Harms of Post-9/11 Airline Security

As I posted previously, I have been debating former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley on the Economist website. I didn’t bother reposting my opening statement and rebuttal, because—even though I thought I did a really good job with them—they were largely things I’ve said before. In my closing statement, I talked about specific harms post-9/11 airport security has caused. This is mostly new, so here it is, British spelling and punctuation and all.

In my previous two statements, I made two basic arguments about post-9/11 airport security. One, we are not doing the right things: the focus on airports at the expense of the broader threat is not making us safer. And two, the things we are doing are wrong: the specific security measures put in place since 9/11 do not work. Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes and asks us to trust that airport security—and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular—knows what it’s doing.

He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they’re not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can’t be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there’s a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic lightsaber that’s really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).

At this point, we don’t trust America’s TSA, Britain’s Department for Transport, or airport security in general. We don’t believe they’re acting in the best interests of passengers. We suspect their actions are the result of politicians and government appointees making decisions based on their concerns about the security of their own careers if they don’t act tough on terror, and capitulating to public demands that “something must be done”.

In this final statement, I promised to discuss the broader societal harms of post-9/11 airport security. This loss of trust—in both airport security and counterterrorism policies in general—is the first harm. Trust is fundamental to society. There is an enormous amount written about this; high-trust societies are simply happier and more prosperous than low-trust societies. Trust is essential for both free markets and democracy. This is why open-government laws are so important; trust requires government transparency. The secret policies implemented by airport security harm society because of their very secrecy.

The humiliation, the dehumanisation and the privacy violations are also harms. That Mr Hawley dismisses these as mere “costs in convenience” demonstrates how out-of-touch the TSA is from the people it claims to be protecting. Additionally, there’s actual physical harm: the radiation from full-body scanners still not publicly tested for safety; and the mental harm suffered by both abuse survivors and children: the things screeners tell them as they touch their bodies are uncomfortably similar to what child molesters say.

In 2004, the average extra waiting time due to TSA procedures was 19.5 minutes per person. That’s a total economic loss—in –America—of $10 billion per year, more than the TSA’s entire budget. The increased automobile deaths due to people deciding to drive instead of fly is 500 per year. Both of these numbers are for America only, and by themselves demonstrate that post-9/11 airport security has done more harm than good.

The current TSA measures create an even greater harm: loss of liberty. Airports are effectively rights-free zones. Security officers have enormous power over you as a passenger. You have limited rights to refuse a search. Your possessions can be confiscated. You cannot make jokes, or wear clothing, that airport security does not approve of. You cannot travel anonymously. (Remember when we would mock Soviet-style “show me your papers” societies? That we’ve become inured to the very practice is a harm.) And if you’re on a certain secret list, you cannot fly, and you enter a Kafkaesque world where you cannot face your accuser, protest your innocence, clear your name, or even get confirmation from the government that someone, somewhere, has judged you guilty. These police powers would be illegal anywhere but in an airport, and we are all harmed—individually and collectively—by their existence.

In his first statement, Mr Hawley related a quote predicting “blood running in the aisles” if small scissors and tools were allowed on planes. That was said by Corey Caldwell, an Association of Flight Attendants spokesman, in 2005. It was not the statement of someone who is thinking rationally about airport security; it was the voice of irrational fear.

Increased fear is the final harm, and its effects are both emotional and physical. By sowing mistrust, by stripping us of our privacy—and in many cases our dignity—by taking away our rights, by subjecting us to arbitrary and irrational rules, and by constantly reminding us that this is the only thing between us and death by the hands of terrorists, the TSA and its ilk are sowing fear. And by doing so, they are playing directly into the terrorists’ hands.

The goal of terrorism is not to crash planes, or even to kill people; the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. Liquid bombs, PETN, planes as missiles: these are all tactics designed to cause terror by killing innocents. But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful. That we allow governments to do these things to us—to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them—is the greatest harm of all.

Return airport security checkpoints to pre-9/11 levels. Get rid of everything that isn’t needed to protect against random amateur terrorists and won’t work against professional al-Qaeda plots. Take the savings thus earned and invest them in investigation, intelligence, and emergency response: security outside the airport, security that does not require us to play guessing games about plots. Recognise that 100% safety is impossible, and also that terrorism is not an “existential threat” to our way of life. Respond to terrorism not with fear but with indomitability. Refuse to be terrorized.

EDITED TO ADD (3/20): Cory Doctorow on the exchange:

All of Hawley’s best arguments sum up to “Someone somewhere did something bad, and if he’d tried it on us, we would have caught him.” His closing clincher? They heard a bad guy was getting on a plane somewhere. The figured out which plane, stopped it from taking off and “resolved” the situation. Seeing as there were no recent reports of foiled terrorist plots, I’m guessing the “resolution” was “it turned out we made a mistake.” But Hawley’s takeaway is: “look at how fast our mistake was!”

EDITED TO ADD (4/19): German translation of the closing statement.

Posted on March 29, 2012 at 6:53 AM121 Comments


csrster March 29, 2012 7:02 AM

Brilliant, of course, but don’t forget the huge environmental benefit due to all the people deciding they’d rather damn well stay at home than subject themselves to this securiwank.

Samsam von Virginia March 29, 2012 7:37 AM

I don’t stay at home, I drive my car. This produces a significantly negative impact on the environment.

David Harley March 29, 2012 7:39 AM

My favourite example of air travel security theatre: just after the attack on the Twin Towers, the UK government forbade aircraft to fly directly over London. Obviously, air controllers and pilots did as they were told. However, would a modern-day Guy Fawkes have been deterred from making a kamikaze attack on the Houses of Parliament or the City of London? Of course he would. Just as surely as sheep are deterred from grazing by “Keep off the grass” signs.

Marco Molteni March 29, 2012 7:49 AM

Bruce, deep thanks for your continuous efforts to explain the security theater implications and harms.

Ian March 29, 2012 7:52 AM

“British spelling and punctuation and all.”

That just means correct spelling!! 🙂

Jay from BKK March 29, 2012 7:57 AM

Fantastic work, Bruce.

Would like to see total numbers for loss of life and economic loss due to edged weapons on commercial aircraft from the dawn of powered flight through September 10, 2001. Blood running in the aisles? I think not.

NobodySpecial March 29, 2012 8:01 AM

On the other hand it is deeply reassuring on two points.

In the 70s/80s there was a real danger from terrorism in the UK (and europe) and real measures were taken against the IRA (and RAF,ETA etc). We were genuinely afraid of suspicous packages on the tube, of illegally parked cars in Oxford st etc.
The current security theatre pretty much proves that there is no real terrorist threat.

Reading 1948 and watching the Thatcher and later Blair govts we were concerned about the dangers of increasingly powerful and extremist administrations. But the TSA have led the way in proving that neither the US or UK could possibly organise any sort of effective large-scale oppression.

Lurker March 29, 2012 8:03 AM

An excellent statement. You conclude on the most important point, as well – irrational fear is letting the terrorists win.

Clive Robinson March 29, 2012 8:11 AM

@ Bruce,

… and by constantly reminding us that this is the only thing between us and death by the hands of terrorists …

You’ve used the wrong word there, “reminding” indicates to many people you accept the following statment and thus do not question it.

If you had used “claiming” instead it clearly indicates that the following statment “is theirs” and “not yours”, and thus indicates to many people that you have reason to question the statments veracity.

Before anyone says it, I agree it should not make a difference but unfortunatly it does, perception counts more than facts and figures in argument.

It is this sort of perception problem that gives rise to “telling lies with truth” that gave rise to George Orwell comming up with –amongst other things– “Spin” and what we know call FUD. And at the end of the day the TSA is about “perception”, as long as they can “spin the lie” that they are “protecting you at any cost” then they will exist. To destroy the TSA you have to destroy the perception they cultivate in peoples minds.

They always fall back on that old “if you knew what we know but can’t tell you” line that the Military and other security agencies have fallen back on time and time again to extract tax dollars out of appropriation committee members. And because we are by and large “trusting souls” who don’t want to consider “bad things” we let them get away with it rather than saying “Put up or Shut up”.

They get away with it by faux sincerity, and as I’ve said many times the way to combat that pomposity is by ridicule. Because people don’t trust those they consider to be idiots, fools, bullies or dishonest. And the TSA con game depends on the fact that the general public remain unknowing that these four disreputable character flaws are all that the TSA has actually got.

Scott March 29, 2012 8:13 AM

Shouts from the rooftops

“That we allow governments to do these things to us—to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them—is the greatest harm of all.”

Is anyone, anyone at all, listening?

Thank you Bruce

The Raven March 29, 2012 8:26 AM

Utterly brilliantly spot-on correct, Bruce. I’ve been arguing the same points since the beginning of this sea-change in American thinking toward “security.” We best protect ourselves by projecting confidence, not quivering in craven fear. The new scanners are quite humiliating: “Stand there! Legs further apart! Now raise your arms. Higher! Get those arms higher up!” etc.

Clive Robinson March 29, 2012 8:28 AM

@ David Harley,

However, would a modern-day Guy Fawkes have been deterred from making a kamikaze attack on the Houses of Parliament or the City of London?

I guess you were not in London back then or did not go on the Dockland’s Light Railway?

Because if you had you would have seen a large Navy vessel sitting in “The pool of London” with air defences fully operational, and they could have easily identified and shot down with a long range surface to air missile any aircraft that did not do as it was told to do when it was told. And believe me nobody at the time would have cared if it was innocent or not.

Oh and also there where fighter aircraft on 4min standby as an outer perimeter.

All of this has been trotted out again for “London 2012” (olympics) with the addition of more modern land based surface to air missiles being put in places like Oxly woods etc.

Robin Wilton March 29, 2012 8:54 AM

Well put, Bruce, as ever. My three pet hates about post 9/11 airport ‘security’ measures are:

1 – They increase risk to passengers and airport employees. A clear consequence of the lengthier security checks is that in every airport, the densest concentration of un-checked individuals now occurs in the security check hall and its waiting area. That presents a far more attractive target to attackers now than it did before 9/11.

2 – They are “teaching” passengers that all this intrusive security, inconvenience and physical molestation is worthwhile, when in fact it is nothing more than empty theatre. I have had a tennis ball confiscated on the grounds that it would ‘harden under low pressure and could be thrown at someone’. Conversely, I recently (entirely unintentionally) took an 8″ arrowhead through a full set of airport security checks without anyone batting an eyelid. Theatre.

3 – Given that the passenger scans are just so much empty theatre, they are training our descendants that it is appropriate to submit to pointless violations of physical privacy. That is not healthy for them or for our society, and as long as the pointlessness of the security measures goes unchallenged, it’s not good for airport security either.

David Klann March 29, 2012 9:13 AM

Bruce, thanks for stating this eloquently and forcefully. Your debate-fu is strong. My hope is that this is distributed widely. I intend on helping with that effort! Thanks!

Erich Schmidt March 29, 2012 9:24 AM

Spot on, Bruce, and thank you for all the hard work you do in this area. I, my wife and my 2 year old son are shortly to go on vacation leaving from JFK (backscatter country). Thus I am not looking forward to vacation as I should be; we will all opt out (my wife is pregnant), but what kind of treatment are we going to get? Add to that the fact that my wife is muslim (though thankfully now an American Citizen) and we’re headed to a muslim country (Turkey) — let’s just say I will be happy when we get through the theater.

I do not know how I will react if they start accosting my son.

Matthias March 29, 2012 9:37 AM

These are possibly the most powerful words you have written about this topic. Too bad you couldn’t present them to Congress. Lets hope they read the Economist.

Doug Coulter March 29, 2012 9:53 AM

In light of this, it should be really obvious why they didn’t want you saying this in person and real time to congress photo-op, because what you say here is short, to the point, and irrefutable on its face.

No way DHS could possibly answer this in a way that keeps them “in the money” – which is obviously their prime directive, not security.

While congress critters and lobbyists are real good at obfuscating truth with double talk and complexity, this direct an attack on the major points in super simplified form is very hard for them to “work with”.

With the photo-op nature of all congressional panels – if you convince the watchers that intelligent change is needed, well, that might not be what they want.

Andre LePlume March 29, 2012 9:54 AM

Sure, there’s an enormous principle-agent problem in the US government.

What is even more galling to me is the rapid capitulation of nominally sovereign democracies to the whims of the American security state. For the citizens of these countries – and I am looking particularly at those in Europe – this should be fearful stuff. German, French, or English pols being corrupt – yeah, sure. Those same pols caving to the demands of corrupt American apparatchiks? Terrifying.

Gilbert Pilz March 29, 2012 10:19 AM

As far as the ‘shaming’ aspect goes – I advocate bringing sex toys in your luggage. Big, obvious, brightly colored sex toys. TSA will pull your bags when they show up on the x-ray and check them out. If you don’t act ashamed or embarrassed it is likely the TSA agent will. There is also the possibility that they might say something that you can sue them over (if you want to go that route).

Danny March 29, 2012 10:20 AM

Amen. Thank you for saying it so eloquently and for going through the trouble to include some basic statistics. I wish this to become a real political issue that gets talked about as part of our national dialogue during the November elections.

No One March 29, 2012 10:50 AM

I love this comment at the debate: “The methods adopted post-9/11 have delivered result which is apparent from the fact that we have not seen any attacks after 9/11 that bypassed the TSA security. So I want to say that the new measures are indeed working.”

Shoe bomber? Underwear bomber? Vast rarity of attacks to begin with?

Not sure if trolling, shilling or just stupid.

Brian March 29, 2012 10:53 AM

My family and I don’t fly commercially anymore and don’t plan to until my kids, wife and I can move through security without being exposed to unknown amounts of radiation or molestation. This TSA thing is big government on a runaway train.

Thank you for taking a stand on this.

nycman March 29, 2012 11:30 AM

There are only two things the TSA should focus on preventing: 1. Commandeering of an aircraft. 2. Causing the catastrophic destruction of an aircraft. All other risks we willingly take on all the time as part of our day to day lives. Yeah somebody could stab you at the mall, in the subway, in the supermarket’s parking lot, at the office or heck, even in your own home. Why the mission to create a super sterile flying experience? We wouldn’t tolerate such restrictions in any other aspect of our lives. Normally, the things you can do with pointy objects are called common crime, not terrorism. But as the TSA would say, these are not normal times (when are they ever when TSA types have so much power?)

JeffH March 29, 2012 11:44 AM

Elegant. Level-headed. Straightforward. Logical. Succinct. All the hallmark elements of Bruce. Christ, I wish he was running this nuthouse.
Unfortunately, by encompassing all those elements, Bruce’s words are all 100% gobbledygook to politicians/political appointees and antithetical to the mandate of any and all government agencies.

Spellucci March 29, 2012 11:47 AM

Makes me want to bring beach chairs down to my local airport, set them up just outside the security check, eat popcorn, and laugh at the security theater. Or is it theatre?

kashmarek March 29, 2012 11:49 AM

I have said this before about big oil…

Oil is the problem. The terrorist countries don’t want us “there”, they can get rid of us by stop selling us the oil.

We don’t want the terrorsit countries terrorizing us and we can stop that by not buying their oil (stop funding terrorism).

Yet to stop removes the flow of money and control, so both sides continue. Someone has a plan they don’t want to disrupt.

Shift the focus now to flying. We can stop the TSA if everyone stops flying. The TSA doesn’t stop offending us because we don’t stop flying. The TSA plan won’t change. It is there for a purpose beyond security. It is more than security theater. Combine the TSA plan with ACTA, the NSA spy center, the government/employer Facebook snooping, and general loss of individual rights over the past 10 years, and you have essentially fruition of many things put forth by PNAC (Plan for New American Century), which includes businesses controlling the government and the people.

Sound far fetched? Would anybody have even dreamed of any of this 10, 15, or 20 years ago? Well, somebody did and it is happening.

Kevin March 29, 2012 12:10 PM

“The humiliation, the dehumanisation and the privacy violations are also harms. That Mr Hawley dismisses these as mere “costs in convenience” demonstrates how out-of-touch the TSA is from the people it claims to be protecting.”

Thank you Bruce. I don’t think people think as much as they should when they rationalize such measures as “for public safety” or “what’s the harm if you have nothing to hide.” Such reasoning is not limited to the airport. It is just as valid to justify searching your car at a routine traffic stop or searching your bags/pockets in any public space. After all, its ‘only’ an inconvenience.

jacob March 29, 2012 12:11 PM

Bruce, perfect, concise statement. If only the public stood up and the politicians would follow. Back when there was a threatened boycott of the scanners, the TSA suspended use of them and the media followed along. It is just sad. If people consistently protested the stupidity, it would stop.

atk March 29, 2012 12:17 PM

@kashmarek “We can stop the TSA if everyone stops flying.”

Not true. The TSA has consistently tried to expand their influence outside of aircraft. Off the top of my head, I can think of a case where the TSA started searching Boston Subway passengers (nowhere near the airport; just google TSA MBTA), train stations (google TSA Amtrak), and even planning to stop people driving on the highway (google TSA highway).

Charles March 29, 2012 12:27 PM

In summary, TSA has been responsible for saving zero lives, and has been responsible for ending over 5,000. The “blood running in the” streets would stop by getting rid of TSA and we would be more secure in the post TSA world.

George March 29, 2012 12:51 PM

All good, cogent arguments. But irrelevant. The TSA is a cancer on the body politic that has metastasized to the point where it’s completely impervious to the “chemotherapy” of reason, cost-benefit analysis, or even truth. It is exempt from any of the oversight and constraints properly imposed on all other government agencies, and accountable only to itself. It is too late to change anything.

I also suspect that John Pistole and the rest of the executive leadership at DHS believe that everything you identify as harmful is actually beneficial. Remember that Mr Pistole was a deputy director of the FBI, an agency that has long regarded the constitution and civil liberties as impediments to their mission of catching criminals wherever they lurk. He now directs an agency that has granted itself exemptions from those impediments that exceed even the wildest dreams of FBI leaders. Leaders of security agencies, if unchecked, tend to follow the model of the KGB and Stasi. And that seems to be what the TSA is working to create within its jurisdiction, while striving above all to expand that jurisdiction (complete with its own propaganda department staffed with masterful practitioners of Goebbels’ Big Lie).

Mr Pistole probably sees the loss of privacy and liberty as the TSA’s greatest achievement. To the director of a security agency, privacy and liberty are nothing but vulnerabilities that the enemy can regularly exploit. Eliminating those vulnerabilities are not merely appropriate and useful in a time of Global War, but vital to keeping the Homeland secure. Establishing TSA checkpoints as “rights free zones,” where officers follow secret rules and procedures that empower them to do whatever they want, including abusing the public, is key to the TSA’s mission

Similarly, creating an agency that the public reviles, distrusts, and above all FEARS is essential to the TSA’s mission. Americans still cling to beliefs in rights, liberties, and privacy that in peacetime are merely annoyances for law enforcement officers to ignore when necessary to secure an arrest and conviction. But they pose an unacceptable danger in wartime. Those inappropriate beliefs make the travelers the TSA screens resentful and unappreciative, which complicates screening.

One way around this problem is to gain the public’s trust. But that is difficult, time-consuming, and impractical, as it requires consistently competent employees that are unavailable. It’s also inappropriate, since the TSA assumes a passenger is a terrorist or criminal until screening proves them innocent. A better solution is to instill fear in the public while bullying them into compliance. The goal is to cow the traveling public into accepting and even welcoming the surrender of once-cherished rights and privacy to an agency whose middle name is “Security” and whose stated goal is to keep them safe from unspeakable evil.

A docile, sheeplike passenger who gratefully accepts whatever intrusion and humiliation the TSA decides is necessary to inflict is easier for screeners to process. That’s critical to the TSA mission. But more importantly, such a passenger has been conditioned and primed to accept and even welcome the far greater intrusion and surrender of liberty and privacy that Mr Pistole knows is essential to a Secure Homeland. Even if TSA checkpoints are not the layered impregnable bulwark against terrorism that the TSA would like us to accept on blind faith, the TSA will be highly effective if they succeed in conditioning passengers who pass through its checkpoints to accept a continually increasing loss of liberty and privacy as the inevitable “new normal” in the Global War on Terror.

And the TSA does seem to be succeeding in that goal. There is always an outcry whenever they impose some new intrusive hassle. But that outcry quickly dies down as passengers acquiesce and accept it because they have no choice. Most of us by now have recognized that “resistance is futile,” because the TSA is “rights free” agency that answers only to itself. And there are plenty of Americans who not only accept the TSA, but speak out to defend it against criticism. Mr Pistole surely sees that as an important metric of success.

US March 29, 2012 1:04 PM

So long as we are dismantling the nation willingly on our own, the terrorists don’t really have much left to do. We’ve picked up where they left off. Should we return to the path of reason, however, the terrorists will just blow up something else, and the TSA (and those who profit from what it does) can say, “see that, we were right all along!”

We can only win if we stand up against terror, be it terror from outside or within. But, I’m afraid, that takes far too much guts to sustain when the finger pointing starts.

Andrew March 29, 2012 1:06 PM


“1 – They increase risk to passengers and airport employees. A clear consequence of the lengthier security checks is that in every airport, the densest concentration of un-checked individuals now occurs in the security check hall and its waiting area. That presents a far more attractive target to attackers now than it did before 9/11.”

I really hope our terrorist foes don’t read this blog. Or travel. Or visit an airport. Or conduct pre-attack surveillance of targets. Oh, wait.

Figureitout March 29, 2012 1:06 PM

Nice Bruce, thanks for calling ‘ole Kip out–Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes…

He didn’t even try to refute any (maybe 1 or 2) of your arguments; instead it was the ‘ole “duck and cover” and not even addressing your arguments like they are not worthy of refuting.

The main reason why halting the TSA in their tracks is so critical, as others have said and as has been documented, the TSA or some mutated form of TSA will expand to first highways, then big streets, then local streets, then your neighborhood street, then…Heck I even recall a story where TSA agents were brought to inspect high schoolers going to their prom!!!! One can only hope this is just innocent ignorance and not intentional indoctrination…

@Gilbert Pilz

This was precisely the thing that the TSA inspector I knew said she found a lot of!!! Dildos galore!! Heck they’re probably giving them a good sniff-sniff, and who could forget the “Get Your Freak On Girl” note an agent actually left a passenger, I mean c’mon??!!

I’ll leave with another EMBARRASSING story on the TSA; we’re being secured by Pimp-Daddys:

Rajat March 29, 2012 1:52 PM

Hi Bruce,
This is a great post. While I agree with most of the things you state it is wrong to conclude that people who chose to drive instead of flying decided to do so because of negative impact of airport security.

Ralph March 29, 2012 2:07 PM

Re: “He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe.”

In my experience, the test applied is that the bottles have 100-ml written on the label.

Commercial packaging is full of tricks to make containers look like they contain more than they really do; I’m sure the opposite is true.

I bet four bottles labelled as 100-ml could get a total of 800ml of explosive past a checkpoint no problem.

Possibly the TSA has already thought of this, and the limit is suitably conservative for whatever scenario they are covering their arse against.

abadidea March 29, 2012 2:09 PM


Outside of those who have a strong fear of flying (ie, they would not fly whether or not there was a TSA), everyone I know here in the USA who takes very long car trips when they could fly specifically mentions the TSA as a factor or even the only factor.

avoids-airports-like-the-plague March 29, 2012 2:30 PM

I live in Europe and planned to attend a week long tech conference in California this month but decided not to after the “pat down” I received at the Boulder airport last autumn on my way out of the US.

rico567 March 29, 2012 2:46 PM

DHS is now a permanent part of the post 9-11 world, and isn’t going anywhere….at least not until our dysfunctional political system exists. No career politician (=all of them) of any party or no party will risk voting any of it away.

Dave March 29, 2012 3:26 PM

Fantastic commentary. Thank you. I would also point out that fear seems to be the goal of the politicians and bureaucracies that propagate these systems and procedures. Without playing to simple, unspecified fear, they would not have jobs. They would have this power. They would not get grant money and campaign contributions. The enemy of this fear is reason. I believe this is truly why you cannot get specific answers to your tremendously well thought out, well reasoned comments.

Sven Opitz March 29, 2012 3:27 PM

I think there is a conceptional error here:

I am not so sure, that all politicians and government appointees are only looking out for their careers. I think, most of the security measures that were introduced after 09/11 are what we Germans call “white ointment”. It doesn’t reduce the danger of terror one iota, but everyone can feel, that something has happened, that the responsible people have acted.
I am also not sure, if the majority of people really dislike these measures that much. I think, most people know how pointless they are, but they provide a few things people like:
1.) Flying is once again more of an adventure (artificially so, yes, but we take what we can get)
2.) It is so convenient to arrange yourself with the situation, as long as certain limits aren’t reached
3.) There still is the warm glow of feeling safer.
The last point is in my opinion the really important one. Most people know, they are safer only in so far as awareness is higher now, but they still feel safer.
I am almost sure, the majority is not happy, but content with the way things are, because the alternative is to terrible to think about. People dislike feeling helpless. But I think that is what most people would feel, if working, targeted countermeasures were introduced.
I also think many of those working countermeasures would mean, that civil liberties would take a real hit for little gain.
I am quite happy to live the lottery, I know, that my chances of dying from a car accident are still much higher, than those of dying during a terroristic act. I am still not avoiding the streets, even without body scanners and sometimes (if I feel really daring) I even have more than 100ml of water with me. 😉

No, the other John Smith March 29, 2012 3:33 PM

Not that it’s any consolation, but there is a silver lining in this. Crowds at the gate area are a lot smaller than they were pre-9/11. No more “welcome home” gatherings or big “send offs.”

Popsmoke March 29, 2012 3:38 PM

The problem with TSA is that it is to top heavy with lightweights and political.

Kip Hawley is not a security specialist.. Nice guy but security is not his bag….

How may security specialists are going to blow holes into TSA until they wake up? Of course Congress has to wake up and take another look at the mandate.

Anton March 29, 2012 3:38 PM


I also belong to your fan club of people who support and appreciate what you do.

Many points in your essay are sourced from the contributions of many generous and like minded souls by way of comments posted to your blog.

Many thanks also go to all these people who care about the the planet we live on and are prepared to contribute to the common good.

Okian Warrior March 29, 2012 3:45 PM

Here is the flaw in your argument.

By comparing the TSA budget to the loss of productivity (19.5 minutes) you are making a false comparison. You are comparing the cost of the security measures with itself.

Security is a tradeoff, and to make a proper comparison you need to compare the cost of security with the cost of not having it.

This point will not be lost on Kip Hawley. He will add the budget of the TSA and the 10 billion loss of productivity and compare it with 911, where we didn’t have the security. He will total the cost of the buildings, the tanked economy, the losses from people not flying and the “tragic loss of lives” and cry “10 billion is a small price to pay!”

And he will have won his argument.

To win a public debate, you need to anticipate your opponent’s response and derail it before he gets a chance to state it.

In this case, I might suggest reframing the comparison by showing that other actions would be more effective. You’ve always said that intelligence is more effective than countermeasures, so you could state something like “if the TSA budget were put into intelligence gathering, we would save 10 billion and it would make us even safer”.

If you do that, he can’t simply counter with “911!”.

SB March 29, 2012 4:17 PM

@Okian, and the cry of “9/11!” is why, despite the increasing uproar against the TSA, it is not going anywhere.

Never mind that, even though planes were used to bring down buildings, the attacks of 9/11/01 were NOT the result of failures at the checkpoint.

But all the masses need to hear is “9/11!”, and any reasoning disappears.

Anon March 29, 2012 4:30 PM

I can personally say that airport security is a joke. What the TSA doesn’t realize is that they have created an illusion of better security. Is it any better? Not really – it’s worse. Besides if a terrorist is going to strike, do you think they are really going to try to fly planes into buildings again? Not likely. It’d be much easier to drive a car full of explosives into a downtown area and let it off. Now suddenly everyone in America is scared of cars.

My personal experience showing that airport security is a joke: I had flown into the US, then from that airport to another major US airport, at which point I was waiting for a third flight. I had already been through customs and security twice, and was sitting at the gate, waiting to board. I reached into my camera bag and found something that had been missing for several months – a 3″ folding pocket knife. I hadn’t intended on sneaking it on. I didn’t even realize it was there. Now if I can accidentally bring a 3″ knife onto a plane, who is to say that if someone actually intentionally wanted to get something onto a plane that the TSA would find it?

Airport security is a joke, and the more they try to lock it down, the bigger the joke becomes.

George March 29, 2012 5:01 PM

The TSA operates on two core beliefs:

  1. You don’t need trust or even competence when you have Fear.
  2. There’s no need to be effective or cost-effective when you can instantly rebut any argument or criticism with “Remember 9/11!”

Sling Trebuchet March 29, 2012 5:08 PM

No One’s comment above:

I love this comment at the debate: “The methods adopted post-9/11 have delivered result which is apparent from the fact that we have not seen any attacks after 9/11 that bypassed the TSA security. So I want to say that the new measures are indeed working.”

This begs the obvious question – How many terrorist attacks were prevented due to the TSA detecting the terrorists at the security gate?
This would be actual terrorists with a plan to make blood run in the aisles, blow up the aircraft or cut through the locked flight-deck door.

I think the answer is “none”.
This means that the TSA mouth should have said “So I want to say that the new measures are indeed untested.”

Post shoe-bomber they started checking shoes.
Post underwear-bomber they started checking underwear.

Those two attacks failed because of faulty bombs. The TSA didn’t prevent them.

After someone fails to detonate a set of dental plates made of explosive material, the TSA will start examining our teeth.
If they succeed in the detonation, the TSA won’t know what to check.
I think they had better start checking now.

It would also be a good idea to strip search all passengers.
All cavities should be examined closely.
Anyone appearing to be hard of hearing should definitely by checked for explosive ear wax.
Similarly, anyone sounding nasal needs to be checked.

Civil Libertarian March 29, 2012 5:14 PM

Let me add my voice to the amen choir. Thanks for this piece, and all your work for the cause, Bruce.

BlueMagoo March 29, 2012 5:15 PM

I couldn’t agree more with just about everything Bruce writes about here re: airport security. While we haven’t completely given up flying we do drive much more often they we would have pre 9/11 mostly because as a person with a pacemaker I almost always have to go through the full pat down nonsense and I’m tired of having to arrive very early for flights so I can get to my gate on time. With all the idiotic security and the airlines nickel and dime charges for formerly free services I’m surprised anyone but the POTUS flies anymore.

Joel March 29, 2012 5:48 PM

While I agree with your commentary, one thing strikes me as odd.

“Remember when we would mock Soviet-style “show me your papers” societies? That we’ve become inured to the very practice is a harm.”

While this was not the norm for WASPs, it was very much a reality for minority groups (in the USA and more generally around the globe). What has happened with the TSA style security is that people not normally targeted by security apparatus have become a target as the net is broadened.

The Soviet movie “show me your papers” was applied to all – the TSA (and similar in other nations) likewise is being applied to all aviation travellers (and I believe is being expanded to include rail and road).

As a non-American, travelling to the USA has long been an horrendous experience due to Customs, Immigration & now TSA. Not much has changed.

Byte March 29, 2012 8:07 PM

A very convincing, rational, well-illustrated argument.

Effectiveness on human being: 100%
Effectiveness on politician: 0%

Politicians do not listen to arguments. They will even refuse to listen or allow you to speak. You have to make them fear they will lose their comfy seat. How do you suggest we go about that?

PJK March 29, 2012 8:29 PM

Thank you, Bruce!

You are a rational voice in a wilderness of fear and those who feed on that fear.

Peter E Retep March 29, 2012 10:06 PM

Let us posit there is a rational goal
consistent with the exhibited behaviour.
What could that be?
1. Discouraging air travel in favor of e-meetings?
2. Employing those previously economically displaced from the military?
3. Publicizing a new governmental organizing principle?
4. Gathering population data on Security’s X-projects?
5. Enlarging the range and scope of Security justifications?
6. Preventing a repeat of a previous attack, or any news that resembles it?
7. Reducing contraband smuggling by air?
[With the exception of peiople.]
8. Enlarging the base pool of those:
[a] governmentally insured?
[b] cleared through back ground checks?
9. Having a check against flash crowds by air?

What do you think of?

Robert F. March 30, 2012 12:33 AM

Brilliant, Same thing that I’ve been saying since they went to “Defcom Stupid” around November last year.Of course your essay is much more eloquent and foregoes the filthy language which I use in expressing my thoughts of DHS and TSA.

Steve Jones March 30, 2012 3:01 AM

Excellent piece, Bruce. Impossible for any sane person to argue against what you say, and yet I’m not holding my breath, waiting for things to change.

Just wondering if you have read “The Creature from Jekyll Island”? It offers an interesting perspective on things.

Mark March 30, 2012 5:36 AM

Your comment regarding butter knives reminded me of a trip I made to the Czech Republic.

Flying from Heathrow to Prague we had to use plastic knives because metal is too dangerous. Returning from Prague to Heathrow (same airline) we were given metal knives.

Perhaps that is how Czechs export cutlery to the UK. 🙂

Bill March 30, 2012 5:45 AM

Excellent. 🙂

Except we are your choir, the message probably fell on deaf ears elsewhere. 🙁

jds March 30, 2012 7:19 AM

This is an excellent piece of commentary. The only thing that makes us safer today from a 9/11 attack is the new procedures that are in effect on board the aircraft. Steel reinforced doors, under no circumstances does the flight crew open the door except to take a piss.

Now the post 9/11 attack attempts is a different story, the shoe bomber etc…

I say get rid of all the damn x-ray machines, go back to straight metal detectors and bring in dogs that can sniff out materials that could be used in explosives.

Ram March 30, 2012 8:37 AM

I think all this Airport security is simply a charade. Nothing can really stop a determined attacker – all it has done is made flying unpleasant for all of us. I recall finding myself in December 2002 barefooted at 6am in Houston airport – thanks to some stupid idiot who decided to set his shoes on fire. I can only imagine what would have happened had he set his underwear on fire !

I also dont understand this liquids rule – more than 100ml of liquids are forbidden – unless they are premium alcohol bought in the duty free part of the airport. Somehow I suppose they think terrorists would hesitate to use a bottle of 18 year old The Macallan to make a Molotov cocktail – it would be such a shame !

Ancient Mariner March 30, 2012 10:40 AM

Tell the administration to withhold funding from TSA until they respect the Constitution and the traveling public:


  1. Remove and destroy all imaging machines that potentially can “see” under our clothing, whether or not those images are retained.
  2. Cease and desist all invasive patdowns that involve touching genitalia, even through clothing, unless there is probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime.
  3. Cease immediately harassment and illegal detention of people who assert their constitutional rights during airport screening.


Thanks for signing.

Chas March 30, 2012 11:21 AM

Perhaps the most succinct, clear, and correct treatment of the situation I’ve ever read.

WatchMan March 30, 2012 5:05 PM

Bruce Schneier wrote,”The goal of terrorism is not to crash planes, or even to kill people; the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. Liquid bombs, PETN, planes as missiles: these are all tactics designed to cause terror by killing innocents. But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful. That we allow governments to do these things to us—to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them—is the greatest harm of all.”

Where were you on 9/11? I saw terrorist CRASH AIRPLANES into the Twin Towers, KILLING people and causing TERROR. That was there goal and the plains were found on a terrorist laptop 5 years before 9/11. Soo much fro pre 9/11 security. Also, the terrorist who flew the planes into the World Trade Center were being tracked by the CIA and FBI and the ball was dropped. Terrorits don’t want to just cause terror. They want to cause economic instability also. It’s amazing how quickly Americans forget their own HISTORY.

Doug Coulter March 30, 2012 6:00 PM

No chance their funding will be cut – ever. It’s never even seriously debated anymore, they just get what they ask for.

What with warrant-less wiretapping and various other goodies DHS got – surely the first bureaucrat who thought about it for 10 seconds now has dirt on every congress member…I haven’t seen a clean one yet, and blackmail works best on those who think they have something to lose.

Occam’s razor cuts deep sometimes.

Sam March 30, 2012 7:48 PM

Cory Doctorow is hiliarious, but (as usual), he’s also a totally biased propogandist.

The actual quote from Hawley was:

“Here I will cite a specific instance from the first quarter of 2008 where the TSA demonstrated that “intelligence, investigation and emergency response” have already been integrated into security operations. One Friday evening at about seven o’clock a flash message came into the TSA’s intelligence watch centre from a partner in the intelligence community. It involved a potential bomber entering the aviation system elsewhere in the world. The TSA identified flights leaving the affected area for America and discovered that one was scheduled to depart imminently. With the support of other agencies, airlines and the host government, the TSA arranged for targeted security measures for that flight and all others until the threat was resolved. Elapsed time from the intelligence bulletin arriving until the new security measures were complete: less than one hour. At the TSA today, such work is routine and it is striving to add more risk analysis and flexibility to the mix.”

I wouldn’t call that a mistake, as cory does. It may have turned out to be a false alarm, but efficiently addressing alerts (real or unfounded) is indeed a positive point, and dealing with that scenario is one of the few legitimate uses for federal airline security.

Philip Collier March 31, 2012 12:26 AM

Mr. Schneier is spot on target with his criticism of the TSA and its UK equivalent.

Without security theater, there would have been economic harm (much less airline traffic), political shakeups (powerful top-cats losing their positions / elections / campaign funding), and a whole new chunk of government (and associated power) that would not exist.

Are we safer for it? No. I continue to shudder at the thought of a well orchestrated RPG attack on a busy JFK airport taxiway, or an attack on a full stadium of sports fans. The TSA engages in theater to please people shortsighted enough to be satisfied by it.

In the end, we all must live our lives as free people, and know that our system will prevail against occasional attacks – until there are no adversaries remaining. I fly an airliner for a living, and do not worry about hijackers. I worry about missiles and non-transport related attacks. Change my ways? Not in a thousand lifetimes. I am still the kind of person hated by Al Qaeda, and will remain so. Live by Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” and support their expansion worldwide.

Philip Collier

Current Airline Name Withheld
Formerly Business Express, ATA, and Viva Macau

Mike March 31, 2012 2:42 AM

@ WatchMan

“Where were you on 9/11? I saw terrorist CRASH AIRPLANES into the Twin Towers, KILLING people and causing TERROR. That was there goal and the plains were found on a terrorist laptop 5 years before 9/11. Soo much fro pre 9/11 security. Also, the terrorist who flew the planes into the World Trade Center were being tracked by the CIA and FBI and the ball was dropped. Terrorits don’t want to just cause terror. They want to cause economic instability also. It’s amazing how quickly Americans forget their own HISTORY.”

Please tell me you’re joking. Grammatical errors and unnecessary capitalization aside, this is exactly the kind of thing the TSA wants us to think. “Oh my God, the terror! Terrorists! Boogey boogey boogey! Al Qaeda is going to get you if you don’t do exactly as we say!”

9/11 was a horrible thing, yes. But I dare say that rather than terror, most Americans at the time felt anger. Shock and disbelief to begin with, but then seething anger that someone would dare carry out such an attack on innocent people.

They wanted to cause economic instability. They wanted to cause a dramatic change to their way of life. By enacting such ridiculously wasteful security measures and convincing most of us to fear our own shadows, our government has proven that the terrorists have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The government would have us believe the next attack is coming “any day now”, and the only way to prevent it is to allow them to use the Constitution as a hankercheif. They want us to be afraid of anything even slightly different from what is “normal”, because the more we are afraid, the more power they have. And that seems to be the real goal of the TSA – more fear gives them more power, which they can use to spread more fear.

So who is the real terrorist here? The extremist nutjob who flies a plane into a building because he thinks it will earn him 72 virgins? Or the government officials who seek to gain more power over the population through controlling their fears?

Andrew March 31, 2012 4:43 AM

One bomb in an airport security line and the airline industry is finished permanently. All we have done with the TSA security theatre is provided terrorists with new targets. Yet even with that, where are all the terrorists? Ten years and not one credible threat to anything in the US. With the TSA only providing “security” to one small aspect of our lives (for now) why have their not been dozens of real attacks to “non-protected” places? There is no reason why a prospective terrorist would consider attacking airlines to be the only worthwhile target and ignore all the other possibilities. This makes all the TSA arguments pointless (other than to create fear and justify huge budgets) – either we turn the country into 1984 (which many of our politicians would apparently love) or their narrowly-focused theatre contributes nothing to our overall security.

Steve Jones March 31, 2012 4:43 AM

@Philip Collier
It seems to me that an RPG attack on the crowds of people delayed by the extra “security” would be a good tactic. Or a suicide bomber in the crowd waiting to get through the first checkpoint. Or even just the threat of one, the panic and stampede would probably do more damage than a bomb in a tightly packed crowd.

Brent Longborough March 31, 2012 5:16 AM


For what they’re worth, my congratulations. A brilliant summing-up of why the TSA thing has little or nothing to do with our safety, and everything to do with “How we have handed victory to the terrorists by trampling our own freedom”.

As a free society, our only rational posture must be this: “You can throw all you’ve got at us, and we’ll take it, but we’ll still keep our covenant with ourselves, and we’ll still be free, and thus you, the terrorists, lose the game”.

SparkyGSX March 31, 2012 6:00 AM

@Watchman: So basically you’re saying “they” had previous knowledge about the 9/11 attacks, and either refrained from doing anything on purpose, of just massively f*cked up preventing it.

Even assuming it’s true foreign terrorists actually committed the 9/11 attacks (I have yet to see any evidence), the former seems much more likely to me; those in power CHOOSE not to do anything.

How on earth can you use that to argue we need more of what the TSA is doing?!?

If there really are any terrorists left, who really do want to execute another attack, I’d say the TSA would make a great target. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if the TSA itself gets scared!

SparkyGSX March 31, 2012 6:53 AM

I forgot to add:

Seeing how the TSA is proud about the number of innocent objects they confiscated, the number of people detained, and how quickly they can make mistakes, makes it painfully obvious they haven’t actually caught any real terrorist with a real plan, none of the many people they detained were actually convicted of any crime, and they never found anything that was an actual threat.

The reason the shoe bomber and underwear bomber failed, was not because the TSA caught them, it was because those amateurs proved to be incapable of building a bomb that actually worked.

I wonder what would have happened if they had succeeded? Would it have proven the TSAs incompetence and caused a change in what and how they do what they do, or would the TSA have used the events to “prove” “terrorists are still out to get us!”, claim they are underfunded, understaffed, and restricted by the few rules they have left?

I’m glad those “terrorists” haven’t succeeded, in the first place of course because they would have injured or killed a lot of people, but also because I strongly suspect it would have caused an huge increase in the budget and freedoms of the TSA.

Come to think of it, the US isn’t actually losing any freedom; the freedom the civilians lose, is compensated by the freedoms the TSA gains. I think it sort of has to be a zero-sum game.

John Rehwinkel March 31, 2012 8:00 AM

I disagree with the statement that the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. No, the terrorism, and the terror are means to an end. The end (as they have stated) is to take away our way of life. And TSA is doing exactly that. Yes, the TSA is helping the terrorists achieve their stated goal. As if that isn’t harm enough, this will encourage terrorists.

Stu March 31, 2012 9:08 PM

I read the arguments that the TSA hasn’t prevented a single attack – but haven’t the security measures in place forced the terrorists to resort to tactics such as shoe and underwear bombs, which have been difficult to construct? If not for the stepped up screening wouldn’t they have simply built a conventional bomb and carried it aboard?

I’m a frequent flier and I’ve got real concerns with TSA, especially with the new scanners. But I do think there’s a better sense of security now than there was pre-911 when it was clear the guys checking bags had absolutely no clue (and many didn’t even speak English). I’m not sure what the correct balance is, but I don’t see how anyone will ever support opening up the check-points to anyone, without even any identity checks.

SB March 31, 2012 10:57 PM

@Stu, two comments.

The shoe bomber attempted his attack in December 2001, when checkpoints worldwide still consisted primarily of walk-through metal detectors and bag x-ray machines. So that “stepped-up” screening to which you refer would be the screening technology that had been in place for over two decades. The underwear bomber attempted his attack before the full-body scanners were in use, so again, the “stepped-up” screening consisted primarily of the same two devices.

So, in essence, you are advocating for a return to the metal detector and bag x-ray as the primary screening methods, an approach with which many would agree.

Second: You imply that identity checks add to security. But if everyone going through the checkpoint is screened, along with their baggage, what difference does it make from a security standpoint WHO you are? Sure, it matters to the airline’s bottom line, whether a passenger who suddenly can’t make his flight tries to sell his ticket to someone else. But from a security perspective? What security value is added by an ID check?

Shadow April 1, 2012 1:41 AM

There is an analogy that might be useful in this discussion – shoplifting. Does anyone think shoplifting might be more prevalent if stores took no measures to prevent it? Like for reducing shoplifting, there is some level of security that is reasonable and prudent to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks to some acceptable level. The debate is really about the level that is necessary and what constitutes effective security measures.

I’m not so sure that many of the people complaining so vociferously here might be just as vocal if they were subject to the profiling that Israel uses effectively to deter terrorists at their airports. What if the TSA used voice-stress analyzers to pick out passengers for further screening? Would that be acceptable?

I agree there is a certain amount of security theater (or theatre) going on, but to some extent, we have ourselves to blame for that. We demand that officials ‘do something’, and then complain if they ‘do anything’ that inconveniences us in the slightest. No public official can win under these circumstances.

We would be better off trying to come up with better methods to deter AND detect terrorists than simply carping about what we don’t like or perceive isn’t working.

SB April 1, 2012 9:09 AM

@Shadow: How about a return to metal detectors and bag x-rays as the only primary screening? Lift the shoe removal; get rid of the liquid restrictions; get rid of friskings without reasonable suspicion.

The problem is, DHS has so entrenched in travelers’ minds that shoes could conceal bombs, that liquids could bring down a plane, that retreating would be political suicide for any politician who pressed for it.

Werner Schmidt April 1, 2012 6:37 PM

Thank you Bruce for your careful thoughts and debates on the TSA and their procedures. Having been a victim of one of their personal pat downs cause of a failure in the X ray machines I but hope that the misguided TSA is refocussed in their efforts where it really does count. Intelligence.

Some Guy April 2, 2012 6:05 AM

The thing that worries me the most when flying, is that some day one of these TSA goons might provoke me enough to knock him out cold.

If I fail to resist the perfectly natural urge to kick the shit out of someone who grabs my testicles without my consent, the government will have the pretext it needs to deprive me of what’s left of my liberty.

Will April 2, 2012 9:44 AM

TSA being illegal and unconstitutional, which is illegal on a higher order, is more worrysome and not explicitly outlined in the above article. On the American side of the pond, TSA is harmful to the fabric of our nation. The US Constitution in its Bill of Rights protects against unreasonable search and seizure by the US government. Since the government took over airport security from the airlines, Federal agents now conduct searches and seizures on millions of Americans and others. It is done daily and is the main role of federal TSA persons. More than 10 years after a preventable attack that there were warnings about on the highest level, Americans are still not affforded their Constitutional rights and their Constitution. Locked cockpit doors and safety control software tied to autopilot and/or ground control (a jetliner was remotely flown and landed from the ground back in the 1960’s, a half century ago) can prevent any repeat of 9-11 and would save millions of dollars if not billions and stop the violation of Constitutional Rights of Americans, and of others. I was told that body scanners for underwear explosives would not pick up the explosives that were actually used by the actual terrorist, yet the expensive machines were put in place anyway for other reasons. Article does well to mention profiteering that has gone on by some of the individuals pushing through these invasive and unnecessary measures. Have politicians swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States has not been enough to prevent a huge and expensive government created and funded entity, TSA, which conducts unwarrented searches and seizures on millions of Americans to prevent them from foreign terrorists. George Orwell would love this?

Will April 2, 2012 10:01 AM

Searches and seizures without a warrant. Sorry about that. To protect Americans from foreign terrorists by government searches and seizures on Americans …
is stupid, unconstitutional , and expensive.

Hanoun April 2, 2012 7:40 PM

On the one hand I understand and appreciate how hard -indeed, hazardous- it is to say so openly, but at some point you have to stop giving people like Kip the benefit of the doubt, okay.

He’s lying. He doesn’t believe a word he is saying, or consider them valid or sensible arguments any more than we do. If it seems impossible that anyone who knew the first thing about what was going on in America re: post 9/11 security, actually believed it was working, worthwhile and all this crud, it’s because it is. Or almost anyway.

Conceivably you might get one or two people who both had the knowledge and still said what Kip is saying, just like you get some engineers that believe perpetual motion machines work. But Kip is not that sort of person, and even if he was, he would have to have been selected as such by someone else.

You know exactly what this is about: power. The people who have been taking away our civil liberties since 9/11 have always wanted to to exactly what they are doing. 9/11 was just a convenient excuse.

The real story is that people actually swallowed the excuse. I frankly don’t care if the government took down the buildings themselves or not. What matters is that the ruling class was able to use that to push though the destructive changes, start the wars, monitor and incarcerate the people, that they always wanted to.

We need to say this. No more bottomless pit of good faith for these people to abuse. Kip and his cronies are liars, demagogues, manipulators, polyarches, torturer enablers, and worse.

Clive Robinson April 4, 2012 1:16 AM

@ Benoit Rigaut,

Bruce, you could maybe spark an “European citizens’ initiative”?

You are joking aren’t you?

If you read the rules,

First off the proposers have to be certified EU citizens (which Bruce probably is not)

Secondly you have to get atleast one million signitures

But thirdly these signitures have to come from across atleast half of the EU member states.

But most importantly the signitures can only be from people who can be traced directly because,

Signatures must be certified by the competent authorities in each Member States

Oh and quite a few EU countries don’t currently have (nor do their populations want) “competent authorities” registering and “certifing” their people in a National DataBase.

But importantly there is no ‘set in stone’ guarantee that the details of those who sign won’t become known to other organisations and thus potentialy to their detriment, now or in the future.

The whole thing is setup to fail as a democratic process and has all the potential failings of ‘voting in a police state’ whilst also trying to force the issue of National ID Cards onto all EU citizens many of whom don’t want them.

naked? April 4, 2012 12:09 PM

I’ve often thought it an interesting idea, that if a strip search is ordered on me (and it seems that the Supreme Court supports the strip search idea), I should insist that it be done in full view of the folks waiting in the security line, so they know what they can expect. Perhaps that might spark a little more outrage.

john brown April 5, 2012 11:02 AM

Have the pleasure of citing the following from your piece on my blog, Public Diplomacy Press and Blogew Revi

But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful.

Bill Hill April 11, 2012 11:08 AM

The most attractive target for terrorists now must be the hundreds of people waiting in line at airports for TSA checks.
A suicide bomb attack at the security line of any busy airport could easily kill more people than bringing down a 747.

JB April 15, 2012 6:36 AM

Can tell you another harm … I’ll never travel the US again as long as fingerprints and maybe retinas are scanned, as long as I may end up in locations like Gitmo. After all as a foreigner I’m even less protected. May not see legal representation etc. So I would never work in the US, never study there, never make business there, never again come as a tourist. I hate the very idea of being handled like a criminal, sorry. I’m sure there are others avoiding the US as well. Must cost you some money. I only hate that you enforced your panic mode here also, so that now our banking data is sent to you, that our passports got fingerprints memory chips too … Damn.

Once upon a time I used airports where there were no security checks at all. The old man just sat there on his chair, read a newspaper and from time to time glanced a bit at the travelers walking by 🙂 … Never was afraid on the plane afterwards. Never anything happened.

John April 16, 2012 4:26 AM

Similar harm here. I just booked a more expensive flight to Costa Rica, because the cheaper one would have had a stop in the US. I went to the US a year ago and I don’t want to go through that charade again.

Mike April 18, 2012 3:02 PM

This is awesome. I’ve been saying this part for years:

The goal of terrorism is not to crash planes, or even to kill people; the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. Liquid bombs, PETN, planes as missiles: these are all tactics designed to cause terror by killing innocents. But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful. That we allow governments to do these things to us — to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them — is the greatest harm of all.

Frank of America April 21, 2012 12:15 PM

Chertoff no longer lobbies for the manufacturer and in any case was an advocate for body scanners before leaving the TSA.

The author fails to mention that the TSA stops people from bringing dangerous weapons on board aircraft each and every day.

The author also fails to mention a more enlightened US foreign policy would make us less of a target and we probably wouldn’t need such draconian measures.

Tony April 22, 2012 3:23 PM

What all this theatre has done is shifted the target – want to kill a large number of people? Well there’s about 500 stood in a queue waiting for the security checks..

We’ve made it easier for terrorists, but harder for ourselves.

MCFischer May 13, 2012 9:55 AM

Hear! Hear! Why do I feel so much safer and less “violated” getting on a plane in Germany than in the US? For all the reasons above, plus the courteous, confident, albeit no-nonsense way the German security authorities deal with screening. TSA might be able to learn something from them…….

Kyle August 26, 2012 9:38 AM


Now what I want to know is since the TSA security lines are causing passengers to be like sitting ducks in the queue areas what will be their next step when a shooter targets a major airport?

Will the TSA make people wait outside for 1 hour and another 1 hour inside?

What happens if suspects start random shootings outside the airport? Where will they put the sheeples….I mean passengers then?

Think about it. We know have both the boarding area heavily guarded and the front doors heavily guarded yet these criminals still keep randomly shooting so there is no where left to go.

I know! How about have police checkpoints outside the airports to search all vehicles before entering the parking areas in addition to the front entry TSA agents and the boarding gate agents.

Will there be a TSA for the TSA?

Kyle August 26, 2012 9:48 AM

The attitudes of those who say the post 9-11 security never bothers them make me think they are either part of the TSA or were bribed someway to make the claims they did.

The sad thing is
What we are going thru is a thing called duality conscience where we are locked in a black and white spiritual war as most of us refuse to seek higher spiritual aid to help us with our mental blocks…..which are the cause of the problems we see such as the TSA crap.

This is all a gigantic reflection of the attitudes and mindset of the world as we are in the negative timeline heading on a path of destruction where the enemy wins thru you.

These TSA Agents I believe are either spiritless beings who don’t have the spark that most people have or part of the 1/3rd of the angels that rebelled heaven so this is all they have left for them.

Now they just follow orders as that’s what they are good at and I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes all the way up to Satan and I am going to do what I can to fight for justice no matter how bumpy or hard it is….even if I get my teeth kicked.

As weird as this sounds there are both those who are gifted spiritually and those who lack spirituality to the point they cannot make decisions for themselves so they ENJOY having higher ups tell them what to do while getting rewarded.

They won’t be able to handle being responsible for their actions when the time comes to pay their dues and have very little if any hope left in them.

Part of me feels sorry for the TSA that they cannot think for themselves for 1 second.

Kyle August 26, 2012 9:52 AM

And a BIG part of the duality conscience is many church goers become religious fanatics because they read poorly translated bibles which the same pastors most likely are too stubborn to admit so they think they have all the information when they only have part of it.

These same pastors get taught by other pastors who get taught by other pastors all the way thru the dark ages to the point the original translations are long lost or seriously altered perverting the word of God.

Same with Liberals and their green movements which often their attitudes show who they are to the point they forget their actual mission instead pointing fingers at their opponents.

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