This Suspicious Photography Stuff Is Confusing

See:

Last week, Metro Transit Police received a report from a rider about suspicious behavior at the L'Enfant Plaza station and on an Orange Line train to Vienna.

The rider told Metro he saw two men acting suspiciously and videotaping platforms, trains and riders.

"The men, according to the citizen report, were trying to be inconspicuous, holding the cameras at their sides," Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel says.

The rider was able to photograph the men who were videotaping and sent the photo to Metro Transit Police.

I assume the rider took that photo inconspicuously, too, which means that he's now suspicious.

How will this all end?

EDITED TO ADD (12/27): In the comments I was asked about reconciling good profiling with this sort of knee-jerk photography=suspicious nonsense. It's complicated, and I wrote about it here in 2007. This, from 2004, is also relevant.

Posted on December 27, 2010 at 6:12 AM • 102 Comments

Comments

John McMahonDecember 27, 2010 6:38 AM

"inconspicuous" isn't even needed on the DC Metro. I've been pulled off a train by Metro Transit Police (he was polite and professional) for sketching car equipment.

I'm getting used to it. The same thing happened to me at a well known theme park for taking pictures of "critical infrastructure."

Train geek :== Terrorist nowadays.

ChrisDecember 27, 2010 7:22 AM

The response to your ultimate question is never*. Terror mania has empowered the broad paranoid fringe in western culture. They are now stuck to us, and we are stuck with them.

We have lost the abhesives of self-confidence and individual and collective dreams of a better world and are re-entering the dark ages.

Unlike the canonical first dark age we have the means to monitor our descent. Unlike the Renaissance we lack the will to dream and act on those dreams.

*Of course one should never say never...perhaps an asteroid...

EBlairDecember 27, 2010 7:37 AM

["How will this all end?"]

Obviously, 'government-authorities' will be forced to impose much more comprehensive surveillance technology to make us safer.

Suspicious people (especially anybody with a camera, recording device, or communication device) must be quickly identified, detained & evaluated in real time.

Some form of RFID personal identification tagging will eventually be required for all non-government persons using public/commercial transportation, or public streets & common areas.

We can only be safer if the government develops capability to track everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Noble government politicians & armed-bureaucrats (police) are our only hope against the 'bad-guys'.

T.J. AltmanDecember 27, 2010 7:51 AM

The irony in this is that hypersensitivity to the use of cameras in public spaces is expanding at precisely the moment when digital imaging devices are proliferating.

B. RealDecember 27, 2010 8:08 AM

I was using www.TrafficLand.com of late; does that make me suspicious as I could peruse national monuments and the traffic patterns of Washington DC? No one was in the room with me when I did so, maybe I should report myself to the authorities...

Clive RobinsonDecember 27, 2010 8:16 AM

"How will this all end?"

Simple answer "badly"

What I want to know is if there is such paranoia about taking photos why Google is alowed to take a photo of every house in every road with impunity?

Is it because they drive around?

Don't people realise that terrorists drive and use the Internet and can use very easily hidden cameras behind suit jacket lapels looking out through button holes or holes in their "manbags" etc etc etc...

The only reason the authorities have is flagrant abuse of power (which the Met Police have been "warned off" for).

Aaron AndersonDecember 27, 2010 8:23 AM

Sounds like 2 folks just doing some Street Photography....

Check out Eric Kim Street Photography for an example... No big deal.

zorroDecember 27, 2010 8:23 AM

@Chris:
...perhaps an asteroid...

haha, the solution to all human foolishness: a chicxulub-size asteroid.

I can imagine that some people would like to be inconspicuous with their cameras, especially if they do not know how others might react to the use of them (after all they could be viewed as terrorists).

On another note, Bruce, what do you expect? Citizens are continually told stuff like: if you see a bag somewhere and it does not seem to belong to anyone, report it; if you see someone acting suspiciously, report it. Sooner or later some *good citizen* will report someone somewhere that is not a terrorist...

Tom LDecember 27, 2010 8:26 AM

Let's assume for a moment that they were terrorists: they clearly fall into the "stupid" category, since "spy" cams and helmet cams are discreet, inexpensive and offer HD resolution. There was no need to be observed taking photos or video at all.

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 8:38 AM

Cops are suspicious bastards because either experience has taught them to be or they are naturally suspicious. They go through the world thinking everyone is guilty of something. That's why probable cause is required to be'articulable suspicion'.

"according to the citizen report, were trying to be inconspicuous, holding the cameras at their sides"
Okay. So a guy on a train 'KNOWS' these other guys are 'trying to be inconspicous a conclusion drawn by how they held their cameras. And transit security buys it and acts.

It IS as reasonable that they wanted to take photo's of women, responded to the Metro's warning about theft of cameras and tech on the trains, or geek out on trains without being hassled by the man as it is they are terrorist plot precursors. But given the availability of cheap wearable video techonolgy that now exists I'd say it's MORE reasonable that they weren't terrorist attack arcitects.

"Based on the photograph and the information... no reason to suspect the individuals in question about anything specific,"

With no reason to suspect anything specific they responded to un-specific suspicion and issued the BOLO. This is weakening the standard of probable cause. Combined with the Feebies suspicious activities record system this is rendering us into a 'guilty until proved innocent' society.

bob (the original bob)December 27, 2010 8:54 AM

Actually, there are enough "official" cameras covering any sensitive subject nowadays that if I were to be a terrorist, I would hack/social engineer getting copies/feeds of the "official" links for whatever information I need rather than exposing myself to direct observation at the target. After all, who am I to determine what is attack-worthy when I can just let the government point it all out for me.

In 1980 I was touring East Berlin, and having been a train buff all my life was eager to take some photos "over there". I had not been warned specifically against photography when I entered the country, but had heard enough stories that I was concerned about government objections to pictures of infrastructure (because that's what totalitarian governments do - object to photography). I took several pictures of train stations and hardware and nobody exhibited any behavior like they had noticed (although if they were good at it...) To be honest their stuff just wasn't that exciting (maybe thats why they didnt want it photographed, they didnt want people to see how lame the products of socialist societies are?)

Ironically, in 2003 I was in NYC and the train infrastructure there reminded me of East Berlin ca 1980; maybe thats what they are trying to cover up?

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 9:25 AM

SCOTUS has pretty much said anyone who calls themselves a journalist IS a journalist and only the press can say what is relevant news.

Become a part-time free-lance journalist in your spare time and make lots of cash; meet and impress girls.
http://www.gsspa.org/resources/details.php?listing=377

The argument is silly enough in a country with a free press clause in its constitution . . . but the lackwit's like PartTime Palin, and Gov. Huckabee are calling for illegal execution of Assange because he's 'not a journalist.'

Trichinosis USADecember 27, 2010 9:34 AM

If you want to know what can happen to real journalists under a totalitarian regime, watch the Collateral Murder video.

hoodathunkitDecember 27, 2010 9:59 AM

Schneier has told us for years that the Israeli airline security method is more effective than the American's because it focuses on behavior instead of materials.
Now Schneier tells us that suspicious behavior is not a criteria either.

Dozens of brown-nosers follow up with fantastical excuses for the
non-event. John McMahon tells us that surreptitious filming is 'enthusiasm', and Dave Aronson says that police want to arrest everyone. Aaron Anderson says furtive behavior is the mark of professional photographers. Chris follows by claiming that reporting people deliberately being sneaky is “paranoia”, Eblair suggests 'the government' wants to RFID everyone, and Badgeless accuses (all) police of gestapo-like abuse of power. Who is paranoid here?

The we have Clive Robinson who obtusely ignores the 'deliberately surreptitious' methods to suggest police will detain anyone taking photos. B.Real suggests arrests for simply looking at photos. Without a clue, BFSkinner –after accusing all police of permanent paranoia– declares the reporter was wrong, the persons reported on as perfectly harmless, and the imminent collapse of the legal system . . . an then make it into a political issue.

Not one –not a single one– of these comments show a clue of how law enforcement routinely works. In the entire thread, only two (not quoted here) show any understanding of Bruce Schneier's previous articles about behavioral analysis. DA-BFSkinner notwithstanding, no arrests, no warrants, and none of Obama's endless detentions or drone-commissioned murders.

Nobody is claiming that all reports to the police are justified or beneficial. But the posters above defend those who did not call police about the murder of Kitty Genovese because 'they didn't actually see the whole attack' (Am Psych). The commenters above tell us that the strangers with crowbars, 'working' on your neighbors' back windows is just that, men working, and you should ignore them.

Bruce is way off-base on this. The memo was just that —an internal note— for cops to be alert about what a citizen thought suspicious. Except for the leaking of the memo, what happened IS the proper procedure.

alforaDecember 27, 2010 10:13 AM

Guys in the USA, please start to invent your own names for places. :p

L'Enfant Plaza sounds french to me and I thought of the Paris Metró.

There is also an orange line in Vienna, Austria (called the Underground 3 or U3).

And I asked myself, how could ONE MAN take pictures of "suspicious men" in subway stations more than 1000 km apart?

;-)

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 10:24 AM

@hoodathunkit 'not worth the effort to quote'
I'm not surprised you changed your nick for this but since you start your rebuttle with ad hominem attacks that's were I stopped reading. I guess I could wonder what you said but I'll never know.

@alfora "L'Enfant Plaza sounds french ... orange"

Oddly enough Pierre L'Enfant WAS French. He signed up to help us kick out the British then designed the City of Washington. So I guess he get's to put his name on stuff.

Orange is _totally_ a US of A word! (it's in all the American Heritage Dictionary's.)

CarlDecember 27, 2010 10:34 AM

@Bruce
"How will this all end?"
LOLOL
you guys really crack me up. Terrorism in 2010 had the highest # of attacks on record, and you're getting on the police for taking precautions. Problems dont go away just because you refuse to acknowledge them.

It will stop when bad guys stop blowing stuff up.

Bob KuehneDecember 27, 2010 10:36 AM

i visited the soviet union back in 1988 for a month. it was like visiting the same sort of police state we're in - no photography of anything interesting, including buildings, subway (amazing moscow metro), goverment anything, tv towers, etc.

time to rein in our paranoia...

CarlDecember 27, 2010 10:51 AM

@Clive
"What I want to know is if there is such paranoia about taking photos why Google is alowed to take a photo of every house in every road with impunity?"

There is no expectation of privacy in public places. Remember? that's how you guys love to justify taking surreptitious video's of law enforcement at work? LOL nice consistency in an argument :-)


"Don't people realise that terrorists drive and use the Internet and can use very easily hidden cameras behind suit jacket lapels looking out through button holes or holes in their "manbags" etc etc etc.."

Police observing a person using a "hidden" camera taking pictures, would certainly be doing their job in investigating that. Right? Remember, you guys hate the airport screening and are always saying that good investigatory police work should catch these guys before they get to the airport.

CarlDecember 27, 2010 10:57 AM

@hoodathunkit
"Schneier has told us for years that the Israeli airline security method is more effective than the American's because it focuses on behavior instead of materials.
Now Schneier tells us that suspicious behavior is not a criteria either."

exactly

Dirk PraetDecember 27, 2010 10:59 AM

It ends in paranoia and fear. Fear to step outside. Fear for each other. Fear to be blown up. Fear to be questioned, groped and x-ray scanned for no reason at all.

Anyone filing a report with the police over people "suspiciously" filming a station, trains and riders should have his/her head examined. Any law enforcement officer following up on such a report should do the same. And according to my cousin, who actually is a police officer, it's definitely not proper procedure in our country. It's hysterical.

What on earth is happening with common sense ?

Mr HumbugDecember 27, 2010 11:02 AM

Of course any bad person who wants to take pictures of, and notes about, 'critical infrastructure' will just put on a shirt and tie, laminate themselves a nice-looking ID card, wear a high-visibility jacket and carry a clipboard.

Nobody will give them a second look.

shroudedDecember 27, 2010 11:09 AM

@hoodathunkit
"Schneier has told us for years that the Israeli airline security method is more effective than the American's because it focuses on behavior instead of materials.
Now Schneier tells us that suspicious behavior is not a criteria either."

Suspicious behavior, as identified by trained security professionals based on reasonable criteria? Effective.

Suspicious behavior, as identified by a public primed to be hypervigilant by security theater and CYA policies? Less than effective.

The two things aren't anything like each other, and the fact that one is ineffective doesn't say anything about the other.

MoerkenDecember 27, 2010 11:12 AM

@hoodathunkit
> Now Schneier tells us that suspicious behavior is not a criteria either

The problem is that taking pictures in not suspicious behaviour in a city full of tourists.
It's only "suspicious" if you are into boring movie plots,

Richard Steven HackDecember 27, 2010 11:13 AM

You know who puts the cameras in the London underground?

An Israeli company.

How nice to have easy access to the underground in case you need a "terrorist incident" to stimulate more distrust of Arabs.

Israel learned long ago that the best way to spy on the world is to be the country that manufactures the security and spy systems the world uses to spy on itself.

"Terrorism in 2010 had the highest # of attacks on record."

Would that be more or less than the number of attacks by US military personnel on Arab civilians? I believe the figure was 700 Pakistani civilians at last count I read and since Petraeus and Obama have now ramped up air strikes in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan, the figure is increasing daily. And Obama is considering sending US troops on operations INSIDE Pakistan - in addition to the ones ALREADY IN Pakistan allegedly "training" (remember Vietnam?) Pakistani forces in "counter-insurgency". And how many "suspected militants" have the Afghan and Pakistani military killed in the last nine years?

And people wonder why there are more terrorist strikes now than there were in 2001?

Read my lips: Terrorists kill US in OUR country because WE - and the governments we support with weapons such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel - kill THEM in THEIR own country - and have been doing so for much of the last century.

The US hasn't BEGUN to get the blowback from that.

CarlDecember 27, 2010 11:31 AM

@Hack
"Read my lips: Terrorists kill US in OUR country because WE - and the governments we support with weapons such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel - kill THEM in THEIR own country - and have been doing so for much of the last century."

LOL nonsense of course.. If the US stopped counter terrorism activities abroad, domestic terrorism would rise. If terrorist's would stop attacks, counter terrorism activities would stop.
How do you know that statement is fact?: simple, how much counter terrorism is under way in New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Japan, Austria, Luxembourg..
answer: basically none
why? cause they arent attacking us

fairly simple...

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 11:33 AM

@Carl "...tells us that suspicious behavior is not a criteria either."

Not the first time you've waved this canard.

In the same way that Bruce has never said this is a crypto-only blog he's never said that the hinky meter both is and is not effective. What he's stated is that a trained professional (like an behavioral officer) or someone with deep understanding of their enviornment (like an engineer who sees someone out of place) can be effective. 'Articulable suspicion' not 'a hunch'.

While someone who is just an average joe out for a walk is more likely to base thier evaluation of suspicious behavior on what they've seen on TV, or their personal prejudice, is likely NOT to be able to detect suspicous behavior. "He looks Arab...ergo Fox tells me he IS a terrorist."

RonKDecember 27, 2010 11:38 AM

@ Hack

Hey, why stop at the Israelis? For sure the US government itself is causing all this terrorism, for the sake of taking away our rights, funneling funds to security equipment companies, etc., etc., ...

Geez, you really need to go get some help.

hoodathunkitDecember 27, 2010 11:46 AM

@Dirk Praet “... according to my cousin, who actually is a police officer, it's definitely not proper procedure in our country.”
Come back and tell us what you cousin says IS the proper procedure for citizen reports about suspicious behavior. To save you time, the wrong answer, implied by your post, is 'blow it off'; and the right answer is 'write an internal memo'. (Another wrong answer is 'leak it to the press')

@Moerken says “taking pictures in not suspicious behaviour in a city full of tourists”
True, but that is not what was reported. The attempt to take photos surreptitiously was what was reported. Big difference. Like the difference between Acme Glass Co working on your window and some guy 'working' on the window when you are gone.

@Shrouded writes “Suspicious behavior, as identified by trained security professionals based on reasonable criteria? Effective. . . . Suspicious behavior, as identified by a public primed to be hypervigilant by security theater and CYA policies? Less than effective.”
Excellent point about the difference, but you use the word “effective” like it means something. What does 'effective' mean? Nothing was done to —or attempted upon— the reported suspicious characters. Nobody pulled them off a train or plane.

The question remains: what should police do with a phone call about 'suspicious activity'?
A) Blow it off like Dirk Praet suggests? After all, citizens are paranoid.
B) Shoot the suspects or put them in Obama's Guantanamo?
C) Internally share the info and let individual officers decide?
There doesn't seem to be any serious thought to PROPER process for reports.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 27, 2010 11:57 AM

@Carl
"The question remains: what should police do with a phone call about 'suspicious activity'?
A) Blow it off like Dirk Praet suggests? After all, citizens are paranoid."

Yes, but not for the reason you give. If the ONLY thing that was reported was that they were filming ... who cares?

Remember, the police have limited resources.

How many non-terrorist pictures are taken of any location compared to how many terrorist pictures?

Therefore, simply taking pictures (no matter how "suspiciously" someone else without any training feels they are taken) is no cause for any police action.

ModeratorDecember 27, 2010 12:08 PM

BF Skinner, I can't blame you for not reading past "brown-nosers," but if you're suggesting hoodathunkit is Carl, I don't think that's the case. In fact, hoodathunkit has been around a few times before. Disagreeing with Bruce's point of view is only locally uncommon, so the fact that there's more than one critic around at the same time is not really suspicious.

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 12:16 PM

@Moderator
Thanks but while it's a common tactic to create a sock puppet and use them to support your own point of view had I thought it was Carl I wouldn't have rebutted him either. As a rule he doesn't name call.

noble_serfDecember 27, 2010 12:16 PM

My best guess is that it won't "end."

The fine line between good police work and nearly-opressive thuggery will continue to be crossed. Yes, events move the line here and there, and it's crossed every now and then, depending on who you ask.

At some point, systems that can't be sustained will break, there won't be anyone specific to "blame", and we'll get to try again. Maybe that's when it "ends."

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 12:38 PM

So just what IS suspicious behavior? A standard, a legal definition, a sliding scale from 1 - 10?

This has come up a couple of times (in police brochures and advisories) but I haven't found it's point of origin yet.

Quote
The following should cause a heightened sense of suspicion:

suspicious or unusual interest
surveillance (suspicious in nature)
inappropriate photographs or videos
note-taking
drawing of diagrams
annotating maps
using binoculars or night vision devices
Unusual or suspicious activity does not necessarily mean that terrorist activity is happening, but be aware of the following suspicious behaviors:

Individuals acting furtively and suspiciously
Individuals avoiding eye contact
Individuals departing quickly when seen or approached
Individuals in places they don’t belong
A strong odor coming from a building or vehicle
An overloaded vehicle
Fluid leaking from a vehicle, other than the engine or gas tank
Over dressed for the type of weather
Quote

The circular nature of the first two things that should raise our suspicions takes my breath away (remember they are training cops and citizens with this...)
"suspicious interest"
"surveillance (suspicious...)"

We should be suspicious because the interest is or the suveillance is suspicious. Okay - a given I guess.

And the second group of items is only everyone and every thing in every city I've ever been in. I think they call it civilization.

See here's the thing. A BOLO put out for two guys on the Metro taking pictures because a rider reported it. Aren't transit officers and train crews already 'spose to be doing a look out for suspicious behavior? Be on the look out for susicious people who'll you know cause there are two of them and they are 'acting' suspiciously with cameras' that they may not have out when you see them.

Was the rider's photo distributed to the transit police? The article didn't say. If not...

Imperfect CitizenDecember 27, 2010 1:42 PM

One of my neighbors thought I was suspicious for having Buddhist peace prayer flags in the yard. Another thought the hand of miriam earrings I wore meant I was an Arab. An observer asked me if the Irish language music I played was Arabic. Then the deli girl pointed at me and said "she can't be an Arab terrorist she buys ham and wine here every week and she wears Catholic medals." Unfortunately the deli girl isn't on the team that is continuing my job for another year. The observers said I've named more than one person on some "complaint" against me. Its the suspicious person thing I guess. What's sad is by now even the observers say they don't get it. They take photos of me receiving communion in a Catholic church, buying ham, buying wine, and they said the team doesn't care what I buy or what religion I am. I think these suspicious reports take on a life of their own. People are predisposed to see something if they are "watching" someone. Its pretty awful folks. You can't get help. I hope someday people figure out how to clean up these observations. What's worse is there are no judges nobody looks at the evidence.

Everyone totally ignored the fact that each time they asked me what my religion was I said "Catholic". You can't imagine the abuses going on now because there is no transparency.

Paul ShambroomDecember 27, 2010 1:58 PM

To the best of my knowledge it is completely legal in the United States to photograph anything that can be seen from public land and roads (with just a few exceptions for certain military and nuclear power installations). Neither the Patriot Act nor any other post-9/11 legislation has changed this. My lawyer researched to confirm this in 2008 for a project I was doing on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Nevertheless, since 9/11 many photographers attempting to photograph government buildings and installations, as well as industrial and transportation sites, have been harassed, detained, and had cameras, film and memory cards confiscated by police and private security officers. The web is full of stories about this. I recall someone was arrested at Union Station in DC because he was taking pictures for an Amtrak sponsored contest! The police certainly have a right to ask anyone questions, but that does not give them the right to confiscate anything or detain you if you are not breaking any laws. These situations can almost always be diffused if the photographer knows his/her rights, stays calm, and speaks respectfully to the police or security guards.

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 2:21 PM

@Imperfect Citizen

Sorry IC!

I did mean to point out that this kind of public "vigiliance" leads to JUST the kind of thing that you've described.

And we tend to think you're not medicated enough.

Any time suspicious activity is reported it goes into a SAR form. The form is forwarded to state fusion centers and the national level (feebies, atf whatever)
it then ends up in a database where it is kept ... forever?

Not criminal enough for arrest warrants but suspicious enough for further investigation . . . forever? And once the investigation is in-concluded does the the citizen get removed from the db?

No. They behaved suspiciously once and if they do so again they must be re-investigated only now with the fact that they behaved suspiciously TWICE.

IC I don't know what you're doing...maybe you need to stop asking so many questions and start making eye contact.

No OneDecember 27, 2010 2:22 PM

@Imperfect Citizen, "People are predisposed to see something if they are 'watching' someone.": And this, my friends, is exactly why we don't want to be closely monitored.

"Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an excuse in them to hang him"

Dirk PraetDecember 27, 2010 2:25 PM

@ hoodathunkit

I think you got me wrong. I am not implying that any citizen report should be discarded by definition. What I am saying is that proper judgement - or common sense - be used, both on the reporting and the receiving end.

Let me explain: if I'm perceiving a strong and unusual odor coming from a building or a vehicle, I may be inclined to call that in. If on the other hand it appears to originate from the fat guy in front of me, I am more likely to assume that he has had too many chili burgers rather than suspecting a terrorist plot to gas the train with weapons-grade hydrogen sulfide or methane.

When in doubt, I'd take my concern to a metro staffer and discuss with him before filing a police report, thus verifying my thoughts through a second opinion or perhaps have them debunked because that person is actually aware that there is legitimate filming going on. If I were to report in directly to our local police either the metro filming or the suspected gas attack, chances would be slim that anyone would actually show up. And if they did, I'd risk a serious administrative fine for wasting their time. That's what we call proper procedure.

I hope this clarifies.

BF SkinnerDecember 27, 2010 2:31 PM

@Paul Shambroom "The police certainly have a right to ask anyone questions"

As any citizen has a right to approach and ask questions of any other citizen. That's not a 'police' right. But there's no special police right to know your business unless you tell them.

You also have the right to say nothing to them. Remember 'you have the right to remain silent anything you say ... etc'
That preceeds the moment a LEO engages you.

Oh...and police can tell lies to you. It's not even against the law or department procedures. "You aren't allowed here!"

Polite and calm is always appropriate. Touching an officer or guard will get you arrested for assault. At that point they have the right to arrest you with any sufficient amount of force.

wintermuteDecember 27, 2010 2:39 PM

"LOL nonsense of course.. If the US stopped counter terrorism activities abroad, domestic terrorism would rise. If terrorist's would stop attacks, counter terrorism activities would stop.
How do you know that statement is fact?: simple, how much counter terrorism is under way in New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Japan, Austria, Luxembourg..
answer: basically none
why? cause they arent attacking us"

To put it another way: How do we know it's true that terrorism in America is the result of "counter-terrorist" actions? Simple: How much terrorism is committed against New Zealand, Iceland, Denmark, Japan, Austria, Luxembourg?
Answer: Almost none, because they aren't engaged in indiscriminate killing in foreign countries.

See? The chain of evidence can point both ways. Why do you insist that your arrow is the right one?

BrazilianDecember 27, 2010 3:11 PM

"Over dressed for the type of weather"

I always thought that one is a bit bizarre. I live in a hot city in a tropical country; I am used to the hot weather here, and not used at all to cold weather.

So, if I visit a place with colder weather, I will be "over dressed for the type of weather", while the people more used to it will be using lighter clothes. What might be a "warm day" for them might be what I am used to think as a "cold day". And I do not think I am the only one.

hoodathunkitDecember 27, 2010 3:30 PM

@Bruce Schneier – In your previous linked article you used the “expertise” of someone who recognized an illegal weapons cache. Unfortunately in the real story, the 'expertise' was not, the cache was not a cache, the weapons were not illegal, and the student was ultimately cleared of all charges. It was a case of hypersensitivity following the Virginia Tech mass murder. Expertise is not always helpful.

Here is why you are wrong now: In all of the previous quoted cases, unjustified action was taken based on a report. Without reason, six clerics were removed from a plane, Seth Stein was jumped on and pinned to his seat, a man was booted off a plane for speaking Tamil, or a professor is detained and the bomb-squad called. Those are actions taken without “reasonable suspicion based on articulable fact”.

Yet police do not —cannot— work on physical evidence or their own observation alone, they need and rely on citizen informants; complaints, reports, and tips. It is law enforcement's duty to INTERNALLY take these reports, communicate them, evaluate them, and if reasonable grounds exist to act further. In this current situation, the police did all that and decided that 'being aware' —“a standard tactic used by police departments to share information”— was the proper action.

This instance is not one where where the normal escalation of intrusiveness was skipped. The system worked exactly as it should have . . . except the internal paperwork was leaked . . . so a slow news day and a pandering press turned one-of-a-hundred routine memos into a scary story.

hoodathunkitDecember 27, 2010 4:05 PM

@Moderator who said “Disagreeing with Bruce's point of view is only locally uncommon”
Bruce may or may not be right (I don't think he is here) but the following chorus is distasteful and goes far beyond what he suggested. The term 'brown-nosers' may be a bit much, but the first string of posts is simply appalling.

@Brandioch Conner, who wrote [re 'Blow it off like Dirk Praet suggests?] “Yes, but not for the reason you give. If the ONLY thing that was reported was that they were filming ... who cares?
They were not reported for filming, they were reported for attempting to hide their filming. That is a “reasonable suspicion based on articulable fact”.

@Paul Shambroom - “. . . it is completely legal in the United States to photograph anything that can be seen from public land and roads . . .”
True, and also perfectly legal for the police to briefly stop, question, and identify the person doing so. Despite some people's claims there IS a special police right to know your business, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_v._Ohio.


@BFSkinner said “With no reason to suspect anything specific they responded to un-specific suspicion and issued the BOLO. This is weakening the standard of probable cause.”
Probable cause (aka PC) is only needed for arrests or warrants, not memos & investigations. Besides your bigotry (“cops are suspicious bastards”) your representation of legal matters is dismal. Anyone relying on your advice for LE contact should be prepared to spend extra time —perhaps a LOT of extra time— in police company. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_suspicion#Examples and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_stop . State laws may also apply, as in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiibel_v._Sixth_Judicial_District_Court_of_Nevada

CarlDecember 27, 2010 5:41 PM

@bruce
"Good security people have the knowledge, skill, and experience to do that in security situations. It's the difference between a good security person and an amateur"

Excellant grasp of the obvious.
So, how do you apply your analysis to the situation referenced in this blog..
Do you train the individual to recognize it? Do you send 300million people thru the years of training it would take to get from amateur to professional?
Or,,, perhaps we just make sure the security professionals are were we need them when we need them.. we could just ask the criminals to sign up for crimes so that we could strategically place professionals to do their job?

the fact is, 99.5% of the population are amateurs, and that isnt going to change.

People in a neighborhood with a recent rash of house breakins are going to be more attuned to thinking "normal" might possibly be "abnormal". That's reality.

The answer is reduce the number of house breakins and the problem goes away.
Reduce the terrorists, and the problem goes away.

understand the source of the problem and you have a chance at coming up with a solution.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 27, 2010 6:05 PM

@Carl
"The answer is reduce the number of house breakins and the problem goes away.
Reduce the terrorists, and the problem goes away.

understand the source of the problem and you have a chance at coming up with a solution."

Since, if you are in the USofA, you are more likely to be killed by someone in your family than by a terrorists ... how many terrorists do you think there ARE in the USofA?

And how much money should be spent on hunting down those few terrorists? Why?

And, more importantly, which of our Rights should we give up hunting them? Why?

jgrecoDecember 27, 2010 6:21 PM

@Carl

"...how do you apply your analysis to the situation referenced in this blog..."

What situation? Some people were taking some pictures, I fail to see why action is needed at all. The *correct* response would be no response whatsoever.

"the fact is, 99.5% of the population are amateurs, and that isnt going to change."

The fact is, that number is pathetically puny compared to the number of people who will never see a terrorist or notice a terrorist plot.

Dirk PraetDecember 27, 2010 6:25 PM

@ hoodathunkit

Right, probably nitpicking here, but nevertheless:

"They were not reported for filming, they were reported for attempting to hide their filming."

The article said:

"The men, according to the citizen report, were trying to be inconspicuous, holding the cameras at their sides,"

Those are two different things. In a court hearing, a defense attorney would call this speculation on your behalf and it would be difficult to find an expert witness (camera man, director) labeling this specific holding position suspicious. It just depends on what you want to film and which position/angle you want to shoot it from. Chances are that only a layman in the field of filming/photography would have an issue with it.

You are correct that in this specific case police took the right action by issuing an internal memo only instead of organising a city-wide manhunt instead. For as far as I'm concerned, it only does prove that experience is the differentiator in what can be considered suspicious/unusual and what is not.

In the specific case of the Rochester Institute of Technology student, I can think of few other countries but the USA where he would have been cleared of all charges. Over here, he would have been expelled from school, had his weapons licenses revoked and done time in jail because assault rifles have strictly no business whatsoever at a college campus. Our judicial system may be sick to the bone, but at least we have weapons laws that make sense.

Rajstennaj BarrabasDecember 27, 2010 6:42 PM

A long time ago, in the age of dinosaurs and non-digital cameras, spies were trained to operate a camera slung over their shoulder using their elbow.

Put a pinhole in the exact center of the lens cap and you can take pictures seemingly with the cap on.

A surreptitious way to perform site surveillance or to snap an image of someone walking out of a building without arousing suspicion.

I'm wondering if this incident isn't just a couple of student spies learning their trade craft. This was Washington, yes?

gabrielDecember 27, 2010 7:48 PM

Wouldn't the folks we need to be suspicious about be the conspicuous tourists as well? Such as a "honeymoon couple" traveling. Picture the scene in Ronin where De Niro is pretending he and his accomplice are on a honeymoon at a hotel while they take snapshots of their target. So, to me it seems that no one with a camera could be trusted.
Or perhaps most people just take pictures for personal reasons.

CarlDecember 27, 2010 10:47 PM

@jgreco
@Carl

"...how do you apply your analysis to the situation referenced in this blog..."

"What situation? Some people were taking some pictures, I fail to see why action is needed at all. The *correct* response would be no response whatsoever."

Well, the "situation" as Bruce sees it, is that John Q. is over reacting.

Now, Bruce has astutely observed that "trained people are better able to recognize bad guys, than regular untrained amateurs".
so
I asked, how he would apply that astute observation to the situation he blogged about.

Another way to look at it, how does one get from the reaction that John Q. had, to to the "correct" reaction you believe he should have had?

My solution is to get rid of the terrorist, cause you aint never going to train 300million John Q's to react "properly".

Whats your solution?

jgrecoDecember 28, 2010 3:02 AM

@Carl

Did something short-circuit in your head? Obviously if some random untrained bozo reports somebody for "taking pictures", you _ignore_ it, and preferably tell the guy off for wasting your time on something so obviously idiotic.

Your solution of "get rid of the terrorist" is childish.

Once again you seem to be making exactly zero effort to actually understand the posts others read, and seem to be acting purposely dense.

Clive RobinsonDecember 28, 2010 3:14 AM

@ Hoodathunkit,

"Then we have Clive Robinson who obtusely ignores the 'deliberately surreptitious' methods to suggest police will detain anyone taking photos."

Can you show where I said those words?

I simply indicated that any method that could be used for taking photos could also be used by terrorists or major corperations alike...

As gabriel cocludes,

"Or perhaps most people just take pictures for personal reasons."

It is the winowing out of those that are not doing it for personal reasons or perhaps not legally that is difficult (yes there are occasions when it is not legal to take photographs in the UK not just under civil law but criminal law as well).

As for 'deliberately suruptitious" it has no definition that is usable in law it is a matter of opinion not of verifiable fact. And most opinion of that form used to be regarded by courts as being probable hearsay unless suitably examined. However times are changing in the UK and any opinion no matter how improbable including hearsay apears admissable as evidence against a person these days thanks to Tony Blair.

If you think about it filming with a camera at your side is not of it's self indicative of anything other than the persons desire to do so. The reason they are doing so and the resaon you as an observer might wish to ascribe to their action are two entirely seperate issues, and are in by far the majority of cases going to be different.

For instance I know of people who film in that way to get a "childs eye perspective" or other effect, and it is a very standard technique used in both photography and filmography when wishing to make the subject more authoritarian.

Again if you think about it filming with a concealed camera is again a persons choice to do so and not of it's self a prohibited act, nor likely to be for any questionable reason. There are people who are extreamly camera shy and it is not possible to photograph them in fact their whole behaviour pattern changes significantly if they are aware of the camera. In my own family there is one person who is both extremely camera and a keen photographer...

The fact that a person apparently without situational training finds it suspicious and has called it in to the police was their choice. It is not beholdent on the police to do anything other than be polite about it.

In the UK a few years ago there was a programe about people wasting police time (which is a crime in the UK) where a recording was played of a woman reporting a suscpicious man. It turns out that on the operator questioning the reason for suspicion and thus the reason for her call was "what is a black man doing in my road"...

We have just had a similar recording played this year (IIRC from the Kent Constabulary) where a woman reported that somebody had just stolen "her snowman" from outside her house (it appears she used money for the eyes and silver spoons for the arms or some such).

I myself have been in the position of thinking somebody was extreamly "odd" as they appeared to be wearing a disguise and driving a vehicle where they should not. I decided not to call it in to the police. However it turns out the person was from PIRA the "private London Cab" they were driving had a car bomb in it and it exploded at the BBC "Television Center" building in Shepherds Bush.

Should I have called it in... is a question you might think is relevant, however ther pertinent question is "If I had called it in would the police have done anything about it?" with the secondary question "even if the police did do something would it have changed the outcome?". In both cases the answer is very probably going to be no.

And it is this reason why you should consider the relavance of "telephone hot lines" they realy do not do much that is immediatly usefull and in the long term it is still a very open question.

As for the UK Met Police and photography they have been officialy warned about their behaviour with regards to people taking photos in public places. Especialy where they have used the threat of Terrorism Legislation to make people delete pictures from their digital cameras.

The point has been made that if the police officer in his judgment thinks that the photograhs he requests to be deleted might be used for a crime then he is actually "destroying evidence" and failing in his duties...

Also as I have pointed out in the past it was and still is a poitless task. The fact that the police officer can nolonger see the picture that is stored on the flash card does not mean it has been removed from the card just that it is nolonger indexed from the flash card directory. And I expect a clueded up criminal to be aware of this.

So if not an abuse of power what purpose does it actually serve?

BF SkinnerDecember 28, 2010 6:39 AM

@Rajstennaj Barrabas "I'm wondering if this incident isn't just a couple of student spies learning their trade craft. "

There's a thought.

The farm is said to send trainee agents on field exercises in DC. And OSS actually did have a couple of trainees apprehended by the police/fbi during WW2.

CarlDecember 28, 2010 9:24 AM

@jgreco
"Obviously if some random untrained bozo reports somebody for "taking pictures", you _ignore_ it, and preferably tell the guy off for wasting your time on something so obviously idiotic."

So... police should ignore all calls from John Q., and tell them they are wasting their time? That's your plan? LOL

Remember,
- 99.5% of the public are amateurs
- tips from the public are valuable: I have no idea how many tips the police get from the public turn out to be excellant sources of information, so I'll refrain from making a number up, but common sense says it's very large, here's 3.5 million examples: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&biw=1396&bih=821&q=police+%22acting+on+a+tip%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=


The thing that you and Bruce just arent getting, is that what ever your "system" is, it MUST account for the actions of an uninformed, amateur, public. That just reality.

That's why I keep saying that Bruce should spend a few years working exclusively anit-virus, malware, intrusion detection. Those problems are vastly different from the math of cryptography, and he would get a better sense of the issues faced by counter terrorism in the US.

CarlDecember 28, 2010 9:36 AM

@Clive
" myself have been in the position of thinking somebody was extreamly "odd" as they appeared to be wearing a disguise and driving a vehicle where they should not. I decided not to call it in to the police. However it turns out the person was from PIRA the "private London Cab" they were driving had a car bomb in it and it exploded at the BBC "Television Center" building in Shepherds Bush."

WOW
Excellant example of how this whole libertarian nonsense can get people killed.

Clive, man, that's terrible that you didnt report it. Really, really terrible.

David ThornleyDecember 28, 2010 9:43 AM

It seems to me that, if you hassle people legitimately and openly taking pictures (and that has happened), some people will try to take perfectly legal pictures surreptitiously to avoid the hassle.

The moral seems to be that, if you see somebody doing something legal and innocuous, mind your own business.

kingsnakeDecember 28, 2010 10:02 AM

@David Thornley

Just because something is legal, does not make it right. And just because something is illegal, does not make it wrong.

So assessment of legality should not enter into the moral person's equation.

No OneDecember 28, 2010 10:22 AM

@kingsnake: If something is legal but wrong that's a matter for the legislature. If something is illegal but not wrong that's a matter for the courts or the legislature.

You can't actually require people to follow some unwritten set of "laws" that an arbitrary citizen feels to be "right" or "wrong". Or do you go harass people you see "frobbing" even though "frobbing" is legal? (Substitute your own wrong-but-legal action for frobbing.)

Brandioch ConnerDecember 28, 2010 10:48 AM

@Carl
"- tips from the public are valuable: I have no idea how many tips the police get from the public turn out to be excellant sources of information, so I'll refrain from making a number up, but common sense says it's very large, here's 3.5 million examples: ..."

And the very first link on that page is about a "self described psychic" who keeps bugging the police who keep following his "tips" but not finding anything.

"- 99.5% of the public are amateurs"

No they aren't. They're professionals. They might be professional plumbers or firefighters or farmers ... but they are professionals.

"The thing that you and Bruce just arent getting, is that what ever your "system" is, it MUST account for the actions of an uninformed, amateur, public."

It already accounts for them. Mostly it files them and ignores them. You seem to have a problem with that.

"That's why I keep saying that Bruce should spend a few years working exclusively anit-virus, malware, intrusion detection. Those problems are vastly different from the math of cryptography, and he would get a better sense of the issues faced by counter terrorism in the US."

Seriously? You think anti-virus has ANYTHING similar with counter-terrorism?

kingsnakeDecember 28, 2010 10:54 AM

On the contrary, the legislature can create laws that cause evil. The obvious example is slavery, prior to 1865. And even then, it took a war to change, because legislation certainly wasn't making it happen. Politicians -- those with power -- don't create laws to do right, they create laws to obtain power, retain power and expand power. Therefore, law -- which is a matter of legality -- is not necessarily coincident with morality.

CarlDecember 28, 2010 11:02 AM

----------------------------------------------------------------
Carl:
Since you arrived here, you've been doing a lot of misreading. Not all of that is your fault; some commenters are amazingly bad at communicating with anyone who doesn't share certain background knowledge and beliefs. Also, some of them have misread you in turn. Sometimes, though, you are so bizarrely off base that it's hard to believe you're not doing it on purpose. Case in point:
===
Bruce: "I've long thought that most of airline security could be ditched in favor of well-trained guards, both in and out of uniform, wandering the crowds looking for suspicious behavior."
good example.. TSA security _is_ currently doing this.. Bruce apparently thinks they arent? not sure how that belief would even be possible.. so why did he say it? naiveté of just trying to find something, anything to criticize?
===
In the 2007 interview that you are quoting, Bruce actually says: "Let's talk about behavioral profiling. I've long thought that most of airline security could be ditched in favor of well-trained guards, both in and out of uniform, wandering the crowds looking for suspicious behavior. Can you talk about some of the things you're doing along those lines, and especially ways to prevent this from turning into just another form of racial profiling?"
After that, Kip Hawley talks for a while about behavior detection, and Bruce responds by describing it as "really good news." There is no way for an honest person who is paying the slightest attention to read that as indicating that Bruce doesn't think the TSA does behavior detection.
If this really is an error, you need to start reading more carefully. More importantly, you need to acknowledge the error, and if possible explain how you came to make it. I am very close to concluding that you're *not* making honest errors, but trolling.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Reasonable questions:
Q. "There is no way for an honest person who is paying the slightest attention to read that as indicating that Bruce doesn't think the TSA does behavior detection."
A. based on Bruces response, "that's really good news", I can only conclude that at the time, when he did the interview, he didnt believe that much/sufficient/any "well-trained guards, both in and out of uniform, wandering the crowds looking for suspicious behavior" had been occuring. Yes? I belive that I am correct in drawing that conclusion, would you agree?

If he is saying "ditched in favor of", obviously he must have thought, at the time, that not any of that was occuring. Yes? Based on that, I believe your statement "There is no way for an honest person who is paying the slightest attention to read that as indicating that Bruce doesn't think the TSA does behavior detection" to be incorrect if it is applied to the time period previous, or at the time of the interview.

If I made a mistake, it was in not pointing out that I was addressing his viewpoint at the time of the interview. I should have said
"good example.. TSA security _is_ currently doing this (and by "is" I mean in the time period up to and at the time the interview took place).. Bruce apparently thinks they arent (wern't at the time the interview took place)? not sure how that belief would even be possible.. so why did he say it? naiveté of just trying to find something, anything to criticize?"

So, I believe my point is absolutely 100% accurate. Bruce went into the interview with the attitude and belief that TSA was a bunch of bozo's(CLEARLY that came across in the interview, yes?), the only security precautions they were taking had been the "reactionary ones", i.e. liquids, box cutters, sneakers (CYA security as Bruce calls it). Bruce, as evdenced in the interview questions he posed, had NO CLUE the extent of investigation that were ongoing, and had drawn his own (incorrect) assumptions. How, indeed, is it even possible, that Bruce would have thought, at the time he did the interview, that no/minimal/insufficient behavioural profiling was taking place? I believe that answer is that no rational person could have thought that, that Bruce's anti-govt anti-authority beliefs has really blinded him to rationally considering the situation.


CarlDecember 28, 2010 11:40 AM

@Brandioch Conner
""- tips from the public are valuable: I have no idea how many tips the police get from the public turn out to be excellant sources of information, so I'll refrain from making a number up, but common sense says it's very large, here's 3.5 million examples: ..."
And the very first link on that page is about a "self described psychic" who keeps bugging the police who keep following his "tips" but not finding anything."
--------
LOL, so, you have another 3,499,999 examples.. if 50% are illustrative, then my point is made.

""- 99.5% of the public are amateurs"
No they aren't. They're professionals. They might be professional plumbers or firefighters or farmers ... but they are professionals."
--------
not in the area of a trained security professional capable of discerning true "suspicious" behaviour, as the context of my comment clearly pointed out. Oh Mr. Moderator.. I believe we have a cherry picking troll here... :-)

--------
""The thing that you and Bruce just arent getting, is that what ever your "system" is, it MUST account for the actions of an uninformed, amateur, public."
It already accounts for them. Mostly it files them and ignores them. You seem to have a problem with that."
I dont have any problem with that at all, that's what law enforcement is for. Uninformed public provides tips, the professionals vet them. Bruce is the guy that has the problem with it, remember? "When will it all end"? You guys are the ones slaming people for calling in suspicious behaviour. Clive even didnt take action on one, and people could have been killed as a result.

--------
"That's why I keep saying that Bruce should spend a few years working exclusively anit-virus, malware, intrusion detection. Those problems are vastly different from the math of cryptography, and he would get a better sense of the issues faced by counter terrorism in the US."
Seriously? You think anti-virus has ANYTHING similar with counter-terrorism?"
Very serious in terms of the problem set. Bad guys trying to infiltrate defenses, math (read - crypto), isnt the answer. Solution has to take into account a huge number of logistical, operational issues, people being inconvenienced.. large operational costs.. etc..

Brandioch ConnerDecember 28, 2010 11:57 AM

@Carl
"LOL, so, you have another 3,499,999 examples.. if 50% are illustrative, then my point is made."

That's a fairly large "if" that you're using there. All I have to do is show that the "3.5 million examples" you've claimed do not represent what you've claimed. And I have done that with the very first example on that page.

"not in the area of a trained security professional capable of discerning true "suspicious" behaviour, as the context of my comment clearly pointed out."

Again you are incorrect. They are very well trained to identify "suspicious" behaviour in their fields of expertise. Which is why the police can, usually, safely ignore their claims when they are outside of their fields of expertise. As evidenced in the first example of that page you linked to.

"I dont have any problem with that at all, that's what law enforcement is for. Uninformed public provides tips, the professionals vet them."

Really? Because you seemed to be saying something specifically like "My solution is to get rid of the terrorist, cause you aint never going to train 300million John Q's to react "properly"."

Which is kind of naive given that, statistically, if you are in the USofA you are more likely to be killed by someone in your own family than by a terrorist.

"Very serious in terms of the problem set. Bad guys trying to infiltrate defenses, math (read - crypto), isnt the answer. Solution has to take into account a huge number of logistical, operational issues, people being inconvenienced.. large operational costs.. etc.."

That makes no sense at all. Anti-virus has a "huge number of logistical, operational issues"? What are they?

CarlDecember 28, 2010 1:43 PM

- quickly summarizing the google hits on the first page of the results, shows 5 news reports indicating citizen tip lead was real, 2 were false alarms, 1 was a blog comment hit, and 1 was a tip from law enforcement. so approx 50% of the hits were real citizen tips. point established. only 2 of 9 were false alarms.

- "They are very well trained to identify "suspicious" behaviour in their fields of expertise. Which is why the police can, usually, safely ignore their claims when they are outside of their fields of expertise"
thanks for making my point: that they are NOT trained to identify suspicious criminal behaviour. Your logic is bizarre...

- ""I dont have any problem with that at all, that's what law enforcement is for. Uninformed public provides tips, the professionals vet them." Really? Because you seemed to be saying something specifically like "My solution is to get rid of the terrorist, cause you aint never going to train 300million John Q's to react "properly"."

Try to keep up...: since vast majority of the public is not trained to correctly identify "suspicious" behaviour as criminal, we will get more wild goose chases when the public is nervous about something. If the public is less nervous, we'll get less wild goose chases. Simple.
The answer is to get rid of the threat, public will be more at ease, problem solved.
How many false terrorist reports did we get in the US prior to 9/11? Certainly a lot less than after.
Bruce is concerned about the false alarms, so reduce the false alarms by reducing the threat. simple


-"Which is kind of naive given that, statistically, if you are in the USofA you are more likely to be killed by someone in your own family than by a terrorist.""

I see that argument on this blog a lot. "Why is John Q. so worried, statistically it's unlikely".
Well, John Q. is worried because it's a possibility. I dont think that John Q. is as worried as you guys seem to think he is, but then it's my assertion that you are attempting to portray John Q. as terrified, only because you dont like the security measures being put in place. You're trying to characterize them as "over reactions".


Remember, it's a lot less of a possibility now (in the past 4-5 years) because of the work that law enforcement is doing, and the pressure that Al Qaeda is under in Afghanistan.

CarlDecember 28, 2010 1:49 PM

@brandioch conner
"That makes no sense at all. Anti-virus has a "huge number of logistical, operational issues"? What are they?"

seriously?
deploying the SW, keeping it up to date, managing inventory of PC's that come in and out of accountability, working with John Q's personal PC that he wants to get remote access with.
Ever been unable to send a .zip attachement because the mail server flagged it?
Ever had real email wrongly assigned to the "junk" folder and missed reading it?
Ever tried to deploy AV SW on 5000 different PC's with 5 or 6 different operating systems? Linux, apple, Win?
Ever handled furious calls from a user community that is complaining that the new AV SW is slowing down their web downloads?

Look, Brandioch.. it's your right to post whatever, where ever.. but you should try to get educated on crypto and security in general if you want your posts to be credible.

CarlDecember 28, 2010 1:52 PM

@everyone
oops, just noticed a gaffe on my part.. I put Brandioch Conner's name on the post 2 up.. December 28, 2010 1:43 PM

hopefully the content would make it clear that Carl wrote it, and not brandioch :-)

David ThornleyDecember 28, 2010 2:32 PM

@kingsnake: I fail to see what you mean here. Photography in public is in most cases in the US legal and moral. There are situations where photography would be illegal, immoral or both, but these don't apply to this discussion.

What I am saying is that, if you hassle enough people for performing a legitimate act, like photographing trains, some people will respond by performing said act in an inconspicuous manner. Hence, surreptitious photography, with nothing illegal, immoral, underhanded, or illegitimate about it.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 28, 2010 2:47 PM

@Carl

"quickly summarizing the google hits on the first page ..."

No, it does not work that way. You claimed 3.5 million hits ... now you're attempting to generalize (again) that the people providing those tips (in the google search) had as much or less information that the guy who reported the other people for photography.

"thanks for making my point: that they are NOT trained to identify suspicious criminal behaviour. Your logic is bizarre..."

I don't think you understood the point. Again, the point is that people DO have expertise in their specific areas of knowledge. In those specific areas of knowledge, they can determine what is unusual. Therefore, the police SHOULD listen to someone reporting something unusual in their specific area of expertise.

"Really? Because you seemed to be saying something specifically like "My solution is to get rid of the terrorist, cause you aint never going to train 300million John Q's to react "properly".""

Again, you are wrong. I have very specifically stated that such is NOT the case.

There are so few terrorists in the USofA that any attempt to systematically find them will cost too much money and have too high of a false positive rate.

Again, if you are in the USofA, you are more likely to be killed by someone in your own family than by a terrorist. That is how rare terrorist are in the USofA.

"I dont think that John Q. is as worried as you guys seem to think he is, but then it's my assertion that you are attempting to portray John Q. as terrified, only because you dont like the security measures being put in place."

So John Q is "worried" but not "terrified" and because he is "worried" he is willing to support the "security measures" in place. Even though Bruce has, repeatedly, shown that those "security measures" do nothing to improve the real security.

So what would "terrified" look like then?

"Look, Brandioch.. it's your right to post whatever, where ever.. but you should try to get educated on crypto and security in general if you want your posts to be credible."

And you still haven't shown how anti-virus is on par with counter-terrorism. Yes, lots of users can complain about slow web downloads. That isn't the same as spending billions of dollars on counter-terrorism.

And that's just the TSA's budget.

"Ever had real email wrongly assigned to the "junk" folder and missed reading it?"

No. Why would that happen? Spam should be rejected during the SMTP delivery phase. All email that is accepted should be delivered.

"Ever been unable to send a .zip attachement because the mail server flagged it?"

No.

"Ever tried to deploy AV SW on 5000 different PC's with 5 or 6 different operating systems? Linux, apple, Win?"

Yes. With McAfee using their ePO system.

And it costs a less than a billion dollars a year to do that.

ModeratorDecember 28, 2010 3:32 PM

Carl:

Well, I see no point in drawing this out further. In light of your reply to me above -- and after reviewing your other contributions to the blog -- it's obvious that you are just going to continue to turn threads into debates between you and your own misreadings. You are banned from the blog; any further comments that you try to post will be removed.

Dirk PraetDecember 28, 2010 5:43 PM

@ Carl

"That's why I keep saying that Bruce should spend a few years working exclusively anti-virus, malware, intrusion detection. Those problems are vastly different from the math of cryptography, and he would get a better sense of the issues faced by counter terrorism in the US."

Most of us, including Bruce, have their specific areas of expertise in the field of security. But any legitimate security professional also has (or should have) a firm grasp of other common bodies of knowledge in security (e.g. application development, physical security, access control, DRP/BCP, governance & risk management etc.) I'm afraid it's a bit intellectually dishonest to suggest that Bruce is applying crypto-logic only to other fields and that therefor he is wrong.

Actually, he's not. Although indeed every domain has its specifics and models, there is more than one red line passing through all of them. Confidentiality, integrity and availability is one of them. Proper analysis, premise and methods are another one. What Bruce and the folks you are calling libertarians are doing is nothing more than challenging from a global security perspective what for example TSA is doing. What we are saying is that not only their premises but also their methods are questionable in terms of efficiency, risk management, constitutionality, design, budget control and probably a couple more. This has nothing to do with government bashing, but everything with plain and simple security analysis.

We are not alone. TSA and its parent organisation DHS were recently slammed by an audit seriously questioning their use of and spending on technology. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/20/AR2010122005599.html?sid=ST2010122005959 .

Since you brought in anti-virus, malware, IDS and the like, let's elaborate a bit on that too. Anyone who has ever worked in operations or network and telecommunications security will tell you that these technical controls are just a small part of the bigger picture. Without proper design, architecture, policy management and procedures, most of these are pretty much useless and tend to become a business inhibitor rather than a business enabler. Firewalls blocking legitimate traffic are a nuisance. (N)IDS done badly and generating floods of false positives is pointless. Scared users sending around warnings about virus hoaxes and harassing help desk staff are not helpful either.

Which brings us to one of the most important elements in any security domain: user awareness and security training. Any policy, procedure or control you put in place will miserably fail without proper education and buy-in of the people that have to go with them. The level thereof depends on their function and responsabilities. The purpose is simple: an educated user will be more likely to differentiate between what is normal and what is unusual. An educated user will follow proper procedures to report incidents or anomalies. An educated user is less likely to question policies or controls when he actually understands them. All of these will lead to more efficient incident response and thus better security.

In a corporate environment, scaring and encouraging uneducated users to report "any and all suspicious stuff" to Ops is not an efficient approach. It generates massive amounts of felgerkarb (not using bs for obvious reasons), paranoia, confusion, wasting valuable time and resources in the process. The same is true for the general public being asked to do the same in a terrorism context. From where I'm sitting, allocating budgets to properly educate the general public, travellers in particular, is just as essential as technical controls in airports, and from many perspectives definitely less questionable than the body scanners and groping in place today.

fusion December 28, 2010 6:41 PM

Commenters here have not identified the putative terrorists. But usually the term refers to members of ME-based radical groups ...

Who presumably are motivated by the fact that the US is slaughtering their children, wives and brothers, destroying their homes, farms and means of earning a living and imposing puppet governments on them...

The way to stop this "terrorism" isn't better police work - though we badly need that - but stopping wars and occupations

Clive RobinsonDecember 29, 2010 1:43 AM

@ Moderator,

Re Carl :-

"- it's obvious that you are just going to continue to turn threads into debates between you and your own misreadings"

It was a conclusion that others had already come to and had either tried invain to point out to him or had simply stoped responding to him.

He also had other strange notions that indicated that he was not "worldly wise" and possibly very parochial in his outlook and unaware of other countries legalistive norms etc.

Further he gave a number of people reason to belive that he was either lacking in education or deliberatly acting as such, either to provoke argument or because he was following some mantra or party line. Thus he was accused of "Strawman Argument" faux reasoning, being a troll and even accused of having a vested interest in the TSA in some way as an employee, associate or other beneficiary.

Therefor I suspect a number of people would not be overly surprised if the IP address(s?) he posted from went back to an Educational or Governmental block. I appreciate that for many sound reasons he did not appear to comprehend you will not divulge this information though.

However even if he is not associated with the TSA he may pop up on other blogs bad mouthing individuals and this blog. So I would ask that you consider not removing the posts he has currently made so that others can see in the future that he was a victim not of any bias he might ascribe but just his own limitations.

tensorDecember 29, 2010 1:59 AM

When on a visit to my native New York City a few years back, I decided to take a few images of a subway station as I passed through it; it has some interesting architecture.

The local security guard told me this was not allowed. Now, I having grown up near there, I could have described this station down to the last detail; there are probably better pictures than mine of it available in books at the local public library. However, it was at the start of my trip, and having my digital camera confiscated would have really put a crimp in my planes, so I relented. Well, at least the guard justified his existence to his superiors, right?

"Who presumably are motivated by the fact that the US is slaughtering their children, wives and brothers, destroying their homes, farms and means of earning a living and imposing puppet governments on them..."

This. Recall that Osama bin Laden was originally angered by American troops in his "holy land", where they had no business being. President Bush quietly acceded to bin Laden's demand -- since it coincided with American interests anyway -- and al-Qaida has been an empty threat to North America ever since.

We can do plenty in our own long-term best interests, which will decrease chances of terrorism as well. A nice bonus.

GreenSquirrelDecember 29, 2010 2:56 AM

It seems the trolls are busy at this time of year. still, it *can* be entertaining at times.

As to the original topic here - this is the side effect of both funding changes and changes to recruitment / experience standards in police departments worldwide.

First off - most western world major metropolitan area police forces now have less "beat officers" per head of public than previously. This is partly due to massive population growth, but also because the police have felt the need to branch out into other areas - the London Met for example, while being the largest force in the UK has a massive amount of specialist operations staff which takes officers away from the ground, interacting with the public.

Secondly, I cant speak for the US but it is certainly true that in the UK there has been an attitude shift within the police. 30 years ago when I first interacted with them as an adult they were a mix of good and bad (as now) but the organisational ethos was very much more geared towards detection and prevention of crime. Now our national forces not only dress like Serbian Paramilitaries but they have a strong attitude of "fighting crime." We have TV interviews with senior police officers who talk about the Police being "ready for the fight" and similar language - all of which implies a bit of an us-them / fortress mentality. My view is that the police are there to serve the public interest, not to wage war on the public but YMMV.

One side effect of this is significantly less public interaction without it being a conflict. A friend of mine, who I served in the Army with, is now a Police Officer and it seems he spends very little time in contact with the public before an arrest takes place. This means that there are less and less officers who have the time and inclination to "watch" the public and see what normal behaviour looks like.

Because of this, when Joe Paranoid calls in something that is "suspicious" there is almost no frame of reference to judge this and, as a result, the police have to react.

What a wonderful use of finite resources.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 29, 2010 3:15 AM

I'd say holding cameras at one's side and shooting randomly is the new norm.

It's so 2000s to actually look at what you're trying to capture.

This change in behavior is a function of economics, not terrorism -- storage is now free.

It also is related to the changes in aesthetics and art, but the deflated cost of capturing an image is what makes it so common.

Clive RobinsonDecember 29, 2010 4:46 AM

@ GreenSquirrel,

"It seems the trolls are busy at this time of year still, it *can* be entertaining at times"

It's because the danger of "skating on thin ice" is much much reduced at this time of year 8)

Speaking of which,

"Because of this, when Joe Paranoid calls in something that is "suspicious" there is almost no frame of reference to judge this and, as a result the police have to react"

It might be that way by intent on those above.

Judging by the Police response times they don't wan't to get involved with burglary, domestics, casual drunken street violence or even more serious street violence, (a cynic might say it costs to much for to little return).

Yet they are often out in strength at night on the road I live on pulling drivers for motoring offences (not drunk driving or speeding but things like out of date tax etc). Nearly all of which alow the driver to continue on their journy with a hefty fine.

Now I apreciate that some of these drivers might be in dangerous vehicals (bald tires etc) but the number "taken off of the road" at these late night check points is at most one or two (usually zero) for a hundred or so vehicles stopped.

I pull more drivers out of their crashed cars outside my house each year due to crashes caused by the poor lighting than they take off the road (and one one occasion it was a couple of Met Officers, so they must be aware of the road issues).

So maybe they might have a think about what the actual priorities are when it comes to road safety.

BF SkinnerDecember 29, 2010 6:38 AM

@ Moderator,

Clive pretty much summed up my view. Troll or defender of the faith in some 3 ltr agency.

Not one to deny others their rights to free speech (let us know our idiots by the bibble they babble) I'd suggest the complement to free speech is individuals ability to disregard, ignore and kill file someones noise. Usenet's greatest innovation was the kill file and I've wanted to here more than once. Can it be done here?

GreenSquirrelDecember 29, 2010 8:44 AM

@ Clive - the cynic in me says the police have thought about their priorities....

@ BF Skinner - it is possible that a greasemonkey script could do what you are asking for here. In theory it should be easy... but I know what theory is like...

ModeratorDecember 29, 2010 9:53 AM

Clive, I haven't removed anything of his from before the time I banned him, and won't. He's already been back once as a sockpuppet, and of course that's gone.

I haven't worked with Movable Type templates in a long time, but I think it would be simple to add a class to each comment based on the commenter's name, which would make a Greasemonkey script easy. Of course that only helps the few people who would bother to install the script. I'll take a look at it, but probably not until the new year.

ModeratorDecember 29, 2010 11:05 AM

Then again, no time like the present. Comment divs now have a class like "by-john-smith" -- name in lowercase, with spaces replaced by hyphens -- so someone can write a killfile script, or you could just use a user stylesheet to hide comments by author name.

Diana PoweDecember 29, 2010 11:13 AM

This reminds me of a story I was told during a training class I was attending on profiling homicides years ago. The instructor was a retired FBI agent who described performing a neighborhood canvass after a downtown bank robbery. He and his partner had learned not to ask potential witnesses, "Did you see anything suspicious?" Instead, they asked, "Did anything unusual happen today?"

In this instance, a woman who owned a floral shop knew nothing of the robbery, but did complain about a car that had been parked in a spot she rented from the city. They asked if she had the license number. She hadn't written it down but had told it to the police department when she called to complain about the car parked in her space.

After getting the registration information, the agents went to the address and waited across the street until the car arrived. When it did, they walked up to the driver as he was exiting the car and identified themselves as FBI agents. He immediately dropped the briefcase full of money he was carrying, put up his hands and asked, "How did you catch me so fast?"

mooDecember 29, 2010 1:25 PM

Wow, a lot of strange straw-men from Carl in this thread. I just want to jump on one of them in particular.

Carl suggested that when ordinary citizens are afraid of terrorism, they are more likely to report random "suspicious" behavior to the police, wasting police resources. When they are less afraid of terrorism, they are less likely to report it, and thus waste less resources. Lets assume for the moment that that is true.

Carl then proposed that we should "get rid of the terrorists", without elaborating much on how to do that (and ignoring the fact that a lot of effort has been spent since 9/11 on that very problem anyway).

But if citizens calling in too many "suspicious" incidents and wasting police resources is a problem, I think a much simpler solution would be to stop hyping up the vastly overblown threat of terrorism. If the media and the government were to stop telling people to be afraid, and instead were to tell them "Keep Calm and Carry On", just about everyone would benefit, except for the terrorists and the rich/powerful elite who benefit from having a cowed populace, and certain branches of the government who want to curtail civil liberties to make their own activities easier.

I think the hysteria about terrorism is mostly in the media and goverment -- ordinary citizens aren't THAT scared about it. They would be even less scared if the media and the government would present a more truthful picture of the actual threats and risks (which are real, but quite minor in the grand scheme of things).

BF SkinnerDecember 29, 2010 4:32 PM

@Diana Powe "Instead, they asked, "Did anything unusual happen today?""

My favorite party game is to ask "What's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you?" Some mighty interesting replys make for an entertaining night.

MarkHDecember 29, 2010 6:36 PM

On Topic: When I want to take pictures in a place where I think "fear of photography" is likely, I try to be inconspicuous, and hold the camera so as to be (hopefully) less noticable.

I guess that the proportion of people taking photos in public places in order to prepare for violent crime is much less than 0.01%. In other words, almost every person who takes pictures on a subway platform (or comparable space) has no agenda that threatens public safety.

But a lot of those people now are worried that they could get in trouble for taking pictures! So a silly security measure (banning photography in places open to the public) has the unintended consequence, that thousands of innocent people photograph using a "suspicious looking" degree of caution.

This bogus security measure spawns bogus security alarms.

It seems plain to me that anyone willing to spend more time and money than I am, in order to take (for example) subway platform photos, could rig up some affordable photo equipment in ways that would be have a very low probability of detection by anyone, and capture as much imagery as desired.

It's like baggage locks, that only keep nice people from opening the bag.
________________________________________
Off Topic:

I have mixed feelings about the banishment of 'Carl'. He certainly looked like a troll, but I'm not sure that he wasn't sincere (albeit very stubborn in putting words into other's mouths). To my mind, the thinking in his posts corresponds to that of many millions in my country (USA).

In my work, I strive to be objective and analytical -- to understand comparative effectiveness, and cost. This is an unnatural way of thinking, that seems to require some discipline and training for most of us to attain.

Most folks (IMO) come to conclusions on a primarily emotional basis. The essential idea is that resources devoted to something should be proportional to the depth of feeling. For example, the abundance of heavy-weight passenger vehicles on public roads may be objectively far more dangerous to me than international terrorism -- but because terrorism (by design) usually produces an intense emotional response, I would demand that something be done about it. And it would be enough for me to SEE that something is done, regardless of whether or not it is effective. And when someone comes to a conclusion that conflicts with mine, I would not only 'feel' that he is wrong, but (like Carl) assume that the contrary view was based on prejudice and bias (for example, because the person disagreeing with me is a cop-hating anti-authority civil libertarian).

I think those of us involved in engineering and science are familiar with the notion, that things often work in ways that go completely against personal intuition. Emotion-based decision makers will much prefer the intuitive answer, however wrong it may be,

A lot of us (including myself) accused Carl of either negligently or willfully misreading various positions and arguments. I think that what I'm trying to say, is that maybe he didn't misread anything -- rather, he read it correctly, according to the scheme by which he (and perhaps the majority of folks) understand the world.

My bet, is that most of the people who watch Fox News would agree with Carl's positions (for those of you who live in places where you don't see Fox News -- count your blessings). There is a complete chasm of understanding between the "Rupert Murdoch patriots" and those of us who believe that rational security analysis is of vital importance.

In the mindset I am trying to describe, anyone who disagrees is obviously wrong -- so they must either be ignorant, or motivated by some perverse agenda. It seems to me that Carl was sincerely struggling with the conflict between his admiration for Bruce's cryptographic work, and his stringent disapproval of Bruce's positions on various responses to terrorism -- so much so, that he had to construct an explanation (Bruce doesn't understand "real" security, only data security).

If any reader has been patient enough to follow me this far out on the limb -- I accused Carl of not understanding the positions and arguments. But as I said above, quite possibly he did understand them -- according to his own logic. On the other side of this coin, I'm suggesting that I -- along with some others who contribute comments here -- may have failed to understand him.

If this hypothesis is valid -- that Carl's posts were a sincere reflection of how a great many people think about security problems -- then the mutual misunderstanding is has broad implications. Security resources will continue to be tragically squandered, and precious liberties will continue to be relentlessly (and perhaps irreversibly) eroded, as long as such two-way misunderstanding persists.

To achieve some bridge of understanding, might be major contribution to public security.

PrassadVDecember 29, 2010 10:48 PM

One side sees that most actions taken by the govt are primarily self serving vehicles which have the goal of perpetuating/’increasing their control and decreasing liberty

The other side is willing to view it as a bureaucracy doing it's best to fulfill it's job responsibilities


“In the mindset I am trying to describe, anyone who disagrees is obviously wrong -- so they must either be ignorant, or motivated by some perverse agenda”

And honestly, that goes both ways. A lot of people called Carl a lot of names, uneducated, ignorant, etc.. you may feel he deserved them, as he is, however, you are doing the same thing he did (disagreement is wrong and indicates ignorance), just from a different perspective.
He felt you deserved them just as much as you feel he deserved them.

MarkHDecember 30, 2010 1:32 AM

@Prassad:

Point well taken.

I like to believe that I keep an open mind, and am willing to respect that others will reason things out and come to different conclusions, from the ones I accept. But probably, I'm not so open-minded as I believe, and am blind to my own blindness.

It's easy for me to get frustrated, when I don't see any analysis (for example, "X is disturbing/threatening/morally distinct, so we should bear great cost and not worry much about effectiveness -- as long as we are doing something I can see"). It's very normal and human, but it's not rational security policy.

Imagine a debate where one says "we should do X because it feels right," and the other says "we should do Y because it will work better."

Even if someone is shown very carefully how Y is expected (or even demonstrated) to work better, that may not affect their sense of what feels right. And even if someone knows how and why X feels right, it may not change their analysis of what works best.

Neither side has anything to say, that will satisfy the concerns of the other.

BF SkinnerDecember 30, 2010 7:16 AM

@MarkH "mixed feelings about the banishment of 'Carl'...watch Fox News would agree ...assume that the contrary view was based on prejudice and bias"

Or conspiracy and political 'motiviations'. As perennial MD senate candidate O'Donnell now claims in the face of investigation for her use of campaign funds. That she is a failed candidate making this claim is of some amusement.

"chasm of understanding "
Another way to say this is that Fox viewers inhabit a reality tunnel that is not shared with others.

Given Fox's history of deliberate lying and slanted language and proud bias this is perhaps not surprising. But that aside, Fox tells 'olds', not news. Rather than report fact they tell stories about what people expect. People hear these stories confirming their expectations and say 'yeah, right.'

They say that seeing is believing but when was the last time you saw something you really didn't believe? More true to say 'beliving is seeing.' (cf The Invisible Gorilla)

This is not exclusive to FOX, most news reportage tells stories. Some are better some even worse. It's those stories that becomes a model of 'what really happened.' We develop or reinforce our world views from these stories.

Young Turks profiled a woman who was defrauded of 400k by an confidence man on the internet she thought she was in love. He claimed to be a deployed Iraqi but the details aren't much different from the Spanish Prisoner. What she fell in love with was not the man, whom she never met, but the image she had of him in her head. She fell in love with a figment of her imagination. (and cynics like me think thats what we all do even in real life)

It's important given our brains do this to keep open many channels of information, thought, reporting and opinion. These help break through tendency to forget we don't know.

But some people are vile ( Fred Phelps of the Westboro baptist Church), some people opinionate on things they know nothing about (Palin) and some just talk and talk and talk, post and post and post without saying much but managing to pump all air out of the room (Carl) and end discussion.

When people stop talking to such as these, they think they've carried the argument. This 'sucess' only encourages them.

Hence filters.
(thank you @GreenSquirrel and @Moderator)
Greasemonky is a foxfire plug in that allows us to take control of what we read and hear. I'm still setting it up. But If someone proves continually they've got nothing worth the time to read I prefer to kill file them and spend the saved time to read through Clive's latest opus. (odd that killfiling was one of the earliest developments in usenet) let them rant it's good for thier souls but we are under no obligation to listen to them.

The danger is of course falling into the same sort of narrow, airless, unrevisable world view Fox crafts.

So we need to be aware of our filters and deliberately maintain and review our filters for blindspots and periodically check...'nope. still stupid.' and go on.

Of course this IS critical thinking 101 but I don't know if they teach it in elementary school any more.

Dirk PraetDecember 30, 2010 7:54 AM

@ MarkH - On "Carl"

I very much agree with your analysis. However much he was annoying the living daylights out of many by the demeanour previously described, I also had the impression he is genuinely struggling to deal with other peoples opinions trying to give them a place in his own mindset. And as you are correctly pointing out, he probably represents what a majority of people are thinking about these issues.

Bridging the gap definitely has a place on this forum, and I don't see any reason why it should be a polar bear only golf club with no admittance to the odd giraffe wearing sunglasses. Then again, what in the end got him banned were not so much his opinions, but his deliberate misreading of other peoples arguments combined with the occasional name-calling and generally disrespectful attitude towards those disagreeing with him. To me, that's what is unacceptable and should be a warning to some other folks on both sides of the fence that occasionally tend to do the same.


Brandioch ConnerDecember 30, 2010 11:42 AM

@MarkH
"It seems plain to me that anyone willing to spend more time and money than I am, in order to take (for example) subway platform photos, could rig up some affordable photo equipment in ways that would be have a very low probability of detection by anyone, and capture as much imagery as desired."

Or search Google for "spy camera". Then purchase a model from one of the many vendors.

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