Schneier on 60 Minutes

I'm on 60 Minutes today. If you're a new reader who has just found me from that show, welcome. Here are links to some of my previous writings about airplane security:

Airport Pasta-Sauce Interdiction Considered Harmful
The TSA's Useless Photo ID Rules
Airline Security a Waste of Cash
Airplane Security and Metal Knives

I also interviewed Kip Hawley last year.

This page contains all my essays and op eds.

Everyone, consider this the thread to discuss the show.

I'm particularly croggled by this quote from the CBS page:

"...it's why the TSA was created: to never forget," Hawley tells Stahl.

This quote summarizes nicely a lot about what's wrong with the TSA. They focus much too much on the specifics of the tactics that have been used, and not enough on the broad threat.

EDITED TO ADD (12/23): Here's the segment.

Posted on December 21, 2008 at 4:00 PM • 128 Comments

Comments

Ian MasonDecember 21, 2008 4:30 PM

"...it's why the TSA was created: to never forget," Hawley tells Stahl"

So, they're admitting that they're as effective as a marble memorial? ;-)

LandruBekDecember 21, 2008 4:54 PM

"...it's why the TSA was created: to never forget,"

Oh America, please, please stop splitting your infinitives!

AustinDecember 21, 2008 5:00 PM

Heh, my friend got through DC and Atlanta security with 2 good sized knives in his carry on, (which he forgot he had), and not one got caught. It's almost a joke at this point.

electrogrealhamDecember 21, 2008 5:43 PM

Dear Mr Schneier,
If I may call you Bruce, even though we don't know each other. I'm going to watch the show tonight on 60 minutes, to get the story in full hopefully. To explain my back ground. I'm retired Air Force Security Police, Desert Storm veteran and a Behavior Detection Officer for TSA. I'm not familiar to your back ground yet, but I will soon read up on qualifications. The show is at the utmost interest to me, as to the outlook of the public. More than that is your comments, due to your name being mentioned frequently. Any personal comments or consultation you may be willing to give or discuss would be greatly appreciated. Your response would welcomed.
Thank you
electrogrealham

Chris JDecember 21, 2008 6:21 PM

Thanks Bruce, I forgot all about this, and I was looking forward to it when you first mentioned it.

FelixDecember 21, 2008 6:22 PM

@electrogrealham:

I'm sorry to hear that you, as a TSA professional haven't heard of Bruce, who is (on the internet at least) considered to be one of the leading voices on security in all its forms.

However, the good news is that (if I remember correctly) Bruce is a supporter of behavioural detection.

OssworksDecember 21, 2008 6:40 PM

Hi Bruce,

Thank you so much for assisting (directing) that 60 Minutes segment. WOW! Was that refreshing! This aimless bureaucratic nonsense has got to stop.

But will it? Are we trapped and floating among idiots as far as as the eye can see?

Fight on Bruce! Fight on! Some day we will have equal footing with the idiots!

Chris JDecember 21, 2008 6:45 PM

Finished watching it. I thought the segment could have, and should have been longer. I don't normally watch 60 minutes, so I'm not familiar with the format of the show.

From my point of view, I think they spent too much time focused on Mr Hawley, and him saying, the TSA works because we say it works, while not enough time questioning what they do or how they do it, and how little the effectiveness was.

I think the most interesting thing was, Hawley saying there were to people with suspected ties to terrorism in the air at that time of the interview, yet no questions were raised about the No Fly List.

Count 0December 21, 2008 6:45 PM

I thought you gave a good interview, but I think that 60 Minutes has lost some of it's edge. Lesley Stahl should have been harder on both you and Kip Hawley and made both of you give more reasons for your positions. Perhaps she did but it was not included in the final cut. I thought this piece came off as kind of a PR piece for the TSA with your token opposition.

OssworksDecember 21, 2008 6:58 PM

This whole screening-effectiveness problem has to be seen from two points of view. There are the majority of fearful (sheeple) that are willing to offer up personal freedom in exchange for (the illiusion of) more security. Then there are a minority of pragmatists that do see all of this as ineffectual "theater" and see their freedom as more important.

I think the pragmatists will loose this battle.

RobDecember 21, 2008 6:59 PM

too short. the whole show should have been about this topic! Agree with Count 0 above, probably lots left on the cutting room floor on both sides.

blueMagooDecember 21, 2008 7:01 PM

I thought the TSA guy was spreading around his FUD big time in a lame attempt at justifying his organization's behavior & continued existence. Maybe when the new president takes office some of this madness with stop and the funds will be put to better use.

alex aramanDecember 21, 2008 7:34 PM

FORTUNENATLY U WERE NOT AT LIBERTYAND SOUTHEND AVE ON 9/11/01 AT ABOUT 9:10-9;15AM WHEN WE SAW ANOTHER PLANE HIT THE SECOND TOWER OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER--AND TILT IT WINGS 2-4-SECONDS BEFORE IMPACT TO GET THE BEST AFFECT. I WAS THERE . i SAW IT AND I SEE IT ALMOST EVERY NITE . HOWEVER I AM NOT GOING INTO THE DETAILS OF THE HORRERS THAT I EXPERIENCED FOR FIVE DAYS. BRUCE SCHNEIER U ARE NOT A SMUCK-LEAVE TSA ALONE-YES THE PENDULUM HAS SWUNG TO THE OTHER EXTREEM,YEA I GET FUSTRATED WHEN I GO TO THE AIRPORT --ONE HELL OF A PAIN IN THE ASS- BUT I GOT TO TELL U THAT IT FELLS GREAT WHEN I LANDAND WALK OFF THAT PLANE.

Magenta GriffithDecember 21, 2008 7:38 PM

Excellent interview, Bruce, what there was of it.

I wish someone had brought up Israeli security, specifically, El Al, and how they has been handling these problems for decades. Or perhaps that was edited out.

Michael AshDecember 21, 2008 7:39 PM

@ alex araman

Now there's some reasoning which makes no sense! You were greatly affected by a terrorist attack, therefore the TSA must be doing a good job. This is a total non sequitur. Someone in your position should be more concerned than the average person that the TSA shows no evidence of doing a good job!

Andrew WDecember 21, 2008 7:43 PM

What struck me most about Hawley in the segment was how scared *he* was. It must be a miserable life knowing that in the absence of an attack your success can only be judged in terms the number of new security measures you've installed in airports.

aikimarkDecember 21, 2008 7:50 PM

Bruce

"...it wasn't my best interview"
It wasn't that bad. Your exposure was certainly limited to the editor's discretion.

alex aramanDecember 21, 2008 7:55 PM

the evedince that the tsa is doing a good job -and getting better-i might say is that u and i are sitting here on a sunday nite after wathcing the jets loose and tenn. win and know that the n.y giants will have a complete game without interruption. thank god we live in rhis country!!! leave the pain in th ass t-s-a alone let them do their job.

KarlDecember 21, 2008 8:07 PM

With hardened cockpit doors, attempting to hijack an airliner (hopefully) won't work anymore. So, it seems like the most plausible attack is to actually blow up an aircraft, making explosives the biggest threat.

And you know what? Explosives are hard to screen for. All of the TSA's new policies are aimed at the explosive threat. They have the ability to screen for explosive liquids right now, but it's a time-consuming process, so they only screen medically-necessary liquids and toss the rest.

The TSA recently announced that new x-ray machines will allow them to effectively screen liquids. Hopefully this will improve their PR and also address the issue of tossing potentially dangerous liquids into giant bins at the checkpoint.

The shoe rule needs to go, though. There are far too many ways to smuggle explosives through, and it's not clear that you could actually pack that much in your shoe.

periDecember 21, 2008 8:18 PM

Well it was nice to be able to watch a TSA agent tossing a box of "dangerous liquids" away; it was fun to imagine the other trash can filled with LED counters ticking ominously in the down direction along with other EE student projects. I wonder how many two liter bottles the TSA can magic away so one doesn't have to bother with pesky hazardous waste disposal issues?


It was pretty sad to see that was about the depth of their coverage of the issue. Certainly reinforces my belief that relying on TV or news media is a bad idea -- except of course Stewart and Colbert. I only mention them because I would imagine it would be fun to see a Schneier appearance on their shows.

Chris JDecember 21, 2008 8:25 PM

@ alex araman

The problem is they are not doing their jobs. They're worried about you having a cheap 3 cent lock on your luggage, that anyone with a paper clip can open. They're worried about people drinking pop in line. They're worried about being yelled at.

What they don't do, is make sure people take their shoes off in line. The 4 times I've been through security check points since the no shoes rule, I've worn shoes through.

The last time I flew out of Detroit Metro, people in line had to swear at TSA to get the agents' attention, because there was an un-attended bag in the area. It had been sitting there in the middle of the floor for 20 minutes. When we got an agent's attention, he came over and threatened about 5 of us with arrest, because someone called him a mean name. The Airline's Ticket Agent is the one that did something about the bag. Neither of the 2 TSA people that came over had any idea what to to do. This was in 2005. (And one of the 4 times I wore my shoes through the inspection, in fact the TSA guy at screening said to not worry about taking them off).

Same trip, on the way back from Ft Lauderdale, a TSA agent argued with me, over the new locks I bought, to replace the ones that came with the luggage. The new ones were TSA approved. She said if I didn't take them off, they would cut them off. (Note locks on your luggage is to keep your zippers together, not keep people out).

The last time I dealt with TSA was 2 years ago. I took my then girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) to the Air Port. I walked up to the Metal Detector with her. The TSA guy said I couldn't. When I asked if he was going to keep the 3 kids with her back, and send them through one at a time after she got to the other side. He waved me through. At that point I could have walked her all the way to the gate if I wanted to. When I tried to get out the way I went in (and the airport was slow a the time since it was a red eye flight), he wouldn't let me. I actually moved one of the corral posts they use for the sheeple, to leave. Nothing happened to me.

You can try to say that my experiences were isolated cases, but there are documented cases of far more than what I've done out there. TSA isn't working. People think it is because there have been no more attacks yet, but that's really because terrorism is about making you scared, not blowing you up.

IF the TSA WORKED, we would applaud them. Since they don't and we're paying for them to work (taxes and convince) we want to make sure we're getting our time and money worth.

Chris JDecember 21, 2008 8:30 PM

I think it was posted by Bruce, but I remember hearing about a guy that just took his bottle back out of the trash after it was tossed.

What I'm surprised no one mentioned, is how effective it would be to use the trash to blow things up. Bruce said in the segment, they throw stuff away and it sits there all day. We saw them overfilling the can...

Why not mix a few different things together so when they mix, they become nasty. If blowing up a plane gets a lot of media, think of what taking out part of an airport would do? And if I thought of this off the top of my head in about 3 minutes time, what about the "terrorists" that we're supposed to be scared of. I'm sure they already thought of this, and it is something the TSA isn't being reactionary about yet.

Curt SampsonDecember 21, 2008 9:26 PM

alex araman,

In the original post at the top of this page you'll find a set of links to several essays that Bruce Schneier has written that discuss in great detail why the so-called "safety measures" of the TSA (and many other organizations, for that matter) are hurting us more than they're helping. I suggest you read through them carefully and and ensure that, if you're going to post a rebuttal, you're addressing the specific points they make.

The long and short of it is this. If, because of the fears terrorists are generating, the goverment spends $100 of your own personal tax money on security that you could get for $10, the terrorists score a victory. If someone makes you go through an uncomfortable, time-wasting procedure that doesn't make you more secure, just to assuage fears of terrorism, that's another victory for the terrorists. When I decided not to take a holiday to the United States a few years ago, because flying was just to much of a pain, that was a victory for the terrorists.

Since 9/11, the terrorists have been hurting the United States much more effectively than they ever have in history. Much of that is self-inflicted, and much of that is due to people like you accepting this situation, nay, even asking for it.

cjs@cynic.net

CarlDecember 21, 2008 9:53 PM

Looks like the links on the RSS feed for this article are broken. They all refer to www.schneier.com/blog/essay...
instead of the proper link in the root directory.

Perhaps it's already fixed.

Michael SeeseDecember 21, 2008 10:27 PM

"They focus much too much on the specifics of the tactics that have been used." Agreed. For years after 9/11, you couldn't even take a 1" penknife on a plane. (I've heard that now, you can.) In fact, I lost one that belonged to my father because I forgot to pack it, and had to give it up. Nobody is ever going to hijack a U.S. airliner again, and anyone who tries certainly is not going to use a penknife. But, let's keep them off the planes to keep us safe.

Mark J.December 21, 2008 10:59 PM

Typical 60 Minutes. They craft their shows to portray the POV they favor. They want to be pro-TSA, so they show your sections early and end with Kip's patriotic fear-mongering.

BenjaminDecember 21, 2008 11:47 PM

I really enjoyed watching your interview, Bruce. Although I've read your books, I also watched with my Dad who hadn't heard of you except from me. He is a frequent air traveler and thought you made great arguments (a lot better than those of TSA). Even though it was apparent that the interview had been massively edited, your logic was bulletproof.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2008 12:08 AM

I'll agree with those who see this as a biased piece. Bruces showing was a token cast in the direction of journalistic balance. Unfortunatly pretty usual for this sort of show.

Bruce is also at a disadvantage because his position won't fit in a sound bite. Kip arrived prepped with a sound bite ready - that's what that "to never forget" bit was.

I liked that "there are two people we are watching in the air right now".

Notice how easy it is to hear that "there are two people with suspected ties to terrorism in the air right now". At least one comment above as made that mistake.

Cue good journalism: "What are they being watched for and why are they on the plane at all?" But we got "Is that true?" What did she expect? Kip: "Oh no - not really, I was just kidding there..."

Two suspicious items show up on the scan - "what were they? Why were they suspicious?" asks good journalism - we got: "Two - really? Wow!"

Could we have had a look at the kinds of items which were being binned?

"Some people say this is a kind of theatre"
"That's not true"
... oh OK then... end of investigation

In short - 60mins have done better - but I don't think they have done much worse.

TerryDecember 22, 2008 12:41 AM

First of all do something about your hair. that ponytail and scraggly hair and beard look awful!

Kip Hawley is a jackass. Like most Government officials these days he is a Bush flunky that couldn't find his ass with both hands. He is also incompetent and a profuse liar.

As to EL Al people love to say the airlines should do what El Al does without realizing that EL AL is a huge expense to the israeli government and does not make money. On the contrary they are deep in the hole all the time. Their very existence is israeli propaganda since their security costs so much it is not feasible to run a for profit airline the same way El Al is run.

Mike AkersDecember 22, 2008 1:35 AM

Pretty good segment, I was hoping for more of Bruce discussing attacks that the TSA just can't prevent with screening alone, but I suspect that if any of that material was shot, it was left out of the broadcast so CBS couldn't be accused of "giving the terrorists ideas."

NeighborcatDecember 22, 2008 6:15 AM

"...there are two people with suspected ties to terrorism in the air right now."

"...the boogeyman could be in your closet right now!"

Scary stuff indeed.

Hey...where were Bush and Cheney when the segment was taped?

Chris FinchDecember 22, 2008 7:09 AM

People taking off their clothes, people dealing with bottles of..."fluids"....before you know it, porn will be filmed in customs.

Is KY jelly allowed on planes? What about astroglide?

AnonymousDecember 22, 2008 7:11 AM

@Terry

TSA isn't exactly a money-maker either. If they did things more like El Al, we'd at least get something for the money.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 22, 2008 7:15 AM

Completely unbelievable.

"Hawley said the behavior detection officers can tell if someone is anxious over missing a flight or anxious over carrying a bomb."

Yeah, right.

From Bruce,
"Alright, let's say I want to smuggle a liquid on an airplane. I go through airport security. If they catch me, I go around and go through again. If they catch me, I go round and go through again. I can do it 100, 1,000 - I can do it all day till I get it through. So because it's not treated as dangerous, there's no point in taking it away."

You didn't go far enough, Bruce. Think of the container as a grenade. If someone showed up with a grenade, what would be the reaction? You can be damn sure that they wouldn't just let the person try again.

But that is EXACTLY what they do do.

Their behaviour is inconsistent at best and schizophrenic at worst.

Chris FinchDecember 22, 2008 7:16 AM

Behaviour Detection officers...lol...they will notice sex offenders behaving oddly because there are children on the flight.

Al Qaeda has never launched a war on the 6-yr old boy.

bluknightDecember 22, 2008 7:21 AM

@dud:

I was able to view it on cbsnews.com last night.

@alex araman:

Congratulations, citizen -- you've let the terrorists win!

PyneJDecember 22, 2008 7:32 AM

@Terry

yes but airlines don't fund the TSA, the government does. Maby it will cost more, but would you spend 10$ on a 5 foot fence of 15$ on a 10 foot fence with barbed wire?

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 8:03 AM

You all bust on Terry Araman as if he is supporting terrorism. Ridiculuous. (sp?)

I beleive in my job and know the mission. The training I have recieived is good, and applies directly to my job. I am a good employee and do a great job. I always get good reviews and raises for my performance.

With that, all of you complaining about TSA only talk of the bad experiences. You never speak of the good experiences and almost all of you have had one. There are times you all have gotten through security in a smooth sweep with no problems. But due to our dramatics-filled society and the fact that you all want something to complain about only stokes your fire for war stories.

Come to my airport, you may never forget us. We screen 2 million passengers a day. We cannot afford to be wrong one time.

Go ahead and complain, beacause your tax dollars gave me my last raise, my last bonus, and encourages me to strive to do the best that I can do.

If half of you had the mettle, the loyalty to country, and the mindset to be the best, then you would stand out in your jobs too.

So now I have said my peice, go ahead and flame me for being the best that I can be.

Ingrates.

Noble_SerfDecember 22, 2008 8:29 AM

I shouldn't have watched.

I was miffed earlier that day by the insanity of vehicle security at a remote military base where I buy groceries.

Since the gates were built with ease of use in mind, they've had to hobble together at least 10 security points, and it's horrible.

I can't stand to see people so damn scared. What are they scared of anyway? What about the people (most of them soldiers and mission critical civilians) who live OUTSIDE that gate?

They will eventually spend hundreds of millions recolating things on military bases so that they have "layers" making it easy to get to the shopping and recreation spots yet hard to get to the offices and troop areas, but damn.

Then I see Hawley.

At least the media often contacts Bruce and gives him a chance.

Thanks.

Jamie December 22, 2008 8:38 AM

My wife and I watched the show (and I got her to switch the channel from Desperate Housewives at the instant the TSA segment began!).
The point we took away is that finite public safety dollars spent elsewhere will make everyone safer. Spending so much on the TSA 'production' takes away from more effective measures and makes everyone less safe.
In reference to the segment that followed maybe, Bruce, you could lend your advice to protecting the elephant population in Africa. The elephants threats and risks are hundreds of factors greater than the flying public and perhaps more worthy of securing.

CeejDecember 22, 2008 8:42 AM

@ Jeremy - Nobody is saying you don't do a good job of what you've been told to do. The problem isn't how well you do it, it's the ideas behind it all.

You let me on a plane with some steel epoxy, I can use some steel epoxy and a metal spoon to make a knife.

You can't test that bottle of prescription eye drops I have to see what it really is, much less know that if I mixed it with the 2oz bottle of "Listerine" and pieces of styrofoam in my bag that I've made napalm.

There are ways around it all, no matter how thorough and diligent you are. Nobody is (or at least should be) criticizing your diligence. There is simply always going to be a way around it. The key to catching bad guys is to do so well before they get to the airport.

CalumDecember 22, 2008 8:48 AM

@Jeremy - no-one is saying that individual employees of TSA don't usually do the best they can do. However, what we are disputing is whether guys like you alone can actually neutralise the threat posed by an intelligent, opportunistic terrorist. I'm sure you have had conversations with your colleagues about how you could beat your own system. All we're doing is the same thing. And it is very frustrating to see something done wrong when it could just as easily be done right.

Nomen PublicusDecember 22, 2008 8:52 AM

If the TSA do not dispose of all confiscated liquids as "hazardous waste" the confiscation is a fraud.

Either the liquids are dangerous in which they should be treated as such, or they are not in which case the process is pointless.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 9:01 AM

@Jeremy: "We screen 2 million passengers a day. We cannot afford to be wrong one time."

Bloggers, I do think Jeremy makes a valid point we should respect, even if we don't agree.

While I think Schneier is correct on many points where the risk is small and the controls are inefficient, perhaps not worth the resources or inconvenience.

However, take the tiny percentage or risk Bruce correctly points out, and mulitply it by 2 million per day. Multiply that by 365 days a year. Then multiply that by however many years Hawley or whever else is responsible for airline security. While Bruce is correct that terrorists will adapt their tactics to use things screeners do not confiscate, you do have the (also small) risk that a Virginia-Tech-massacre style nutjob will want to do harm with a tactic he read about, like liquids or shoebombs.

It is impossible to know the exact percentage, but if we make even a very conservative estimate of 1 out of a million (and given crime percentages, that is most likely underestimating airline threats), that is 2 people a day who are a threat, 730 people a year, and a few thousand during someone's tenure at the helm. It is much easier for us to call that risk negligable than it is for them to. Not to mention, they'll be the ones on the hotseat if there is even one incident in a decade.

And even if they had and could afford enough genuius profilers to pick the one threat out of a million, which they don't, we can't assume that person won't dupe a 90 year old cripple (or another one of the 99.9999% who are no risk) into bringing materials on that he couldn't.

That is not to say that I agree with TSA (I don't), but I do sympathize with their dilemma. A lot more so than anyone will if they incur even one incident per 7 billion passengers (one per decade).

Merry Christmas.

not quite anonDecember 22, 2008 9:09 AM

"There are ways around it all, no matter how thorough and diligent you are. Nobody is (or at least should be) criticizing your diligence. There is simply always going to be a way around it."

I will add to this. India's airport security is greatly superior to ours. Passengers must go through multiple screenings before stepping onto the plane. This includes multiple checks of carry-on luggage including a mandatory rummage through the contents just before boarding. No random selection or picking off. Everyone has to go through it. When the last major terrorist attack occurred, the attackers did not go through the airports at all. They came by land and by sea and used AK-47s and grenades for their carnage, not bottles of liquids.

CalumDecember 22, 2008 9:28 AM

@HJohn - you are correct, in that there are occasionally going to be nutters who will from time to time try and take out a plane or something else newsworthy. However, the point is, all the money we spend on this could be spent on something else. If we spent it on road safety measures, how many lives would we save? That's the real tragedy behind this discussion.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 9:38 AM

@Calum: "However, the point is, all the money we spend on this could be spent on something else. If we spent it on road safety measures, how many lives would we save? That's the real tragedy behind this discussion."

I agree with that.

ronwDecember 22, 2008 9:41 AM

"...it's why the TSA was created: to never forget," Hawley tells Stahl"

No wonder TSA has, at best, a misdirected focus. Nothing I've seen better illustrates the point that the TSA is looking back, and probably completely missing what may be headed our way.

Here's hoping Mr. Hawley's replacement has a vision for TSA beyond some bumper sticker, sound bite slogan. I'm assuming we are stuck with this jobs program for the foreseeable future.

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 10:00 AM

I just realized something:

With the understanding of TSA but the disagreement, it goes from expressing your opinion in a respectful manner to full-on disgracing those you see operating with the TSA uniform on. This is what me and more TSA employees contend with, and it is very upsetting once you have dealt with it for such a long time.
So I am thinking that the big problem as most see it, is a spending of fundds without a full understanding of what they are going for. Also, not being told why you must go through certin aspects of security in a specific manner. Because of this, it is a frustrating. We are an information people and society and are curious. When we are told "You cannot be told why" then it is often taken as personal. This in turn evokes a disrespectful tone and response.

Maybe you like TSA, but you disagree with methods and money TSA uses.

We are unable to disclose why certain methods are in place, and due to this, a lot of people are upset. Just because you may not understand it doesn't mean there is a not purpose behind it.

It has to do with your security and safety.

How many Americans think of the events from 9/11 on a daily basis?

RHDecember 22, 2008 10:03 AM

@Jeremy: I'm impressed at you coming here, with a clearly different point of view, and having the guts to say it anyways.

So far (we're only about 50 comments in), I'm also very impressed that there have not yet been any flame wars, even with a few people who would be so easy to flame. I'm glad to see so many rational arguments, even if there's a few I disagree with personally.

The only thing you said which I would take issue with is, "We cannot afford to be wrong one time." This implies a 100% success rate. The only way to do that is to concentrate on security 100%. It is well documented that security and usability are in direct opposition, so 100% security means no usability.

In short: best way to stop terrorists from using planes is to stop flying them. Close the airports.

Most people who follow Bruce Schneier's blog are not of the opinion that "TSA is worth nothing!" (though some would phrase it that way just to get a rise out of people). Most are of the opinion that TSA is not worth enough to defend the tax dollars it receives.

And please note that that is directed at TSA, not at TSA employees. Anybody willing to submit themselves to that much public hatred clearly cares enough about what they're doing to do the best job they can. The argument is that, if your administration would quit doing securtiy theater, and stop tossing these "100% secure" and "never forget" things around, you could apply your best towards facets of security which provide more bang for their buck.

--------

And, on a totally different topic, why don't people like splitting infinitives? I know, it wasn't right, but, to me:
"never to forget" - a negative statement which translates as "There will never be a time where we forget"
"to never forget" - a positive statement which translates as "For all time, we will not forget"

While the 1st order logic expressions are identical, I find a bit of difference. To me, the former is a criteria which is simply passed until failed. To me, the latter is a statement of action which is automatically failed unless one takes effort.

RHDecember 22, 2008 10:10 AM

@ Jeremey (again):
while writing up my previous one, you made another post, and in all honesty, its more fun to challenge someone with a different point of view than to just have 100 posts all of which say the same sentiments.

1. I am of the opinion that the average American should not think about the events of 9/11 on a daily basis because I believe that doing so would artificially inflate the apparent threat of terrorism, having a detrimental effect on quality of life. You are welcome to disagree.

2. I think you did sum it up well. We like the idea of a security agency, but we feel it is not directing funds towards maximizing security.

3. This blog is a dangerous place to bring up the "we can't tell you" argument. That particular argument can only be made for dealing with novice terrorists. The skilled terrorists (the ones Kip insists TSA targets) cannot be befuddled by security through obscurity. The skilled terrorist WILL be armed with such information unless it is classified (as in SECRET//NOFORN, not just FOUO). And even then, there's no guarantee that they cannot get to that information. Hiding things from the public does not hide it from these people, who may be willing to spend many year (indeed, spend their lives) in planning an attack.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 10:15 AM

@Jeremy: "How many Americans think of the events from 9/11 on a daily basis?"

Not many, which poses what must be a frustrating dilemma for you. It's a no win. If you succeed, people think less about the risks and you're called a waste, and if you fail you're called incompetent (with all the people who were complaining about what you did now demanding to know why you didn't do more).

That catch-22 is part of why I'm more sympathetic than to what the TSA's difficult responsibilities are.

CalumDecember 22, 2008 10:27 AM

As for split infinitives, it's best to cheerfully ignore them. Just because you can't split an infinitive in Latin is no good reason why you can't in English.

Dave XDecember 22, 2008 10:59 AM

Jeremy, If you truly believe you are not wrong once while 2,000,000 people per day, you are missing a big part of the problem that people like Bruce are trying to point out.

For example, TSA is wrong every time it casually discards a bottle of water as a dangerous item, since they are not actually bombs. This inherent wrongness built into your system provides easy exploit for those who would actually want to smuggle a water-bomb through: "Oh? I'm sorry, I forgot my water was in there. Go ahead and toss it away, and thanks for being so diligent, Mr. TSO."

The statistics of low-occurence event detection makes finding "the unusual" in heterogeneous haystacks of 2,000,000 people per day an exercise in futility.

RSaundersDecember 22, 2008 11:01 AM

@HJohn, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Nobody is saying that secure air travel is undesirable. It is just really hard. Some really hard things, like cancer research, we spend decades and millions of dollars on because the return justifies the effort. Other really hard things, like detecting every time someone breaks a traffic rule, we don't invest it. Just because we don't have enough traffic officers to ticket every speeding car doesn't mean speed limits are useless. By setting TSA up as a terrorism PREVENTION scheme, Kip Hawley has made the job so hard that it's probably impossible.

At some point, the government needs to decide to stop spending money on a problem that is so hard that it's financially unsolvable.

In April of some recent years, Bruce has used this blog to document good terrorist plots. He gets several hundred good plots for the cost of an autographed book. Though it's a great book, getting 500 terrorist ideas for $50 (perhaps inflating the value of Bruce's signature) sets the value of a terrorist idea at 10 cents. One thin dime buys you an idea that TSA does not have a solution to. That's completely out of whack with the level of spending TSA seems to feel is needed. They never forget, but they never seem to learn either.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 11:13 AM

@Dave X: "Jeremy, If you truly believe you are not wrong once while 2,000,000 people per day, you are missing a big part of the problem that people like Bruce are trying to point out."

I don't really think that is what Jeremy is trying to say, even though those are the words he used. I don't think he believes that they are never wrong once, they are probably wrong quite a bit. What I think he means is that they cannot afford to let that 1 in a million would be threats through, that there needs to be a 99.9% chance that if a person with nefarious intent tries to smuggle something through, that they dont' make it through with some or all of it.

We all know it is tough to explain things 100% on the Internet. Perhaps Jeremy will clarify more. But he seems like an intelligent, rational person, and I doubt he thinks that, in the course of screening 2 million people, they never make a mistake.

I think his dilemma is that while TSA cannot really succeed in the PR world--no matter how long we go without 0 (zero) hijackings or incidents many will call them a failure and hate the inconvenience, yet the minute 1 (just one) happens it will prove they are a failure. Basically, they can never really win.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 22, 2008 11:55 AM

@Jeremy
"Come to my airport, you may never forget us. We screen 2 million passengers a day. We cannot afford to be wrong one time."

And yet the statistics show that you are wrong. Just about every single time the system is tested.

"But due to our dramatics-filled society and the fact that you all want something to complain about only stokes your fire for war stories."

No. We're discussing the failures of the security system.

"This is what me and more TSA employees contend with, and it is very upsetting once you have dealt with it for such a long time."

Then address the points that have been brought up.

"We are unable to disclose why certain methods are in place, and due to this, a lot of people are upset. Just because you may not understand it doesn't mean there is a not purpose behind it."

This is the wrong forum to make statements such as that. Look up "security through obscurity".

If the process depends upon someone not knowing WHY it is there, it is fundamentally broken.

That is the point that has been made here, over and over. The processes that you are so proud to be following are broken.

The real reason there hasn't been another terrorist attack is that the terrorists who could carry out such an attack in the USofA are extremely rare.

Otherwise, you would not be posting here about how you process 2 million people. You'd be posting about how you identified X terrorists who were then caught and prosecuted.

The TSA has yet to be able to identify a single terrorist who was caught trying to board a plane.

GeorgeDecember 22, 2008 2:32 PM

Jeremy, first let me thank you for all your hard work and dedication in following the orders and implementing the procedures and rules that you honestly believe are effective at protecting the Homeland. Nobody has any quarrel with you. (Unless you're one of the TSOs who decides that crystal solid deodorant is a "liquid," or who confiscates 1-ounce bottles of sunscreen because it's not in a manufacturer's labeled bottle, and thus violates an unpublished and unknowable "rule" that happened to be in effect at that moment at that checkpoint. Both of those have happened to me. It's hard to have any respect for an agency that does such arbitrary and stupid things, and even punishes people who do their best to follow the rules.)

Our criticism is not of you, since you only obey orders diligently and don't make the rules. The criticism is about rules, restrictions, and procedures that undeniably cause difficulty and expense for millions of law-abiding passengers, but without any evidence that we're actually getting any effective protection for all it's costing us in dollars, time, and lost liberty. What makes it worse is that your bosses insist (as you do) that we must accept on pure blind faith their assertions that it's all necessary and effective. As you say, there may be "purpose behind it," but when that purpose too often translates into actions that are clearly arbitrary, capricious, and stupid it's hard to give such assertions any credibility at all. It's especially difficult when they come from an administration that has a consistent track record of complete contempt for the rule of law, civil liberties, and the truth. If they expect us to accept what they say on faith, the Bush administration certainly gives us no reason to have any faith in anything they say or do.

So yes, I know you are working hard at a mission you genuinely believe in. But under the circumstances I think you'll have to forgive us for lacking your apparent faith in your agency and your mission. The Bush administration has thoroughly botched everything having to do with Homeland Security, and the TSA surely is no exception.

Finally, to answer your question, I'm sure very few Americans "think of the events from 9/11 on a daily basis." I believe that's a good thing. We should indeed never forget 9/11. But we should also never let it terrorize us into giving up the liberties millions of our soldiers have died to defend, or particularly into letting Dick Cheney transform the United States of America from a unique constitutional democracy into a third-rate dictatorship ruled by an imperial Unitary Executive. The Bush administration's usurpation of executive power and conduct of the "Global War On Terror" in the name of 9/11 desecrates the memory of the 3,000 victims, and gives al-Qaeda a greater victory than they probably imagined. And the TSA as it currently exists is a very visible part of that usurpation.

I'm sure you and your bosses would very much like all of us to continually feel the same level of fear and terror we felt on 9/11. Fear is the only thing the Bush administration has given the people of this country ever since then. But as Mr. Schneier says, "refuse to be terrorized."

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 2:47 PM

@George: "letting Dick Cheney transform the United States of America from a unique constitutional democracy into a third-rate dictatorship ruled by an imperial Unitary Executive"

All I'm going to say is that if the United States of America is your definition of a "third rate dictatorship" then you have a lot to be thankful for this Christmas. I pray you never have to find out what a dictatorship really is, because there are places where you could be executed or worse for what you said.

@Jeremy:

Many of us understand what you are trying to do and how hard and thankless your task is--I apologize to you for those who let their unquenchable urge to take any cheap shot they can at people they don't like blind them. Many of us also see some inefficiencies and problems in security, and think resources could be better utlized, but that does not mean many of us don't respect your service.

May some day we all learn to work together and improve this process, and all of us have the tolerance to understand we will never fully agree, and the wisdom to knwo things can never be perfect.

Have a Merry Christmas.

mcktDecember 22, 2008 3:09 PM

@hjohn

"I pray you never have to find out what a dictatorship really is, because there are places where you could be executed or worse for what you said."

Sure, there are worse places, and as one of the government's biggest critics, I'll concede that even in the middle of massive financial crisis, we've got a pretty good thing going.

But that's really not the point. Saying that "it could be worse" doesn't change the fact that it IS getting worse, and while a "third-rate dictatorship" isn't in the immediate scope of things, that is the direction that we're heading.

By making noise about it as Mr. Schneier is, we hope to stop that trend long before it becomes a major problem. It could certainly be worse, but that's not helpful. We need to focus on how it could be better, and stop the problems that are making things worse.

In the context of national security, that starts with blocking the TSA's grab for unchecked power, unaccounted-for funds, and ineffective security measures. People need to be educated on what the actual risks, countermeasures, and costs are. Blindly trusting Big Brother is precisely what we DON'T need.

ModeratorDecember 22, 2008 3:20 PM

This thread is rapidly skidding off course. It's a security blog; please focus on security.

Exit14December 22, 2008 3:25 PM

@BS - I also thought your statements were cut too short. I think the message you wanted to get out was something like: Security is usually a good idea, but Leslie, since you asked specifically about the TSA; the amount of money being spent and some of the obvious bad procedures need to be questioned. There is probably a more effective way we can put these people and our tax dollars to work at security.

However - my wife, and my 70-something Dad missed that. When I asked them what they thought - you came off as ( thanks -@ Count 0) 'token opposition'.
They were taken in by Kip Hawley's sound bites. I personally thought he sounded like a political appointee defending the bureaucratic machine.

I was injured in one of the attacks on 9/11, so my loved ones have a more personal prejudice when it comes to security. I try not to practice my prejudices.

I love and support the troops overseas - but I do occasionally question Why they are sent, and IF they have the right tools and manpower to do the job given.
I feel the same about the TSA. These are generally good people trying to do a good job for a living wage. I do question the training, the tools/procedures, and especially the bureaucracy behind them.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 3:27 PM

@mckt and Nick:

My point was missed. No where did I say that we are doing thing betrer than all other countries, nor did I say we could not do things better, nor do I believe things "could be worse" means they are fine, nor do I blindly trust big brother.

None of those points above are a contradiction to me taking issue with someone calling my country a "Third World Dictatorship."

Unbelievable.

RHDecember 22, 2008 3:28 PM

@Nick:
"Commending Jeremy in doing such a great job assisting stripping common folk from their freedom seems oddly similar to the process taking place in early 1900's Germany."

Yeah it is an interesting parallel. I don't think its quite an exact match, however. From what I can tell, its a "good job, but here's a bunch of food for thought regarding the job"

I hope he comes back and reads these. Its not every day you get to see a dissenting opinion on Schneier's blog, especially not one who can form rational arguments!

I do have to wonder though - when does security through obscurity actually help? It seems rather efficient for stopping offline attacks (its hard to do modeling on airport security when you dont have the rulebook). Can SOME security through obscurity aid an already secure system and make it even more secure?

mcktDecember 22, 2008 3:34 PM

It's not too great for offline attacks either- look at lock bumping and the huge waves that made when it got popular a few years back.

The only time security through obscurity works is when you are a small target. I have doubts as to whether ANY target can withstand a competent, persistent, focused attack. Obscurity does help to prevent these, but at least in the online world, the old rule applies- Every time somebody says "yeah, but who would do THAT?", there's a bored teenager with nothing better to do.

In short, while security through obscurity may actually be effective in some cases, you can't depend on it. If you assume that it will fail, you can develop a better plan for responding (or for protecting the assets in the first place). A good security administrator assumes everything will fail, but prays that nothing does.

JimFiveDecember 22, 2008 3:38 PM

@Jeremy
"How many Americans think of the events from 9/11 on a daily basis?"

Very few, and you shouldn't be either.

No one is ever going to hijack a plane and fly it into a building ever again. If a terrorist group wants to use a plane as a weapon it costs a few thousand dollars and 6 weeks to get a pilot license that will allow you to fly to every Class B airport in the country. For another ten grand and a few more months you can be landing at any airport in the country. If you planned your training right you are now eligible to get a job for either an airline or a cargo company like FedEx. Highjacking the planes was cheaper and just as effective, now it's not.
--
JimFive

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 3:39 PM

@RH: "I hope he comes back and reads these. Its not every day you get to see a dissenting opinion on Schneier's blog, especially not one who can form rational arguments!"

Ditto that. People who disagree are good at keeping others honest. Things are much more secure when opponents can respecfully bring weaknesses to light.

@RH: "Can SOME security through obscurity aid an already secure system and make it even more secure?"

I think it has its place. It is much tougher to attack something you don't understand, so in one sense I can understand where some details are kept private. On the other hand, transparence keeps people honest.

Finding the right balance between transparency and obscurity is difficult.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2008 3:39 PM

Nick:
Comparing those who thank me for my job to those who help strip freedoms from others is a bit odd. I do not strip freedoms from others. I perform security. I am a Behavior Detection Officer. I have never caught a terrorist.

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 3:42 PM

Nick:
Comparing those who thank me for my job to those who help strip freedoms from others is a bit odd. I do not strip freedoms from others. I perform security. I am a Behavior Detection Officer. I have never caught a terrorist. I do not strip freedoms.

NickDecember 22, 2008 3:44 PM

@Anonymous

My intention was not to insult the person doing the job, but rather to make the people cheering think twice.

Circumstances are far more powerful than the individual.

HJohnDecember 22, 2008 3:45 PM

@mckt: "In short, while security through obscurity may actually be effective in some cases, you can't depend on it."

True. No one measure or tactic is effective enough alone, so it requires multiple layers. The number of layers and the strength of each layer depends on what is being protected. To quote Bruce: "Security is hard: It's not simply a matter of tossing a piece of technology at a problem. The devil is in the details, and the details are complicated."

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 3:52 PM

JimFive: remembering 9/11 helps me to constantly focus on what is important as far as my job goes. It helps me to not be complacent, and helps me to keep my cool when I am met with opposition.

It is very difficult to try to get my point across when you know nothing about what TSA does. It still feels that most here are concerned about the inconvenience of removing shoes.

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 3:56 PM

Security layering is nothing new when it comes to the military, it is relatively new for private security. In addition to that, proactive approach is also new to airport security. Someone said further up the page that we should be screening for terrorists before they get to the airport. I suppose that if we move that fight to the areas before the airport, then airports will be safe but then society will be upset about the means we use to screen for threats before the airport. So we will never be effective at pleasing those caught in the means, but we may be effective at reducing the threat.

mcktDecember 22, 2008 3:57 PM

You'll find that most here are quite aware of what the TSA says they do, but I have no doubt that is at odds with what they actually do. At any rate, this is a group that makes an effort to keep up-to-date on such things.

It isn't the inconvenience of removing shoes that concerns us, it is the fact that removingshoes won't fix the problem. It doesn't even begin to address the problem, but it does inconvenience many.

mcktDecember 22, 2008 4:01 PM

Another thing Bruce is constantly saying (I'm aware we're starting to sound cult-like here) is that even if we did eliminate terrorism in airports and airplanes 100%, that doesn't fix the problem.

The terrorist's goal isn't to hijack an airplane, it is to cause terror. This goal can be served in shopping malls, on subways, at football games, disneyland, or Times Square. The hypothetical terrorist will just move his attacks somewhere else.

At some point, you have to stop bandaiding the latest scare and address the problem- Bad Guys want to get in America's head.

JeremyDecember 22, 2008 4:09 PM

MCKT: I don;t mean to say that people only complain about removing shoes. It is the start. By screening your shoes however, we are looking for a myriad of things that most don't even begin to think about when it comes to shoes. Removing shoes does not address the problem of terrorism, but it is a starting point of how to find a terrorist who may use shoes to be a carrier for insidious use.

mcktDecember 22, 2008 4:20 PM

I mean no disrespect here, but please tell me, if you can, what kinds of things you are also looking at. Many of the people here (myself included) are in the security industry, and so we aren't exactly "Most People." We're at least casually familiar with threat detection, and on the other side of the fence, with evading detection.

I can see shoe-removal requiring a bit more time and interaction with agents, which would give the behavior detection a bit of a chance to kick in. Is it worth the cost in time, training, and convenience? With 2 million people moving through per day, the seemingly negligible costs add up pretty quickly.

At any rate, I, like many others, appreciate the fact that you do your job and seem to care about it being done well. However, skepticism is our nature in this industry, and I am doubtful that enough of your coworkers share your enthusiasm. I am equally doubtful as to the effectiveness of the program and the competence of the people who designed it.

BobGDecember 22, 2008 5:33 PM

Jeremy, good for you in coming in here and letting these armchair blog regulars here know what it's like in a day-to-day security job. It's nice to see someone keep the "old guard" in check.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 22, 2008 5:54 PM

@Jeremy
"It is very difficult to try to get my point across when you know nothing about what TSA does."

I don't think that that is the problem. The people here know pretty much exactly what the TSA does. And what they claim to be doing.

And that means that we can see the problems.

"It still feels that most here are concerned about the inconvenience of removing shoes."

For all the liquid bans and shoe removal ... exactly how many terrorists has the TSA caught trying to get on a plane?

AnonymousDecember 22, 2008 6:06 PM

Pointless. I feel you are not asking questions but challenging. That is frustrating. I have not the patience for you.

How many terrorists have you caught lately Brandioch?

I cannot compete with you 'armchair bloggers' or 'security experts'.

I am regular American Jeremy. Served my time with the USMC and now continuing on serving the American people.

I don't suppose I will be back to this site, but rather go and surf the web for 4x4 vehicles, foxnews, and trying to relax on my day off. Thanks again, I took a stab but you guys are somewhat relentless. I'll see you at my checkpoint.

Merry Christmas!

BobGDecember 22, 2008 6:25 PM

@Anonymous

Semper Fi, I'm a former Marine myself and a former reader of this blog who gave it up specifically for the reasons you mentioned. Any dissenting opinions are challenged by the readers here who apparently are so important security visionaries that they have all day to sit around and formulate their responses. It's almost like Schneier has a Jim Jones thing going on here.

I only came back here because I was talking to a friend who told me (with a chuckle) that Bruce was on "60 Minutes" last night and I wanted to see if there was any value in the discussion here. Blah blah blah, security theater, blah blah blah, TSA is worthless, blah blah blah, you're all living in fear, blah blah blah ad nauseum. Same old song and dance.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 22, 2008 7:59 PM

@Anonymous
"How many terrorists have you caught lately Brandioch?

I cannot compete with you 'armchair bloggers' or 'security experts'.

I am regular American Jeremy. Served my time with the USMC and now continuing on serving the American people."

You walked right into that one.

I have the exact same score as the TSA and I have done it for millions of dollars LESS than they have.

Which means that I am just as effective as you are ... but far, FAR, FAR more efficient and economical.

Yeah, nice try trotting out military experience in an anonymous web forum. I spent 7 years in the army. Yeah, I only have a Secret clearance. I'm not a highly trained TSA ... what's the term for that job you do? But I do understand that almost every time your security measures are tested, they fail. Test weapons get through.

There's a reason that the TSA has not been able to catch a single terrorist attempting to board a plane.

But criminal gangs can loot the passengers' luggage.

Anon, A MuseDecember 22, 2008 8:39 PM

@Brandioch

>>>
I have the exact same score as the TSA and I have done it for millions of dollars LESS than they have.
>>>

Effective security isn't always measured in reactionary metrics, there is a deterrent value in the TSA whether Bruce thinks there is or not.

With statements like yours above it's no wonder a Google search shows you as an active blog commenter and not a competent risk manager at a large organization.

FrancesDecember 22, 2008 9:15 PM

So what do you detect about me? I suffer from free-floating anxiety and I don't like flying. You can bet that I'm going to exhibit a certain amount of nervousness before I get on a plane.

As for split infinitives, when Winston Churchill was taken to task for doing so, he said that such criticism was "something up with which I will not put".

Brandioch ConnerDecember 22, 2008 9:22 PM

@Anon, A Muse
"With statements like yours above it's no wonder a Google search shows you as an active blog commenter and not a competent risk manager at a large organization."

And Google would show that ... how? Exactly?

"Effective security isn't always measured in reactionary metrics, there is a deterrent value in the TSA whether Bruce thinks there is or not."

I don't know what Bruce's view on the subject is ... but I don't agree with that. We are talking about people willing to die as long as they can take some of the "enemy" with them.

I don't see how giving them a target rich environment would be any "deterrent" to such people.

Quite the opposite, in fact. As can be seen by terrorist attacks in Israel. They will kill themselves to take out a bus.

When was the last time the TSA caused a suicide bomber to self-detonate prior to reaching his target?

Never?

When was the last time the TSA identified / captured a terrorist?

Never?

And the real reason is that terrorists who can attack in the USofA are extremely rare. So rare that the false positives swamp the system and are now almost completely ignored.

They are so rare that the TSA, with all their dedicated and loyal employees ... and all their millions and millions of dollars ... have yet to turn up a single terrorist.

Lesser WharkDecember 22, 2008 9:30 PM

@Anon, A Muse
"Effective security isn't always measured in reactionary metrics, there is a deterrent value in the TSA whether Bruce thinks there is or not."

Is there really? Most countries of the world don't have the TSA, yet don't have vast numbers of airliners hijacked or bombed. You'll no doubt argue that there been several hijackings since 2001. This is true, but since no one has been killed in a hijacking since then, I don't see any catastrophic failure of risk assessment in letting those hijacks happen.

If you want to show that the TSA is useful, you can't just remind us that there have been no hijacks or bombings in the past 8 years - you need to show that such attacks would have happened without the TSA and its policies.

NeighborcatDecember 22, 2008 9:40 PM

@ BobG

Semper Fidelis, blah blah blah. You want the same old song and dance? Try "Mission accomplished."

I applaud the personal commitment to put one's self in harms way in defense of our country. i.e. military service. I value military discipline, and camaraderie is natural among those who tackle challenges together, but it all misses this point: The battles we are choosing and the steps we are taking are not making this country more secure. That is still the goal, isn't it?

The core strengths of our country are failing and there is exactly zero the Army, Navy, Air Force or USMC can do about it other than help evacuate people after the next failure of our government.

While many discussions in this forum do repeat the same tiresome observations, the same tiresome mistakes are being made. The backdrop of this forum is a fundamental misunderstanding of our place in the world and how security needs to work when you can't just find the bad guys and kill them. OOH-RAH

Some people spend their time learning to infiltrate and establish a perimeter in hostile territory, others spend it examining history, statistics, information theory, and other cultures. The US is no longer in a position to project or protect itself by force. We are going to need these armchair security experts for guidance, and *gasp* introspection of our state of affairs. We need investigation of threats before they arrive in our airports, intelligence untainted by bravado, and analysis, not brittle checkpoints and macho "U.S. versus the world" posturing. The very digital infrastructure that allows us to have this on-line discussion was developed by the armchair academic types you disregard. Incidentally, they worked for the DOD, just like the USMC, but DARPA doesn't have bumper-stickers or parade dress.

The TSA is guarding the door on a house with no walls. It is a waste of resources, and to those who choose to participate, I have little sympathy for how poorly you might be treated by those footing the bill. Blind dedication is not a substitute for results. Think your job is thankless, that those you serve are ungrateful? Go talk to a public school teacher and then consider which of you actually contributes to the future of this country.

Flash over substance is a more accurate description of the TSAs efforts, but "Security Theater" is catchier.

NC

BobGDecember 22, 2008 10:22 PM

@Neighborcat

I completely agree with you academically - since getting out of the USMC I got a BS and MS in Computer Science (minor in Math) and actively did research in CS during my career. I absolutely think that intelligence is the way to fight the issues America faces.

My "armchair" comment was not against academic types - it was specifically about the overall tone on this blog where if you don't agree with Bruce, you get attacked as "afraid" or labeled as catering to security theater. What's even more laughable is the ones doing the attacking are on the blog so much that it's clear that they're not doing any important security work academically or professionally (hence the armchair = not involved directly with the subject, "watching it from an armchair").

I'm not suggesting that the TSA is doing a fantastic overall job, I myself accidentally took a large bottle of shampoo through my carry-on and it wasn't caught by the TSA. But the TSA guy came in here and was lambasted by people who just quote Bruce's articles like scripture.

Kind of reminds me of talking about a social or moral issue with someone and having them say "Well the bible says..." You know you're dealing with someone who's not looking at the issue with an open mind, and that's a lot of what goes on here.

ModeratorDecember 22, 2008 10:51 PM

Everyone,

This thread has gotten way too obnoxious. No more personal attacks or snide remarks about what people do for a living. This includes mocking people's training, calling people "armchair," and the satirical use of the exclamation oohrah.

BobG/"Anon, A Muse",

I don't know what happened the last time you were here. You may have a legitimate grievance. I do know that since your return you've sniped, mocked, insulted people's careers without knowing anything about them, and even created a sock puppet to carry out a personal attack. You say you're concerned about the tone of comments on this blog; quit working so hard to lower it.

periDecember 22, 2008 11:27 PM

Time for some numbers.


60 Minutes backs up the claim that we have spent $40 billion since 9/11 on the TSA -- an average of $6.66 billion a year.


The US spends $47.5 billion a year for intelligence; ie CIA + NSA + NRO + ~FBI + ~State Department + ~DoD:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/...


I just want to make sure everyone understands that the TSA is funded at level comparable to -- probably about 1/4 -- the CIA. I just wanted to make sure everyone understands the magnitude of the issue.

Is the TSA really worth it?

GeorgeDecember 22, 2008 11:42 PM

I just watched my recording of 60 Minutes. I agree with the assessment that Bruce was included as the token opposition to balance out Kip's loyal shilling of the Bush/Cheney party line: "The TSA provides effective security, and every rule about shoes and liquids is absolutely essential because we're At War. You're obligated to believe us because we're At War. Because the the enemy threat is the same as on 9/11, and they want to kill us, you must trust the TSA, give us complete respect no matter how stupid we might appear to you, and be grateful for the protection we give all of America because we're At War. Instead of grumbling and criticizing us, we want you to think about 9/11 all the time. We've spent millions of dollars on new "authoritative" uniforms to remind everyone of 9/11 so they'll BE AFRAID and treat us with the respect we inherently deserve. So don't ask questions, don't challenge us, don't criticize us. Just think of 9/11 and BE AFRAID. And remember that we're At War!"

I can only hope that Kip's successor will be able to focus on making his or her agency effective and cost-effective, and strive to provide security rather than fear-based fertilizer.

ALadyDecember 23, 2008 12:45 AM

When the 9/11 terrorists attacked, the public screamed "protect us". When an organization was created in response to the scream, the public responded "this sucks". It would be nice if the "public" would make up its mind.

I agree with the earlier comment that basically said, we have been and continue to be terrorized.
Personally, I prefer TSA response to the terror as opposed to the armed soldier that is used in other countries.

CalumDecember 23, 2008 3:47 AM

@ Frances - that quote was in response to an injunction to never end a sentence with a preposition (which makes rather more sense ;)

NeighborcatDecember 23, 2008 6:02 AM

I hope it wasn't my comment that appeared to mock anyone's work or training. An effective military is needed even in times of peace, and if I'm in need of evacuation, I'll address the soldiers as "Sir". As for the "Oohrah", Mea Culpa.

My point was that a security paradigm based on force alone and a TSA "bar the door" approach don't work. A point that, admittedly, need not be made once again in this forum.

The TSA also invites wrath because their enforcement is not based on laws enforced with punishment, it's based on arbitrary rules enforced with hassling. Is it any surprise the hasslers aren't appreciated?

HJohnDecember 23, 2008 8:36 AM

@ALady: "When the 9/11 terrorists attacked, the public screamed "protect us". When an organization was created in response to the scream, the public responded "this sucks". It would be nice if the "public" would make up its mind."
____

Yes, and the very people getting grief for the security measures are going to be the ones that are on the hot seat if anything should happen.

This is important to security. Contrary to someone's claim that I'm cheering the TSA, which is not true, I keep saying that we should have a little more respect for the very difficult, if not impossible, task they have been charged with. A "one in a million" chance is a lot bigger to them than it is to us when you multiply it by 2 million per day, 365 days a year, for as far as the eye can see. They will tune out our feedback if our contributions are insults (i.e., "they are part of a third rate dictatorship") It's nonsense.

Also, important to security, is in regards to the comments that CNN shilling the party line. Schneier and Hawkley are both very smart men, agree or disagree with them, so I don't see why anyone would have expected either person to win a 'debate' in a blowout. SUch comments detract from dialogue. If we listen to what both have to say perhaps we'll have better answers than either person would have come up with alone.

I will also say, to both sides, that mistakes by a few TSA staff aren't proof the whole system is broken any more than no terror attacks since 9/11 is proof that it is working. The TSA is on neither extreme of the spectrum. Nor will it ever be perfect. And there is no perfect way to measure its success.

Merry Christmas

NickDecember 23, 2008 8:45 AM

@ALady

"When the 9/11 terrorists attacked, the public screamed "protect us". When an organization was created in response to the scream, the public responded "this sucks". It would be nice if the "public" would make up its mind."

Are you not grasping this whole debate on purpose?
Everyone are still expressing their desire for protection. What everyone is also saying is that what is currently being done, does not provide protection worth the resources spent.

HJohnDecember 23, 2008 8:52 AM

@Nick: "Everyone are still expressing their desire for protection. What everyone is also saying is that what is currently being done, does not provide protection worth the resources spent."

Believe it or not, I agree with you. I think the resources need to be spent better. I also think that is more likely to happen if we dialogue with those responsible rather than sit on the sidelines booing and hurling insults.

The TSA isn't right, but they are not completely wrong either.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 23, 2008 11:28 AM

@HJohn
"The TSA isn't right, but they are not completely wrong either. "

Aside from the measures in place BEFORE the WTC attack and the improved flight deck doors, what, SPECIFICALLY, have they been right about?

Pat CahalanDecember 23, 2008 12:26 PM

@ not quite anon

Buried in the middle of this thread was your comment, which was ignored, and quite well illustrates what Bruce is trying to say...

> When the last major terrorist attack occurred, the attackers did
> not go through the airports at all. They came by land and by sea
> and used AK-47s and grenades for their carnage, not
> bottles of liquids.

When you are talking about extremely rare events like terrorist attacks, you have to really examine the bar(s) you are setting in your security procedures and how easily they can be bypassed.

The cold reality of terrorism is that it is such an unlikely event that *anything* beyond the most basic security procedures (things that catch the literal "idiot terrorist") quickly fail under the law of diminishing returns.

If we make our airline security virtually ironclad (something that is in fact impossible), terrorists will bypass the airline system entirely and target something else. Anti-terrorism security generally fails because you can't lift all boats; secure the airports, they'll attack trains. Secure the trains, they'll attack the malls. Secure the malls, they'll attack the churches. Well before you get to the point where you're securing the churches, you've run out of money.

Certainly, "this will catch an idiot and inconvenience people very, very little" are reasonable countermeasures. Anything beyond that is raising the wrong bar...

Clive RobinsonDecember 23, 2008 2:23 PM

@ Pat Cahalan, not quite anon,

"If we make our airline security virtually ironclad (something that is in fact impossible), terrorists will bypass the airline system entirely and target something else."

This is the problem of most western countries and it has no technical solution (currently).

As I have posted on previous occasions we are overly reliant on HiTec and Free Market ideals. Together they leave us so vulnerable it does not take a terrorist to bring society down, just a minor technical abnormality or unforseen design issue.

This has been seen on many occasions every news item about "unexpected outages" just confirms how fragile things are.

As long as short term profit (main Free Market driver) is the driver then designs will be inadiquate (Fragile) and lack sensible safe gaurds (brittle) to make them resiliant.

The attacks by hijacked plane on the US was a simple example of how a western countries HiTec infrestructure can easily be used against it, by even a slightly knowledgable and simply trained personel.

The US like other western nations is virtualy uterly dependent on HiTec that does not have appropriate safegaurds built in due to the preasures of the Free Market. As long as this continues the choice of effective targets for terrorists is going to be virtualy unlimited, the only point of interest is the effective body count and shock value.

Put simply there are aspects of society that cannot be left to the Free Market as they are to essential to the functioning of society, irespective of the hostile intent of others...

periDecember 23, 2008 3:16 PM

@Clive Robinson

Glad to hear from you. You were remarkably silent yesterday and I was wondering whether you were going to post on this topic. I agree with pretty much everything you said but I thought I would post some links to a couple of Schneier's essays on Externalities:

October 18, 2007
Chemical Plant Security and Externalities
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/10/...


October 2, 2008
Why Society Should Pay the True Costs of Security
http://www.schneier.com/essay-243.html


Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy (?) Boxing Day.

ModeratorDecember 23, 2008 4:40 PM

Aikimark, please don't derail this thread. Feel free to repost your comment on the No-Fly list if you want to.

StephDecember 23, 2008 7:06 PM

I enjoyed the piece but agree with others that Mr. Schneier should have had more time, I thought they should have presented his (Mr. Scheier's) credentials better, it did appear to be giving more time to the status quo. It was like here's a brief moment of common sense (Schneier), now here's 15 minutes of fear(pro TSA)...which one are you going to feed? I'd prefer to feed/subsidize common sense over fear anyday.

Clive RobinsonDecember 24, 2008 5:14 AM

@ Peri,

Nice to here from you again and the compliments of the (winter?) solctice to you.

Looking back it's odd that I missed both the blog post and the article.

It would appear that Bruce tends to have similar thoughts to my own as he did say,

"What I wanted to say is that if we expect chemical plants to be secure to the point of the true risk -- whatever that happens to be -- we can't expect market mechanisms to get us there."
(October 20, 2007 10:08 PM)

However it was as a direct reply to the acusation,

"Bruce wants a lot more, very-very expensive chem plant security."

So there may be a "country mile" of difference ;)

However we do differ on other points. Bruce noted,

"You're right. I should have generalized more: the externalities apply just as much to accidents as they do to malicious actions."
(October 18, 2007 2:34 PM)

At a superficial level "Acts of God" and "Acts of Man" do have a lot in common and the outcomes can be the same.

However they are infact very different an "Act of Man" is usually deamed to have a "controling mind/actor" who directs either their own or others actions to achive a desired outcome. An "Act of God" however is usually assumed to be probabilistic in nature. This is an essential difference in that if you have an item that fails probablisticly you can put several in parellel and virtually eliminate the risk under non catastrofic modes of failier. Not so with a directing mind they simply make all the parellel items fail together and therby cause a catastrofic failier.

From an engenering prospect this renders most solutions to a single point of failier with all the attendent "over engineering" required to achive the same level of risk (which is obviously extreamly costly)...

Which brings me onto Bruce's point,

"I'm willing to accept other solutions for dealing with the externality. A market solution is the most efficient way to mitigate the risks, once the entity in the best position to mitigate the risk becomes responsible for the risk."
(October 18, 2007 2:39 PM)

That is the rub there are no "Free Market" solutions to mitigate deliberate "Act of Man" risk only probablistic "Act of God" risk. And this is due to the "black swan" effect of there being a "Time line of experiance" with anything new. That is we have,

1, Known knowns,
2, Unknown knowns,
3, Unknown unknowns.

A clasic example of this is asbestos and insurance and I would recomend the study of this as an object lesson in why the "Free Market" solutions will always be detrimental to the ordinary populous.

You can further look at lead and other hevey metal toxins in ground water and the US regulatory response to see why prescriptive regulation is also going to fail.

Any manufacturing process caries risk for the consumer either directly (through the product) or indirectly (through the process side effects).

Current legislation only realy addressess risk "through the product" and at best only pays lip service to the process side effects.

One such think is building risk plants away from habitation. However there are several effects you need to consider. The first is human conveniance/benifit (it's why people live on the side of volcanos over earthquake faults and in flood plains). One aspect of which is they will try to live as close as possiblr to where they work to minimize travel time to maximize their out of hours time. A "Free Market" outlook broadly only alows for efficiency and cost reduction so paying/providing transportation is going to be seen as an avoidable loss under most circumstances. Likewise regulation to enforce zoning is against "Free Market" principles as it applies legislation to restrict the profitable use of a finite resource (land).

However there is the secondary issue of containment. As we are starting to find the side effects of a production process or product are often unknown and even locating their process and the product in geographicaly remote areas does not stop the dog coming back to bite (CfCs, PCBs etc).

As a society we have to either say we must accept these "real costs" or forgo the conveniance of the product...

The costs of security (against act of man) and safety (against act of god) need to be dealt with in a thoughtfull manner.

We will find that some can be mitigated against in a cost effecive manner and others not. The former should be carried by the manufacturer and thus the direct consumer of the product. The latter has to be carried by society...

But society must have a real right to decide which takes us into two problem areas.

The first is the "Monkey in a Suit" issues of representational democracy and it's attendent short term "pork" and "self enrichment" mentality.

The second is the "right to information" which is a must for informad debate.

Both of these require societal, political and comercial changes that too many are going to argue against (due to Free Market considerations) for them to happen in a realistic time frame...

JeremyDecember 24, 2008 7:41 AM

Ya, I couldn't stay away forever.

I beleive personal interpretation is of great importance when it comes to TSA and the 'hassling' moves we make. Society can determine what you are doing based on popular opinion. So if most of you wish TSA to be in the light of 'hassling' passengers, then irrevocably, we are in the light and good luck trying to get out.

In addition, TSA's young age has plenty to do with the problems as well. Do you think the FBI was taken so kindly to when they were first raised? Probably not (I am uneducated in the firstyears of the FBI) but they are a senior agency at this point. Everyone hates the new kid on the block, until they can concrete their position and solidify thier mission with hard-core proof. Maybe all those who lambaste the TSA could back off a bit and wait for result. Terrorist are more patient than we (Americans) will ever be. So when we begin to display blatant complacency again, they will have reached thier niche in the timeline.

To wait for result, it requires patience. Which we have very little.

@Brandioch: You know nothing of the test rates which you claim we fail everyone.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 24, 2008 9:00 AM

@Jeremy
"@Brandioch: You know nothing of the test rates which you claim we fail everyone."

It's been covered here before. When tested, your system fails almost every time.

You can claim otherwise but the facts are the facts.

The same as the fact that the TSA has not caught a single terrorist attempting to board a plane. Not one. Zero.

JeremyDecember 24, 2008 9:40 AM

@ Brandioch:

Ok. Let it go. What if we mitigated the threat? That has happened.

Have you ever tested TSA?

Brandioch ConnerDecember 24, 2008 9:45 AM

@Jeremy
"So if most of you wish TSA to be in the light of 'hassling' passengers, then irrevocably, we are in the light and good luck trying to get out."

Here's a scenario to help you understand the real problem.

Suppose your local police department hires a new cop. This cop is supposed to be catching criminals. But he never makes a single arrest. Instead, he keep harassing innocent citizens. He confiscates children's juice boxes. He stops people so he can search their cars and makes them late for appointments. People have to allocate an additional hour to get anywhere in his jurisdiction.

And he never arrests a single criminal.

He "confiscates" a literal TON of "contraband" which is completely legal to buy / carry / consume at any other time. He will take your coffee from you and then allow you to purchase the exact same brand and quantity as soon as he "releases" you.

And he never arrests a single criminal.

Yeah, it's all about him being the "new kid on the block" and has nothing to do with his behaviour.

And until the TSA realizes that it is their behaviour that is the problem, nothing is going to change.

The TSA has too many false positive and too many false negatives and has NEVER caught a terrorist trying to board a plane.

JoeVDecember 24, 2008 10:04 AM

At my local airport (Albuquerque) there is one security line that feeds all the aircraft terminals. So, on a busy day, there are hundreds of people in this one enormous room, wending their way back and forth through the TensaBarrier maze. A perfect place, BTW, to detonate an IED, since no one in that room has yet been screened. Think of the hundreds of casualties.

With the billions of dollars spent on the TSA, they've merely succeeded in moving the security problem closer to the street, as which point it will no longer be the TSA's problem.

Abq ManDecember 24, 2008 2:29 PM

Regarding the hand grenade mentioned earlier - from today's Abq Tribune:

Incident or Crime Type : EOD Activation
Time of Offense: 1036
Date of Offense: 12/22/08
Location of Offense: 2200 Blk. Sunport Blvd. SE
Description of Event/Crime: On listed date and time EOD personnel were contacted by the Albuquerque Sunport's Bomb Appraisal Officer (BAO) who stated that checkpoint screeners had located a hand grenade in a passenger's bag. The passenger was attempting to get through security and proceed to the airline gate area. Upon EOD's arrival at the airport we viewed x-rays of the grenade and determined it to be inert. Upon examining the passenger's "checked" baggage no explosives were located in the bag. The FBI was notified and did respond. The scene was turned over to Federal authorities for further investigation.

Andrew ADecember 24, 2008 2:32 PM

@Jeremy

First, I greatly appreciate your willingness to come here, share your opinions and participate in the discussion. For this alone you should be commended.

However you have said a number of things which I feel compelled to comment on. TSA may be a relatively new agency, but you are late arrivals in an arms race that has been going on since commercial aviation was born.

>> Comparing those who thank me for my job to those who help strip freedoms from others is a bit odd. I do not strip freedoms from others.

Yes, Jeremy, you do. A TSA security checkpoint is a place where the 1st Amendment and 4th Amendment protections do not apply to me. I am not free to tell a TSA security supervisor that he is being an idiot, even when he is. I am not secure in my person or effects. My choices are either to give up my Constitutional rights, or not to fly. When I choose to fly, I resent the fact that my rights have been suspended by what amounts to executive fiat.

>> I perform security. I am a Behavior Detection Officer. I have never caught a terrorist.

As a security specialist, I must respectfully differ. A security professional (guard, officer, BDO, etc) protects persons, property, information and reputation. In your role at TSA, it is hotly debatable whether or not you protect persons. You certainly do not protect property or information (in fact, TSA operations facilitate theft of laptops), and the way in which TSA chooses to conduct its operations has earned considerable public disdain and disrespect.

If you want TSA to engender respect, you must prove -- not assert, not argue, not claim -- but prove that TSA is in the business of protecting people's lives. So far, I haven't seen TSA do anything that an armored cockpit door couldn't do cheaper, more safely, and with less violation of our rights.

>> Security layering is nothing new when it comes to the military, it is relatively new for private security.

Baloney. A leading acronymic computer company has been doing defense in depth since before World War II. There is a back-and-forth relationship between military and commercial security, certainly, but it's not a one way process.

>> In addition to that, proactive approach is also new to airport security.

Someone might want to tell the FAA that. Then duck. You talk as if there had never been hijackings prior to 9/11. Did you know that many pilots prior to World War II were _required_ to carry firearms? There is a lot of history here that you simply were never taught.

>> Someone said further up the page that we should be screening for terrorists before they get to the airport.

If we're not, I am offended as a taxpayer that my money is not being properly spent. No fly lists have their own problems, especially in terms of accountability, but layered security demands that a stab be made at each level of the problem. For that reason only, I accept that checkpoints are a reasonable safeguard. However the amount of time and money we waste on this one, comparatively porous element is ridiculous.

>> I suppose that if we move that fight to the areas before the airport, then airports will be safe but then society will be upset about the means we use to screen for threats before the airport.

Never mind the threats at the airport, I see.

>> So we will never be effective at pleasing those caught in the means, but we may be effective at reducing the threat.

If there is no threat, zero equals zero.

>> I beleive in my job and know the mission. The training I have recieived is good, and applies directly to my job.

Respectfully, how would you know if your training is any good?

Plenty of people were taught (for example) that elevation can help control severe bleeding. After clinical studies it was determined not only that elevation is not effective, but that it distracts from direct pressure which IS effective.

Many people are trained (police, CCW, etc) to survive gunfights. They must take it on faith that the techniques they are taught actually work.

You've never caught a terrorist. I hope you've caught testing personnel. However, they are only as good as their information . . . a red team member pretending to be a terrorist is better than nothing, but isn't a real terrorist either.

>> I am a good employee and do a great job. I always get good reviews and raises for my performance.

That merely means you do your job the TSA way. What many of us assert is that the TSA way is wrong.

>> With that, all of you complaining about TSA only talk of the bad experiences.

I don't like having my Constitutional rights violated. I'm not alone in this.

>> But due to our dramatics-filled society and the fact that you all want something to complain about only stokes your fire for war stories.

Don't patronize us. I am willing to go through a security checkpoint stark naked and be poked and prodded by rude strangers, if you can prove to me that it will stop a 9/11 style terrorist attack. I'd even take a face full of pepper spray and a couple of Tasings. You can't. Thus the objection.

>> Come to my airport, you may never forget us. We screen 2 million passengers a day. We cannot afford to be wrong one time.

Do you really think your error rate is that low? I seriously doubt it.

The problem with low probability events is proving that you stopped even one.

>> Go ahead and complain, beacause your tax dollars gave me my last raise, my last bonus, and encourages me to strive to do the best that I can do.

This kind of entitlement thinking on the part of government officials drives a wedge between the government and the public. Every time someone is rude to you because of the TSA insignia you wear, realize that it's because of that feeling of entitlement to our hard-earned money.

>> If half of you had the mettle, the loyalty to country, and the mindset to be the best, then you would stand out in your jobs too.

I don't feel the need to justify myself to you in this way. My "I-love-me" wall is already full.

>> With the understanding of TSA but the disagreement, it goes from expressing your opinion in a respectful manner to full-on disgracing those you see operating with the TSA uniform on.

I've tried polite conversation with TSA representatives. Without fail, I see the TSA personnel engaging in verbal escalation, cornering and what I like to call "verbal karate." You feel you have the hole card -- the right to exclude someone from the terminal, without judicial review or citizen oversight -- and many of you throw your weight around accordingly.

>> This is what me and more TSA employees contend with, and it is very upsetting once you have dealt with it for such a long time.

It's the job. If you want to be treated with respect, be a hooker. If you want to be treated with contempt and derision, work security. If you can't hack it, look for another line of work.

>> So I am thinking that the big problem as most see it, is a spending of fundds without a full understanding of what they are going for.

That is exactly where TSA needs to engage in an effective, comprehensive public education campaign. You can't order us what to think. You need to share with us the facts that you can, and show why it makes sense to do what you do.

>> Also, not being told why you must go through certin aspects of security in a specific manner. Because of this, it is a frustrating. We are an information people and society and are curious.

1st Amendment. Freedom of Information Act. Our society is one where no man is bigger than the law. Yet you work for an agency with secret regulations backed by murky laws.

>> When we are told "You cannot be told why" then it is often taken as personal. This in turn evokes a disrespectful tone and response.

I have to question whether or not you've had any human relations training after a comment like this.

It is basic Verbal Judo never to use the phrasing "You" or the "you" imperative. The second person is disrespectful and unnecessary commands corrode authority. A better way to say it would be, "I regret that for security reasons that I am not allowed to disclose this information to anyone. My supervisor's name is So-and-So and he can be reached by (method). He can help you more with this."

>> Maybe you like TSA, but you disagree with methods and money TSA uses.

The money is a small thing in the grand scheme. The erosion of our rights is a far larger issue.

>> We are unable to disclose why certain methods are in place, and due to this, a lot of people are upset. Just because you may not understand it doesn't mean there is a not purpose behind it.

>> It has to do with your security and safety.

Prove it.

>> How many Americans think of the events from 9/11 on a daily basis?

Every time I teach that twenty security officers lost their lives on September 11th. Nineteen of them were heroes. One of them was a fool.

>> It is very difficult to try to get my point across when you know nothing about what TSA does.

Don't underestimate us. One of my coworkers was an airport security checkpoint manager for several years. This coworker screened tens of thousands of passengers with a handful of minimum wage personnel. We know your problems in some ways better than you do.

>> I beleive personal interpretation is of great importance when it comes to TSA and the 'hassling' moves we make.

I understand that part of the reason you hassle people is to test for suicidal people. It's not that much of a secret.

>> In addition, TSA's young age has plenty to do with the problems as well.

Inability and unwillingness to learn from mistakes and to accept public criticisms as valid does not help either.

>> Do you think the FBI . . .

A lot of PR went into building the FBI's image. They're not all that, even now.

>> Everyone hates the new kid on the block, until they can concrete their position and solidify thier mission with hard-core proof.

This applies between and among agencies. Public trust is a different can of worms entirely.

>> Maybe all those who lambaste the TSA could back off a bit and wait for result.

We can't wait for the next 9/11 to tell TSA that they're guarding against the wrong threats.

>> Terrorist are more patient than we (Americans) will ever be. So when we begin to display blatant complacency again, they will have reached thier niche in the timeline.

Not so much. As I've commented previously, tangos need not go through several chains of approval. They research, they surveill, they act. Terrorist organizations need to be kept off balance through the constant threat of discovery and annihilation. Allowing them to wait unmolested is nurturing a viper to one's bosom.

I have a lot of respect for the defensive game. However, TSA is only focusing on one small part of the much larger problem. Unless TSA can win not merely the public's trust, but the public's affection, the agency will fail in its stated goal to protect the American people.

JeremyDecember 25, 2008 5:28 PM

Andrew A.-
You are either highly educated in the line of security or have a great way to BS your way through all my statements. I am in no way going to argue with you since I know nothing of you.

I guess you all must think I am stupid or something to continue to defend my position or at least my agency. I sure hope you understand I never would go against my agency, for when I start to not beleive in my own agency, it will lend to me not performing the way I should. Then you will have more and more to complain about. I imagine you have all gleaned much entertainment from me coming here trying to explain my side, but you are overpowering and very frustrating. I tried to stay away, but felt compelled to respond. I will be back to read the comments you write about this last statement although I will try to not feed into your responses.

Ugh.

So if there is so much problem, how come only a handful of you think the way you do, but no one else in congress or any other federal agency thinks this way?

TSA is still here, still getting federal funds, and still gets bashed by you. You are very damning against those who beleive in what we do. I suppose you think we have been brainwashed. I can only iamgine the respnses to this. Perhaps I am full of baloney, chose the wrong forum to say this in, and stepped to an edge similiar because I do not agree with you. I especially enjoy that you accuse of me of patronzing you when it is clearly you having no good reason to even use the word.

It is frustrating to be here to participate in a discussion when I and my agency are ripped apart in every facet available.

I work for America's Most Hated Agency. That friggin sucks.

Michael AshDecember 25, 2008 9:06 PM

@Jeremy

"I sure hope you understand I never would go against my agency, for when I start to not beleive in my own agency, it will lend to me not performing the way I should."

This is kind of frightening. The way to maintain top performance is to keep an open mind and maintain healthy skepticism. Mindless loyalty does no good for anybody. That you believe that you must unquestioningly believe in your agency and not think critically of it in order to perform at your best is a scary commentary on how your agency works.

It is the police (and that is what you ultimately are) who believe they are infallible who are the least useful and most abusive. The ones who do a really great job recognize that they are only human, that their institutions are limited, and that their techniques are never perfect.

FocusDecember 26, 2008 12:21 AM

@Jeremy: I appreciate your courage, in posting in such an adversarial environment, and I appreciate the importance you put on doing your job well. And I appreciate that your main intention in your work is to protect people, and national security.

Like most of the commenters here, I believe that TSA adds little to security, compared to its cost.

In my opinion, TSA airport screening is likely to deter or prevent casual or unorganized behavioral threats to safety on airliners. Considering how rare such problems have always been, it is a public policy question, how much resources should be devoted to such an effort.

In my opinion, TSA airport screening must be taken into account by terrorist groups or other organized attackers, who will adapt their tactics accordingly.

In my opinion, TSA airport screening impinges on personal liberty.

When you wrote, "I would never go against my agency," I hope you didn't really mean that. You swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," didn't you? When TSA policies or orders violate the Constitution, I trust that your oath will guide you, in what you must do.

You asked, "So if there is so much problem, how come only a handful of you think the way you do, but no one else in congress or any other federal agency thinks this way?" In my opinion, most people don't THINK about security -- they FEEL about security. When we THINK about it, screening that may be very unlikely to prevent a terrorist attack, or invading a country that has no involvement in attacks against the West, doesn't make much sense. But to millions of people, it FEELS like something is being done to protect them.

When you wrote, "I work for America's Most Hated Agency," my thought was that most Americans probably don't dislike TSA at all. The people who are most likely to hate TSA are:
1) frequent flyers
2) civil libertarians
3) security analysts
I bet workers are IRS would be happy to trade your agency's public image with theirs.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 26, 2008 7:06 PM

@Jeremy
"Have you ever tested TSA?"

First of, you do NOT want to make this personal.

Secondly, yes, I have. And they've failed.

"TSA is still here, still getting federal funds, and still gets bashed by you. "

Look at FEMA and New Orleans. Getting federal funding does not mean that the mission is being performed.

"I imagine you have all gleaned much entertainment from me coming here trying to explain my side, but you are overpowering and very frustrating."

Possibly. But it you go back over the comments you will find that they have mostly been directly related to security issues. Many of the people here have a long history of security work. We understand it. We understand the problems.

"You are very damning against those who beleive in what we do."

Belief is not real security. Bruce went over that a while back.

"So if there is so much problem, how come only a handful of you think the way you do, but no one else in congress or any other federal agency thinks this way?"

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/...

Being correct has nothing to do with how many people agree or disagree with your conclusions.

AnonymousDecember 28, 2008 6:51 AM

Funny how no one here will list where they work or who they work for

Everyone here is a security expert, and more than happy to come down hard on TSA but without any real solutions.

And apparently, if Schneier said it, it is irrefutable? "Belief is not real security. Bruce went over that a while back".

Brandioch Connor has made this more personal than anyone here. This is no longer a discussion, but an arguement which I fell into.

And you are the one who took it personal, Mr. Connor. What did you test TSA on anyway? What was your method, and objective? And did you have a control to compare to? What sepcifically did you test on and with what? What airport?

Michael AshDecember 28, 2008 10:05 AM

Groan, not this "no real solutions" crap again. We have real solutions. Scale back passenger screening. Remove idiotic requirements like the liquids ban and shoe screening. Create a good behavior profiling program. Pour more money into intelligence and emergency response. Maybe you don't agree with those solutions, but don't act like we have none.

mcktDecember 28, 2008 1:57 PM

"Everyone here is a security expert"

Everyone here isn't a security expert, but many of the world's top experts frequent this site.

"And apparently, if Schneier said it, it is irrefutable?"

No, but he generally knows what he's talking about. If you'd like to refute it, state your case. As long as your points have merit, we'll listen. So far all you've done is trash-talk and complain about how nobody understands you. Make a solid point and we can have a discussion.

You said "What if we mitigated the threat? That has happened". You offered no proof. Nobody at the TSA has offered any proof, and many people have offered evidence that you are wrong. If you want to change our opinions, you're going to have to show us (not tell us) that we're wrong.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 28, 2008 7:06 PM

@Jeremy
"Brandioch Connor has made this more personal than anyone here."

In that case, you do not know what "personal" means.

"Everyone here is a security expert, and more than happy to come down hard on TSA but without any real solutions."

The "real solutions" have been presented. Over and over and over again.

Other than the improved flight deck doors, nothing the TSA has done has been any improvement in security over September 10th, 2001.

"And apparently, if Schneier said it, it is irrefutable?"

And you've just shown that you do not understand "irrefutable". You have not presented any evidence to refute his statements.

"And you are the one who took it personal, Mr. Connor."

Seriously, learn what "personal" means. All you're doing right now is embarrassing yourself.

If you have a disagreement with any of the facts presented, then address those facts.

So far, you and Hawley have been unable to do so.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 29, 2008 2:53 AM

@Jeremy
"Funny how no one here will list where they work or who they work for"

And how is that "funny"?

What would be the point of introducing irrelevant information in the discussion?

And it would be irrelevant. Either the statements can be defended as they are or they cannot be.

"If half of you had the mettle, the loyalty to country, and the mindset to be the best, then you would stand out in your jobs too.

So now I have said my peice, go ahead and flame me for being the best that I can be.

Ingrates."

Seriously, look up what "personal" means.

Andrew ADecember 29, 2008 7:52 PM

@Jeremy

I'm flattered somewhat by your comments, but also somewhat alarmed. My arguments (just like everyone else's, including yours) should stand or fall on their own merits and supporting evidence, not because of appeals to authority or claims of competency.

I don't think you're stupid, far from it. I do think that you have a lot to learn about your profession, and that if you are a typical sample of BDOs, we're (America) in as much trouble as I feared.

This isn't 'fun' for me. I don't put in a few minutes on this after a salaried hard day because I enjoy it. If I can help just one TSA officer do their job more thoughtfully, that's a small victory right there.

>> So if there is so much problem, how come only a handful of you think the way you do, but no one else in congress or any other federal agency thinks this way?

This gets at the heart of "security theater." Agencies respond to their mandates; politicians to the special interests and the will of the voters (increasingly the former.) The voters Wanted Something Done after September 11th. But this is not a type of war where we can storm the beaches at Normandy.

Many Federal bureaucrats are afraid to leverage the power of the public. It would be fairly easy to set up a checkpoint system manned primarily by supervised volunteers (such as the elderly, retired veterans, etc.) This would provide great cover for "undercover" career security personnel and involve a much greater number of common Americans in the TSA mission. This is seriously thinking outside the box, however.

The vast majority of Americans strongly disapprove of mass murder. TSA has a lot more allies in this fight than you think. Even organized crime has a visceral disapproval for terrorism -- among other details, it's bad for business.

>> TSA is still here, still getting federal funds, and still gets bashed by you.

It is the right of the taxpayer to complain. Take our complaints, especially the uninformed ones, with several grains of salt. Please do listen nonetheless, as knowing what we are complaining about arms and armors you to more effectively respond.

>> You are very damning against those who beleive in what we do. I suppose you think we have been brainwashed.

No, you haven't been brainwashed. Just naive and poorly trained. Behavior detection is as much art as science. The good news is that you can (and should) train yourself. Go to the source materials from which your training was developed; there's a lot of good stuff in there, which got summarized for you too quickly in training.

>> I especially enjoy that you accuse of me of patronzing you when it is clearly you having no good reason to even use the word.

I was replying to your remark about "dramatics-filled, wanting to complain, looking for war stories."

Please distinguish between arguments and motives. I strongly suspect that we both want the same thing -- an America which is free from fear of terror. What we disagree on is methods, or how to get there from here.

I am unpleasantly resigned to the idea that we will be attacked more and more, with different methods each time, and it's not worth living in fear in the meantime. You don't cut your nose off to pop a zit. You do what you can, then you live life. Not just as individuals, but as a nation.

Making assumptions about motives is murky ground at best.

>> It is frustrating to be here to participate in a discussion when I and my agency are ripped apart in every facet available.

Careful, there. You should be proud of your service to your agency. However, you need not interpret criticism of your agency as a criticism of you personally. I've never met you and probably never will, so take what I say as anonymous rantings if it makes you feel better.

>> I work for America's Most Hated Agency. That friggin sucks.

ATF and (as someone else commented) IRS are racing you for the bottom. Just think of what it's like to be a contract security guard at GSA . . . or in a strip mall parking lot. At least you get Federal pay and benefits.

By all means you should believe in your mission and your profession. Good luck to you.

AshleyJanuary 27, 2009 4:34 PM

I was there for 9/11 too and I still have nightmares and cry whenever it is talked about or when I see 9:11 on a clock. I still wear red white and blue every year...I go to school in the south now and people always asks me why...I don't know how people could forget something like that.
But, I agree that TSA doesn't do a good job. They never have and they seem to have gotten worse. Something needs to be done before we are attacked again.

TSA TikeMarch 20, 2009 1:18 AM

The TSA has yet to be able to identify a single terrorist who was caught trying to board a plane.

Posted by: Brandioch Conner at December 22, 2008 11:55 AM
__________________________________
TRASH! Read this...
(http://www.eturbonews.com/1973/authorities-orlando-airport-nabbed-pipe-bombe)
"A passenger, carrying a ticket on Jamaica Air flight 80 headed to Kingston was nabbed by police at the Orlando International Airport (MCO) a little after noon. The man had components for explosives in his checked bags, but none in his carry-on knapsack.

Of concern to the Transport Security Authorities on-site was his strange demeanor. As spotted by behavior specialists who searched his belongings, he was found carrying materials for a pipe bomb. The unnamed suspect (as of press time) was immediately detained in front of the Jamaica Air check-in area in Terminal A. This check-in counter shared with Virgin Air was quickly shut down, interrupting same terminal flights and creating huge crowds at the MCO.

The behavior detection officer was able to identify the individual upon screening, though his items were already checked in, and based on the suspect’s observation referred him quickly to local authorities. At the end of the day, the traveler was turned over to local law enforcement, the Orlando Police Department (OPD) and the FBI."
_________________________________
The sad part about working for TSA is the actual intelligence WE receive and use to our advantage apparently doesn't qualify for the type of security Mr. Bruce wants. Reality check...YOU as a passenger NEVER know what we saw that was sooooooooo interesting in your bag. Let me do my damn job. Also, I keep reading that TSA Officers are such morons, but do you defy your boss? More importantly, are you one of the 'really smart, and well seasoned travellers' who holds their bottle of water up, shakes it and asks: "is this a liquid?" I don't believe I'm a moron for following the tasks designed to save your hind quarters. Moreso, I think people can give a reaction to something they didn't approve of or didn't like with a little more civility. I could go on for hours about how much easier my job would be to detect and find REAL EXPLOSIVES in a bag if there weren't ten pounds of electronics that you could have put in your checked bag, on top of a bag of coins, on top of a stack of paper, on top of a laptop...and shoes...just to find a nice little bag of toiletries that you refused to remove because you didn't like my boss' rules. Then you tell me that it went through every airport in the world that way. Bottom line; I don't care about what happened at some other airport; This is MY airport. If you want to 'BUCK THE SYSTEM' you need to write the uppers, because it's not like I can change the rules on my own volition. On a lighter note, TSA is changing and we need the public to actively support our PERMANENT role here. We are here to stay, so help us get better; don't cuss a federal officer out because there was .1 OZ of toothpaste left in an oversize container that you weren't allowed to possess...you were gonna have to buy new toothpaste anyways. I wonder why I'm putting myself in harms way to save your rump? You don't care about my life when you trashtalk my nation, my CHOSEN career, and my intelligence. I'd like to think that one day at least the UNITED STATES people can act together instead of bump heads about how to get something done...pathetic.

Clive RobinsonMarch 20, 2009 7:51 AM

@ TSA Tike,

"As spotted by behavior specialists who searched his belongings, he was found carrying materials for a pipe bomb."

He was unlikley to be a terrorist. A pipe bomb is usually the choice of people who only have access to black powder or other low grade propelant (gun cotton etc) explosive.

Further, the article extract you have posted clearly says,

"he was found carrying materials for a pipe bomb."

And,

"The man had components for explosives in his checked bags, but none in his carry-on knapsack."

Which says it was not a pipe bomb but might have been if assembled correctly, also it implies that the componets were in more than one bag.

Importantly it was therfore not an assembled bomb just some parts that might be used in a bomb. The extract you have posted does not say if "all the parts required" to make a bomb were in his bags. Specificaly it says,

"components for explosives"

This conceviably could be just a collection of "over the counter" items from camping, home baking or makeup counters in a large store.

Furter it was in checked lugage not carry on so he was not going to assemble a bomb in flight was he?

Also he was flying to Kingston Jamaica home of the Yardies and other very serious drug and violent crime gangs, but not realy known as a hot bed of terrorists...

Some chemicals used to make bombs are just as usefull in producing street drugs.

Further the extract you have posted does not say what the "materials" where. And as DHS employees have been known to stretch the truth on more than one occasion makes me somewhat suspicious.

As you say,

"I keep reading that TSA Officers are such morons"

After saying,

"TRASH! Read this..."

About Brandioch Conner's comment,

"The TSA has yet to be able to identify a single terrorist who was caught trying to board a plane."

Can you please point me to where in the extract you posted it says the arrested man is a terrorist?

Ann OminousApril 2, 2009 7:04 AM

The Globe and Mail had a story today about the Canadian transport minister walking unimpeded onto the tarmac at Toronto's main airport, while disguised with a reflective vest and clipboard. But what was surprising was the minister's following comment. It wasn't that we needed to spend more money, but that our priorities vis-a-vis passenger shakedowns might be out of whack.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/...

Operation tarmac: Politicians go undercover to expose security flaws at Pearson [airport in Toronto, Canada]

Yesterday, [the Canadian Transport Minister] expressed exasperation.

"Look at the expense, time and energy we've put into shaking down passengers for their toothpaste and hair gel," he said. "I think we have to look at other priorities as well."

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