman who acted like their was a bomb caused an evacuation."

QerFebruary 14, 2008 8:51 AM

The sad thing is that this paranoia is spreading in Europe as well, not to mention Sweden where I live and which has been known as a pretty calm back water for a few hundred years (we dodged the two world wars more or less successfully).

Our politicians has started to rally for the war on terror for a while now. War on terror? In Sweden? It's just stupid. The worst terror attack we've had was on the German embassy in Stockholm, and that was aimed against Germany, not Sweden. Besides, it was back in the 70's! It's a little late to react now and using that as a reason. Still, paranoia is everywhere.

In general we see the same crap come creeping over here that Schneier has reported about for years from the states. The government wants control, the police wants to know you better (or at least more intimate) and in general the situation is getting increasingly eerie.

I hope the world will start to calm down when Bush gets kicked out of the White House...

NostromoFebruary 14, 2008 9:00 AM

The really sick thing is that, in both the tripod case and the MP3 case, the authorities defended their actions as appropriate and correct. That means that incidents like these will continue to happen.

I disagree with crattis ("the terrorists have won"). The terrorists are irrelevant; the probability of being killed by a terrorist in the USA or Britain is negligible, and would continue to be negligible if every employee of the Department of Homeland Security were fired tomorrow. The people who have won are the petty bureaucrats, the control freaks who want to tell ordinary people what to do. These assholes enjoy nothing more than screwing up the day/life of some helpless individual. The "war on terror" has given them, and the organizations they work for, the perfect excuse.

JasonFebruary 14, 2008 9:03 AM

"The description was extremely good and if that's the report we get we have to act quickly."

So in other words, if you want to see anybody detained, all you have to do is provide an "extremely good description" and the police will act quickly.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 9:08 AM

@Jason

I disagree with the MP3 one, the cops over-reacted. But I think the report was that the guy had a gun, not that the description was good.

Carlo GrazianiFebruary 14, 2008 9:09 AM

To Nostromo, I would say that the fact that the Securocrats are sweeping the board is not evidence that terrorists aren't achieving their objective of making us feel insecure.

In fact, the interests of the two groups are quite well aligned, I would say. Both have an strong interest in the limitation of democratic civil society, which threatens the typical terrorist political program on the one hand, and circumscribes the accretion of budget and authority by security and law-enforcement organizations on the other. If each didn't exist, the other would be forced to invent it.

JustSomeGuyFebruary 14, 2008 9:10 AM

I remember a debate after the Virginia Tech shooting, basically the 'if everyone was armed this wouldn't have happened" argument.

Both the tripod and mp3 cases are prime examples of why allowing the general population to run around armed is a bad idea.

Over and over it's been shown that people misjudge what they see, make bad assumptions, jump to false conclusions, and react inappropriately.

Look how bad it is now. Imagine how badly these cases would have turned out if anyone of the helpful bystanders involved had pulled out a gun.

BobFebruary 14, 2008 9:10 AM

Thanks to the "see something, say something" culture, people think they're playing it safe when they report things and don't consider the consequences should they be mistaken. The MP3-player man could easily have ended up being shot.

Someone who is reckless as to the accuracy of their information should be treated in the same manner as a hoaxer, and bear responsibility for any consequences.

TomWFebruary 14, 2008 9:12 AM

(Regarding the oil rig incident)

All emergency services have false alarms to deal with, and they will tell you it's the bane of their existence. But as asenine as the source of the alarm was, there's a real security benefit to all this: the responders got valuable hands-on experience and as a result will no doubt be better prepared for any real incidents that they have to deal with in the future.

It's unlikely that a drill on this scale would ever have taken place, given the expense. And unlike a drill, real adrenaline was involved - the best kind of practice.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 9:16 AM

@ Bob

> Someone who is reckless as to the accuracy of their information should be treated in the same manner as a hoaxer, and bear responsibility for any consequences.

I completely agree, and this would be a good standard to live by. The problem is, if people think they see something, they may not report it for fear of being prosecuted and sued. I think this is a very fine line, I think if they knowingly report something falsely, such as a false report targeted at an enemy, they should be prosecuted. If it's an honest mistake, as this one could have very well been, there shouldn't be any penalty.

PJFebruary 14, 2008 9:18 AM

Someone needs to stage a formal protest of this kind of crap, ideally by pulling a Denial Of Service attack on some particularly egregious pollice department. Everyone involved should have a black mp3 player in their pocket and should call the police on everyone else involved for carrying something suspicious in their pocket. Or someone should hand out gilmore-ian 'Suspected Terrorist' buttons in Grand Central Station or something. There's got to be *some* way to knock some sense into the Powers That Be.


R. Scott BuchananFebruary 14, 2008 9:19 AM

Just one particularly worrisome (to me) observation from the oilrig story: quoth the Scotsman "The woman is understood have been detained by senior staff and sedated."

The who did what now? Which senior staff, and who are they to sedate anyone? I shall be simply fascinated to know if any of the senior staff involved have any medical training. Even in a hypothetical scenario where she was actually part of some plot, how would handcuffing her and keeping her under guard not be sufficient? Are North Sea oilrigs overrun with ninjas disguised as prep chefs?

Especially since in the movies (and how *isn't* this a movie plot threat?) sedating the girl with the Sight always guarantees that the black dude is going to die in the next reel.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 9:23 AM

@TomW

Good points, I work in a NYC skyscraper and if I heard buzz about a bomb from my employees, I'd call the NYPD and start getting people out. You can't sit there and potentially let people be at risk while trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the report. Anyone who has been in a crisis or played "telephone" as a kid will know there's a certain amount of noise mixed into the message, and the prudent thing to do is to take steps to ensure the safety of the people.

RoyFebruary 14, 2008 9:25 AM

I wonder if this isn't all deliberate mayhem.

The driver may be boredom. Want to stir up some excitement? Take something ordinary and pretend it looks like something dangerous. Call the authorities and report it helpfully, then watch the fun!

A kid with an iPod becomes a man with a bomb. A man with a checked shirt carrying a camera tripod becomes a man in camouflage carrying a rifle. A dream fragment -- remembered or invented, it matters not -- becomes reality.

What's next, a guy with a beer belly becomes a terrorist wearing a suicide vest?

Worse yet, the authorities may be complicit in this mayhem. They claim they have to check out every alarm, no matter how improbable. Yet I bet if somebody seeing a uniformed officer wearing a service sidearm would report the officer showing murderous intent -- about to initial another mass killing in a shopping mall -- the authorities would suddenly become hugely skeptical of so preposterous an idea.

Crying wolf can be fun for the cryer and the bored watchmen as well. People drawn to the gun-carrying professions tend to become adrenaline junkies, and they get hooked on the exercise of power and the thrill of intimidating others. It's all the fun of being a bully with none of the legal consequences.

McGregorMortisFebruary 14, 2008 9:48 AM

@JustSomeGuy

Actually, I think the situation would have turned out just fine. If it was commonplace for ordinary people to carry guns, nobody would have reacted with fear at seeing somebody with a gun. Not even one that resembled a tripod or an MP3 player.

mooFebruary 14, 2008 9:57 AM

It's so sad to see the state of things in the U.S. though. As recently as 10 years ago, you had a great country there. As recently as 5 years ago I might still have been willing to work there. Nowadays, I would not travel to (or even transit through) the U.S. for any reason whatsoever. It would be nice if the citizens rose up and took back control of their country, but I won't hold my breath.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 10:04 AM

@TomW

"It's unlikely that a drill on this scale would ever have taken place, given the expense."

Sounds like a big security and safety hole to me. And a completely unconscionable one, given the Piper Alpha disaster mentioned above.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 10:20 AM

@Rich

"You can't sit there and potentially let people be at risk while trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the report."

No, you don't sit there, you investigate. And if during your investigation the bomb goes off, that's just life at work: shit happens, sometimes bad shit. You need to remember that almost all real bombs go off with essentially no warning at all, so we are all at risk, all the time. Freaking out whenever you hear a Bad Word is just an invitation to distraction, another vector for more likely, subtle, and probably less lethal, attacks.

Miles BaskaFebruary 14, 2008 10:26 AM

I can show you a society where everyone lives under constant surveillance. Life is completely regimented; work and play are strictly controlled; food and clothing are carefully screened.

Yet murder and mayhem still occurs.

It's called prison. I don't want to live in one.

Life is not without risk. Accept that and go on living.

Paul PFebruary 14, 2008 10:30 AM

JustSomeGuy: "Look how bad it is now. Imagine how badly these cases would have turned out if anyone of the helpful bystanders involved had pulled out a gun."

You have this 100% backwards.

Ordinary individuals have extremely powerful incentives not to shoot people on mere suspicion. The prospect of going to jail for the rest of one's life tends to encourage armed citizens to double-check whether that's a gun or an MP3 player.

The police? We know of many cases where people have been murdered by the police for wielding a wallet, for looking too much like the wrong guy, for failing to follow instructions quickly enough, for defending their own home against armed intruders who turn out to be cops at the wrong house, and too many other variants to count. What have the consequences been for those police? They have varied from the typical "absolutely nothing" to "light reprimand" to, at the absolute worst, getting fired.

Who is more likely to pull the trigger too fast, the man who is at worst risking his job or the man who is definitely risking his freedom? But you don't have to take my word for it: how many cases do you know where an armed citizen shot an innocent because they saw danger where there was none? You know that at least tens of thousands of ordinary people carry concealed firearms, right? Where is the carnage that you presume must result?

In the US, when someone wielding an MP3 player in a public place is taken down by a SWAT team, more than likely several armed individuals had a chance to draw on him and somehow managed to restrain themselves. The police of course could not since they treat every such situation as one threatening imminent violence.

An armed populace can respond to a violent altercation much, much faster than the police ever can, are much more likely to witness the precipitating events directly, and have everything to lose when pulling the trigger. The police come into a situation late, cold, and with get-out-of-jail free cards for all the officers should they happen to murder an innocent. I know who I would bet on to make fewer mistakes, and it's not even close.

DaedalaFebruary 14, 2008 10:32 AM

@Rich "Maybe the woman was a nut, and was telling people in a way that made people believe this was firsthand knowledge and not a dream. If that's the case, then they rightfully evacuated the rig."

Or maybe the woman was overheard saying something like, "Dude, I had this weird dream..." and other people took it from there. She might not even be crazy. I know a lot of people who talk about their dreams.

bobFebruary 14, 2008 10:33 AM

At least the oil platform thing was a good training exercise, so the whole million pounds wasnt wasted.

But the kneejerk, no thinking allowed overreaction reminds me of a couple of years ago when a US elementary school child was suspended from school for weapons posession because he cut a 2-dimensional silhouette of a gun out of a slice of processed cheese.

UlmFebruary 14, 2008 11:04 AM

I actually had a co-worker report that they had overheard me make a bomb threat against the company I worked for.

What I had been talking about was network recovery if our primary data center went down... in terms of 'this city gets hit by a nuclear bomb', the disaster recovery version of 'get hit by a bus'.

Luckily they reported it to my manager, who had the good sense to talk to me, get the real story, and tell me to be more careful with my analogies...

ChrisFebruary 14, 2008 11:10 AM

"Both the tripod and mp3 cases are prime examples of why allowing the general population to run around armed is a bad idea."

Neither of these cases would have even happened if armed citizens were common in Canada or Britain. In areas where it's more common for people to carry firearms (like the rural areas of Arizona, for instance) police departments won't even respond to "man with a gun" calls unless the caller states that the armed individual is actually threatening others in some way. Instead, dispatchers are trained to explain to callers (usually clueless Californian transplants) that carrying a gun is perfectly legal in this state.

jeffFebruary 14, 2008 11:19 AM

@Ulm
Did they also tell the reporter to apply a tad more common sense when overhearing teeny snippets of unrelated conversation?

Oh, right, I forgot...
"Common sense is contradiction in terms. 'Sense' is never 'common'."
- R. A. Heinlein

JasonFebruary 14, 2008 11:44 AM

To me the scary thing is that they are still looking for the guy with a tripod. It looks like SOMEBODY needs to be punished, wether or not there is a good reason.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 12:12 PM

Re bomb threats: leaving aside warnings from previously established reliable sources (e.g. the IRA with established code words), are there actually any cases where a bomb warning/evacuation in a non-combat area can be shown to have actually saved lives?

RennieFebruary 14, 2008 12:14 PM

I was once almost the victim of such an overreaction.

A couple years back, I took a damaged collapsible hiking pole back to the store. I was carrying it, with the handle end down, in a backpack; due to the length of the pole, the end stuck out. I was only wearing the right shoulder strap of the backpack, and the end of the hiking pole was sticking up over my shoulder. On the train on the way to the store, I noticed someone who seemed to be staring at me. I turned around to see if there was something behind me; when I turned sideways, I heard the person say "Oh good, I thought he was carrying a gun.".

A few weeks ago, I bought a pair of ski poles at the same store. The clerk asked if I wanted a bag. I declined; besides not needing one, someone carrying a long, skinny package wrapped in plastic on the train would propably result in a call to the police about someone carrying a rifle.

François MaréchalFebruary 14, 2008 12:34 PM

So a bus-riding woman and a clueless teacher were actually praised for their knee-jerk overreaction after crying wolf and making someone life's miserable. Not to mention the huge waste of resources.

If weapons were not constantly demonized, some of the clueless busybodies of this world would have had a chance to get familiar with real weapons? They'd then be able to tell weapons apart from other black objects.

But of course, you don't want responsible, discerning citizens. You want emotional morons living in constant fear, cowards running to the nanny state at every imaginary threat.

My daughters are getting weapon training and shooting range experience. Don't let your kids join the ranks of these ignorants that leave in constant fear of the unexpected.

JoeFebruary 14, 2008 12:58 PM

The oil rig incident seems like a game of telephone gone bad.

Sue to Joe, "Last night, I dreamed there was a bomb on the rig."

Mac, overhearing Sue, to Amy, "I can't believe she's talking about a bomb on the rig."

Dave, overhearing Mac, to Terry, "Mac just said there's a bomb on the rig. We better tell security."

Mark J.February 14, 2008 12:58 PM

I found this facet of the MP3 player story double-ungood.

"The police found me on CCTV and followed me."

George Orwell is laughing at all of us.

KellyFebruary 14, 2008 1:07 PM

@PJ: I would rather see a small group of bureaucratically-dressed people (ie, ill-fitting poly-blend slacks and shirts with black oxford shoes) with ID badges hanging around their necks, riding the AirTrain with clipboards and "pre-screening" travellers. After they've answered a few innocous questions, they get a 3" round sticker that reads "I am not a terrorist" and are told to wear that through the security checkpoint to indicate that they've been pre-screened. Should be good for a chuckle.

Charlie WilsonFebruary 14, 2008 1:29 PM

Carlo Graziani said "If each didn't exist, the other would be forced to invent it."

Guess what, we did invent it... Well OK, bred it... Remember, Osama was trained by the CIA...

John HardinFebruary 14, 2008 1:39 PM

JustSomeGuy: Why do you assume citizens lawfully carrying (possibly concealed) firearms are trigger happy? Do you have *any* evidence that's the case *anywhere*? (Note: I do not consider armed criminals to be "lawfully armed citizens".) The vast majority of lawfully armed citizens are extremely responsible and aware of their responsibilities under the law.

An armed citizen mistaking the MP3 player for a gun would probably have not done anything other than observe - after all, in the hypothetical situation you propose carrying a firearm is NOT unlawful, otherwise there wouldn't be lawfully armed citizens around. If the guy began acting suspiciously, a 911 call would be made. The citizen would *not* draw his own sidearm unless the guy started doing something obviously and immediately threatening - which, given it was an MP3 player and not a gun, he wasn't going to do.

Carlo GrazianiFebruary 14, 2008 1:45 PM

@John Hardin

Right. This sort of cool, rational behavior of the citizenry while in possession of dangerous equipment is, after all, what we observe in drivers on freeways, who are always courteous, law-abiding, conservative, and competent when operating their vehicles.

A Responsible CitizenFebruary 14, 2008 2:04 PM

François Maréchal said "If weapons were not constantly demonized, some of the clueless busybodies of this world would have had a chance to get familiar with real weapons? They'd then be able to tell weapons apart from other black objects.

But of course, you don't want responsible, discerning citizens. You want emotional morons living in constant fear, cowards running to the nanny state at every imaginary threat."

This is all well and good and I agree with you EXCEPT I'm pretty sure there is no country anywhere on this planet of ours that can boast a 75% (let alone 100%) responsible citizenship. While that state of affairs exists, the ONLY responsible thing to do is control who has weapons. I like how we do it here in the UK and we still have a rising youth/gang/gun problem in our inner cities... which is more proof (if any were needed) about the lack of responsible citizens!

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 2:18 PM

"While that state of affairs exists, the ONLY responsible thing to do is control who has weapons. I like how we do it here in the UK and we still have a rising youth/gang/gun problem in our inner cities... which is more proof (if any were needed) about the lack of responsible citizens!"

Honestly, I have rarely heard anything quite so laughable. The UK has some of the most draconian gun control laws in the world, yet violent crime rates are rising. Does it not occur to you that there may be a connection between these facts? Britain is the poster child for why gun control, and other assorted restrictions on the right of self defense, are a bad idea. Criminals are going to continue their violent behavior regardless; by definition, they do not obey the law. All restricting gun rights does is eliminate the ability of law abiding citizens to resist their depredations.

Doug CoulterFebruary 14, 2008 2:33 PM

All this hysteria about guns! I got into them a bit sideways, when a tenant unable to pay his rent with cash gave me a few. I found I liked using them in peaceful ways, which is how 99.9999xxx percent of ammo gets expended in the USA. Personally, I target shoot and get others to help control the deer population on my land, as I don't like killing, myself.

I found a very interesting psychological effect. I became more thoughtful and responsible IMMEDIATELY. The consequences become obvious when one has experienced actual gun use and the downrange effects, and has the slightest clue about the laws. I could no longer allow myself to think, even when enraged, that someone should shoot that guy...After all, I'm someone myself and have never believed in pushing off to others what I should do. I sometimes carry, legally. I've never had a real need, but sometimes do go to nasty places where a deterrent might come in handy. The whole point of being armed is to stop a fight, not start one. It is a very-last resort to actually shoot at anything but a paper target.

I have walked away from fights just because I knew I could end them...sometimes that's all it takes.

I, or anyone else familiar with guns would NEVER mistake an Ipod or tripod for one. You'd think the TSA would know the difference between a GI Joe plastic gun, or a Glock miniature keyfob and a real gun, but even they don't. What's needed is education!

Sadly I agree about a distinct lack of responsible citizens, but add the question: Why don't we treat people who kill with autos at least as harshly as those who do so with guns or other means? Drunk drivers kill more in a month than were killed in the 9/11 tragedy -- and get off pretty easy. And in any case, why disarm the people who HAVE proven to be responsible -- why should only the bad guys have "force amplifiers"?

Hint to the gun-unaware. If you see a guy with a long range weapon (rifle), he's not going to shoot you close up unless there's a very good reason. You use handguns, knives, martial arts for that. A rifle inhibits the running away part, is far noisier (more gunpowder per shot), doesn't hold many shots (with some exceptions), and is slow to aim close up. Of course we're all lucky that criminals aren't too smart, don't train on weapons effectively and so on.

I see zero reason to disarm the good guys. I see that as a terrible mistake. As Bruce has said "I am not afraid, and I wish y'all would quit being afraid on my behalf".

I am lucky to live in a rural place where seeing someone with a gun means just about nothing, except perhaps an increased sense of safety, or curiosity (Does it shoot well? Was it well made?). I get no negative reaction from carrying openly here, rather the opposite, as I'm known as a "good guy". Guess I should stay out of the city I was born in (DC), as I wouldn't like it there anymore, and wouldn't feel safe there either unarmed where only the bad guys are armed.

bobFebruary 14, 2008 2:39 PM

@A Responsible Citizen: The problem with your theory is that being able to control 100% of access to weapons is about as likely as having 100% responsible citizens; and the ones who are least likely to be disarmed are the ones you want least to be armed. Look how well Somalia ("Blackhawk Down") worked when the first thing the US did was declare gun control in Mogadishu. The "good guys" were disarmed and unable to help and the only problem the "bad guys" had with guns after that was confusion over whether to shoot our troops first with the machine gun in their right hand or the rocket launcher in their left.

@Carlo Graziani: so picture how you would feel if the people who are threatening you with their malicious automotive behaviors were still in their behemoths, but you (being a law-abiding citizen) obeyed the "car control" law, turned in your car and were only on a bicycle.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 3:09 PM

My teenage son is a bird watcher so he is frequently out with a tripod-mounted scope. He has been reported to the police many times -- fortunately without any otherwise negative consequences. In each case, the police simply appeared to investigate (the correct response). However, it is interesting how frequently he has been reported.

On the other hand, once he was approaching a point of land to go birding and was denied entry. The SWAT squad was clearing the area. It turned out to be a birder on the point with a tripod-mounted scope. That is what scares us -- his parents.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 3:13 PM

@ Anonymous

>No, you don't sit there, you investigate. And if during your investigation the bomb goes off, that's just life at work: shit happens, sometimes bad shit.

Why would I investigate when company procedure would mandate that I notify 911 and start evacuations if there was a perceived threat to human life?

This blog is really turning into Slashdot -- it went from an intelligent security discussion board to a bunch of unemployed fanboys posting from their mom's basement.

John RidleyFebruary 14, 2008 3:18 PM

@Nostromo: The terrorists clearly HAVE won.
The real targets of a terror attack are NOT those who are killed. Its purpose is to terrorize everyone else. Clearly, people are choosing to be terrified. The terrorists have achieved their objective.

richFebruary 14, 2008 3:19 PM

@Daedala

>Or maybe the woman was overheard saying something like, "Dude, I had this weird dream..." and other people took it from there. She might not even be crazy. I know a lot of people who talk about their dreams.

You know people who talk about such crazy stuff while at work? I've never came across someone who did that. Really, if one of my employees came to me and started talking nonsense about having dreams of bombs in the building, I'd call HR and get the person set up for clinical counseling.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 4:01 PM

@Anonymous

>>You need to remember that almost all real bombs go off with essentially no warning at all, so we are all at risk, all the time. Freaking out whenever you hear a Bad Word is just an invitation to distraction, another vector for more likely, subtle, and probably less lethal, attacks.

You seem to think that a bomber is as smart as you think you are (read it a couple of times, it's not a compliment).

What about a situation where a disgruntled employee brings a bomb into work and tells someone about it? Think it can't happen? About 10 years ago the cops shot a guy who drove his car up the sidewalk and crashed into the lobby of my building -- he was nuts, had a gun and knives, and was going to kill his wife who worked in the building. How did they know he was coming? Because he told a friend and co-worker of the wife to get out of the building because he's coming to kill her.

Luckily the co-worker used his brain and called the cops who actually located him while he was still driving to commit murder, and a chase ensued with the end result of an old Chevy crashed into my lobby.

Now, what if the coworker had been a student of your philosophy and said "Well, I'm not going to overreact here, because this will only cause confusion and open up other vectors of attack." We'd have a nut running around an office building armed looking for his wife to kill.

DaedalaFebruary 14, 2008 5:00 PM

@Rich

Oddly, I know a number of people who make friends at work and like to talk to their friends. People can mis-overhear anything out of context.

And if you can't tell the difference between someone calling to make specific threats, vs. seeing someone with a tripod or an mp3 player or overhearing someone talking about dreams, then I'm not sure how rational discussion can happen.

We have no idea what the woman actually said. She may have been a nutcase. But by no means was she necessarily so.

LanceFebruary 14, 2008 5:25 PM

@Anonymous

"Honestly, I have rarely heard anything quite so laughable. The UK has some of the most draconian gun control laws in the world, yet violent crime rates are rising. Does it not occur to you that there may be a connection between these facts?"

Texas has some of the most lax gun control laws in the world. The violent crime rates in Texas cities are among the highest in the nation. Does it not occur to you that there may be a connection between these facts?

Isn't if fun pretending that anecdotal evidence is meaningful? I mean, if it supports your argument it must be meaningful, right? Otherwise you'd just be stup..., er, irrational.

This is the thing though. I live in Texas. Texas allows concealed carry with a permit. I've never committed a crime or shown any special propensity to violence and yet I can't get a concealed carry permit. I'm expected to live in an armed, violent society but prevented from arming myself. Yeah, concealed carry really makes me safer. So much for my "rights".

richFebruary 14, 2008 5:35 PM

@Daedala

I'm very suprised that the people you know at work would talk about such dreams. Most people would find hearing someone's dream-depictions of bombs or other workplace violence disturbing. Not to mention, the article stated the woman was sedated - so this isn't a simple case of "mis-overhearing."

I agree with you on the mp3 and tripods, those are idiotic. All I was saying is that the oil rig story looked like journalistic embellishment to sell a better story.

LeoFebruary 14, 2008 5:39 PM

@rich

"Really, if one of my employees came to me and started talking nonsense about having dreams of bombs in the building, I'd call HR and get the person set up for clinical counseling."

You're probably not qualified to have employees then. I can see a really nice lawsuit coming out of this kind of overreaction. People often dream about the things that make them anxious. In these times, with politicians constantly telling us how afraid we should be of terrorism, it's quite normal to dream of things like bombs at work. It's also quite normal for people to talk to their coworkers about their dreams. People do it all the time. Sometimes people even make friends with coworkers. (These things are even more likely to happen when people are confined to an offshore oil rig.) It has nothing to do with "talking nonsense". I suspect coercing someone into counseling for normal behavior might be grounds for a lawsuit.

ChrisFebruary 14, 2008 5:51 PM

"Texas has some of the most lax gun control laws in the world. The violent crime rates in Texas cities are among the highest in the nation."

Texas' violent crime rate doesn't even make the top ten. Nor are it's gun control laws particularly 'lax'. In fact, it's carry laws leave a good deal to be desired.

RichFebruary 14, 2008 6:54 PM

@Leo

>>>>>>
You're probably not qualified to have employees then. I can see a really nice lawsuit coming out of this kind of overreaction. People often dream about the things that make them anxious. In these times, with politicians constantly telling us how afraid we should be of terrorism, it's quite normal to dream of things like bombs at work. It's also quite normal for people to talk to their coworkers about their dreams. People do it all the time. Sometimes people even make friends with coworkers. (These things are even more likely to happen when people are confined to an offshore oil rig.) It has nothing to do with "talking nonsense". I suspect coercing someone into counseling for normal behavior might be grounds for a lawsuit.
>>>>>>

So what would you do if an employee came to you talking about dreams of bombs at work or other disturbing violence in the workplace issues?

I know what I'm not qualified to do - and that is to handle that kind of topic with an employee. I would call Human Resources like I said above, and report it to them. Discrete counseling is available through work, and is even encouraged for people with problems. Simple as that. Ignoring these kinds of topics is probably why you're "suspecting" that this would be the wrong thing to do instead of having the leadership to know what you can handle and what is a matter for HR.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 7:11 PM

I work at Sheridan. Posting anonymously for several reasons other than the obvious ones.

With the spate of school-related shootings over the past few years, the school began undertaking and designing a more comprehensive 'Emergency Preparedness' strategy several months ago. Several forums held on the topic demonstrated tensions amongst faculty, staff, and students were high. There were several heated exchanges during them.

Part of this strategy included some 'test' runs of the college lockdown strategies, including a simulation of an 'active shooter' scenario. On the one hand, the college community is more thoroughly prepared for a real emergency and in some respects the incident on Friday demonstrated this.

On the other hand, the constant barrage of emails, posters, and simulations has probably in some way contributed to the paranoia that led to the false alarm.

At the end of the day, yes, it was a false alarm. People's time was wasted, and a lot of people went home scared (in this case) needlessly.

I think we only need to look at the news to see that school shootings are indeed a real (not movie-plot) threat. Does anybody expect it will happen? No. But I'm sure the students and staff at Dawson College weren't expecting what happened there, either.

Until you live through an event like this, it probably does seem like a 'war on the unexpected'. Given what can and has happened elsewhere, though, I think most of us who experienced this are mostly just relieved it was a false alarm.

LesterFebruary 14, 2008 7:20 PM

@Chris

I heard that Dallas and Houston both rank in the top ten for violent crime in U.S. cities of population over 500,000. They're both well above the national average.

Texas has no restrictions on gun purchases. The only restrictions are those imposed by federal law. How do you get more lax than that?

Concealed carry requires 16 hours in a classroom. Most people do it on a weekend. I could do it if I was willing to lie on the application, I suspect. I do find it odd that I can buy a shotgun and take it home the same day (last I checked) but I can't legally get a concealed carry permit.

LyleFebruary 14, 2008 7:37 PM

@Leo: In my experience, if people are having dreams about violence in their workplace, it's because they are under a great deal of job-related stress. This isn't froofy Jungian analysis, it's just "daily residue". It doesn't mean that the dreamer is likely to act out violent impulses, he may simply be feeling threatened. Fixing their workplace stress usually fixes their violent dreams. Clinical counseling is a good way for them to put their finger on just what it is that is threatening them, so maybe they can talk to HR or their supervisor about it and possibly, just possibly, get everybody back to working at peak form instead of eating themselves up.

LionellFebruary 14, 2008 8:09 PM

So many of you have missed the point. If a citizen feels they have a good reason to report something to the police, they have a responsibility to do so. Citizens, in general, aren't good at working out what is a real threat and what isn't, so you can't say "Only report real threats." You obviously can't say "Don't report threats." You're left with "Report everything you genuinely feel is a threat," which is what happened in at least the MP3 Player and the Tripod incident.

The problem is, in each case, the authorities didn't necessarily act appropriately. Rather than arresting, fingerprinting, mugshotting, etc., the poor guy, they should have approached him, discretely or with a show of force, and established on the spot (from either observation or confrontation, depending on their analysis of the situation) whether he was a genuine threat. No threat? No mugshot.

Everyone is so busy expecting the average citizen to work out what genuinely constitutes a clear and present threat that they miss the fact there's already a (supposedly well-trained) police force that exists, not just to enforce, but to apply sensible analysis of a potential threat and act appropriately. If they can't even get it right (as we've seen here), you can't expect Joe Average to manage.

LeoFebruary 14, 2008 8:10 PM

@Rich

"So what would you do if an employee came to you talking about dreams of bombs at work or other disturbing violence in the workplace issues?"

I'd have an ordinary conversation with that person. People have bad dreams. It's not a sign of anything dangerous or a need for counseling. I certainly wouldn't be disturbed by someone else's dream, although I could understand why they'd be a bit bothered by their own dream. Frightening dreams sometimes leave you frightened.

The stories I've read don't say: "She had a dream about a bomb on the rig. She went to her boss, agitated and scared, and told him she thought there was a bomb on board because she had a dream."

The stories I've read say she told a coworker about the dream, then the rumor mill went to work, then management ordered an evacuation. There's nothing wrong with having a frightening dream. There's nothing wrong with talking to a coworker about a frightening dream. A coworker would be the most likely person to share it with if the dream relates to your work (and coworkers are all that's available, like on an oil rig). There's no reason to evacuate a rig because of a dream, unless you place some magical, metaphysical significance on dreams. Management shouldn't be making decisions based on dreams or rumors. I can come up with situations where the management could have correctly felt the need to evacuate, but I haven't seen any of the necessary details in the articles I've read.

I haven't had any specifically frightening dreams about my work but I have had unpleasant dreams about work. Guess what - I talked to my coworkers about it. They've done the same with me. None of us got sent to HR or referred to counseling. Your argument that having a bad dream or talking about a bad dream is somehow bad all by itself is just wrong.

You seem to be making a lot of assumptions. Are you assuming that people who have violent or frightening dreams are themselves violent or dangerous?

RichFebruary 14, 2008 9:46 PM

@Leo

You know, I said all along that we don't know what happened and that the media has a long history of telling stories in a manner that makes them more newsworthy. The fact that the article states that the woman was sedated shows that at one point she was hysterical. That leads me to believe this isn't a simple case of someone overreacting, rather a hysterical employee carrying on about a bomb.

Who knows how she acted, or why. For all we know, she may have just wanted off the rig so started acting up hoping for a trip home. One that is clear - I wasn't there, neither was Bruce nor any of the others on this blog, so we'll never know. The company may have very well did the right thing in evacuating, but the overall consensus here is to agree with whatever Bruce says, so any dissenting opinions is going to be met with flames. I don't think that's doing a great service to the security community when the actions of a company which was most likely acting in the best interests of employee safety are used by someone like Bruce as an example of poor security. Look at the posts here, some folks are suggesting that employees should investigate and look for the bomb before following procedures and notifying 911. That's not good security - or safety - and safety trumps security any day of the week.

Furthermore, I don't know where you work or if you do indeed manage people, but there are protocols when dealing with employee issues. If you don't know this, you probably don't work for an established company or aren't in any significant position. You just can't counsel the employee yourself that comes to you with a disturbing story about dreams of workplace violence. Numerous case law is established requiring the manager to go to HR on these kinds of issues, because indeed there HAS been cases of organizations being sued after the manager noticed warning signs and failed to act appropriately on them.

I'm talking strictly employees here, you seem to use examples of "friends" and a that's different thing and also leads me to believe you don't manage people. If one of my most trusted colleagues, or friends, came to me with these kinds of stories I would suggest to them that they should seek help to discuss whatever was bothering them. If the story was disturbing enough, I would take further action, such as letting their spouse know and bringing their boss into the discussion.

If I did any less I'd be remiss in my responsibilities to my employer.

Mark J.February 14, 2008 9:46 PM

I find it odd that at one university a tripod can bring the police running, while at Northern Illinois University, a man can walk into a building with a shotgun and no one notices until he opens fire.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 9:48 PM

@Rich

"You seem to think that a bomber is as smart as you think you are (read it a couple of times, it's not a compliment)."

That's ok, Rich: I think you are an idiot too for going apeshit because you hear an Evil Word. As far as I am concerned, panic is a bad state of mind to be in, especially if one's life is supposedly on the line. But there is nothing I can do for you about any of this, nor your demonstrable reading comprehension problems. Carry on!

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 9:59 PM

@Rich

"If the story was disturbing enough, I would take further action, such as letting their spouse know and bringing their boss into the discussion."

Good grief. You won't need to worry about this ever happening: no one will ever bring any such issues to your attention. Narcing "trusted colleagues" in the manner you claim strongly suggests you have few of them in the first place. At least in the sense you may trust them, but they almost certainly don't trust you.

AnonymousFebruary 14, 2008 10:09 PM

@Rich

"Look at the posts here, some folks are suggesting that employees should investigate and look for the bomb before following procedures and notifying 911. That's not good security - or safety - and safety trumps security any day of the week."

See what I mean about reading comprehsion, Rich? I told you not to panic when you hear the word "bomb" in off-hand conversation. I told you to investigate whatever nonsense stories come your way, before calling the cops in yet another abuse of emergency services.

Look up hearsay and why it's awfully bad evidence to make almost any decision.

But sure, if someone comes into your office screaming "Fred in accounting has a hand grenade!", and you can hear pandemonium in general outside, you are probably on firm ground to call 911.

This is called "using your head". Simply shoving it up your posterior, following Official Procedures is why the Piper Alpha disaster ultimately killed 167 people. Useless management people (like you?) were paralyzed with fear of stepping beyond their authority by shutting down production on two pipelines, despite them looking out the window and seeing a monster fire in the distance.

FrancesFebruary 14, 2008 10:39 PM

It wasn't a man carrying a tripod, it was a picture on a security camera that showed someone carrying a long tubular object. Apparently no one could tell just what it was so the police were called. And this happened in Canada. While we don't have quite the level of violent crime using guns that happen in the U.S., it does happen here. Remember that it happened twice in Quebec. And Toronto has gangs which keep indulging in unrestrained gun play which have certainly killed innocent people. It happened most recently just last month.

bgard6977February 15, 2008 12:37 AM

FFS, The woman who reported the man with the mp3 player should be arrested and charged with harassment and filing a false police report. With any luck she might do a short stint in jail.

samFebruary 15, 2008 2:12 AM

Lester,

"I heard that Dallas and Houston both rank in the top ten for violent crime in U.S. cities of population over 500,000. They're both well above the national average"

http://www.securityworld.com/ia-442-2005-most-dangerous-cities-to-live-in.aspx

I assume those are the stats you "heard" (it's 2008, surely you can provide a reference to something on the interweb...).

Of course that's not actually evidence for Texas being more violent or dangerous than the rest of the US - it's actually evidence for the opposite. And pretending it is, is just dishonestly cherry picking data.


Given 2005 data there are only 33 cities with populations greater than 500,000. 6 of them are in Texas (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0763098.html). Hence in the top 10 we would expect there to be 2 Texas cities (well 1.82 but that's closer to 2 than 1). So two in the top ten puts Texas as exactly where it would be if it was average in terms of safety.

But, that same site also has a list of the 10 safest cities above 500,000 people: http://www.securityworld.com/ia-441-2005-safest-places-to-live-in-the-us.aspx

4 of them are in Texas (ie. all the remaining Texas cities >500,000). We would expect 2 (well 1.82).

So in fact Texas cities are safer than the average for >500,000 population cities.

Choosing the 2 cities that were less safe, instead of the 4 that were more safe is completely dishonest. Well it could also be laziness of not looking at the data for more a second or thinking "how many should be in the top 10 by chance if crime distribution was random?". But why bother arguing with facts you don't bother to check and think about for a few seconds?


Also:
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934323.html - Dallas and Houston ranked at 45 and 46 i n murder rates in US cities.

ChrisFebruary 15, 2008 2:27 AM

"Texas has no restrictions on gun purchases. The only restrictions are those imposed by federal law. How do you get more lax than that?"

If you only look at gun purchases, that's true. However, Texas could improve their gun laws in a lot of ways. They could allow open carry, as many states do. They could honor CCW permits from any state rather than just a select list, as ten other states do. They could prevent state agencies and local governments from imposing no-carry policies on their employees, as Utah does. They could trim or eliminate their rather extensive list of areas where CCW is prohibited. They could even allow CCW without requiring a permit, as Vermont and Alaska do.

RogerFebruary 15, 2008 4:50 AM

@Lionell:
> You're left with "Report everything you genuinely feel is a threat," which is what happened in at least the MP3 Player and the Tripod incident.

The problem is, that doesn't seem to be what happened in the MP3 player incident. The MP3 player does not resemble a pistol, at all. It is a little palm sized rectangular box with ear phones sticking out, a silver dial, and a grey LCD screen. It resembles a pistol in about the same way and to the same degree that a salad roll resembles a hatchet. If someone was so far away (or had such bad eyesight) as not to be able to see any details, it might conceivably be mistaken for a wallet, a small notebook, a packet of cigarettes, or a packet of playing cards. But it bears so little resemblance to a pistol that the view would need to be blurred down to a vaguely dark coloured blob before they could be confused even by the rankest amateur.

So we are forced to one of three conclusions. The person who made the report:
a) knew perfectly well that it was not a pistol, and made the report maliciously;
b) had such a poor view as to have no idea at all what he was carrying, and recklessly made a totally speculative report on slim probabilities; or
c) was quite mad and thought it was a pistol one moment and a boa constrictor the next.

RichFebruary 15, 2008 5:32 AM

@ Anonymous

>See what I mean about reading comprehsion, Rich? I told you not to panic when you hear the word "bomb" in off-hand conversation. I told you to investigate whatever nonsense stories come your way, before calling the cops in yet another abuse of emergency services.

That's not the issue. The issue is perceived threat that the time. There was obviously a perceived threat on the oil platform because the woman was sedated, which leads me to believe she was hysterical.

Read what I said, if people came to me concerned that there may be a bomb, I would follow the procedures for cases like that - call 911 and start getting people out of the building. It's not the time to call for an investigation using staff members instead of the police.

I don't work for a little company, there are procedures that need to be followed. Actually, your line of freewheeling thinking is why there are so many system compromises. You refuse to follow procedure because you think you're smarter than the people who did the risk analysis and developed the procedures.

prnFebruary 15, 2008 7:18 AM

@ bob at February 14, 2008 11:18

>Its a good thing most school officials dont
>realize that bricks could be used as weapons...

Its a good thing most school officials dont realize that PENCILS could be used as weapons. All the kids would have to use crayons for everything. :-(

I'm not a fan of no brain^H^H^H^H^Htolerance policies, in case you couldn't guess.

Paul

richFebruary 15, 2008 7:33 AM

@Landrubek

Oops, that's the computer scientist in me. :)

I think overall I'm doing pretty well considering I'm posting from my Blackberry half the time.

AnonymousFebruary 15, 2008 8:11 AM

@Rich:

"Read what I said, if people came to me concerned that there may be a bomb, I would follow the procedures for cases like that - call 911 and start getting people out of the building. It's not the time to call for an investigation using staff members instead of the police."

Actually, I can't find that above, but if that is what you would do, then I would call you out for doing such a silly thing.

If anyone came to me with a story like that, my first question would be "Did you call 911?" If the answer is "no", then I wouldn't bother triggering a corporate flight response, with the attendant drama and panic: clearly that person didn't feel the threat was credible enough to engage such a response, so how could I possibly make such a call?

This of course leaves you with a pesky problem of a subordinate feeling uncomfortable enough to raise an issue. Alas, that is a problem for you or I to solve. Fobbing it off to the cops is, wel, overkill, don't you think?

AnonymousFebruary 15, 2008 8:23 AM

@Rich

"There was obviously a perceived threat on the oil platform because the woman was sedated, which leads me to believe she was hysterical."

I find it difficult to believe they evacuated an entire platform, at very high direct and indirect cost, simply because of one (1) supposedly "hysterical" woman.

It is much easier to accept that someone was brainlessly following Official Corporate Policy. The one that reads "bomb threat -> evacuate". No doubt this policy is being re-written now to read "credible bomb threat -> evacuate", and committee members are likely incredulous they have to enshrine simple common sense.

RichFebruary 15, 2008 8:26 AM

@ Anonymous

Here's what I said:

"Good points, I work in a NYC skyscraper and if I heard buzz about a bomb from my employees, I'd call the NYPD and start getting people out. You can't sit there and potentially let people be at risk while trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the report."

I could have been more descriptive since you seem to narrowly read things in a manner to support your logic.

You said:

>>>>>
If anyone came to me with a story like that, my first question would be "Did you call 911?" If the answer is "no", then I wouldn't bother triggering a corporate flight response, with the attendant drama and panic: clearly that person didn't feel the threat was credible enough to engage such a response, so how could I possibly make such a call?
>>>>>

People react in different ways to different things. Didn't you have psychology in college? There are numerous studies where people have witnessed murders and not reported them.

Well, maybe you work for a small company in Des Moines, Iowa where such a threat would be ludicrous. The building where I work was hit with anthrax. I think we're two very different people with two very different responsibilities.

One thing is clear, it's better to get people out and be wrong about the bomb, as opposed to not get people out and have people killed. But, hey, if you're ever in the position to make such a call, and people are hurt, point them back to this article and how Bruce Schneier says it's bad security. That'll vindicate your decision.

AnonymousFebruary 15, 2008 9:03 AM

@Rich

"People react in different ways to different things. Didn't you have psychology in college? There are numerous studies where people have witnessed murders and not reported them."

I'll bite. Let's have one citation for a study where people "witnessed murders" and then failed to report them. It would also be interesting to know why someone who would not report a murder/bomb/whatever directly to the police, but would (somehow) magically report it to you. When does "not report" become "report"?

"One thing is clear, it's better to get people out and be wrong about the bomb, as opposed to not get people out and have people killed."

This is called "living in fear", and I have met _many_ people like you -- some have even attempted to do me harm because I refused to entire their little world of non-stop panic.

After several years of reading this blog of Bruce's, I finally got around to reading his book "Beyond Fear" in the last week.

I find it remarkable you claim to be professional and dispassionate to the point of turning in friends to their bosses for admitted transgressions (however you may define them - weird dreams, thoughts, etc), yet can't apply the same cool, analytical thinking to risk.

Disengaging the brain and following the Official Rules doesn't make you more secure.

I highly recommend Schneier's tome.

RichFebruary 15, 2008 11:01 AM

@ Anonymous

>>>>
I'll bite. Let's have one citation for a study where people "witnessed murders" and then failed to report them.
>>>>

I think you're really showing your education with this one - Google the name "Catherine Genovese," it's a classic case of this. High school students are taught this case. It's called the "bystander effect." Read the NY Times article called "Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police." I'm very surprised that I'd have to explain this phenomenon to someone on a professional forum. I studied CS/Math, and hated psychology, and even I remembered this lesson.

>>>>
It would also be interesting to know why someone who would not report a murder/bomb/whatever directly to the police, but would (somehow) magically report it to you. When does "not report" become "report"?
>>>>

You never know what could happen. If someone is hysterical about a bomb (as appeared the case on the rig) they may very well bring it to their superior's attention as a first reaction. A lot of bystanders don't want to get directly involved, but rather let a superior know and let them handle it. It's not unheard of.

>>>>
This is called "living in fear", and I have met _many_ people like you -- some have even attempted to do me harm because I refused to entire their little world of non-stop panic.
>>>>

I'm not living in fear. I've served in combat in the US Marines. I live across the street from the UN. There has to be a different reaction to the threat, and the gist of my argument was that we don't know what happened on the rig. If the woman was hysterical or in any way led people to believe that this was a real bomb and not someone making chit-chat, they made the right call by evacuating.

If someone made a joke about a bomb, I'd do nothing. If an employee came to me looking for counseling about crazy dreams of workplace violence, I'd go to HR. If there was a hysterical person going on about a bomb, and a perceived threat, I'd follow procedure.

>>>>
I find it remarkable you claim to be professional and dispassionate to the point of turning in friends to their bosses for admitted transgressions (however you may define them - weird dreams, thoughts, etc), yet can't apply the same cool, analytical thinking to risk.
>>>>

I would absolutely do it for someone who appeared to need help. What's disturbing is how nonchalant you'd handle an employee who came to you for counseling (employees aren't your friends) about dreams of workplace violence.

>>>>
I highly recommend Schneier's tome.
>>>>

I've read them all, including "Applied Crypto." Unfortunately, I look for employees who are intelligent and can draw logical conclusions and get to the focal point of issues without pointing the finger back to an expert for justification of flawed reasoning. Start thinking critically, and you'll be a better security professional.

TimFebruary 15, 2008 11:02 AM

Illinois school closed after threat of violence in what some would describe as a "movie plot" threat. Two months later 6 people are killed and another 15 injured, some critically.

Don't be ruled by fear.

Don't ignore fear.

Have a respect for fear and take reasonable precautions.

Jeremy HFebruary 15, 2008 3:06 PM

Sheridan is an art college. They have a TV/film program, three journalism programs, and numerous "digital media" programs. There are probably people walking around there all of the time with camera gear.

DDaleFebruary 15, 2008 5:09 PM

In my country we have very strict gun control. I'm 31 now and never in my life have I heard about any shootings in my city or the surrounding towns.
I see reports of shootings anytime I turn to US news.
The conclusion is very clear to me.

And since people in my country are not used to shootings, they are not paranoid, and would never call the police because of an ipod or tripod. We have no security checkpoints at school or whatever.
I would never exchange peace for a gun. I would ALWAYS choose not needing protection over needing protection and having (the illusion of) it.

It strikes me just now, that most people in the US might not understand the concept of living in a society where you are SAFE in your home, on the streets, at the school, or whereever.

SumDumGuyFebruary 15, 2008 5:17 PM

The Kitty Genovese example is a poor one. For one - there were multiple reports to the police. The "Bystander Effect" in this case refers to the fact that no one tried to directly help the lady or otherwise stop the attacks themselves, not that no one reported the attacks to the police.

SumDumGuyFebruary 15, 2008 5:20 PM

@DDale

On the contrary, the vast majority of people in the US feel, and are, safe their homes, streets and schools. Don't mistake the sensationalist news for the reality.

matutinalFebruary 15, 2008 6:25 PM

Somewhat obliquely related, but in California numerous signs on the freeway say "Report Drunk Drivers! Call 911." I've been thinking of calling my local California assembly member's office to ask when I get my free POST (peace officer service) training so that I can identify such suspects fairly and reliably. Otherwise, those signs are just a call to become a vigilante - which my dictionary defines as "a self-appointed doer of justice." And if in a moment of poor judgment I happen to give someone the finger when they cut me off in traffic, will I be their next "reported" "drunk driver"?

MikeFebruary 16, 2008 9:52 AM

@JustSomeGuy
Wow. what a complete lack of logic you show

>I remember a debate after the Virginia Tech shooting, basically the 'if everyone was armed this wouldn't have happened" argument.

Not necessarily prevented, but certainly limited in scope. A single gunman isn't going to get far if even a small fraction of the population is carrying.


>Both the tripod and mp3 cases are prime examples of why allowing the general population to run around armed is a bad
idea.
How so? The only "crime" the mp3 user was suspected of was possessing a gun. If it was legal to carry, there's no issue here.


>Over and over it's been shown that people misjudge what they see, make bad assumptions, jump to false conclusions, and react inappropriately.

>Look how bad it is now. Imagine how badly these cases would have turned out if anyone of the helpful bystanders involved >had pulled out a gun.
Why would anyone with a basic understanding of the law (allowing possession) and a little common sense do any such thing? People making bad judgements and ignoring the law cause many more deaths with an impersonal weapon than they ever would with handguns where you actually need to look at the person you're going to kill - that impersonal weapon being the automobile.

LKRaiderFebruary 16, 2008 8:13 PM

@mp3:

the problem here is how the authorities reacted. It's OK to react on 'cry wolf', but if they found no evidence of the guy carrying a gun, he should have never been taken away to a cell!

This sure must be totally illegal! Police must act on real factual evidence!

I don't know anything about UK laws, but this sure is just common sense.

IainFebruary 16, 2008 9:41 PM

The common thread in those articles: self-congratulation on the way the "emergency" was handled. What crap; the "emergency" wasn't, and was a bit far-fetched to start with.

AnonymousFebruary 17, 2008 1:36 PM

@Rich

"Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police"

As I expected, this turns out to be a bullshit story, Rich. A reasonable summary and analysis of the events can be read at Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Genovese

I direct your attention to the paragraph near the end:

"In September 2007, the American Psychologist published an examination of the factual basis of coverage of the Kitty Genovese murder in psychology textbooks. The three authors concluded the story is parable more than fact, largely owing to inaccurate newspaper coverage at the time of the incident.[12] "The since-challenged story of the circumstances surrounding Genovese's death 'continues to inhabit introductory social psychology textbooks (and thus the minds of future social psychologists),' the trio of British university professors write in the September issue of American Psychologist. The result is a lack of research into similar cases, their article maintains".[13]"

Hm. Lack of research. Got any more citations, Rich?

RichFebruary 17, 2008 4:10 PM

@Anonymous

Interesting read -- I highly recommend looking up the American Psychologist article. If you have a decent job, you can probably pull the article from your company's library website. Or maybe not.

Of note the article states:

*********
We are not, therefore, claiming that challenges to the story of the 38 witnesses invalidate the tradition of work on bystander intervention, nor are we saying that bystanders fail to intervene in serious incidents when it would appear that they both could and should.
*********

So even if the facts of this case are being challenged, the bystander effect is still a legitimate psychological phenomenon. And wasn't that what we were arguing after all? That people do strange things in time of emergency or stress?

There's no point in arguing with you any further. Your mind is not your own. You're clearly not an educated adult who's able to think rationally and form opinions based on fact.

AnonymousFebruary 17, 2008 4:34 PM

@Rich

"And wasn't that what we were arguing after all?"

Actually, no, it wasn't: this was a distraction raised by you, and one I was willing to entertain.

The point at issue was that you claimed people are not going to report stuff to you or others ... even though you were specifically talking about a report being made to you.

That is, you aren't making any sense at all, whether or not this "bystander effect" even exists. Logic, my man, logic! If you hear nothing (for any reason), are you going to sound the alarm? If you hear something, the "bystander effect" is not relevant, by definition.

(I'll also note that the bystander effect only reduces the probability of an individual reporting ... the probability of a report from the group as a whole naturally increases with the size of the group.)

"You're clearly not an educated adult who's able to think rationally and form opinions based on fact."

Yet you were telling me all about the "facts" of your famous case (38 witnesses and so on). I have yet to find one bonafide instance a well witnessed murder that went unreported by all witnesses ... at least until it was too late. Do you know of one? You were quite categorical, above.

I also suggest that in the future you follow your own advice re: google searches before you ask others to do the research for you.

Deputy DogFebruary 20, 2008 7:21 AM

Security forces have a deep vested career interest in promoting all the panic possible, that this coincides with terrorist aims to strike fear and panic i simply one feeding the other. Nixons 55 MPH had nothing to do with fuel supplies, it was to enrage the population to support an invasion that failed to occure as a result of his departure, again special interest (law enforcement) used it as a revinue source for 20+ years. It was all summed up 50 years during WW2 by "The only thing we have to fear is fear it's self (and those in government and their contractors profiting from it).

someoneFebruary 21, 2008 10:52 AM

This is how it all will end.

Everybody gets more and more freaked out.
Police will emplement more and more rigid protocols.
Terrorists are everywhere, we all know this because all of the arrests being made.
People get paranoid, or angry at the goverment. Riots break out, The US-Army well organized keep the lid on it all right to the point where society explody in a rabid frenzy.

We're going to stop terrorism right to the point where we kill ourselves.

And yes, the terrorists HAVE already won.
They change the way a WHOLE nation thinks, and made it build its own prison.

Nick NJune 1, 2010 1:07 AM

It sounds like all you need to do is paint your gun white, then everyone will think it's an iPod and you can wave it around as much as you like.

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