That Tiresome Warning About Inappropriate Jokes


Over the years, Mr. Schneier has been a tough critic of the security agency, though he credits Mr. Hawley for “doing the best job he could with the bad hand he was dealt.” By that, he says he means that the agency operates under mandates from Congress and elsewhere that resulted in a vast, expensive bureaucracy.

The agency, he argues, is required to spend less effort than it should on sophisticated intelligence-gathering and more than it should on deeply flawed procedures, like depending on travel documents that can be easily counterfeited, or fishing in passengers’ bags for contraband screwdrivers and prohibited items like jars of spaghetti sauce that exceed three ounces.

Incessant warnings about “inappropriate” comments are “police state-like,” he said.

“It’s watch what you say, watch what you say,” he said. “I get interviewed in airports by reporters all the time, and when I’m talking about how security stinks or whatever, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, am I going to be accused by somebody of making inappropriate comments?”

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.