Actual Security Theater

As part of their training, federal agents engage in mock exercises in public places. Sometimes, innocent civilians get involved.

Every day, as Washingtonians go about their overt lives, the FBI, CIA, Capitol Police, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service stage covert dramas in and around the capital where they train. Officials say the scenarios help agents and officers integrate the intellectual, physical and emotional aspects of classroom instruction. Most exercises are performed inside restricted compounds. But they also unfold in public parks, suburban golf clubs and downtown transit stations.

Curtain up on threat theater -- a growing, clandestine art form. Joseph Persichini, Jr., assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, says, "What better way to adapt agents or analysts to cultural idiosyncrasies than role play?"

For the public, there are rare, startling peeks: At a Holiday Inn, a boy in water wings steps out of his seventh floor room into a stampede of federal agents; at a Bowie retirement home, an elderly woman panics as a role-player collapses, believing his seizure is real; at a county museum, a father sweeps his daughter into his arms, running for the exit, while a raving, bearded man resists arrest.

EDITED TO ADD (9/11): It happened in D.C., in the Potomac River, with the Coast Guard.

Posted on August 25, 2009 at 6:43 AM • 71 Comments

Comments

Mike BAugust 25, 2009 6:53 AM

Hey Bruce, I'm surprised you and your Secu-Nerd army haven't set up a Security Theatre event at one of the many conferences you attend. It could have things like security professionals performing Shakespeare to raise money to charity, light original works about the foibles of Information Assurance or maybe just a series of security related films. Thank about it! Security Theatre is like your biggest brand.

Ricky BobbyAugust 25, 2009 7:01 AM

Only a matter of time before a federal agent gets seriously hurt, because the public took action under the belief it was a real security threat.

Trichinosis USAAugust 25, 2009 7:25 AM

All this means is that law enforcement can officially cover up what are possibly illegal actions with the excuse made to the press or the general public of "Don't worry, we're just playin'!"

Not that they haven't done that before.

Trichinosis USAAugust 25, 2009 7:27 AM

And by the way, some of the most classic "role playing" took place on 9/11.

But some of you already know that.

eggbertAugust 25, 2009 7:51 AM

Train your agents and make the public be afraid, all at the same time? That sounds too good to be true!

Rachel AAugust 25, 2009 8:00 AM

This sounds hideously irresponsible. And dangerous, if any civilian happens to take it upon themselves to open fire.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 25, 2009 8:05 AM

No wonder they have so many problems if they practice like that. The pictures in that article look like caricatures.

"Joseph Persichini, Jr., assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, says, "What better way to adapt agents or analysts to cultural idiosyncrasies than role play?""

Boggle.
How about because the people you're supposed to be watching for will NOT have the same "cultural idiosyncrasies" as the actor because they do not believe the same thing as the actor does.

What differentiates a suicide bomber from an average citizen ... other than the whole suicide bomber bit?

Which is why we are currently focused on anyone who looks somewhat Arabian/Persian/not-like-us rather than real threats.

caseyAugust 25, 2009 8:27 AM

I don't support this kind of training. If you are going to run a drill, the best way is to cause a real problem and let the system function. On a ship, you might throw a breaker to simulate the loss of a generator- this will test/train the engineering crew to respond. If you just say out loud, "You just lost generator #2" it will not help any more than just reading the procedures.

Obviously, you cannot accurately simulate a crime/attack so you are just giving a false sense of accomplishment to the trainees. I used to watch Pinkerton guards run drills at a facility and they always had 'intruders' hopping a fence. They never simulated the front gate guards getting head-shot and employees taken hostage.

Matt from CTAugust 25, 2009 8:55 AM

1) 20 years ago I remember my EMT instructors relating that they used to stage a mock incident during the class.

They'd have someone the class didn't know fake a seizure. The last time they did it they ended up needing an ambulance for real...

2) In the fire service, we run into this issue with drills and the radio quite often. If it's a drill involving something "unusual" (firefighter down, haz-mat, evacuations, etc) we'll broadcast at the start and periodically during it "this is a drill."

Otherwise it generates a fair amount of phone calls from scanner land and the press to the dispatchers wanting to know what's up.

That's not necessarily a bad thing in real life. There was a notable line of duty death in New Jersey in the late 1980s when it was a civilian listening to a scanner who called the dispatch to let them know a firefighter was calling a mayday and not being acknowledged.

3) There are also signs sold specifically for this purpose to let people know they're driving by / into a fire training exercise.

Every few years we usually end up involved with a drill that ends up shutting down at least a portion of public highway. On rarer occassions we've also had to notify people they wouldn't be able to leave or enter their driveway during a certain period of time since we'd have hoses laid across the road in front of it for a training burn.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 9:01 AM

On one hand, I so see some value. One thing that is nearly impossible to simulate is how civilians will react, and since the civilians don't know it is an act it is a pretty accurate reflection of how they will react in real life. (I say pretty accurate, since in a real event the perpetrators may be behaving differently than that actors).

That said, I do not think that the fact that there is some value to it justifies it. Civilians should not be made to endure this. Do we simulate hijackings, bomb threats in churches, or hostage situations in banks? Of course not.

Even if it is a good thing, which I question (acknowledging some value does not make it worth it), I don't think it can be justified.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 9:04 AM

@Matt from CT at August 25, 2009 8:55 AM

I have no problem with drills, and I also have no problem during classes faking incidents the participants think are real. Those are educational environments where the participants are there to learn.

I'm not bashing the participants, I fully understand their intent. I just don't think putting civilians through this is a good idea.

HarryAugust 25, 2009 9:24 AM

@Casey: I don't support this kind of training. If you are going to run a drill, the best way is to cause a real problem and let the system function.

Are you suggesting that these guys employ real psychos who carry loaded weapons? Doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

A well-tested situation needs both role plays and (when possible) real situations in a well tested system.

Not all tests should be broad spectrum tests. It makes sense to test subsystems one at a time, which requires planned set-ups. For example, the Apollo 13 disaster wasn't ever pre-tested. However, many of the subdisasters were. As a result NASA was able to break it down into more familiar small disasters, some of which had prepared solutions. This sped response time and freed the best people to work on the new problems.

The Pinkerton guards you mention didn't run the exercise right. This doesn't make exercises invalid. They should have a Red Team to think of different ways, and the Red Team should be rewarded for breaking through. Ideally the Red Team comes from a different organization or solicit ideas from other groups. (Movie directors?)

Some of the simulated disasters are staffed by outsiders acting as wounded. They're briefed on their wounds and reactions; some are simply told "Make trouble." This makes the simulation far more realistic and therefore far more useful.

And some real life tests don't disrupt the public. NOVA(?) had a show about Antonio and Jonna Mendez, two high level technical support gurus for the CIA - the ones who make fake faces and false papers. The exercise is a CIA team in training following the Mendezes. The Mendezes want to break observation and have a secret meeting, the CIA team in training wants to keep them under surveillance the whole time.

@Brandioch Conner
The value of a role play depends on how good the players are. Just as with Casey's Pinkertons.

@ Rachel A: "This sounds hideously irresponsible. And dangerous, if any civilian happens to take it upon themselves to open fire."

That happens in real life, too.

BF SkinnerAugust 25, 2009 9:43 AM

@Casey: I don't support this kind of training.

I dunno scenario based training is the best way to train the nervous system's response. Even if the participant KNOWS it isn't real the nervous response is.

So when the real deal happens everyone says..."that was just like training."

'sides they are employin' outta work actors here in their off season. Better than waiting tables, house sitting or dog walking.

BF SkinnerAugust 25, 2009 9:44 AM

It's also good training for the public. My brother couldn't see a police car on a call without running toward it. idjit

I know of a guy who came across one of these scenario's picked up his kid and ran. Good for him.

uk visaAugust 25, 2009 9:46 AM

Thank goodness the FBI, CIA, Capitol Police, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service are all fully prepared to deal with conflicts in retirement homes, county museums and golf clubs.
The world can rest easier in the knowledge...

DavidAugust 25, 2009 9:51 AM

Imagine inadvertently experiencing what it's like to be in the middle of any such *active* investigation while it's ongoing. I've had the unhappy experience of finally discovering what the hell was going on 3 months later, when the FBI press releases hit the news wire.

When you're surrounded by both legitimate covert behavior and clandestine criminal behavior and a party to neither, over a period of time, it really, really rattles the nerves.

Clive RobinsonAugust 25, 2009 9:56 AM

There is of course the question of injury both direct and indirect.

For instance, what if a panic ensures and civilians are hurt and killed?

What if an LEO or other person from another agency happens to be in the area and unaware of what is going on?

There are other ways to achieve the same objectives at a lot lower risk, especially as the level of realism is actually not that high as others have pointed out.

In the UK we have had this sort of debate before with training Police drivers to drive at speed. The general consensus is that the risk of third party liability is to high. However as the practice is already in place many police forces are taking a great deal of a long time in moving away from it.

To put it another way would you encourage people to learn how to do a knife throwing act in a crowded auditorium simply because it is more realistic?

I suspect probably not...

In 99% of cases training is not about real life realism but drills and it is by the simple process of repeating a particular task over and over that it moves from the fore brain to the hind brain where it becomes instinctive behaviour.

When and only when the drills are down on pat do you start to vary them and add controlled realism.

And that is the point "controlled realism" -v- "uncontrolled realism". The former allows reasonable safe guards to be built in the latter only encourages chaos and mayhem.

One of the few advantages of CCTV is it allows real life incidents to be examined broken down into parts and each stage tested in a controlled environment where what if experiments can be run more safely.

@ Bruce,

Oh speaking of CCTV have you heard about the leaked internal UK Met Police report about CCTV apparently it only solves about 1 crime / 1000 cameras...

http://www.thelondonpaper.com/thelondonpaper/...

Clive RobinsonAugust 25, 2009 10:06 AM

Is it me or the characters that Psychotherapist Barry Spodak plays look like last century TV actors.

For instance the top left, looks a lot like the hologram character (AL) from Quantum Leap, The top right reminds me of a McCloud spin off etc.

caseyAugust 25, 2009 10:26 AM

@ Harry - Let me clarify my comment. I do not think real psychos should be given loaded weapons. Notice the second paragraph first sentence where I state that it is obvious that this cannot be done. I also know that the Pinkertons were running a bogus test. In fact, that is why I brought it up, because having people run around playing a criminal will not prepare them for an incident. rif

Consider a sports team where they train using fake opponents who will allow them to score. I doubt that works, even though I have not tested it myself. On the other hand, maybe that would be a way to validate this type of training. I am happy to be wrong about this.

@BFskinner
I would like to find out if people actually say "it was just like the training" and then find out what training they actually did.

StephanieAugust 25, 2009 10:27 AM

Thanks again for posting such valuable information on this blog.

@David

I had a similar experience and feel the same about it.

I wonder when they stage these things do they think wow maybe I'll have an innocent citizen who has been through a war? A hostage situation? An assault?
Can they really predict how innocents will be affected by the public war games?
To me this is outrageous, we are a country of people from many places, some fled terror and torture, a reenactment of these covert sorts of things is unwise. How could they predict who would walk onto their block or two of the staged game? What about a vet just back from the war with PTSS?

CameramanAugust 25, 2009 11:02 AM

Everyone here whining about innocent civilians potentially being affected by walking into the middle of a training exercise will also be howling for the blood of the directors of the various law enforcement agencies after the next terror attack. One of the chief complaints will be "inadequate training". Count on it.

Sure, this training is not perfect- what training scenario is? I suppose you could get a bunch of guys from Gitmo, give them a bunch of guns and suicide vests, drop them off on a random street corner in downtown D.C., and tell them to just go nuts, but then civilians will die for real. So, I suppose this is the next best thing.

EdT.August 25, 2009 11:16 AM

If I recall, there were similar types of exercises held in the Houston metro area during the Clinton era (pre-9/11, obviously.) One of those exercises resulted in a lot of panicked civilians calling 911 to report gunfire, and another resulted in the crash-landing of a helicopter near a residential area and State prison.

I agree with those who observed that such a training exercise could turn horribly tragic, if a civilian bystander (or group of them) got their hands on one of the "terrorists" and decided to take the law into their own hands.

~EdT.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 11:23 AM

@EdT.: "if a civilian bystander (or group of them) got their hands on one of the "terrorists" and decided to take the law into their own hands."
___________

Even if they weren't taking the law into their own hands, if someone truly believed they were in the presence of a terrorist who would hurt their family, they may use serious or even lethal force to protect their family.

DavidAugust 25, 2009 11:34 AM

@EdT & HJohn
And we're so far only discussing what reasonable, sane, people would do in these circumstances. Please don't forget that most people you'll encounter on a city street simply are not reasonable or sane.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 12:16 PM

@David: "And we're so far only discussing what reasonable, sane, people would do in these circumstances. Please don't forget that most people you'll encounter on a city street simply are not reasonable or sane. "
____________

Not to mention the hero types who believe they are destined to save the day whenever their is trouble nearby. Que the Al Pacino movie trailers.

Clive RobinsonAugust 25, 2009 12:22 PM

@ David,

"And we're so far only discussing what reasonable, sane, people would do in these circumstances. Please don't forget that most people you'll encounter on a city street simply are not reasonable or sane."

Part of this is there is no such thing as Jo Average, just what is normal for individuals.

Which can give rise to another problem (although probably the least likely).

Exercises like this are "crying wolf" if people think it is just an exercise they will behave differently in two ways,

1, They will in an exercise act as though it is an exercise and thus render it effectively useless for analysis.

2, If there is a real incident and those around it just discount it as another exercise.

There is of course a third possibility arising from this which is,

3, Criminals will take advantage of the fact the general populace is used to such exercises and use them to their advantage in various ways.

I must admit that the more I think about this idea the more problems I find, and these tend to negate (or worse) any supposed advantages.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 12:28 PM

@Clive Robinson at August 25, 2009 12:22 PM

I think the "behave differently after tests" is both good and bad.

With things like fire drills at work, the alarm goes off and everyone walks out of the building calmly. No panic. Then they are surprised when the actual fire truck arrives. No one gets trampled in the stampede to get out. That is the good.

The bad is the busy employee who assumes it is a drill and doesn't bother leaving his desk because he is behind. Clearly bad.

Same can be applied to larger scale incidents. The calmness that cames with thinking it is a drill can be good in some ways, but the complacency in not taking an event seriously can be deadly.

I think so-called terror drills are a bad idea. It's impossible to train everyone anyway.

Steven HooberAugust 25, 2009 1:13 PM

> 3) There are also signs sold specifically for this
> purpose to let people know they're driving by /
> into a fire training exercise.

And any degree of planning means you can do drills in public-like areas without involving the actual public.

Local fire/rescue did a building collapse exercise when the local mall was demoed for new construction. Put some cars and dummies in the parking structure (etc.) and let the demolition guys work on it for a couple days, then spent the weekend shoring and extracting.

Active shooter drill time is the summer. Police go to schools without summer classes, and preferably with minor renovations scheduled. Go in and put sims into the walls, kick down doors (in the areas scheduled to be renovated) and of course invite kids from the school to be hostages. You get untrained folks, without the risk of panic of doing it for real and unannounced.

These are solid training programs, without the stupid risk of doing it in public, unannounced and uncontrolled.

BF SkinnerAugust 25, 2009 1:25 PM

@steve hoober has a valid point

Could this be a cultural thing?

As I understand it Quantico and the thing next to it have for decades(?) routinely sent their students into DC in order to practice thier tradecraft.

Or could the training be for the benifit of the public's expectation (full disclosure I'm not a 9-11 was an inside job believer). So these exercises are to get the public used to seeing it. (or maybe trying to show what the taxpayer is getting for their buck)

dragonfrogAugust 25, 2009 1:52 PM

Nice! Train the agents provocateurs and the responders in one operation, and get real-time quality control at the same time - does the public seem horrified at the provocateurs, or at the police reactions? If it's the latter, then the provocateurs aren't being terrifying enough, they need to ramp it up.

Ken HirschAugust 25, 2009 1:58 PM

In 2002, a sheriff's deputy sheriff's deputy mistakenly shot and killed a U.S. soldier and seriously wounded another taking part in a role-playing field training exercise. They thought he was part of the exercise. He didn't know about the exercise.

http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/02/24/...

Matt from CTAugust 25, 2009 2:16 PM

@HJohn

>I'm not bashing the participants, I fully
>understand their intent. I just don't
>think putting civilians through this is a
>good idea.

Oh gosh, I wasn't replying to you and I agree with you and Steven Hoober above 100%

I was more throwing some random bits of information against the wall.

Good, basic communication can allow these drills to occur with a minimal impact on the public.

People get hurt when training is off the cuff and "winging it."

When you involve civilians in the exercise, you're deliberately adding an extra element of risk because you haven't briefed them on how to behave.

While signs and such aren't the same as a briefing, at least a warning alerts 95% of the folks out there to be aware of unusual stuff happening (there's another 5% who go through life oblivious and there's nothing you can do to get through to them).

Surprising people, in particular, could result in unexpected behavior.


>And any degree of planning means you
>can do drills in public-like areas without
>involving the actual public.

There's a few, limited exceptions to that.

Tanker shuttle drills, particularly if being run for "credit by demonstration" necessarily run along miles of public highways and it's often not practical or necessary to shut them down. However the tankers do not need to run lights & siren, and you can put flagmen at intersections to control traffic to allow the tankers through quicker.

NYPD does "surge drills" (you can find the videos on YouTube) which is synchronized movements of scores of police cars in Manhattan. As much as I dislike lights & sirens being used for training because of the extra risk to the public...that's a particular type of training I can't think of any way you'd get experience in normal activities at or you could drill on an old airfield for. Maybe some high end computer simulaters could fill that role. It's also something that only a dozen or so cities in the U.S. would even conceivably have the legitimate need to train to do.

In both of those the public will be involved if nothing else as people in close proximity to what you're doing that you have to watch out for.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 2:40 PM

@Matt from CT: "Oh gosh, I wasn't replying to you and I agree with you and Steven Hoober above 100%"
__________

I was just dialoguing. We are in agreement.

:)

mooAugust 25, 2009 3:08 PM

BITE BITE BITE BITE!

Seriously, this story reminded me of the Vampire LARP game the main characters played in Cory Doctorow's novel, Little Brother...

DavidAugust 25, 2009 3:13 PM

It's worth noting that a number of law enforcement agencies seem to send their personnel into situations where there's actually a legitimate need for them to be there, when a public need actually models a particular crisis.

Is there enough of a lack of public events involving crowd control and emergency response that staged training in uncontrolled settings in most circumstances is necessary? Fitting drills to real problems might kill two birds with one stone more often, without wasting manpower.

WilliamBAugust 25, 2009 3:16 PM

The question isn't "Does training have risks?" The question is "Which is riskier, training or not training?"

It seems that Corey and I are arguing from the same side of the fence. I think. In interpreted your post to mean that since the Pinkertons were running a poorly designed test, that testing isn't a good idea. I disagree with that statement; is that the statment you meant to make?

Daniel PawtowskiAugust 25, 2009 3:29 PM

From the opposite perspective: Several years ago, I was at a DC-area Science Fiction convention with a spy-themed LARP. Some real FBI agents entered the game area on unrelated business. Several gamers playing the roles of terrorists identified them as "Look like Feds! Get 'em!" and charged with fake weapons drawn. It ended without incident; just a funny story.

Jeff DegeAugust 25, 2009 3:38 PM

From the article:

>>"It's tough to be role players. We're there to lose," says O'Toole, a 30-year police veteran.

That got me thinking about the OpFor at the Army's training centers At the NTC and the JFTC the OpFor don't see their role as being there to lose. Quite the contrary. And I have to question how good a training experience the role players are providing, going in with that attitude.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 3:47 PM

Reminds me of a scene from "The Naked Gun"

NEILSON'S CHARACTER: "When I see someone stabbing another person, I kill the S.O.B!"

OTHER CHARACTER: It was a play in the park! You killed 2 actors!

Funny movie, but I could just see a drastic reaction from someone who really believes they and/or their family are in danger.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 25, 2009 3:49 PM

@Harry
"The value of a role play depends on how good the players are. Just as with Casey's Pinkertons."

No. The problem is that the REAL bad guys will behave differently than the FAKE bad guys. Particularly in the case of extremists such as suicide bombers.

HJohnAugust 25, 2009 4:34 PM

@Brandioch: No. The problem is that the REAL bad guys will behave differently than the FAKE bad guys. Particularly in the case of extremists such as suicide bombers.
____________

That's a really good point. I don't think it is possible for a fake bad guy to actually prepare someone for what a real bad guy may actually do.

I've seen some role play before, and it's one thing for the person next to you to get hit with a paint gun or paint bomb and have to play dead while you continue, but it's quite another when you actually see their head blown off. Morbid, I know, but no training can prepare someone for some realities. And no one really knows how THEY will react in some situations, let alone how OTHERS will react.

Clive RobinsonAugust 25, 2009 4:36 PM

@ HJohn,

"With things like fire drills at work, the alarm goes off and everyone walks out of the building calmly."

I think that you and have very similar views on this.

These "Safety" drills are what I would call low risk broad result high return drills. Where the solution to the "assumes it is a drill and doesn't bother leaving" mentality is the fire marshal, who sweeps behind and makes a note of the persons ID and forwards it to HR to deal with according to company/building policy.

This is again very low cost as most fire codes require marshals to go through and check for stragglers and get disabled people evacuated or into fire refuges etc (9/11 proved almost conclusively the benefits of such drills).

Even when announced an "affirmative LEO action" is no place for civilians especially in areas where people have freedom to carry overt/covert weapons, and the area is uncontrollable and potentially has hazardous aspects such as cars with gas in their tanks that might get crashed into etc. The return is very little if non existent and the risk very high.

Effectively the return for the LEO's is training in a new environment in an uncontrolled manner which is not really amenable to analysis or retesting.

So if it goes well little or nothing is learned and if it goes wrong there is little to analyse, so it is of little practical worth. Oh and there's a whole heap of potential liability just waiting to happen.

For the public there is no positive value short term or long term as the LEO's are not actually gaining from the exercise and importantly you have the issue of members of the public being lose cannons or becoming potentially immune and therefore not acting appropriately in the very very rare event that they get caught up in a real situation.

As I said earlier I cannot see any real "public good" positive for this sort of exercise just a whole heap of liability.

The way to actually train for this is to use a controlled environment with "guest civilians" who are often LEO's from another area or members of the public who have been made aware of exactly what they are getting into and screened/checked for health/security/weapons etc.

Also in the modern world there is usually more than enough CCTV or other scene of crime information from real events to enable test scenarios to be set up and tested effectively in a controlled environment.

The Met Police used to have a training centre in West London where both the public and members of other organisations (armed forces etc) where used. In some cases this involved the use of real Molotov Cocktails (Petrol Bombs) sticks and stones and smoke grenades. I find it difficult to believe that LEO training needs to be any more realistic than that in peace time (and irrespective of peoples views on "the war on terror" we are ostensibly at peace).

I have been through "live fire" exercises a number of times and I can assure you that I found no extra benefit from it over other types of FIBUA training involving laser attachments to rifles and "flash bangs". If anything due to safety requirements it was more artificial and lacked the fluidity of real life scenarios.

I keep trying to think up a positive benefit for the public from what has been described in the article that actually out weighs even potentially the risks to both the LEO's and the public and so far I have not found one.

Neil in ChicagoAugust 25, 2009 4:41 PM

FedLARP vs. NRA concealed carry!
I really wanna watch it -- from somewhere safe.

CharlieAugust 25, 2009 4:45 PM

I'm reminded of an anecdote that I don't often share, involving some teenagers in the city where I grew up, who often made a game of getting over on the police assigned to the local hangout.

One of these kids repeatedly demonstrated to me several of the security principles that I later found in the computer security literature. One situation he created was instigated by another kid's theft of a hotel security detail 2-way radio, and then setting off door alarms throughout the hotel, making a game of evading security. The two of them were entirely successful.

Months later a presidential candidate on the campaign trail visited town. The same kid noticed that the security detail assigned to police the event were not in fact, secret service officers, but local beat cops. Taking what he'd learned, and that hotel security hadn't, we entered the secure area of the hotel through an indirect, but fairly straightforward path. Long story short: yes, I have met William Jefferson Clinton, in a manner of speaking.

There was no incident, but it was illustrative. And I'm afraid that very little has changed about the other guy's behavior since then. I'm also convinced that any resourceful criminal, or terrorist, could make more creative use of a training exercise than the agency staging that exercise.

Clive RobinsonAugust 25, 2009 4:53 PM

@ WilliamB,

'The question isn't "Does training have risks?" The question is "Which is riskier, training or not training?"'

No that is not the question, training is a given, and all activities including training has attendant risks.

Therefore the question is what type of training within the acceptable risk levels.

For instance it was said that during the cold war era the USSR forces would do live Chemical warfare training. Where 12.5% human casualties at battalion strength where acceptable, similar with other live firing exercises however main line equipment loss/breakages apparently had to be below 1%.

That is a horrendous human attrition rate and would be completely unacceptable in most industrialised nations, even when at war.

EdT.August 25, 2009 5:00 PM

BTW, I forgot to mention in my comment above that these "exercises" were being co-ordinated by the Houston Police Dept, who *failed to tell* other agencies that they were going on. So, a local PD and the TDCJ (prisons) got *quite* a surprise when a military-style helicopter full of heavily-armed people in camo gear (but *no insignia anywhere*) crash-landed in their neighborhood!

~EdT.

JohnAugust 25, 2009 5:09 PM

"Consider a sports team where they train using fake opponents who will allow them to score. I doubt that works, even though I have not tested it myself. On the other hand, maybe that would be a way to validate this type of training. I am happy to be wrong about this."

That's not been my experience training with police agencies using simunitions (plastic bullets/paintballs) in real guns.

My job was to play "bad guy". Cop's job was not to get killed. I killed quite a few--and they were expecting me to shoot them at that. One might say that the police didn't care and were sloppy, except that this role playing had a direct affect on their evaluations, so I'd have to say they were motivated.

No experience is quite like being shot at, but this training is quite good and was definitely *not* theater.

I've drawn and shot an officer from five feet. Even knowing it's all a "game" his eyes became wide as dinner plates when he saw my gun raise to fire.

I'm certain he learned a great deal from that experience and is a safer officer because of it.

AndrewAugust 25, 2009 7:12 PM

Many sins can be covered under the rubric of a training exercise.

Mission: to train Pineland soldiers

Mission (CONFIDENTIAL): to train Pineland special operations soldiers in patrolling and recon techniques

Mission (TOP SECRET): to support Pineland special operations soldiers in conducting these operations in a neighboring country, with the particular target(s) of interest also of interest to the Untied Snakes

It tends to be law enforcement who engages in the more outrageous training exercises in public, as the military tends to take more care about such things. Most "black helicopter" stories are in fact military training -- they tell the local police what they are doing, who tell the frightened public "Never mind, it's nothing to worry about."

I recall one particularly fun LARP where two city cops were also playing. The LARP gamemaster, in character, instructed the two city cops, in uniform and in character, to drag a third player "into the back alley and work on him." They did so -- on a Friday night, in front of a crowd of a few dozen horrified people waiting in line for a theater event. Playing in character, the "victim" yelled and screamed and sobbed from out of sight but within earshot. Results: one citizen complaint and two (mildly) disciplined cops, who could no longer play on duty.

HarryAugust 25, 2009 9:20 PM

A number of folk have written that training is pointless because it doesn't completely simulate everything that might happen in real life.

I disagree with this conclusion. It's true the training isn't complete. It's not true that it is therefore pointless. Incomplete training prepared the trained for some situations, thus reducing the number of situations for which they're totally unprepared. In other words, they become more prepared for many situations.

This is safer than not training at all. Don't let perfections be the enemy of improvement.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 25, 2009 10:57 PM

@John
"I've drawn and shot an officer from five feet."

Why didn't the officer body slam you if he was only five feet from you and still had to draw?

When you understand the answer to that, you'll understand why the role playing games are useless for training.

Al MacintyreAugust 26, 2009 11:22 AM

Security Theatre is held regularly at Origins, the National Simulation Games Convention, under the title "War College." The last time I was there, we had 9-11 part II, involving sale of cold war nukes to terrorists, a re-enactment of 7 days in May, in which the plotters got a whole lot further than in the novel, and many other imaginative events.

ssAugust 26, 2009 2:57 PM

Training like this has already killed people, just google for Fort Bragg and Robin Sage and Special Forces.

Doesn't this have the effect of desensitizing citizenry?

BF SkinnerAugust 26, 2009 3:53 PM

I guess they ALL do it
"NORAD to Conduct Exercise Over D.C. Thursday"
Fm the Wash Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/...

Imagine my disappointment to learn they don't intend FAILSAFE run with SAC bombers but a couple of piper cubs. I mean nothing against the ruskies now but they can't understand a machine like some of our boys. And that's not meant as an insult, Mr. Ambassador, I mean, you take your average Russkie, we all know how much guts he's got. Hell, lookit look at all them them Nazis killed off and they still wouldn't quit. If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!


I tell my clients if they've had to failover to their backup site that's contingency testing. And it seems the DC CAP was scrambled last night or the day before to intercept a small plane. So I think it works.

MysticKnightoftheSeaAugust 27, 2009 5:43 AM

@ Brandioch Conner

Why not? Reaction time/learning curve.

If he had practiced body-slamming an opponent the 10,000 times it takes to get the muscle memory thing going for him, he might have done it. If he has to think about it, he's already lost.

It's all about the training, (or as the martial-artists might say, "The kata").

IMHO,

MKotS

BWAugust 27, 2009 7:25 AM

@Mike B
If they are to perform Shakespeare, the play must be "A Comedy of Errors." It involves mistaken identity and identity theft; the characters even have a run in with the police.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 27, 2009 9:20 AM

@MKotS
"If he had practiced body-slamming an opponent the 10,000 times it takes to get the muscle memory thing going for him, he might have done it."

Bzzzzzt. Wrong answer. But thanks for playing.

Oh, and you're off by a few magnitudes there, as well.

The correct answer is that both sides know that this is "training" so they do not utilize the options available if those options would cause serious damage to themselves or the other players.

But in the real situations, the damage is the goal for one side.

HJohnAugust 27, 2009 11:29 AM

I would imagine, obviously, that both the good guys and bad guys would behave differently in a simulation than real life event. Their minds are not likely to be as clouded by fear and intensity.

I know a man who was in the military several decades ago. He said they trained him to be able to kick a six foot man in the face and kill him. Worked well in training, said he felt like Joe Cool. Then, he said, the training didn't work so well on the field-- he wasn't able to be Joe Cool because he never found Joe Fool who would just stand there and let him kick him in the face.

Corny story, but it makes sense. People behave differently when their are real life repercussions.

SagittaAugust 28, 2009 2:19 PM

@Brandioch Conner

"Why didn't the officer body slam you if he was only five feet from you and still had to draw?"

Because he hadn't been in that situation before, and didn't know how to react. Now he has, and does.

Brandioch ConnerAugust 28, 2009 10:34 PM

@Sagitta
"Because he hadn't been in that situation before, and didn't know how to react. Now he has, and does."

So in the NEXT role playing exercise he will body slam the other guy?

No, he won't. And as I've said before, he won't do it because he will know that the other guy is a fake "enemy".

But the real terrorists will not have that limitation.

DermittAugust 30, 2009 4:23 PM

At $300 an hour it's good work if you can get it. Training is getting dear. Money keeps getting more scarce and things keep getting more expensive. If the Army paid this well, we wouldn't need a real war with real killing.

DermittAugust 30, 2009 4:29 PM

They can actually manufacture evidence that looks real too. That costs even more.

Ian ArgentAugust 31, 2009 10:45 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercise_Robin_Sage - the series of exercises run by and for the Special Forces teams as part of their "graduation" exercises. The incident in 2002 involved the peace officer *not having been briefed* by his chain of command despite notifications having gone out and this exercise having been run for decades prior. Per the wiki article and other sources I've seen - changes have been made in procedure...

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