Unforeseen Costs of Security Training

At the last match of the year for Manchester United, someone found a bomb in a toilet, and security evacuated all 75,000 people and canceled the match. Turns out it was a fake bomb left behind after a recent training exercise.

Posted on May 16, 2016 at 5:15 PM • 30 Comments

Comments

AnuraMay 16, 2016 5:22 PM

Seems like something that was easily preventable just by doing a simple inventory of equipment.

Semi-Good_NewsMay 16, 2016 5:59 PM

The good/(less terrible) news is, civilians can (to some extent) identify bombs and act to prevent deaths.

I agree that this is terrible, then I remember how many of us have locked our keys in our car. This is another laughable mistake of humanity. We all make laughable mistakes, we always have, we always will. We will always make mistakes, lets just try to not repeat them.

Dirk PraetMay 16, 2016 6:55 PM

I'm not really sure if it was indeed a mistake or some deliberate oversight in order to properly assess a bomb threat scenario in a packed stadium with an unwitting audience and security services. The EU Championship in France is coming up in less than a month and this really was a perfect dry run.

Ewan MarshallMay 16, 2016 7:01 PM

How long ago did Aesop teach us not to cry wolf. Modern health and safety policies in the UK seems to have forgotten that lesson. Security practice event is run frequently and then not cleared up properly... In academic institutions I've seen them do full sounding tests on the fire alarm fortnightly causing a slow down in real evacuations as people can't know if it's the test again or a real event until the alarm has been sounding for some time. It seems people need to be taught the old fakes again.

DanielMay 16, 2016 7:09 PM

@Dirk

I'm with you. The whole scenario reeks to me. What are the odds that (a) someone would identify the bomb. (2) that the bomb would not happen to be a false alarm (which most are) or a real bomb (which is seldom true) but one left over from a security exercise and (3) that as a result they went through this entire security exercise.

Because let's just imagine this is real. What is going to happen is that someday a security official is going to remember this episode, say to himself, "oh hell no, I'm not taking the heat for some fake bomb" and then proceed to call around to all the security agencies to find out who left the fake bomb, all the while cursing their idiocy, only to have it turn out to be a real bomb that kills scores.

People already have a hard time as it is with the "see something say something" in discerning a false positive from a true positive. Situations like this don't make their discernment easier, it make the discernment process much more difficult.

Pterrists?May 16, 2016 8:05 PM

Who needs terrorists? We're perfectly capable of doing it to ourselves... even with our own "training" exercises...

Let me be plain: You don't stop terrorism by promoting fear and panic and removing the concept of there being human rights... you stop terrorism by educating people not to be terrorized at it! i.e. you promote calmness, courage, and fearlessness in the face of any danger, rather than trying to crack down on there ever being any danger at any cost.

RonKMay 17, 2016 12:31 AM

@ Daniel

> someday a security official is going to remember this episode, say to
> himself, "oh hell no, I'm not taking the heat for some fake bomb"

What parallel universe do you live in? The one where recommending going with IBM and Microsoft gets you fired?

My only hope is that what you claim will be true tomorrow will be true in a few decades (not because, of course, I want innocent people to be killed, but rather because the only possible scenario where I can imagine that happening is one where for decades no one has even attempted to kill innocent people in those kinds of scenarios).

Yousef SyedMay 17, 2016 12:53 AM

... still the most exciting thing to have happened at Old Trafford, all season!

MikeMay 17, 2016 2:07 AM

One odd thing that came out in the reporting (cf BBC news) was that the evacuation announcement also included the phrase "Code Red". Yet the staff and the attending fans had no idea what this was supposed to mean, outside of movies they'd watched.
It seemed to lend an air of legitimacy, though, because the evacuation went extraordinarily well and was pretty swift.

What does the Red code mean to you?

qsxMay 17, 2016 3:43 AM

@Dirk, I assume you are not following English football. This game was the last of the championship season, an important one for Manchester United (then trying to get to the lucrative Champion's League) who have now to reschedule it just before another important one (Cup Final). Very annoying for them.
And there's a huge amount of money on the line. They have to compensate the opponents. They also have to reimburse 3M£ to supporters. The cost of all of this is gigantic, in terms of image for the club, the security firm and the police as well.
There is no way it was an exercise.

fajensenMay 17, 2016 4:53 AM

@Dirk Praet

Maybe someone didn't manage to fix the match properly and had their people pull the red handle before taking a big loss on betting operations?

Or maybe someone on-the-up as it were sending the message that just paying the protection fees would be much cheaper and more convenient than the alternatives?

The cock-up still stands. Physical security in the UK comes with a pay-scale that almost guarantees that only people with a uniform fetish, dum-dum's than McD won't take and people with a blemished criminal record (probably scoping out the place for future enterprise opportunities) applies for the job.

Dirk PraetMay 17, 2016 5:14 AM

@ qsx

And there's a huge amount of money on the line.

I know, and I'm probably just going through a minor tinfoil hat episode, but I still find the timing a bit odd. Stranger things have happened.

@ fajensen

Maybe someone didn't manage to fix the match properly and had their people pull the red handle before taking a big loss on betting operations?

Whatever happened to the good old horse's head in the bed 8-)

blakeMay 17, 2016 5:19 AM

@Daniel

> What is going to happen is that someday a security official is going to remember this episode, say to himself, "oh hell no, I'm not taking the heat for some fake bomb"

Please never be a security official.

The correct response from a security official is to make sure that *someone else* looses *their* job for leaving a fake bomb in the arena.

It's an extreme case, but still this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon's_razor

KeithMay 17, 2016 6:59 AM

"What does the Red code mean to you?"

abort the game, the Cherries are going to win

(UTCIAD)

arfnarfMay 17, 2016 7:13 AM

From the article: Detailed examination found that the package, thought to consist of a mobile phone attached to a pipe, was not “viable”, Greater Manchester police (GMP) initially said.

Real bombs don't look very bomb like. People (including members of the police force) have been watching too many movies.

You Cant Handle the TruthMay 17, 2016 9:29 AM

@Wael

Actually, this diatribe from A Few Good Men is more relevant to the prevailing mentality of the MIC, especially the CIA and NSA, irrespective of how many laws they break (of course outside of Hollywood, nobody is punished):

You can't handle the truth!

Son, we live in a world with walls that must be guarded.

Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg?

I have more responsibility than you can fathom.

You weep for Santiago and curse the Marines.

You don't know what I know. Santiago's tragic death saved lives.

And my existence, while grotesque to you, saves lives!

But deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties - you need me on that wall.

We use words like honour, code, loyalty.

They're the backbone of our lives. You use them as a punchline!

I haven't the time or inclination to explain myself - to a man who needs my protection - but questions the way I do it.

Better just to thank me. Or pick up a gun and stand a post.

But I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

Fortunately, no matter what the spooks think we are entitled too, we'll keep getting it courtesy of whistle-blowers and their porous cyber systems. Yeh baby. Case in point - latest Greenwald expose.

Keep calm, ignore the propaganda, and carry on...........

Eire Old BoyMay 17, 2016 10:20 AM

The conspiracy theorist in me says that United wanted the match postponed to see what result would be needed to make it to the Champions' League for next season.
(All the PL matches on the day started at the same time.)

Now, can they score 19 goals tonight?

PacoMay 17, 2016 11:28 AM

Here's a scenario I'll throw out for the group (for which I have zero evidence, just a notion of mine): The bomb was real and was planted by terrorists. The authorities, having secretly infiltrated the cell of actors responsible, and evacuating the stadium without injury, put out the training device explanation to steal any terror from the plot by making people think there was never any real danger.

Paco

albertMay 17, 2016 11:48 AM

Points regarding the two failures mentioned here:

"...accidentally been left by a private company following a training exercise...".

1. A 'private company'.
2. The CIA.

Really. Are you going to make me go through all the examples of bungling incompetence by TLAs and private contractors?

I thought not.
. .. . .. --- ....

DanielMay 17, 2016 12:29 PM

There is no way it was an exercise.

The best type of exercise is the one that people don't think is an exercise.

BuggyMay 17, 2016 2:41 PM

I don't think there's any conspiracy here, but for those tin foil hatters that don't follow Premier League, you need some deets: all the final games of the season are supposed to be played at the same time so that teams don't game the results (e.g. rest key players if they know they can't benefit from a win; play for a draw if it's all they need). Man U now knows that they cannot play Champions League next season (an outcome valued at far more than 3M pounds) nor can they get bumped out of a Europa League bye, will rest their starters in the replay, and focus on winning the League Cup. Winning their last 2 games (one league, one "playoff") would have been tough with the number of matches they've been playing, and now they only have to worry about one of them. The home team did indeed benefit from this outcome, at least in the short term.

Clive RobinsonMay 18, 2016 2:23 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

Whatever happened to the good old horse's head in the bed 8-)

David Cameron changed that, by swapping the meat around...

You might not know but horses heads were a favourd way of catching eels in the river Thames in London, for the pie and mash shops to make liquor with a century ago. Then WWI got most horses taken to France, where they ended up being amongst other things fodder for cannons.

Since the end of WWI the lack of horses and manpower caused a major change that ushered in motor vehicles of all kinds. Which doomed the horse to "pet status" in short order.

These days however it appears horses in the UK are being bought or stolen and ending up on a long trip around Europe before at one point comming back to the UK as a different fodder, "neddy burgers" pre-packed and frozen from a supermarket on the High St.

Thus horses heads are a real scarcity in the UK thus David had to make do with a pigs head instead according to some notable persons...

bobMay 18, 2016 1:30 PM

I think a lot of time "professional testers" lose sight of the end goal, safety of the population at large; and become wrapped up in "the game".

One time at a military inspection, we formally requested of the inspectors (and were granted) permission to lock a little-used door and put up a sign "simulated guard" in lieu of putting an actual guard on the door due to limited personnel (had it been real war we could have brought in more people).

Then the inspectors put a (simulated) bomb at that door and we were judged to have been blown up with big casualties.

I always considered that was a foul on the inspectors' part since they approved in advance us abandoning that door; if there had been a real guard there, there's no way they would have not seen it in time to at least evacuate.

Another time we were under simulated artillery attack and an inspector put an artillery simulator under our vehicle and the explosion knocked magnets off the wall. I broke simulation and yelled at the inspector that the @#$! vehicle (value $6.6M in 1985 dollars) had to survive the inspection or there wasn't any point being good at using it.

suferickMay 21, 2016 2:29 AM

Not the last match of the year for Manchester United, or even the last match of the season - there is still the little matter of the FA Cup final to be played

ianfMay 22, 2016 4:45 AM


@ "Pterrists?" hyperventilates with what looks like unsolicited advice to governmental actors: […] “You don't stop terrorism by promoting fear and panic and removing the concept of there being human rights... you stop terrorism by educating people not to be terrorized at it!

Whatever gave you the idea that state security agencies would be in the business of stopping terror, or even just educating the electorate in sensible fear response strategies. Apart from sheer impossibility of expecting the masses to act rationally in the face of FUD, educating the public would be directly counterproductive from these agencies' institutional point of view—because ultimately it would translate to lower budgets, thus lower status on the governmental pay, benefits, influence and other such formal and informal scales. Subsequently, any such agency's first and foremost task is to survive and prosper, so be it at the expense of its raison d'être and that of other entities with which it is supposed to cooperate.

Post 2001/9/11, in the USA, that was what the newly created Dept. of Homeland Security was meant to accomplish, to cut through real and imaginary RED TAPE, and make sure that its various (some say 17, others 35 in toto) civilian control fiefdoms not obstructed one another. I think it worked for a while, then by implicit agreement everybody went back to the old ways of protecting own budgetary turf first, cooperation second.

And, btw. it's not like that condition (or plural of them) is unknown to the supervisory powers; only that those higher instances find time and again that all attempts at reforming the status quo invariably lead to even worse FUBAR than before… institutional entropy, inertia and lower-branches self-serving righteous appeals to be "upholding the ideals of," "standing guard over," etc "defense of liberty" weighting heavier than reforms with legislators dependent on getting reelected by sanctimonious and unenlightened electorate.

PS. if the above reads like I don't hold "rank and file" Americans in high regard, then it is not unintentional. They're the ones that make the Procrustes bed—a metaphor—for all of us (look it up!)

MarkMay 24, 2016 10:51 PM

As someone who lived in the UK for 2 years, this story is hardly surprising. They are so over-zealous with their security and yet so incompetent.

There is no common sense in the UK when it comes to security; there are only people who cannot think for themselves and those in charge who are only interested in protecting themselves.

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