Defending All the Targets Is Impossible

In the wake of the recent averted mass shooting on the French railroads, officials are realizing that there are just too many potential targets to defend.

The sheer number of militant suspects combined with a widening field of potential targets have presented European officials with what they concede is a nearly insurmountable surveillance task. The scale of the challenge, security experts fear, may leave the Continent entering a new climate of uncertainty, with added risk attached to seemingly mundane endeavors, like taking a train.

The article talks about the impossibility of instituting airport-like security at train stations, but of course even if were feasible to do that, it would only serve to move the threat to some other crowded space.

Posted on August 27, 2015 at 6:57 AM • 106 Comments


GoatamaAugust 27, 2015 8:00 AM

It may be insurmountable, but damned if they're not gonna try to watch all the things.

rgaffAugust 27, 2015 8:26 AM

Yet the whole incident proves that they do NOT lack eyes to watch out for terrorism... everyone IS the eyes to do that. People stop cowering in fear and start tackling the guy! This is the answer, not invading everyone's privacy and removing the Constitution and human rights from society.

It's also the solution to all the problems with our government too, stop being apathetic about it all and do something about it.

JeffPAugust 27, 2015 8:37 AM

Okay I didn't read the article, but I am floored by the statement, "...a widening field of potential targets..." The field was wide open to begin with. Someone has always been able to board a train or a bus with a gun or bomb. Someone has always been able to walk to a the outside of a baseball stadium or into an open market with a gun or a bomb. Someone has always been able to drive an explosive laden vehicle through the front doors of a school. Someone has always been able to throw gasoline into a night club and light it. There's the sad US expression of "going postal." The field hasn't suddenly widened. The field has *always* been wide open. I apologize if I am ranting or preaching to the choir, but how can "officials" say "widening field" and anyone not call them on it?

*Please* explain the situation to me if I'm wrong.

p.s. I followed the link to read the story after I wrote the above. It's behind a paywall. (I expect the explanations to revolve around "gets high news ratings" and "makes it easy to get funding or pass legislation.")

paulAugust 27, 2015 8:41 AM

It's not just that you move the targets, you create new targets. Every time you set up a perimeter that delays people, you're creating an unsecured crowd. (And of course every time you visibly violate someone's rights with intrusive surveillance, you're potentially creating another person who sympathizes with your ostensible evildoers.)

BobAugust 27, 2015 8:58 AM

How long until they come to the conclusion that fitting us all with monitoring suppositories is the only way to solve the problem?

CallMeLateForSupperAugust 27, 2015 9:33 AM

"...the link... It's behind a paywall.:

Yup. NY Times articles very (most?) often are. For a long time I supredded the urge to click NYT links, to avoid that sinkhole. Recently I figured out an easy way to get around it:
1) install NoScript and Privacy Badger
2) surf to a NYT story, disable the "potential trackers" that PB discovered.

From then on, you're good to go.

(NoScript might be unnecessary for this work-around but I already had it installed, so....)

deLaBoetieAugust 27, 2015 9:42 AM

Asymmetric conflict/power imbalance will always lead to attack of "soft" targets, which move as you increase defences - this is also seen in the more mundane area of CCTV monitoring where crime simply moves location when monitoring is increased.

As usual, the suspect was already known as a person of interest, yet all the communication monitoring and legal powers that have been going on did nothing whatsoever to prevent this.

In fact, the only surprising thing (apart from these events not being more common), is that there haven't been the idiotic calls by politicians and LE for more surveillance powers and blaming encryption. Possibly because it would be even more idiotic and lead people to ask inconvenient questions like, how come all you powers didn't stop this, a King Cnut moment.

And what will happen is pretty useless security theatre with armed police at terminals (as it suggests in the article).

rgaffAugust 27, 2015 9:54 AM

Stop crying about how it wasn't stopped... it WAS STOPPED ALREADY!!!!

Just because YOUR pet Nazi surveillance technique didn't stop it, and something far far more reasonable stopped it, we need to moan and whine about how it WASN'T stopped????? How about we simply encourage more such reasonable behavior instead!

HonestAbeAugust 27, 2015 10:14 AM

In Oslo the immigrant Muslim community there is constantly agitating to bring Sharia law to Norway. They arrived peacefully and integrated peacefully, but are now pushing to turn an open society into another third world hellhole with their fundamentalist nonsense.

This will start happening at other "open" European places and when they meet resistance, more terrorism will occur because there are so many soft targets in a region that prides itself on being open.

If we're all going to be honest with ourselves, this is the fact we have to face.

zAugust 27, 2015 10:14 AM

@ rgaff

This is exactly correct. It is impossible for the government to defend us all the time and incredibly dangerous to liberty to let them try.

We've trained everyone in society to expect the government to do this though, and to run and hide when it fails. Instead, we should just go about our lives being vigilant, but not afraid. There are more of us than there are bad guys.

The 3 Americans on that train showed the perfect way to deal with a mass shooter. You must always, always, always attack him. If you have a weapon, use it. If not, improvise. If that's not possible, use your fists. It's the last thing a mass shooter is expecting and turns the tables so that he is now forced to react instead of you.

rgaffAugust 27, 2015 11:00 AM


Exactly! And if you die trying, oh welp, maybe you heroically saved a few others because your actions gave even more bystanders a chance to dogpile on and overpower him!

And giving those brave guys awards and honors is the right thing to do also. It calls attention to the good work they did, and encourages others to do the same.

But this is not the tone of the article... the tone is "oh.. waaaa... waaa... our uber nazi security forces couldn't do it, some foreigners had to... we need better surveillance, maybe even that's not enough... fear... fear... uncertainty..."

* Shakes fist...

albertAugust 27, 2015 12:15 PM

More fuel for the anti-immigration folks in Europe. There is a growing spectrum of them. It grows from the right-wing extremists, towards the center. No good will come of this. You can't cure systemic problems with LE. These problems are embedded in politics, religion, and culture. They are the result of a few morally bankrupt individuals manipulating the majority of citizens. This is happening on every 'side', where each side is the others 'enemy' and each side has the backing of God.
"...And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually....and he said to Jesus:

"WTF! How did you let me do this?

Jesus replied: "You da Man; you want me to say 'I told you so'? I'll say it, just keep it up and I'll say it...".

God: "No, forget it. Besides, you already said it. If we wait long enough, it'll sort itself out. Between environmental degradation, climate change, and inevitable nuclear holocaust, the end will come sooner that even I expected."

Jesus: "A lot of good folks are gonna suffer..."

God: "I know, I think that doesn't both me?"

Jesus: "I know it does, but we discussed that 'free will' thing, and I pointed out the..."

God: " Don't start on that again..."

Jesus: "Just sayin'..."

God: "I swear to...I don't even have someone to swear to.."[sighs]

Jesus: "Well I do"

God: "If you know what's good for you...

Jesus: [sighs]

. .. . .. o

Gerard van VoorenAugust 27, 2015 12:42 PM

@ Albert,

> You can't cure systemic problems with LE.

The immigration problems are caused by the US led invasion of Iraq. Why isn't the US taking these refugees?

In the Netherlands we call the actions of the US "Seagull Politics". Which means screaming arrive, shitting the place all over, and then fluttering away.

parabarbarianAugust 27, 2015 12:42 PM

Maybe they will pull their collective head out of their collective asterisk and realize that terrorism is a diffuse threat and can only be defeated buy a diffuse defense.

thevoidAugust 27, 2015 1:13 PM

i can't find the origin source for this quote, but it is used endlessly (because it is appropriate):

"We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

while looking for the source for the above quote, i found this one that is also quite fitting:

"The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without" - Eisenhower

jdgaltAugust 27, 2015 2:21 PM

This is exactly why guns, and concealed carry, need to be legal.

Cops simply can't be everywhere in time. But potential victims who could fight back already are!

albertAugust 27, 2015 2:35 PM

That's what I was hinting at. The US ME geopolitical meddling goes back to WWII. "Seagull Politics", that's good.
"...pull their collective head out of their collective asterisk...", +1
. .. . .. o

AnuraAugust 27, 2015 2:52 PM


The problem with concealed carry is that people aren't good shots, they aren't necessarily aware of the situation, and you can't always tell who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.

So let's say you are in the middle of a predominantly white area, and there is a terrorist attack. Now we have six would-be heroes, who start opening fire at the terrorists. Of course, if one of the would-be heroes is black then they are likely to get shot by another would-be hero for standing out, which might cause his would-be hero buddy to target the other would-be hero, and with would-be heroes shooting would-be heroes, it is difficult for other would-be heroes to figure out that those guys are would-be heroes. If this is, indeed, a terrorist attack, it is probably a crowded area, in which the bystanders not only have to worry about the actual terrorists, but all the would-be heroes that don't realize that just because they can hit a target at a shooting range, it means jack shit in real situations.

tyrAugust 27, 2015 3:19 PM

I'm wondering how NATO is responding to the failure of
their policies. Bomb Libya african refugees flood into
the EU. Bomb Syria ME refugees flood into the EU. Now
science says you should examine what happens in causal
chains so that you can understand them. Do they really
need thousands of Rus flooding into the EU ?

USA already experienced the same thing with NAFTA, if
you destroy a neighboring countries economy the smarter
types flood across your border and take your jobs.
Those who work as farm labour have always crossed back
and forth but they aren't taking anyones job. The few
who tried farm labour cheerfully allow migrants to do it.

It doesn't help much when the War on Drugs turns their
country into a war zone. To cap it off DOJ encourages
the cartels access to weapons and the DEA turns out to
be in collusion with the worst of the drug cartels.
NATO is not alone in doing things that make everyones
problems worse. Wahabi Islam has a lot to answer for
all over the planet.

In an industrial society most of which is dimly seen
by the average citizen the idea you can secure all of the
dangerous stuff is ludicrous. You can't hire enough
security. Most people here know you can't even get them
to pay attention to computer security until they lose
it in some massive data breach or powerplant meltdown.

How has the industry responded, why Windows 10 of course
by enforcing your complete transparency to M$.

I do like the idea of replacing the Eagle with a jewish
sparrow as USAs symbol though.

rgaffAugust 27, 2015 3:32 PM

@Anura, jdgalt

Indeed, the problems aren't just being good shots and being aware of the situation, hard enough as it is... but also, if you are carrying a weapon around all the time, are you sure you're going to keep control of it when someone attacks you, or are you going to just arm them with something more dangerous than they had before when they wrestle it away from you? You see, when I ask my friends "how well can you handle a gun" I'm not just asking how well they can shoot at an inanimate target on a range, I'm asking how good their skills are using/keeping it in a hand to hand combat situation. But NONE of them EVER think of it that way... they're just awesome if they can shoot a target, that's all... That's scary to me, frankly.

Another thing is proper safety protocols, I think at least many of them are aware of this, but that doesn't necessarily mean practice... You see, if I'm more likely to be shot if I have a gun, than if I don't (by my own gun of course)... then I don't want a gun. I'll take my chances. More training than merely target practice is required, in my opinion, to make it go the other way.

Guns aren't for "scaring" people with, they are for shooting with. You don't just brandish it and be all hot stuff. Every time that handgun is fired, it better be with intent to kill someone on the other end (or training to do so), or it's stupid to even bother. And have the training to be able to recognize in a high pressure situation when you're in the moral right doing so too! And frankly, I just haven't met enough people I've needed to kill to get trained for that (so far: zero)...

Clive RobinsonAugust 27, 2015 4:19 PM

For those talking about guns,

First look up the total number of people killed in the USA by guns last year, then look up the number of people killed by or in a road vehicle... do you notice the similarity in the numbers?

Now consider how many times when driving you have seen or directly experienced bad or dangerous driving last year.

Are those death figures and experiance of bad driving helping you draw a conclusion of what is going to happen if as many people "conceal carry" as drive?

And remember a bullet does not care if it's fired by a good or bad person, nor does it care if it injures a good or bad person, the only people who care are the loved ones, and those with a political axe to grind.

Oh and from the video footage the unfortunate TV Reporter and Camera man who were shot by an ex coworker yesterday, they would not have been helped in any way by concealed carry. And that's the point, an attacker will just pick a time and place where they have the upper hand, and be gone by the time anyone else realises what is going on, let alone get their gun out to be shot by another concealed carrier who's arives a few seconds later and makes the wrong assumption. There is a reason soldiers and police officers wear uniforms, yet in the heat of it we still get blue on blue deaths.

JustinAugust 27, 2015 4:29 PM

@ Clive Robinson

I remember being on the street in Portland, Oregon, one night when I needed a gun and I didn't have one. Luckily there were other people who had guns*, and they helped me out. I'm really happy about that, because I'm still alive and I'm not in prison. Next time I need a gun, though, I might need one myself, though, because there might not necessarily be other people with guns in the vicinity willing to help me out....

* Not cops, just guys on the street.

Clive RobinsonAugust 27, 2015 4:40 PM

@ z,

The 3 Americans on that train showed the perfect way to deal with a mass shooter.

You might want to check the nationality of the four men who were awarded France's highest medal of honour for stopping the gunman. And also the nationality of the man who was badly shot, who first tried to stop the gunman.

tzAugust 27, 2015 4:43 PM

If there are lots of armed people around (and CCW in most states requires training), there will be at least one person who can take action.

Or even open carry - would you try something if you see someone with a sidearm?

Assassinations - very specific targets - will be difficult, but the only alternative is the police, and they aren't effective for all the reasons mentioned.

We also don't see all the stories about where crimes were prevented.

This is almost identical to the vaccine problem. If a million people are vaccinated, 100 may die from side effects. The question is how dangerous and contagious the disease is, if only 10 would die from the disease, it is better NOT to vaccinate.

If everyone carries weapons, and can use them, there will be a certain amount of deaths from errors. But there will also be far fewer crimes - (serious, violent) crimes are the disease. Guns are the vaccination. Now if we "vaccinate" most of the population, will we have a better outcome?

parabarbarianAugust 27, 2015 4:55 PM

Oh, for heaven's sake. Carrying a firearm is not a panacea but it does improve your chance of getting out of a bad situation relatively unscathed. If people need more training then then US Constitution provides for training of the militia. Even a basic drivers training course significantly reduces the odds of a new driver having an accident. Apply the same logic to guns.

Maybe it is time to stop talking about "first responders" and seriously consider empowering the potential victims as the "zeroeth responders". It doesn't have to be just about guns and I get that, in some places, they are just too icky to be considered for the unbadged.

AnuraAugust 27, 2015 5:12 PM


The problem is that concealed carry is not a good solution to the problem. If you are afraid you might get mugged, the solution is to fix the socioeconomic issues in order to prevent the muggings. If he has a gun pointed at you, you are probably not going to be able to draw the gun quickly enough anyway. Instead, establish an unconditional basic income, institute urban development programs that hire and train people from impoverished communities to fix them up, provide a good minimum wag, etc. Do what you need to do to get rid of the poverty; we have the ability to do that.

If you want to reduce terrorist attacks, get out of the Middle East, take all those resources that we are spending on security and military and use it to subsidize development programs in third world countries where the people actually want our help, and where that help doesn't include dropping bombs on weddings, but instead providing education and infrastructure to help them facilitate growth.

Having everyone running around with guns, wanting to be heroes increases your risk of getting shot by accident, and it increases your odds that some drunken jackass will get pissed off and shoot you because you got in an argument after they rear ended you.

jimAugust 27, 2015 5:32 PM

Threats are scattered, diverse, and decentralized, maybe the defense should be decentralized as well, with each potential target taking responsibility to learn about defense and to defuse, repulse, avoid, and recover from attacks. Maybe an important role of the centralized part of defense is education.

albertAugust 27, 2015 6:05 PM

The main problem with your argument is that you are using logic and reason to present solutions to systemic problems. Stop doing that:) Even the Blood-Sucking Parasites who create these problems know the solutions (but would never admit it). The ultimate solution consists of marginalizing, if not eliminating, the BSP class.
. .. . .. o

Sancho_PAugust 27, 2015 6:41 PM

The American solution is simple:

1) Weapons for all, good or bad, police or terrorist.
2) A law that compels bad people to colorize their skin in red.
Happy shooting!

Oh wait - wouldn’t point 2) suffice?

Dirk PraetAugust 27, 2015 7:27 PM

@ rgaff

How about we simply encourage more such reasonable behavior instead!

You are vastly over-simplifying things.

For starters, very few people will (re)act in a rational way when confronted with this type of situations. In this particular case, three out of four of the men who took out the perp were able-bodied young men with a military background, trained to stay calm and work as a team. The first guy who tried wasn't and got shot. So the first question you should ask yourself is what you would have done and what - realistically - your odds would have been of taking out a man with a Kalashnikov, assuming that he wouldn't have gotten down on his knees and beg for mercy by you calling him a nazi.

The simple fact of the matter is that unless you are Jason Bourne, you stand no chance whatsoever against an opponent with a gun. That's the first thing you'll learn in any self-defense course other than an advanced Krav Maga class. Second thing is that in most Western countries the state has a monopoly on the use of violence and hence are quite reluctant to promote vigilantism in any form as the outcome can and will result in paranoid or xenophobic nutcases taking matters into their own hands because someone looks or talks funny. Although it's probably the last of anyone's concerns, there's also the very real possibility that you end up getting sued by the gunman's lawyers for every penny you've got. I know of several jewelry store owners over here that in a travesty of justice got convicted over shooting their robbers.

Although I wholeheartedly concur that even more draconian surveillance or extending TSA-like security theatre to train stations is neither desirable or sustainable, the solution is unfortunately less straight-forward than you make it sound.

In essence, it is impossible to defend against any situation. I'm afraid it's something we'll have to learn to live with. Despite the constant fear-mongering, the reality is that terrorist attacks remain rare and the resulting casualties insignificant compared to other mortality causes. Statistically, there simply is no business case to transform an open and tolerant society into an authoritarian surveillance state. Which is exactly what extremists on both sides of the spectrum want.

What I am willing to consider, though, is our society taking a much stronger stance against religiously motivated hate speech and incitement to violence. However much it may be infringing on free speech, I believe there is no place in our society for the likes of Anjem Chaudary (UK) or Fouad Belkacem (Belgium), both of whom are abusing the very rights and values they wish to destroy, in the process causing unmeasurable damage to our communities.

Arguably, there is a lot of work to do in terms of better integration of immigrants and other minority groups, but this is not going to happen overnight. Same thing can be said about the questionable western foreign policy towards the Middle East. But in admitting these problems, I believe as a society we must also send a very clear message to extremists, hate preachers and their followers that they are either free to try and achieve their goals by democratic means or else are free to go back to wherever they or their fathers came from.

@ parabarbarian, @ tz, @ jdgalt and others

Can we please not turn this into a gun debate ? The transatlantic rift on the issue is making any discussion in essence futile.

But while we're on the subject, please consider that in the US every six months more people die of gun related causes than the total number of terrorist casualties in the country's history, including those fallen in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

tzAugust 27, 2015 9:35 PM

William Lind discusses this in the context of 4th generation war

Third, Airman First Class Spencer Stone, his two friends, one a civilian, and the two European civilians showed how an effective defense against random, loner 4GW attacks works. It cannot depend on the National Security State. Even with its vast (and unwelcome) growth, the NSS can only cover a small fraction of a society’s vulnerable points. Effective protection in 4GW depends on a citizenry that will act in its own defense.

What the situation requires is in effect an updated form of a universal militia, a militia for Fourth Generation war. Unlike past militias, this one will not be a formal organization. There will be no uniforms, ranks, drill, or weapons. It will consist, ideally, of every male old enough but not too old to fight. Its members will pledge themselves–the pledge may be explicit or implicit–to act as Airman Stone and his helpers did on the train to Paris. When a “terrorist” (or just a nut case) shows a weapon, everybody jumps him. Some may die. On the train to Paris, those who acted said later they expected to die. But no loner or small group of shooters can hold off lots of other men coming at them, even if they are unarmed. Once would-be terrorists know they will be opposed and overrun, some will be deterred. Those who go ahead anyway and open up on civilians will lose at every level. Physically they will get stomped. Mentally they will fail to terrorize, because their actions will be met not with terror but with courage. Morally they and their cause will suffer a heavy defeat because they will be fought and beaten by those weaker than themselves, i.e., people without weapons. They will lose for the same reason the U.S. Air Force lost every previous engagement in the “War on Terror”: Goliath always loses.

For those of us who do not welcome the National Security State, a universal 4GW militia offers a way to provide security with liberty. The NSS is and will always be a threat to liberty, because it represents ever-greater government intrusion into our lives. A militia poses no such threat. Unarmed and purely defensive, it does not threaten liberty, it exemplifies it. It shows how a free people replies to danger: through individual initiative.

tzAugust 27, 2015 9:51 PM

To put it more succinctly:

No centralized system of defense can defend all targets, you need more nodes capable of defense, including where all nodes or even targets can defend themselves.

Also it need not require 100% success, just sufficient to deter.

For some reason psychotic killers bent on a massacre do not do so at NRA conventions in constitutional carry states, but pick "gun free zones" like schools which they can expect no defense for 10 minutes (911 latency).

parabarbarianAugust 27, 2015 10:14 PM

@Dirk Praet

I am not trying to turn it into a gun debate. I was advocating thinking outside the box. For many people an armed citizenry qualifies as outside so I mentioned it. If guns are too scary then don't include them in your planning. I know it is generally fruitless to fight more than one taboo at at a time.

rgaffAugust 27, 2015 10:53 PM


"2) A law that compels bad people to colorize their skin in red. Happy shooting!"

Didn't we Americans already try this? Then steal their land and herd them into little plots of land of their own? I mean, sure, it was another time when the boogyman of the day was "savages" instead of "muslims"....


I like your general idea of a citizenry unafraid and willing to take out threats themselves even at their own peril and even when unarmed themselves.

@Dirk Praet

I don't agree with the whole "you have no chance, so don't ever try" mentality. Sorry. That kind of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and actually an existential threat to society, in my opinion.

fredAugust 27, 2015 11:39 PM

@ rgaff

The people should not be deprived of means and tools to fend for themselves against perceivable dangers. I think we can all agree on that.

rgaffAugust 28, 2015 12:22 AM



Since this has become a thread about arms... let me be clear: I am not personally against arms nor against the 2nd amendment... What I am against, is my friends having them near me when they don't know how to use them properly (which by my definition is MUCH MUCH more than just a bit of target practice and the most basic safety lesson, see above). I myself don't know how to use them properly either by this definition, so I'm against owning one myself too. I am an American and I live in the USA, so this is not just a one side of the Atlantic vs the other issue. To me this is just a practicality issue, where I don't want to be significantly more likely to be shot by accident by friendly fire than by a criminal.

What I am for is people fighting back against crime, not cowering in fear and terror. If you'll only do that if you GET "properly trained" by my definition, then by all means, do that.... go and get properly trained to handle and keep control of a weapon in a hand to hand combat situation, to have it drilled into you when you're in the moral right to use it and when you're not, to have a great situational awareness at all times so you don't make the wrong decisions, and to practice very good safety procedures to drastically reduce the likelihood of killing someone by accident! By all means, get trained.

But even if you aren't properly trained like that, please don't cower in fear and terror of crime. Rise up and fight against it. This is what I'm intending to be my main point here. A citizenry that will fight back is the biggest defense against violent crime. And a citizenry that isn't afraid and isn't terrorized, is the biggest defense against so-called "terrorism."

fredAugust 28, 2015 1:00 AM

@ rgaff

Has it ever occurred to us that we are perhaps not targets to defend but collateral damage? Right to bear arms like self defense is a big subject of controversy because of use and misuse. Like operating vehicles and machinery require levels of skill and judgement, firearms and other defense tools can be trained and secured. As all things are relative defense tools can be used offensively thus if impossible to defend all targets then lets allow all targets to defend themselves against terrorists, criminals, oppressive regimes, and all other mischiefs.

Gerard van VoorenAugust 28, 2015 1:17 AM

@ rgaff,

I feel a lot safer in a train full of people who carry pepper spray than in a train full of people who carry hand guns for self defence.

Clive RobinsonAugust 28, 2015 4:40 AM

@ rgaff,

I used to wear the green and went through weapons training, at the basic level most soldiers are taught, they don't teach you much about how to stop yourself being disarmed, it's mainly about putting the other guy down by fair means or foul.

One thing you do learn is that you don't alow an enemy within three body lengths of you if you are armed. Even if they have surendered, they are still the enemy, thus you use a two or three man team to secure them. The team members with weapons stay outside the limit with their weapons sighted, not pointed at the enemy, the enemy is ordered to get down on the ground with arms and legs stretched out. The team member who secures the enemy is unarmed and aproaches out of the enemies sight line where possible and jumps heavily on them to wind them etc, then they search them. Unfortunatly for soldiers the "yellow card" does not alow this sort of treatment on civilians, which puts the soldiers in danger with asymetric warfare.

What you find out in more advanced training is that close in an unarmed man has a very real advantage over an armed man. The reason is two fold, firstly the gun is a very inefficient weapon close in because of it's high directionality, secondly the person holding a gun usually focuses on trying to use the gun as a gun rather than keep the attacker at more than arms length and off balance. Worse they usually hold the gun out as though it's some kind of shield which it's not and this alows the unarmed person to "get inside of it" or knock it out of the persons hand etc. As an unarmed person the thing to do is react quickly, to either close on the gun holder or get into non trapping cover at distance, all whilst presenting as minimal a target as you can, and don't stop moving even when in cover. As I was once told, "guns are only designed to do one thing, they are not knives or shields, and they don't make good clubs" and "So every bullet they fire is one less oportunity to kill you".

But even with all the training you still get blue on blue shootings, and there is a problem with the way police are generaly trained. They are encoraged to think that civilians are unarmed thus any one holding a weapon of any type is a criminal or enemy. In the US the fact that few officers get prosecuted for shooting unarmed people tells you what's likely to happen if you are seen holding a gun by a hyped up police officer with his gun drawn.

The other thing is the police learn about is the use of "overwhelming force", as the number of weapons on the street rises they step up their armament. I don't want police to have hand guns let alone semi and full auto combat weapons, because that will only lead to further escalation, that's what history has shown us.

None of which means I think individuals should not be able to defend themselves, on the contrary I think they should be taught to, along with other training such as first aid, earthquake and fire drills, healthy cooking/eating, excercise, reading, writing and practical mathmatics and maintainance skills. Where possible all people should be taught such things from a very early age, it leads to increased self reliance, and self confidence, and also helps stop minor problems becoming major issues. It is another form of health, alongside physical and mental health, and healthy populations tend to be a lot more resiliant, productive and happy than unhealthy populations.

The thing is that contrary to what people tend to think, living in society is more dangerous then not. The more we mechanise and concentrate our populations the more likely accidents and other incidents are to happen. That is a fire in a house, is potentialy only going to kill one family, a fire in a block of appartments/flats is potentialy going to kill as many families as there are appartments, and the likelyhood of a fire happening is going to be increased by the number of appartments. Likewise an earthquake is going to cause more damage in a built up area than not. A person with an incubating illness is going to come in contact with more people more quickly in a city than they are in rural areas, thus diseases will be both more prevalent and infective (which is why the limit on the population of cities used to be around 40,000). There is only so far technology can mitigate the increase in sociatal risk, thus people need to learn how to live in ways that further mitigate sociatal risk, not just for themselves --the libitarian/issolationist view-- but for all those around them --the social/societal view-- on the principle that a rising tide floats all boats equally.

Thus whilst like you I'm not gun averse, I just don't want them on the streets etc, in what could fairly be called "a target rich environment" because the sociatal risk is to high, and that risk can not be lowered by putting more guns on the street.

rgaffAugust 28, 2015 5:14 AM

@Clive Robinson

You have highlighted many of the problems I have with friends who think their guns will "save" them somehow... with much more detail than I could.

It only helps when you know how to use it to help, and know how to make sure it isn't an even bigger problem. Passing out guns to every child-like adult doesn't accomplish this.

But the mental component of stopping being afraid, and being willing to do whatever it takes to fix things, with your bare hands if necessary... that has more potential. Don't listen to politicians trying to increase fear to promote their agenda, and don't listen to the media trying to sell you fear to make a dollar. Terror and fear is a mental state within each of us, and we each have the power to get rid of it inside us.

CouldntPossiblyCommentAugust 28, 2015 7:23 AM

For what it's worth, I believe Clive & rgaff is correct. It's far more about refusing to be terrorised, and recognising that the likelihood of someone deciding to spray your particular train that day with bullets is actually low, than needing everyone to become a potential & highly inept armed combatant. If nothing else, when the LEOs do show up, they probably don't want to have to guess which of the people brandishing firearms are friendly or not, nor deal with some scared kid with a gun who doesn't know friend from foe either.

In that regard, I found the article predictably sensationalist in that it did its level best to imply that there are thousands of militants just waiting for the right moment to cause terror, just around the corner. It could be you, your train, your loved ones. Classic fear-mongering.

Perhaps it should have been recognising that the threat actually was stopped, without guns, by brave people (ok potentially with training), and maybe that if more people thought that way, the terrorists would realise that they have to deal with angry mobs who'll put them down rather than terrorised mobs that run away. By all means advocate training the populace - perhaps starting with refusing to give into fear-mongering, followed by an element of social responsibility such as unselfish acts that benefit not just yourself but others too (where tackling a gun-wielding terrorist while unarmed yourself is just one extremely brave example).

As an aside, I have never understood this notion that guns help defend anything from anything. Guns are a weapon. They have one purpose - to maim or kill. People defend things, in lots of different ways. To conflate use of guns with defense is to imply that the only way to defend someone is to kill someone else or threaten to do so. I would humbly submit that this is quite a narrow view of defense.

JustinAugust 28, 2015 7:38 AM

@ Clive, rgaff, CouldntPossiblyComment

What if we only allowed criminals to possess guns? Oh, wait...

Clive RobinsonAugust 28, 2015 8:49 AM

@ Justin,

What if we only allowed criminals to possess guns? Oh, wait..

It's an argument that's been made many times before, but I guess many don't listen to the answer.

As can be seen from American figures "accidental shooting" numbers are significant and common sense indicats that the number of accidental shots fired must be higher than this by a significant factor (otherwise the shootings would certainly not be accidental). Thus the basic laws of probability indicates the first part of the answer is that less guns in circulation will cause less accidental shooting and thus cause less death and injury, and importantly less guns available to be stolen for or diverted into criminals hands.

Secondly the number of locked up criminals are only about 0.1% of the population most places (higher in the US). However by far the majority of those are not for firearms related cases. There are also a good many other criminals undergoing punishment that are not locked up and the majority of these have no firearms offenses. Thus though it might appear otherwise reading the press or listening to politicos gun related crime is a small fraction of violent crime, which is a small fraction total crime.

Thirdly it is most likely that criminals have not had any formal training with guns and will probably handle them badly, due to lack of practice, bravado etc. Thus you would expect the number of accidental shootings amongst them would be on the upper side of the average. It may actually be significantly greater as accidental shootings amoungst criminals is very definitely going to be under reported, if reported at all. Whilst any accidental shooting is undesirable, if it's mainly constrained to criminals being wounded or killed, it's not going to take a lot of imagination to work out what most uninvoled people will think.

But fourthly there is also basic economics to consider, restricting guns in the general population makes it harder for criminals to get guns because the supply side is much less. This also has the effect of significantly pushing the price up which makes them less of a throw away item for criminals, so the number of incidents of guns being carried or fired actually drops rather more than the price rise.

Because unlike places where it's legal to carry weapons as an ordinary citizen, when only criminals have them it's a clear indicator of being a criminal and usually subject to significant sanction, thus criminals would not ordinarily carry them. Thus reducing the chance of accidental shootings.

The other thing is have a look at what sort of weapons are prefered by criminals, it's mainly hand guns or small length auto and semiauto weapons for ease of concealment and use. Further look at the accidental shootings by fire arm type, just restricting gun ownership to "long barreled, long stock, single shot" guns and rifles is going to reduce the numbers, but also make the legal weapons available considerably less desirable to criminals.

The problem is there are so many unknown guns in the US that even if there were restrictions put in across all states tomorrow the chances are supply to criminals would not diminish much for fifty to a hundred years even though the price would rise significantly.

JustinAugust 28, 2015 9:51 AM

... the first part of the answer is that less guns in circulation will cause less accidental shooting ...

The real answer is easily available and voluntary firearm safety education and training.

The problem is there are so many unknown guns in the US that even if there were restrictions put in across all states tomorrow the chances are supply to criminals would not diminish much for fifty to a hundred years even though the price would rise significantly.

Oh I used to have one of those unknown guns. I guess you'd call it an "assault rifle." I was banned at the rifle range because I put too many bullets through the target in too short a time and the other shooters got scared. Yawn. Who knows if I still have it? It didn't affect interstate commerce anyway.

AnuraAugust 28, 2015 10:39 AM

@Clive Robinson

The problem is there are so many unknown guns in the US that even if there were restrictions put in across all states tomorrow the chances are supply to criminals would not diminish much for fifty to a hundred years even though the price would rise significantly.

That's not necessarily true.

About 15 percent of crime guns were recovered within 1 year of their first retail purchase. 32 percent of crime guns were recovered within 3 years of their first retail purchase.

So you can expect a significant drop in gun crime in only a few years by banning handguns. This indicates a lot of straw purchases that would dry up immediately. A large portion of handguns used in crimes are also stolen, and by banning handguns it would make it a lot more difficult to find guns to steal.

There is also going to be a portion of murderers who purchased their guns legally, especially heat of the moment murders; I know there have been incidents in which people who were legally carrying concealed weapons have used their guns in road rage incidents.

albertAugust 28, 2015 11:19 AM

NATO policy = US policy. EU countries have little to say about it ( ignoring the EU MSM stage shows), since the US effectively runs the banking system. Without going on record and with plausible deniability, I'll bet most EU politicians and oligarchs would admit they'd rather abandon NATO and the US strategic plans for the Eurozone. There's a huge potential trade zone in Eurasia. and EU countries know they could get a bigger piece of it absent US psychotic meddling.
That said, the EU are willing co-conspirators. I was hoping Greece would lead the movement away from US/EU control, followed by Spain and Italy, but that didn't happen. I was also disappointed by BRICS not aligning with Greece financially. There's no reason why Greece can't bootstrap itself up like Iceland did. They are doing better now than before the crash.
. .. . .. o

mishehuAugust 28, 2015 11:35 AM

To all of you who are trying to make a comparison between cars and guns and the number of deaths each year in the USA, please stop it (Clive, you too, and I normally enjoy your comments here). There are quite a number of reasons why that comparison is anything but an apples to oranges comparison:

1. In the most of the USA, a car is *required* if you want to be able to do anything at all basically.
2. Guns, even when carried by a large number of the population, are *not* drawn on a daily basis. Carried is not used.
3. Some of the places with the strictest laws on the ownership and usage of guns ironically have the highest rates of gun violence. (See: City of Chicago as an example)
4. The war on drugs and gangland warfare account for a non-insignificant portion of the gun violence. Poverty in general and (this part is my personal opinion) all the issues surrounding "tough on crime" attitudes and mandatory minimum sentencing takes away any incentive from the criminals to not perform a worse crime. What's another year or two on the sentence going to make when if they kill the victim there's a better chance they may escape?
5. The laws pertaining to carrying a gun vary quite widely. In California, it is practically impossible to get a concealed carry license, and open carry is downright forbidden. On the other hand, Texas requires classes, and though those may not be ultimately sufficient, the trainers usually offer more advance classes about handling situations where guns may be involved, and a more intensive background check than you need to purchase a gun. In other places, including Virginia and Washington state, it is what we call "constitutional carry" which means you can openly carry your guns around with you without any requirements other than being legally allowed to own a gun.

I've been nearly killed 3 times this week on the road by drivers who could not keep themselves within their lanes and did not know how to yield to the right-of-way. I have been nearly killed or even nearly injured with a gun exactly 0 times in years - since I was in the military myself. Though my story in this paragraph is an anecdote, I would put my money on this being the normal experience for most Americans every week.

rgaffAugust 28, 2015 12:47 PM


"The real answer is easily available and voluntary firearm safety education and training."

Technically, I'd agree that more training would be a really big help. However, EVERY SINGLE FRIEND I HAVE who owns a gun, thinks a very very basic and almost useless-in-a-real-situation training (in my opinion) is GOOD ENOUGH.... and I strongly disagree. They need much more training than that! Knowing how to handle a gun in a real combat situation isn't just a bit of target practice and a basic safety instruction.

Since people are comparing it to cars, pretend there are no roads. There's nowhere to drive a car. But everyone's got to have one JUST IN CASE they run across a road once or twice in their ENTIRE LIFETIMES. Because it's their constitutional right to own cars, and everyone needs to exercise their constitutional rights. In this kind of ridiculous situation, how many people do you think will have real live practical experience driving them??? Oh, but they've read that instruction manual once, and they've honked the horn, and twiddled with the steering wheel lots while it's sitting in their front yard... Maybe they've even turned the key and charged up the battery.... OMG... they TOTALLY have plenty of experience... right?

Likewise, all these friends of mine who own guns (technically very few of my friends do, the USA isn't actually crawling with gun toters) do NOT have experience shooting people, or knowledge or training dealing with any sort of combat situation involving guns. You do not stumble into a crime happening every day, maybe the average person only sees one once or twice in their lifetime (meaning the majority of places you will never see one in an entire lifetime, and in a few places you will see it unfortunately more often).


"I have never understood this notion that guns help defend anything from anything. Guns are a weapon. They have one purpose - to maim or kill. People defend things"

This is precisely my point, thank you for putting it so nicely. You take out a gun when you're in a situation where you actually need to kill someone (and you're in the moral right to do so)... otherwise, put that stupid thing away! As far as defense goes, lots of ways to defend things without a gun, and it starts with the mind: don't consider yourself a victim of life, consider yourself as an agent of change for the better.

Clive RobinsonAugust 28, 2015 1:04 PM

@ Justin,

The real answer is easily available and voluntary firearm safety education and training

Ever heard of the "Dunning-Kruger effect"[1]?
There should be nothing voluntary about such training, a gun is dangerous machinery, and in just about every other walk of life you have to demonstrate competance before you are alowed to operate dangerous machinery. And in most western nations and many other places that applies to all road vehicles with four or more wheels, and most two wheeled vehicles with engines above a very small horse power / cc / etc rating. So why should guns be treated as though they are not dangerous machinery that require a qualified operator?

@ Anura,

So you can expect a significant drop in gun crime in only a few years by banning handguns.

As I indicated further up I believe the basic economic rules of supply and demand will come in and the price will rise, this will change the price of weapons and thus criminals will stop using them as throw away items. What I think the figures you quote above show is that currently the attitude to guns by criminals in the US is that of a high churn market like that of mobile phones, which are fad / fashion / throwaway markets. The only way we will find out will be if such a ban is imposed and sadly that is very unlikely to happen.

@ mishehu,

There are quite a number of reasons why that comparison is anything but an apples to oranges comparison

In general I agree with you, what however I was trying to point out is the problem with "competence to operate" and the inability of some people to know what they see as normal or reasonable behaviour is seen by everybody else as not just reckless but incredibly dangerous. Part of it is down to the Dunning-Kruger effect[1] part other mental issues and some due to adressable chemical imbalance. It's often quite difficult to get people to understand just what percentage of the population suffer from these cognative disconnects and just how dangerous they can realy be.

I've found in the past that sufficiently many people who have experienced such dangerous driving can then see that Dunning-Kruger effect is both very real and it's effects very dangerous.

Thus on this point it may act as a predictor to what would happen if nearly everybody in a particular socio-economic group were alowed or worse effectivly required --as in driving-- to conceal carry guns. After all it's not hard to find clearly visable evidence of such behaviour in certain parts of the US with "shot up" road signs and mail boxes, which can be seen all over the place. Having had to be in some of those parts on business several years ago it left me with some considerable disquiet.


SkepticalAugust 28, 2015 1:07 PM

That not all targets can be equally well defended simultaneously does not mean that no targets should be well defended, though, of course.

The environment described in the post is one where intelligence assumes greater importance, as one needs it to deploy available resources dynamically and most effectively, and to engage in that best of all defenses - detection and arrest before the attack ever occurs.

There are certain aspects of this case that raise the possibility of a coordinated attack that did not occur - being able to backtrack the steps of this individual, to rewind a tape, could be remarkably useful here.

I wonder, would certain persons think it a scandal, or think it justified, were individuals associated with radical mosques whose travel pattern also indicated some likelihood of attempting (at least) travel to Syria, subject to what would be termed electronic surveillance in the United States? At what point would such surveillance cease to be justified?

ianfAugust 28, 2015 1:19 PM

Lots of food for thought in this thread, not all of it… nutritious. People, whose first reaction to combatting public threat situations in the future turns to guns—whether open or concealed carry—think with their reptilian brains, and never ever consider that motivated attackers/ terrorists/ random murderer-wannabes always posses the advantage of surprise, of picking the place & time. How on Earth is any "legally armed citizen" nearby supposed to stop, let alone prevent what's under way, if not already over (as was the case in the last few public shootings), is never considered by the gun-panaceists. Because being able to carry a gun in public is like brandishing a bigger penis, or a muscular vagina (equal opportunity practitioner here ;-))

That said, we are missing THE BIGGER POINT: that practically all (known) terrorist attacks from 2001-9-11 onwards have happened because the security services in various places did not do their jobs properly [lone wolfs excepted]. By and large the evil-doers, both foreign terrorists and home-grown mass-murderers, were known and/or flagged as potential threats in their home countries, yet little was done to prevent them acting in advance.

For that the democracies in Europe only have their DOESN'T-HAPPEN-HERE complacency to blame (I'd rather not discuss failures of the gung-ho CIA, NSA & FBI to act pre-9/11, because I wouldn't know where to start/ where to assign the blame. Suffice it to say that, far as I know, not a single American official whose job it was to THINK ahead, was degraded, stripped off his medals, pension or faced with charges of negligence in the wake of these events. Thus nobody learned anything of value to anyone but the emerging Security-Theater-Industrial Complex. Perhaps because the mental rot emanated from the top, where the buck stops. But then, what could one expect of the US electoral outcomes—one C-in-C covering up a domestic morals scandal by launching Tomahawks at a Sudan medicine factory; the other's accession hanging on contested voting tally in a state governed by his brother rhetorical question).

Digression over, let's consider general state of mind of Euro security services. Instead of HUMINT, intelligence targeted at profiled groups & individuals, these agencies concentrate on SIGINT, and in collusion with their American brethren, invest their energy in gathering immeasurable records of everything uttered online. All in an imaginary belief that quantity will trump quality, and that once the data is in, it'll be just a matter of mining it correctly. Which in turn assumes that there are methods and tactics to achieve that with precision, immediacy, and consistency over time.

All of that is a fallacy writ large to anyone who has ever contemplated that the bigger the haystack, the harder it is to find the needle in it (Philosophy 101; Bruce & Clive will have the applicable statistical math formulas ;-)). Yet somehow this is presumed not to apply to state-level invigilation actors, even though all known evidence so far indicates that many a terror act could have been prevented had those up front been able to separate the threats from the chaff. Remember the underpants bomber? The Copenhagen, Toulon & Paris Charlie Hebdo killers? All previously known to the security apparatchiks and local police, all allowed to roam free in the name of otherwise commendable adherence to basic human rights.

As it slowly goes up for various politicians that European land transport networks can not be effectively policed, they'll have to adopt other security models. The Israelis have largely tackled both airport-, rail-, and bus-borne terror (not without enough victims to make any Euro policy maker's hair turn gray in an instant), but their deep psychological expertise in recognizing threat patterns has thus far not been officially welcomed in an Europe that pays lip service to the plight of the Palestinians. And the derision of Israel walling off PA to prevent terrorist infiltration knew no boundaries[sic]. Maybe now that some EU states have started building physical fences to stave off mass-migration, the amassed Israeli survival policies will gain acceptance among the Europeans.

(I am not Israeli, but have been known to playact one on the Internet).

AnuraAugust 28, 2015 1:27 PM

@Clive Robinson

What I expect to happen is that who uses the guns will change. If you can't steal a gun or get one from a straw purchase, you are left with organized crime, and it will be a lot more difficult to find a gun dealer if you don't know the right people (if it's easy for anyone to get a gun, it's easy for police to find gun dealers, and if you have 3-5 year sentences for selling a handgun it becomes too risky to sell to just anyone).

Gerard van VoorenAugust 28, 2015 2:01 PM

@ rgaff,

The chance of meeting a terrorist in a train who wants to commit his plot are slim to zero. However if everyone has a handgun the chance of meeting guys in a train with handguns is 100%. People are people.

Serious, with pepper spray you are gonna live another day and without regret in case of an accident or a small riot. I know, it sounds female like but pepper spray is IMO the best self defence weapon next to running hard.

ianfAugust 28, 2015 2:18 PM

… pepper spray is IMO the best self defence weapon next to running hard.

You assume that pepper spray is free to purchase & use everywhere, rather than of restricted distribution to license holders, just as are are non-lethal but weapon-classed retractable (folding) police batons, and all sorts of non-hunting knives. Not so, at least in the continental countries I visit (exception: saw pepper spray on sale at a market in 1998? Berlin, but it may have been illegal).

Gerard van VoorenAugust 28, 2015 2:45 PM

@ ianf

You can still buy pepper spray legally in Germany. That said, I don't think the police is gonna make a major fuss when you carry pepper spray. As an offensive weapon it is rather ineffective, compared with guns. I remember that Ayaan Hirshi Ali carried pepper spray in her hand bag.

rgaffAugust 28, 2015 2:52 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

First of all, not everyone is going to have a handgun. If you meet me there, I won't. And I probably never will, given the constraints I've already described (I don't need to kill people, so I'm not getting myself trained to either). I'm sure I'm not the only person in the whole wide world like this.

Pepper spray is a good alternative, in the sense that accidents and mistakes aren't generally lethal. But it's NOT a panacea. For one, release during a close quarters fight means you're likely to get as much of it as he does. Even well-aimed, releasing it in a closed space like a train means likely lots of people (including YOU) get a significant dose too, even if not as much as he does. And tolerances can be built up to it, which can be an increasing effectiveness issue the more common it becomes (though this does give you an avenue to help with the first 2 issues, assuming you get yourself some tolerance and "bad guys" don't).... This is in addition to other issues that are common to all weapons in combat (like the other guy wrestling it away from you and using it on you instead).

tyrAugust 28, 2015 3:18 PM

Now let me see if I have this correct.

Advocacy for prohibition of X because.

We can start with the Volstead Act ban on alcohol that
increased the number of alcohol users by 40% and made
the current organized big business model of crime.
How about the mad scheme to end drug use by wasting
enormous amounts of tax money. The recreation of the
slavery model with privatized prisons a nice side

Gun control achieved its first victory in Chicago with
a waiting period for handgun purchases. Dealers then
sold Thompson submachine guns to criminals because of
the lack of a waiting period. Notice that that Tommy
gun is an assault rifle (area denial weapon). They have
been banned in USA since the passage of the Sullivan

Schools began to teach that guns are only used to kill
people, a mantra which is false but sounds good.

I predict that a gun ban has the usual effect, people
who have absolutely no clue about them will get one.
The criminals will begin to import and sell machine
weapons, might as well have an AK 74 if you're going to
be a criminal anyway.

Gun fighting is a martial art and nobody learns one very

When I went to school they taught us that if you shoot someone
we will hang you. Everybody there had ready access to them
but nobody ever shot up a school, something to do with the
idea of being hung for it.

New York City has had a gun ban for decades, but a recent
incident had a NYPD officer shoot an unarmed man for the
flash of a metallic candy wrapper. So is that the model
of the future we all agree on.

One thing never mentioned is the link between those who are
impaired by drugs or alcohol and shootings. It turns out
that sober people rarely shoot anyone. I have found most
armed people polite and circumspect about giving offense.

I do think dis-armament is a good idea to ensure peace.
Start with the governments armed forces, then the police,
and finally the citizen with a sigh of relief will melt
his down into a plowshare.

The magic of TV is the worst way to get educated about guns.

Lets see the Nukes banned first. Now there's an existential
threat that is real.

Gerard van VoorenAugust 28, 2015 3:32 PM

@ rgaff,

> Pepper spray is a good alternative, in the sense that accidents and mistakes aren't generally lethal.

I settle for that!

> But it's NOT a panacea.

Come on here. You are splitting hairs but you defend carrying guns?

Sancho_PAugust 28, 2015 4:02 PM

@rgaff (re: Happy shooting - Didn’t we Americans already try this?)

Yep, the red color was intended as a reminder of the “Good Old Times”. However, the game of “white man shoots, red man is dead” is still alive, only the color of the victims doesn’t matter nowadays.

But there is another remarkable difference:
During the GOT everybody, good or evil, bore their weapon in the open.
It was the time of brave men (and women), being bold and honest in their intentions (to kill - not that I want to glorify it / them, + guns are the opposite of any solution, we have way too many “heroes” behind a weapon out there).

So the difference is: Nowadays we are a society of cowards.

Bearing concealed weapons.
Killing by remotely operated drones.
Concealed (mass) surveillance.
Eavesdropping on allies.
Clandestine “enhanced interrogation technics” in secret prisons.
Secret “No Fly List”.
Top secret “Terror Watch List”.
Redacted documents.
“Officials” speaking out in “anonymity”.
Classified laws.
Secret courts.
Even classified TTIP (“a “free trade agreement”, what an irony).

A world of candy-asses.

There is no crime, no ruse, no trick, no fraud, no vice which does not live by secrecy. Bring this secrets to light, unveil and ridicule them to everybody. Sooner or later the public opinion will sweep them out.
Publication may not be enough - but it is the only means without all other attempts will fail.

(Joseph Pulitzer 1847-1911)

[Apologize my attempt to translate, didn’t find that in English]

Sancho_PAugust 28, 2015 4:18 PM

”At what point would such surveillance cease to be justified?”

—> From the beginning.
The reason is otherwise we are cowards and liars, acting behind a veil.

First, today we avoid to name the cause of the issue: Our aggression / colonialism / imperialism, instead we name it “mission(ary)” because we need it to feed our economy.
We have to change.

Second, for the “individuals associated with …”
[ - a proposal - ]:

A) We (society) clearly and publicly have to say what we want (openness, liberty?) and don’t want (facade, radicalism?),
and we have to entitle our justice system and LE to act accordingly.
Here we fail miserably, hiding behind a wall of laws interpreting the basics of justice (e.g. The Constitution) to our advantage (business).

B) When someone gets into the focus there must be publicly known due process to proceed with that “suspect”, e.g.:
Put them on a list “suspected”.
Collect “evidence” (even secret personal surveillance is accepted here).
But: After max 4 weeks it is mandatory to involve a judge.
Failing to do so will lead to disciplinary consequences, not of the agent but the agent’s supervisor.
The judge may, only in a very special case of national security, agree to another 4 weeks of secret surveillance, escalating the case to federal justice.
But then, at least after 8 weeks of surveillance, that suspect is to call in to an informal hearing with LE and a judge, explaining suspicion and surveillance.
The judge now and immediately may dismiss the case (all personal surveillance has to stop, the list is updated but not automatically cleared) or inform the suspect about ongoing personal surveillance, restrict some “freedoms” (e.g. ban the use of automated encryption, restrict the use of comm devices, …). Also they will immediately inform all known contacts of the suspect about the suspicion and surveillance. The list entry is updated and now accessible to all LEs and same organisations (if indicated by the judge).
Now it must be clear to suspects (and their family and friends) that their behavior very likely is not accepted in our society.
After that first hearing the suspect may consult a lawyer and appeal against the listing (and treatment).

C) In case of more evidence of unaccepted behavior there will be another hearing and finally a trial where the suspect could be stripped of nationality and expelled from the country.

However: Whatever we do must be visible, in the open, face to face.
As always, to lead by example is the way to go.

Sancho_PAugust 28, 2015 4:22 PM

Back to the topic “Defending All the Targets Is Impossible”
and TSA - like checks at train stations, which is the main part of Bruce’ linked article:

As briefly mentioned in that business sponsored pamphlet to promote security equipment and personnel:
What if the poor idiot would not enter the bus / train / aircraft but hide in a bush along the track / landing zone?
A short salvo and … hopefully everyone on board had a gun, well trained to defend himself, enclosed in a metal container at 50 - 200 mph.

Good that most insane people are not anything brighter than our powers + media, because that would seriously disrupt the “security” business.

NaysayerAugust 28, 2015 6:54 PM

I'd argue against you here. Trains have some unique risks that other crowded spaces do not. Once the train starts moving, the people inside are stuck, An active shooter or team thereof can just move through the cars, with their targets like fish in a barrel. An additional risk is train takeover. I'm not well versed on train security measures, but even if there was a security door protecting the conductor, if you can get AKs into france, getting some detcord or other breaching explosive is not too far behind. After that all it takes is a high speed derailment to boost the casualty figures on an operation. I'd assess that baggage checking may be a very good idea.

Of course, you are correct in that it only shifts the targets for attacks, but if you force a shift to less vulnerable spaces, I'd consider that an improvement.

ianfAugust 28, 2015 7:15 PM

@ Gerard von Vooren doesn't think the police are gonna make a major fuss when you carry pepper spray.

That's not my (admittedly, limited) experience of how patrol/ street police operate. They may not stop-and-frisk me looking for a spray, but, should I be forced to use it IRL, and they get involved, I may just as well be slapped with a summons or first-offender-caution, if not end up having to answer stupid questions like “what was my intention with carrying a [here] forbidden substance that could blind a bystander?” So what would be the point.

I'll tell you something… the worst “self-inflicted” life-threatening situation that I was ever in happened 14 years ago when I fancied walking down the hill from the pictoresque town of Taormina to Giardini-Naxos in Sicily. It was pretty steep, but there were marble steps downhill – to begin with. After a while it became rough hillside, pretty neat to scale down at leasure. Then I heard the dogs. They were both above and below me, either wild/ feral, or at best half-tame shaggy guard dogs without visible human supervision. This forced me to stop & decide on tactics. I couldn't retreat… the one above was bigger & more vicious of the two, and I saw that it avoided certain ledges that could have brought it near me. I filled my pockets with sharp palm-sized stones, and continued down towards what I now saw was much younger, thus rather scared/ excited dog. I used steeper outcroppings to advance down at a pretty slow pace. After a while I could no longer see the older/ bigger dog, which also quit barking. But the young one went gaga now that it stood alone in my path. There was some kind of shack a bit away on the slope, looked like a stone shepherd's hut, or it might have been that dog's err… doghouse… I wasn't going to look any closer. I advanced down steadily, could see beginning of a paved street that surely would lead me down to the beach level. Then I heard someone apparently reining the dog in… just as well, because, had it lurched at me, I'd shower it with rocks, and perhaps end up being shot by that dog's must've been mafioso's sawed-off shotgun (nasty wounds, see Godfather III for instructions).

Would carrying a pepper spray make my predicament easier? Hardly, and I probably would have forgotten to bring it along in the first place (not to mention been able to take it abroad to begin with - that was in the last week before "9/11," my Swiss Army knife had to fly in the hold in an airline-tagged cloth sack.)

That said, and since I later had tangential, untreathening, but nevertheless unpleasant encounters with other guard dogs in Italy and Spain, I now travel with a small empty pistol-spray bottle that I fill at destination with household ammonia, for just such walk-in-the-countryside warding-off purposes.

rgaffAugust 28, 2015 11:15 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

I can't agree and disagree at the same time? hah :)

@ Sancho_P

wow what a headache with all those secrets...

You can't ban the use of encryption, that is to ban the use of many electronics... and you do that to someone who depends on any one of them for his livelihood and you've banned him from having a job (and therefore, banned him from feeding himself and paying for housing too!)... they'd be banned from reading this very blog, doing most shopping and banking, the list goes on and on... If you're going to put someone in such a prison, they should have a right to a fair trial and defense FIRST, know what they're being accused of, etc.

I don't understand expelling people from the country, are you suggesting we send all our criminals to Australia again?

Gerard van VoorenAugust 29, 2015 12:58 AM

@ ianf,

Ayaan Hirsi Ali once demonstrated how to use pepper spray in a restaurant and accidentally sprayed onto other diners there. She apologised of course and that's it. I didn't read anything about her being fined.

About your escape from the dog attack. Guns probably won't do the trick. Pepper spray however, if it works onto people it also works onto dogs. It could be the difference between being bitten and eaten alive.

ianfAugust 29, 2015 6:31 AM

You're a hard case, Gerard van Vooren, seemingly enthralled by some image of Ayaan Hirsi Ali wielding a pepper spray can… but you're forgetting one thing: because of differing legal regulations, that form of deterrent isn't seamlessly portable across disjointed borders. In fact, I'd be more wary of awakening the interest of some police, having to explain myself, than by the can's potential of thwarting a violent attack by shielding myself in a mist of pepper. Which I'd have to carry in my pocket at all times for it to be of use. Frankly, that's a non-starter.

BONUS: rent a copy of "Frantic" by Roman Polanski. It contains a scene in which Emmanuelle Seigner shows her temper by macing a US spook—Hollywood, but still. We should arrange a Celebrity Spray Ray Death Match between Seigner & Ali – who'd probably win this because Seigner can not afford a media outcry of her "fighting dirty."

Gerard van VoorenAugust 29, 2015 6:54 AM

@ ianf,

I am only pointing out that there are alternatives. The discussion was heading in the direction of about having guns for self defence. So I brought up pepper spray and running hard. Why did I introduce Ayaan Hirshi Ali? Because she is the only one I know who has used the stuff. That's all.

Besides that, I also like to argue about double standards on multiple subjects. If you think that I am a hard case because of that, so be it.

Sancho_PAugust 29, 2015 12:56 PM

Slightly off topic here, but it’s regarding “ban of encryption” :-)

@rgaff ”You can't ban the use of encryption, …”

Yes, we can.
But first we have to adjust the focus. It’s not “global” but “at detail”, focused at a single individual engaging in unacceptable behavior within our society.
It’s not against free speech or liberty of ideas.
It’s not against any peaceful believe / religion (but do not mistake Islam for being “simply a religion”).
It is against hate speech and preaching of murder [1].

So say Mahmud would be in the focus, suspect.
(Mahmud is the name of a good friend of mine, he works at a bike repair shop, but, even after several years, he’s still uncomfortable when I talk to his wife …)
So Mahmud is under secret surveillance for some days, evidence is collected.
Finally Mahmud is confronted with his “unacceptable” behavior by a judge who explains face to face what we, the society, don’t want and which consequences for Mahmud may arise.

”that is to ban the use of many electronics”
Yes, depending on the judge, Mahmud can only use his known phone and computer, which are now officially bugged at the provider, no other / new devices alowed. Otherwise he will swiftly meet the judge again, this would be his very last chance then.

”and you do that to someone who depends on any one of them for his livelihood and you've banned him from having a job …”
No, Pedro, who owns the bike shop, knows Mahmud for more than 2 years, he wouldn’t fire him - but he would be informed, and of course he would “discuss” the fact with Mahmud.

”they'd be banned from reading this very blog, …”
No, not any of that, Mahmud can use https because his known devices are bugged at the provider. He can’t use strong endpoint encryption, though.

”in such a prison, they should have a right to a fair trial”
Yes, that’s exactly what I want: Face to face, in the open, a right to a fair trial.

”and defense FIRST”
Well, first would be the suspicion, accusation and confrontation with a judge (or someone outside LE entitled to handle such issues).
Mahmud now has the chance to appeal - and to change!
Also all people around Mahmud would know that we, the society, are serious about.

”I don't understand expelling people from the country, are you suggesting we send all our criminals to Australia again?”
Let’s face it + name it: We are talking about radicalized Islamists, not criminals.
There are thousands of other idiots running around, but at the moment 99% who are fighting us are those from the countries we destroy.
[ * When we talk about justice we must hear both sides,
so I think we have to change - and they have to change. * ]

Anyway, these individuals do not accept our system of liberty.
But there are countries where the system may be heaven on earth to them.
I would not hinder anyone to go to these countries and fight for their paradise.
And if they don’t know where to go we’d find places where radicalized people are welcome to reinstate their “kingdom”.

Again, it’s an unsound proposal - but we must openly discuss, not hide.
But here is the problem with our bribery driven “constitutional democracy”.

[1] This is why I think we have to change first.

Thomas_HAugust 29, 2015 5:14 PM

@ Gerard van Vooren:

I don't think I would feel any safer in a train car full of people armed with pepper spray than in one full of people armed with guns. Both are rather bad; I'd probably put the pepper spray version considerably higher on the "bad" scale than the gun version, if presented with an attacker armed with a AK-47.

In the "everyone has guns" scenario, the primary risk is untrained people using their guns to shoot each other instead of the attacker, followed by the gunner reciprocating with shots of his own (if he's not gunned down before that). Bullets fly in straight lines and can be stopped by certain materials. A train car contains seats, which depending on the type of train car may have metal backings - probably won't deflect much tho...but they provide cover and require people to reach around/above them to actually fire their guns at a target. If the gunner succeeds, it's a mass-murder. If he fails, he is either taken out quickly or he is taken out at a later point and there are many casualties.

In the "everyone has pepperspray" scenario, let us consider a few things. Firstly, closed circuit environment (especially in a Thalyss train). Everyone sprays their can in close succession, if they weren't shot by the gunner first for rummaging in their bags. Various people panic. Especially in children and eldery people this may cause respiratory trouble, which is greatly increased by the pepper spray. People are blinded by tears. You don't want this in an environment with severely restricted movement options. People will likely try to get out of the train car as fast as possible, but hampered by respiratory trouble, bad visions and limited movement space the center line of the train car will fill with stumbling and falling people. The gunner is also affected. In a reflex, he may pull the trigger and spray the train car interior with bullets in various directions. In this scenario, both success and failure of the attack may result in a very high number of casualties.

Of course, in reality both scenarios would be severely affected by the fact that many people boast they will do something during an attack, but in reality won't (and that especially applies to those that are cocky about it).

Regarding NATO's response, in the Netherlands they mostly seem to have supporters write opinion pieces for newspapers that read like most stereotypical Cold War propaganda.

rgaffAugust 29, 2015 9:18 PM


"Mahmud can only use his known phone and computer"

Most computers have multiple forms of end-to-end encryption built-in. All Macs and Linuxes come with SSH, for example. The normal way to connect from one computer to another, and run commands on the other, is via SSH. And its use is required for my job, for example, but maybe not that of a bicycle repairman.

"Mahmud can use https because his known devices are bugged at the provider. He can’t use strong endpoint encryption, though."

I dunno about your https connection to this blog, but mine uses end-to-end encryption. This is not to say that it can't be MITM'ed, with a special custom cert installed on my computer... but that's fairly obvious and easy to get around--and it's not the default on any computer.

I assume this guy you're talking about has had a fair trial and defended himself and lost, to get these things imposed upon him? Otherwise it's actually an example of what we should NOT allow the police to do to anyone they please based upon mere suspicion, without giving people a fair chance to defend themselves from their accusers first... You see, EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD is a suspect ultimately... You, me, everyone. At least, that's certainly how my government reasons that it can collect everyone's phone calls, cell tower location data, internet browsing, and track movements by license place readers...

cynicalAugust 30, 2015 12:36 AM

@ Gerard van Vooren

>I feel a lot safer in a train full of people who carry pepper spray than in a train full of people who carry hand guns for self defence.

You sound like a terrorist

Gerard van VoorenAugust 30, 2015 7:43 AM

@ Thomas_H

> I don't think I would feel any safer in a train car full of people armed with pepper
> spray than in one full of people armed with guns. Both are rather bad; I'd probably put
> the pepper spray version considerably higher on the "bad" scale than the gun version,
> if presented with an attacker armed with a AK-47.

The chance of being a victim of an "Al Qaida / IS" terrorist attack is in roughly the same order as winning the lottery. I am not a pacifist. When I have to defend myself with a gun I will do that and I have been trained how to use a gun. But I also consider the alternatives. I think it is pretty stupid to prepare yourself for something as far fetched as a terrorist attack. When it comes to risk management I would worry a lot more about accidents. And when it comes to accidents I prefer the non-lethal ones.

KristAugust 30, 2015 9:56 AM

Don't overestimate the threat.

Trains are though. You can't make a TGV derail by taking control of the cockpit. The moment the driver is ot paying 100% attention to the controls the train goes in to an emergency stop. And even if you could get it to derail, TGVs have derailed at high speed several times without any casualties. Bombs have exploded on the TGV. Again all this did was cause an emergency stop.
Causing a carnage on purpose on a train is basically impossible. That is why smart terrorists don't attempt it. The Madrid bombers needed 10 bombs to kill 191 people. From the point of view of the terrorists this was a big failure.

Spain has instituted luggage scans at some stations in a reaction to the bombings. The first time I was at Barcelona Sants station it only took me 1 minutes after arrival to find the big gaping hole in the system. Any terrorist would find that hole too. What is the hole? Simply: Not all stations have luggage scans. It's impossible to have luggage scans at all stations. TGVs even stop at unmanned halts...

Security theatre on trains isin most of Europe a complete non starter. ID checks before boaring? Try doing this in a station where 1 million people change trains daily. Its not going to happen.

JustinAugust 30, 2015 10:15 AM

@ Gerard van Vooren

I am not a pacifist. When I have to defend myself with a gun I will do that and I have been trained how to use a gun. But I also consider the alternatives.

Oh I thought you were all a bunch of gun control freaks on this forum. But yes, firing a gun in anger is really only a reasonable option when all alternatives have been excluded.

ianfAugust 30, 2015 11:57 AM

@ Krist Trains are though. TGVs have derailed at high speed several times without any casualties. Don't overestimate the threat.

1998 Eschede ICE train disaster: 101 dead, 88 injured, no panic; 2011 Wenzhou train collision: 40 dead, 210 injured, no panic. Only these are not the threats that we are talking about. Rather, these associated with motivated lone wolfs (or "wolfpacks") that, say, plant 20 small explosive devices in several cars primed to explode in staggered succession to wreck the most havoc—even with relatively "little" spilled human blood. Then the perps exit the train & wait for the headlines. That would cause panic & raise voices for the authorities to "do something."

That kind of a threat from chemical compounds is hard to detect without TNT etc sniffer gates at the stations, if not such built right into the doors of the carriages (hunters better shower twice before boarding, and never travel in camo outfits ;-))

That said, post 2001-9-11, the risks of "swarthy gunmen" going on a rampage aboard an airliner, or a train without meeting passenger resistance are pretty slim… it doesn't require presence of well-trained US servicemen onboard to thwart the attacker, any two people will do. Unfortunately, not every Al-Qaida martyr-wannabe has gotten the memo.

KristAugust 30, 2015 1:23 PM

The ICE isn't a TGV. A TGV is constructed very differently. Why that is relevant would require a lengthy explanation...
There have been several high speed derailments with a TGV, all without casualties. Eschede was caused by a of combination of factors that would have been impossible to engineer on purpose. And most passengers survived. Trains are tough.
And as to your movie plot scenario: why go to all the length of synching explosives all over a train when you can kill hundreds of people in one go buy just blowing yourself up in an airport security line?
Remember, the Madrid bombers tried that. They were going for thousands of casualties. They achieved les then a tenth of their objective.

We're not going to see airline style security on trains. Its not possible, so it's not going to be done,

Oy VeyAugust 30, 2015 4:34 PM

Stop discussing immigration politics on a site for security, bad goyim! Everything is isolated and has nothing to do with each other! Just coincidences, you conspiracy lunatics!

SkepticalAugust 30, 2015 5:40 PM

Ultimately, the best long-term security policy here is likely to be a good offense: destroy ISIL's brand, thwart ISIL's propaganda, and kill - in public and humiliating fashion - the organization itself. That said, the costs and unintended consequence of certain aspects of that policy might outweigh the benefits.

In the meantime - and of course this is commentary from a great distance and with little knowledge - I wonder whether it may be best, while expanding some static defenses, to also enable more flexible and active defenses.

For instance, one might make it easier for those selling tickets to identify or rate purchasers worth additional attention, while having some resources available and sufficiently flexible to be tasked as those ratings are received (obviously this could be automated to considerable degree as well, depending on how willing one is to allow purchasing data to be fed into government databases)

A person of the terrorist's background, who oddly insists on waiting for a later train (perhaps without persuasive explanation), and who perhaps is carrying luggage of a certain size, might fall into a category where more trained personnel might observe the terrorist while he waits for his train, and depending on those observations, either follow, stop and question, or detain.

Foolproof? Of course not. Foolproof is not the appropriate measure. Convoys were not foolproof against U-boats, but they were good enough and the best of available options.

Flexible and active defenses might enable dynamic deployment of resources in response to signals that may often prove false positives - perhaps suspicion has fallen upon a man waiting for a later train for any of various legitimate reasons - but will sometimes not be. And the perpetrators will simply not know whether such resources have been deployed.

Depending on the existing knowledge of the individual, the signal might be as simple as the fact that he rented a truck, or bought a ticket; or it might require a more complex series of signals.

Such a system, though, would require large databases of possibles (and there seem to be large numbers of possibles), as well as a willingness to allow automated collection of activities and pattern development of the behavior of possibles where regular human surveillance is not practical.

Bear in mind that I refer to collection of publicly observable activities, not private activities.

I don't say such a system would be without controversy, but if there would be sufficient cause to deploy human beings to surveil a possible, then there would also be sufficient cause to employ an automated system to gather precisely the same information. If anything an automated system might be less intrusive than that of particular human beings actively watching what one does in public.

Re pepper spray vs firearms: As a public policy approach to terrorism, neither seems particularly good. There are reasonably effective countermeasures against pepper spray for the purpose of most of these terrorist scenarios, and if everyone carried pepper spray, such counters would likely be adopted. Pepper spray would be of some efficacy if unexpected, however, as I would prefer a half-blind, wheezing, disoriented terrorist to one with clear vision and easy breathing.

Of course, even if terrorists adopted the countermeasures mentioned, such things impede situational awareness, which is a benefit, and also enable faster target acquisition for any trained personnel who might be in a position to rapidly respond with lethal force.

And for obvious reasons, I think the cost of having everyone carry firearms would outweigh the benefits such a policy might provide in the case of certain terrorist attacks.

Overall, though, I do think that non-lethal weapons, like pepper spray, offer interesting possibilities (for any kind of self-defense). This is particularly the case if they were combined with an instant authentication system that would not easily permit an adversary to use the weapon against oneself (also true for firearms incidentally).

@Sancho: I think the idea you set out would protect neither society nor the wrongly accused but innocent individual. The time-periods you give are too short for effective investigations. Telling the individual that the government disagrees with what he intends to do won't be news to the individual. Once informed of surveillance he may simply go quiet for a few months, signalling to any other contacts he may have that he's currently radioactive.

He'll also be able to use the time limits to test the system. Do X, then wait 8 weeks to see if anything happens; do X+1, then wait 8 weeks. Etc. In doing so he'll develop excellent knowledge of what attracts law enforcement attention, and will push as far as possible - and then share what he's learned.

Finally, I'm not sure what the standard is for "banishment" from society, what the burdens of proof are, etc. Given the short time-frames involved, it sounds like the trial would be cursory at best.

I'm also puzzled by your claim that any society that uses remotely piloted aircraft, or classifies certain activities, is a society of cowards. A weapon that allows you to harm the enemy while remaining out of the enemy's range is greatly to be preferred over a weapon that requires you to enter into the enemy's own range. You may call that cowardice; I call it common sense. So did the English archers at Agincourt, Swiss pikemen faced with French cavalry, and David facing Goliath.

Really Sceptical?August 30, 2015 5:59 PM


ISIS/ISIL is not a natural phenomenon. Its rise was not only tolerated but also supported with the goal of destabilizing Syria / northern Africa / Europe etc. in general. A new "excuse" for totalitarian policies, since Al Qaida was no use anymore.

So, if you call upon the destruction of ISIS/ISIL, you'd have to order the US to drone strike themselves, including Israel.

There is open footage floating around how Israel supports ISIS at their borders (giving medical aid and firewarm delivery), while the US us busy training and equipping them either in Turkey or other close by states. Where do you think they have suddenly all these TOW launchers or modern european/american assault and sniper rifles?

The artificially created "arab springs" were the predecessor to disband otherwise stable regimes and supporting ISIS to have an actual excuse to step into the conflict abroad AND an excuse to introduce domestic laws to protect us against ISIS (surveillance, data retention laws etc.). After the first ISIS branded terrorist acts across the world, Europe and the US hauled a whole bunch of laws to spy on it's own citizens.

It's not a coincidence, that the quote "people are suddenly open to change when they fear for their life" is popular among elites.

Sancho_PAugust 30, 2015 6:00 PM


I think we have three parts now to disagree / discuss:
a) The personal situation of these individuals, say Mahmud.
b) The technical “problem”.
c) The moral and legal aspect of surveillance, LE and fair trial.

a) Personal:

We are talking about radicalized people, extremists, captured in their believe and narrow view of the world, ready to die “for the better life in paradise”. It’s easy to call them “idiots” (which I do anyway) but we have to take into account where they come from. Born as losers, no education, no chance, infiltrated by other idiots, longing for salvation by Jihad (no, it doesn’t mean “war”), they will die as losers.
If they visit their homeland they are shown how the western aliens, the infidels, destroy their land and culture, murdering + raping brothers and sisters.
We are not in between, we are at the top of the problem, with bad education and “role model” at the top of the top (see Ferguson, but by far not a US-only problem).

Mahmud is a bit brighter than they are, but he is in danger. He is torn apart, deeply frightened to lose his roots, his identity. He’s already gained something he doesn’t want to lose either. What to do?

It breaks my heart to see his struggle, because I can’t really help.
I’m an alien, too.
And I know we have hundreds of thousands Mahmuds living next door.

Very few of these guys are well educated, scholars, probably “academics”, likely they are on the top 10(0) list - but they won’t touch an AK47 to mass murder.
Very few are (IT, whatever) specialists. Mahmud is none.

My point is: The more (very basic) education and chances, the less likely is radicalization and open aggression.
*** We systematically produce terrorists to “entertain” our kids. ***

So Mahmud is on the brink, but not below.

b) Technical:
(I’m not an IT guru, please correct me if I’m wrong)

”Most computers have multiple forms of end-to-end encryption built-in. All Macs and Linuxes come with SSH, for example. The normal way to connect from one computer to another, and run commands on the other, is via SSH. And its use is required for my job, for example, but maybe not that of a bicycle repairman.” [@rgaff]

Yes, but do you know any machine Mahmud could use to be invincible?
Do you think they can not own whatever they want once they have physical access?

Definitely, when you need SSH for your job you are not a security issue (see above).

SSH is nice to defeat the stalker next to your table at McDo but in reality it is the weakest point because it suggests security - but it is not when it comes to a nation state action. The cert is already on your computer, as is the kill switch.
In my company there is a proxy to inspect all https traffic of dozens of employees in realtime, they would copy Mahmud’s traffic, no sweat.
And yes, they’d install another cert if needed, and Mahmud would be told about, although he wouldn’t understand.

But by working around, using unknown VPN, PGP and the like, Mahmud would cross what the Americans call “the red line”, he is welcome to do so but if they find out his first trial would be his last in this state.
And I’d be happy to pay for his one way ticket.

I mean after the first informal meeting the judge (not the LEO) decides whether Mahmud’s behavior poses a risk and he is set under further investigation or not.
Anyway Mahmud would be free but under surveillance and restrictions.
This leads to the third part:

c) Moral and legal aspect:

”I assume this guy you're talking about has had a fair trial and defended himself and lost, to get these things imposed upon him? Otherwise it's actually an example of what we should NOT allow the police to do to anyone they please based upon mere suspicion, without giving people a fair chance to defend themselves from their accusers first... You see, EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD is a suspect ultimately... You, me, everyone. At least, that's certainly how my government reasons that it can collect everyone's phone calls, cell tower location data, internet browsing, and track movements by license place readers...” [@rgaff]

Except the word “trial” I fully agree, because “trial” in my mind is reserved for a formal judge + lawyer session, which will happen when Mahmud is going to appeal the official surveillance status. This initial meeting is informal, no lawyer allowed / needed. It is to show both, respect to the individual (end of spying) and that there are limits in our liberty.

But first, before any official action, I want to stress the fact that it is the very duty of our LE to be vigilant. They have to be on the street, not in armored cars but between us. Call it surveillance, but they have to listen.
Our surveillance state already has access to all connection details, cellphone data and more. We are under global surveillance, that’s fact.
We can’t turn that back. We must limit access, but that’s a different topic.

However, in the near future they will “go dark” regarding the content of electronic communication especially because they were too careless and stupid in the past.

Global surveillance produces an incomprehensible haystack of “suspicious” data, the content of communication would multiply the problem to find the needle ad infinitum.
Therefore “going dark” is to their benefit.

But for certain individuals they need full access to protect us [1].
That said, I’m a fan of open confrontation and I hate all shady activities.
We do not need secrets in the name of our society.
LE and justice system has to guide people, this can’t be done in secret.

And there have to be guides to control the guards. Accountability is the first.

[1] “to protect us”:
I’d like to distinct between LE and National Security.
Mahmud and idiots are not a national security issue. A plane crash, derailed train, power outage: This is tragic, but not national security.
To survive, mankind has to lose about 5 billion people.

fredAugust 30, 2015 9:22 PM

@ Gerard van Vooren
"I think it is pretty stupid to prepare yourself for something as far fetched as a terrorist attack."

I trust that you place as much faith, as I do, in our Leo to keep that probability down as low as it is, which they are. We must empower them to do so.

KristAugust 30, 2015 10:41 PM


You say: "For instance, one might make it easier for those selling tickets to identify or rate purchasers worth additional attention".

Train travel in Europe is essentially anonymous. Nobody asks for your name if you buy a ticket at the ticket window or a ticket vending machine. If you buy a ticket on line you are asked for your name, but only so it can be encoded in the digital signature, so that you don't print of mutlple copies to give to all your friends.
Trains don't have passenger manifests, so the railways don't know who is on which train. They are not interested in this, and in some countries not even allowed to.
And even if you were to register the ID's of people buying tickets, it's impossible to check the ID's of everybody boarding.

In spite of all the things being said by politicians who have to say something, because something happened, I doubt anything will change.

JustinAugust 31, 2015 12:41 AM

@ Oy Vey

"... bad goyim!"

Umm, thank you for that. Now may I have meat and milk in the same meal and refrain from mutilating my children in the genitals?

ianfAugust 31, 2015 2:55 AM

@ Krist Train travel in Europe is essentially anonymous. Nobody asks for your name if you buy a ticket at the ticket window or a ticket vending machine. […] Trains don't have passenger manifests, so the railways don't know who is on which train. They are not interested in this, and in some countries not even allowed to.

That is correct, for now. At one time it was also applicable to ferries. However, far as I know, in Europe it is no longer possible to undertake a non-commuter (short-stop) journey by ferry that lasts more than an hour(?) without a named passenger manifest. I think this came into being in response to some spectacular capsizings in the 1990s.

So, before train/ stations security situation "solidifies" – if it ever does, we should expect the railroad industry to adopt some of the same rules that now govern the airports. It will prove unworkable, but they have to try it first anyway.

[This outside the scope of this discussion, but could you at least post a pointer to what makes the TGV so un-derailable vs. the ICE, and similar high-speed train lines?]

ianfAugust 31, 2015 4:35 AM

@ Krist [re: my movie plot scenario]: why go to all the length of synching explosives all over a train when you can kill hundreds of people in one go by just blowing yourself up in an airport security line? Remember, the Madrid bombers tried that. They were going for thousands of casualties. They achieved les then a tenth of their objective.

That assumes that the terror objectives stay the same: killing multiples of people in one go. But what if the terror goals change to, say, maiming bystanders (=twice the hurt extended over lifetime), or "merely" disrupting everyday life so thoroughly that it affects its quality? Post 2002-9-11 the US Homeland Security & the TSA are doing just that, at no cost to Al-Qaida. The no-liquid measures put in place after the stupid airplane-lavatory-assembled TAPT bomb scare have made flying contingent on procurement of €3 bottled H₂O once past the security gates (it's the smallest charges that sting the most).

Yes, none of it is as spectacular as big boom-booms, but remember that if the intent is (however one puts it) revenge for real or imaginary transgressions in the past, or simply an expression of anger over one's utter backwardness, then an outcome in which the infidels' own security forces terrorize their own in the name of attaining security (an Orwellian scenario by any other name), is nothing to sneeze at (or, as Frederick Forsyth put it in the mouth of “Saddam Hussein”: winning is being seen [by peers] as a winner).

Let's face it: apart from Madrid, Bali & London 7/7, all other post-2001-9-11 Al-Qaida-wannabe copycat "spectaculars" incl. Glasgow Airport; Times Square; Stockholm, and Boston pressure-cooker bombs, were failed low-cost affairs. Yet the amount of (press-fanned) public panic they brought were immeasurable. Somebody is paying attention.

Krist van BesienAugust 31, 2015 4:55 AM

@IanF: Last Friday I undertook a ferry crossing from Rødby to Puttgarden without my name being on any passenger manifest. This was was with a ticket I had bought at the railway station in Bern, paid with cash, a month earlier. At no time was my name asked...

Ferries only need to know how many people are on board...

Airline style security is next to impossible to implement for trains. The only train line that does this is Eurostar. And it has seriously hampered the profitability and growth of that line. Without the security theatre Eurostar would be able so serve far more destinations than it does now.
The Spaniards pretend to have secured their high speed trains, but they haven't. The guys at the scanners aren't looking at their screens. It's easy to enter the system at a unsecured station, so the staff probably knows that their job is just make-work.

Air line style security is not going to work. Most railways are not even going to try. The Thalys train that runs from Amsterdam to Paris stops at four stations en route. On three of them it stops at platforms that are also used by local commuter services. Moving it to it's own dedicated platforms is physically impossible. The platforms aren't there. Railways like NS, DB, SBB, NMBS (basically any well run railway) have no spare capacity in their stations. Enlarging stations is a multi decades project, and what is currently planned or under construction is already dedicated to service expansion.

That is what train travel is like in Europe:
Suppose I had decided this morning, on a whim, that I wanted to go to Paris. I would have walked to the station, just 10 minutes from my home. I would have bought a ticket from the ticket office, and could have paid that even with cash (but would probably have used my debit card). Then at 9:34 I would have boarded the IC to Basel, together with commuters, day trippers and even the odd back packer or tourist on it's way to who knows where. And even a few people on their way to Paris, just like me.
Then in Basel the train would have arrived in Basel on platform 5 at 10:29. I would cross the platform where the TGV would probably be just pulling in on the oposite track. I would just look for my carriage, board it, find my seat. The TGV leaves at 10:34, and arrives in Paris at 13:37.
While changing trains in Basel I share the platform with people getting of the IC from Bern, with people waiting to board the IC back to Bern, people who have arrived on the train from Luzern that was on the same platform 10 minutes earlier, and want to take the TGV just like me. People getting of the TGV, having used it to just travel from Zürich to Basel. Some even with commuter passes.
People on tickets with reservations, without reservations, on commuter passes, interrailers, eurrailers. They all mix at the stations.
And moving the TGV to its own dedicated platform at Basel is a non starter. The station is already bursting at its seams as it is...
And the same situation exists elsewhere. There are even unmanned halts where the TGV stops. How are you going to deal with that?

As to the specifics of TGV design and why this matters in accidents: The TGV is an articulated trainset, the ICE in versions 1 and 2 are conventional trains with a locomotive at one or both it's and, with the locomotives and cars styled to look like they belong together. The TGVs construction makes it less like for the train to jacknife and end up in a big pile in an accident.
See here for an example: Derailment at 300 kph. No major injuries on board:

ianfAugust 31, 2015 6:14 AM

@ Krist
The Rødby-Puttgarden ferry is part of the DSB-DB train network, also of less than an hour's crossing time, thus a special case. Try boarding the 5hr Copenhagen to (Danish) Bornholm, or 4hr Stockholm/Nynäshamn to (Swedish) Visby/Gotland ferries without an ID, no go. Same to the Åland Archipelago via a commuter ferry an hour north of Stockholm. Small, local island-to-island ferries are one thing, but not the bigger ones.

I'm not arguing against your claim that airport security in Europe won't work, only that some of it will be tried ANYWAY. The Eurostar, running under a body of water, has no option but to implement some measures to prevent the most blatant (needn't be terror) in-tunnel security risks—and even they couldn't prevent a couple cargo fires & the like. In contrast, there are no visible security checks on the 20m Copenhagen-Malmö mainly above-water BRŒN crossing (& don't you believe the stupid TV-induced "bodies sawn in half, surreptitiously placed halfway between the two countries despite constant CCTV" murder-bridge hype).

That said, recently some Chinese conglomerate has sent the Swedes a tender to build a bullet-type high-speed train line from Stockholm to the continent running on 5m high (prefabricated) viaducts. “Barely any land needs be procured for that," thus the total cost vs. traditionally placed tracks would be approx. half. Also they promise to finish it in 5 years, less than half the usual time. Needless to say, the profitability of running it would hang on its ability to keep the time tables. So you can bet that, if it becomes real, an ability to screen passengers will be built into the system, whether later deployed to full extent or not.

PS. My SPELCHQR insists on you being a Krispy. Were you called that in some previous life?

Krist van BesienAugust 31, 2015 7:39 AM

@Ianf: Eurostar has no option but screening passengers because it is required to do so by law. Not because there is actually an objective need for it. The tunnel fires have shown where the real risks are. If Eurostar could get rid of the check in and luggage scan, and move all immigration facilities to st. Pancras it could finally start serving more European destinations.
When the Gotthard tunnel opens next year the passengers travelling throug it will also not be subject to any special security theater. I can guarantee that it will not even be considered. Anything that slows down passenger movements is a complete non starter with most railways.

What's the point of making trains faster if some of the gained time is lost in the terminals?
The UK spend billions on building HS1, which cut 40 minutes of a Paris - London trip. Another 20 minutes could be cut basically for free by abolishing the security theatre...

That you bring up the Øresund connection is interesting. That this is treated as a normal run of the mil commuter railway has made it possible for Copenhagen and Malmø to effectively become one urban area, with lots of people commuting between the countries every day.
No such thing across the channel however...

MeAugust 31, 2015 11:12 AM

Yes, I remember reading about how the TSA wanted to take over rail station security, and I thought, "that's great, you will secure the station, but who is going to secure the thousands of miles of track?"

Clive RobinsonAugust 31, 2015 11:33 AM

@ ianf,

The reason for the requirment of passports for EuroStar between the UK and Europe is that UK&NI opted not to join up to the Schengen Agreement "border free zone" and is rumored to have put preasure on the other opt-out nation Eira (Southern Ireland). However other non EU nations in the EFTA have joined, and it's a requirment for all new states joining the EU currently (though that may change soon due to the mess the US and UK has created in the Middle East and Africa).

The reasons given for the UK and Eira to opt-out are many and mostly spurious, but underneath it is the issues to do with Imigration. The UK since joining the EU has not been keen on the Eastern States having access to UK soil/jobs/healthcare/socialcare/etc, whilst France, Germany and one or two other EU states don't want "British Commonwealth" immigrants --including those from the WASP nations-- and actively blaim the UK US "Special Relationship" for not just "FiveEyes Spying" but their financial crisis nd immigration crisis from the Middle East and Africa.

In order to protect against the French lack of outward boarder controls the UK&NI have swinging legislation and fines for those knowingly or unknowingly bringing in illegal immigrants into the UK, even though it's widely recognised that in many cases the lorry drivers etc were blaimless they still get fines about the equivalent of 3000USD per immigrant, and have vehicals and loads impounded / confiscated. Likewise Airline, ferry and train operators get the same treatment.

As part of the Schengen agreement the signitory states were required to maintain and strengthan boarder controls at the Schengen Area boarders. It's abundantly obvious that France and several other Southern EU nations are not providing adiquate border controls for a multitude of reasons (the Euro Zone Crisis being a major one in southern europe). German citizens are actively talking about the issues with immigration now they believe they are taking the lions share of immigrants from Syria, Libya, Iraq and several other Middle East and African nations where the US has activly participated in creating wars. Many are activly blaiming the US because of International law about refugees from war zones, in that the EU that had little or nothing to do with the US "War on terror", but are now obligated under International law to take the refugees from it, whilst the US is very obviously evading their international law obligations. In many parts of the EU there is increasing "ultra right wing" politics and violence taking hold, not helped by reoccurring stories that the US Coastguard machine guns refugee boats as policy.


Sancho_PAugust 31, 2015 5:28 PM


No problem, I wouldn’t expect you to like it ;-)
3 points which I think you got wrong:

”… signalling to any other contacts he may have that he's currently radioactive.”
No, we (LE + justice) would inform his family + contacts: We want to show our face.

”… and [he] will push as far as possible - and then share what he's learned.”
Probably he will share when he’s back in Al-Raqqah what his friends should avoid.
That's OK, we should love to be open.

”it sounds like the trial would be cursory at best.”
Probably, but this is not a difficult trial. No technical expertise needed. They know him, have bugged his communication and observed him as close as possible. If he did not understand he will never understand. I’m confident in our judges.

Krist van BesienAugust 31, 2015 10:51 PM

@Clive Robinson.

Trains crossed borders before Schengen. They still cross borders between Schengen and Non Schengen countries right now. There is a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, that even crosses from EU to non-EU. On this train passports are checked on the train, while it is travelling, causing no delays for the passengers. That is how it was done everywhere in Europe before Schengen. It could be done on the Eurostar as well.

Don't confuse the immigration control with the security theatre. That passengers have to queue up and have their luggage scanned at the Eurostar terminal has nothing to do with the UK not being in Schengen, and everything with irrational paranoia.

I once travelled on the Zeebrugge - Edinburgh ferry (when it was still operating). Upon the return trip all foot passengers had to pass their luggage through a scanner. A I jokedly asked if they scanned all the cars as well. The poor sod charged with this make work was not amused. On the way out I had not been scanned, and cars and lorries boarding that ferry weren't scanned either.
In Barcelona they scan the luggage of passengers going to Paris, but they do not scan the luggage of passengers boarding in Paris for Barcelona.
I asume few readers of this blog will asume that the terrorists will not be able to figure out where the holes are...

If we remove the security theatre, and allow passport checking on board, or upon arrival then Eurostar could finally run more services between other towns in the UK and other places on the continent. I'm sure a Edinburgh - Paris or a Zürich - London Eurostar would attract passengers. But it would have to be able to make intermediate stops as well to be profitable. The requirement for security theatre makes this however currently impossible.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 1, 2015 2:13 AM

@Krist van Besien,

Don't confuse the immigration control with the security theatre.

I don't, however, also don't make the mistake of thinking "no borders" is just about the free movment of people it's not, it's also about what they may freely carry as well.

I once travelled on the Zeebrugge - Edinburgh ferry (when it was still operating). Upon the return trip all foot passengers had to pass their luggage through a scanner.

Yes the UK has legislation about what you can bring into the country, the oldest one that people are aware of is the prohibition on non farming "livestock" for Rabies control, there is also the more modern UN CITES legislation as well. Then there is "drugs" and in more recent times "guns" especialy hand guns on which there is an outright ban on which makes life very difficult and expensive for the UK Olympic pistol team. Holland is not a place to be coming from because of drugs, and France because of guns, and any place inbetween is also distinctly suspect.

Currently even citizen in France who can read newspapers or listen to the news knows France has a serious illegal gun supply problem since the Paris shootings. And some are fearfull that the guns/ammunition used on the recent train shooting may have been sourced through France or French contacts.

So whilst it has the trappings of Security Theatre from the trasport protection side, it's not there for that reason. UK border control became a serious issue just about 100years ago and has not been relaxed --except in some very small ways-- most of it has a reason other than to prevent terrorism on transportation. In the "civil service" mind it's not that long ago that London was the "Terrorist Cross Roads of the World" and it's not lost on them that it's currently the "Money Laundering Cross Roads of the World" either which is just one of the reasons why London Property prices are some of the highest in the world. The UK always has had a two tier immigration policy, whereby if you are part of the Super Rich you are welcome if you are poor "bu**er off" based on the entirely false "trickle down effect" nonsense.

Thus transport run for "fare payers" such as EuroStar is most likely going to be subject to border controls for the next three or more generations, private jets etc rarely at best, all for "political" reasons,much of which is the end result of US foreign pollicy and the "Special Arrangement".

However it was not so long ago, I sailed from France to the UK and due to tides etc we arived in Solent waters late in the day, it was not helped by the weather, so rather than land where we originally intended we called in first at a minor harbour area and slept in. We later moved to a more formal entry point, however at no point did we get a visit from customs or immigration, even though we had informed them of our movments by radio. Apparently this is not that abnormal even today for UK registered vessels.

KristSeptember 1, 2015 4:14 AM

@Clive Robinson.

I don't dispute that there is a *reason" for the security theatre. What I do see is that it is done in a way so that it is not effective. We're putting heavier and heavier locks on the front door while keeping the back door open.

When you only scan foot passengers boarding a ferry, and that only in the direction UK->Continent, how then does this actually serve the stated purpose?

It will only be a matter of time till the trafickers will just sail their customers all the way to the UK...

Terrorism is fought with effective law enforcement. We've seen that in the UK in the case of the liquid bombers, which were not stopped by checkoints, scanners or security procedures at airports. They were stopped by good old fashioned police work.

ianfSeptember 1, 2015 10:46 AM

You guys discuss behind my back while I sleep, I wake up & feel left behind, I SHALL REPORT THIS OBNOXIOUSLY ASYNCHRONOUS BEHAVIOR TO THE WEBMASTER OF THIS BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEM @ ONCE!!!

@ Clive Robinson

I was debating reasons for the Railways Security Theatre (or TheRealThing) rather than passport/ immigration controls, and not the underlying eternal politic[k]al UK/French jockeying for position (said in a not-dissimilar context:

Hon. Jim Hacker: [the French] are our allies, our partners.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, they are now, but they've been our enemies for the most of the past 900 years.)
      Much as I'd love to debate the de/merits of the closest Europe has come to a borderless continent, the Schengen Agreement, I am sure this is not the place. Suffice it to say that we now see what I reflected upon some 20 years ago, when bodies of African migrants first started washing up with some frequency near Tarifa in southern Span (strangely never—that I heard of—in Gibraltar, unless tides or the Brits towed these out to sea?): that there might be a time when Europe will be overrun with friendly foreign hordes primarily seeking economic freedom, while the perpetually saddled with own growing pains Old World states won't know what/ have the guts/ to do about them.

Taking a long view, this is quite unlike the previous generations of affluent West's unwillingness to shelter "the other," as exemplified by the shameful treatment that met the Jews trapped in the IIIrd Reich, with the 1938 Évian conference, Polenaktion, 1939 M/S St. Louis, 1942 MV Struma and 1947 SS Exodus looming large. Only it's now order of magnitudes bigger, the seemingly unending destitute influx numbers, and with the good Euro democrats lacking ideological imperatives to do something truly nasty this time. A month or so ago, the EU summit could barely commit on relocating mere 60000 refugees (then just arrived in Italy from Libya), with some states basically agreeing to take only token numbers & NO BINDING QUOTAS. Now, in the face of ongoing human flood (250000 more refugees from ME & Africa expected before the end of the year), the collective EU (except for the UK & migrant-averse Baltic states) is slowly waking up to the scope & hazards of coping with the present, let alone exponentially growing migrant influx for a foreseeable time [for a grassroots moral dimension of that see the prescient 2011 film “Terraferma”].

@ Krist We're putting heavier and heavier locks on the front door while keeping the back door open.

The various Transport Security Theatre Companies (for want of a better label) can not be unaware of the overall piddly value of their activities, but that's not why they don't discontinue to “act the act”: it's because their masters, i.e. our elected representatives, know no better; what, other than that, they could offer us=the public to allay our fears of horrors freely spreading across borders & destroying our comfy way of life. That most of it is home-grown, which makes it politically inexpedient to do anything about, they conveniently keep schtum about (so Le Pens of this world have a field day).

Thus, while the security theatre is coordinated to some degree at the governing boards-meeting level, it works as everything else on the local (to us mortals most observable) plane: by muddying through, by hook & by crook. The Master Plan for the Month says there are to be XYZ security events, the checkers are all tooled up, on we go whether it makes any sense or not. Presumably, this type of "Swiss cheese security think" is motivated internally with that “randomized activities mean greater uncertainty for potential terrorists,” i.e. lower the predictability of encountering even only the superficial, haphazard & sloppy security presence.

KristSeptember 1, 2015 11:09 AM

@ianf: The absurdity is that the "randomized activities" aren't even random. So uncertainty isn't increased for the terrorist. Only their planning overhead, and that only a little.
All a terrorist needs to do to explode a bomb on the Barcelona - Madrid high speed railway is board a Madrid bound train in Perpignan. (There's at least one daily). But he will then also find out, like Carlos the Jackal found out when he bombed a Paris - Toulouse TGV in 1982, you don't achieve much when bombing a train. Tains are tough. They actually aren't soft targets. The motor car of a TGV alone weighs about as much as an whole AIRBUS A320...

ianfSeptember 1, 2015 12:32 PM

Don't expect the puppet-masters to label anything pseudo- … that's how they evolved to puppet-masterdom while you & I can but kvetch about it.

Bob GarciaSeptember 1, 2015 6:48 PM

European governments seem to have good record on which of their citizens have gone to countries like Syria and Iraq. Has anyone explained why they don't prevent those citizens from re-entering any country in the Euro zone if they visited those countries without permission? Seems that would be vastly simpler than trying to let them back in and then be faced with monitoring or tracking them.

Dirk PraetSeptember 1, 2015 7:22 PM

@ Bob Garcia

Has anyone explained why they don't prevent those citizens from re-entering any country in the Euro zone if they visited those countries without permission?

Because that would be a blatant violation of their human rights. The EU is not the former Soviet Union where people need authorisation from their government to travel abroad. In practice, the only people who can be stopped from flying out are minors and people with an impending arrest warrant. Visiting Turkey, Iraq or Syria is not a crime unless there is reasonable and articulate suspicion that the traveler has or will be engaging in criminal activities, at which time he/she can be questioned and detained, but never refused re-entry if he/she is a permanent resident with a valid passport or visa for the Schengen zone.

The issue has however been raised by certain politicos suggesting temporary revocation of passports for radicalised youngsters with a high risk of going to Syria or even revoking citizenship all together for those returning, but in the current legal context such measures are unlikely to hold up before the ECHR.

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