Entries Tagged "Australia"

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Mobile Phones Disabled When President Bush Visits Sydney

In an effort to prevent terrorism, parts of the mobile phone network will be disabled when President Bush visits Australia. I’ve written about this kind of thing before; it’s a perfect example of security theater: a countermeasure that works if you happen to guess the specific details of the plot correctly, and completely useless otherwise.

On the plus side, it’s only a small area that’s blocked:

It is expected mobile phone calls will drop out in an area the size of a football field as the helicopter passes overhead.

EDITED TO ADD (5/19): Slashdot thread.

EDITED TO ADD (5/20): The Register article.

Posted on May 16, 2007 at 1:55 PMView Comments

Stink Bombs As Terrorist Tools

Two teenage boys detonated a stink bomb on a Sydney commuter train, and prompted a counter-terrorism response.

Best quote:

“It would have been terrifying. You’re on a train, you hear a loud bang, the logical conclusion that people drew was (that it was) probably a terrorist attack,” Mr Owens told reporters.

I agree that it was the conclusion that people drew, but not that it was a logical conclusion.

Posted on May 7, 2007 at 7:15 AMView Comments

How Australian Authorities Respond to Potential Terrorists

Watch the video of how the Australian authorities react when someone — dressed either as an American or Arab tourist — films the Sydney Harbor Bridge and a nuclear reactor.

The synopsis: The Arab is intercepted within three minutes both times, while the U.S. tourist is given instructions on how to get inside the nuclear facility.

Moral for terrorists: dress like an American.

By the way, Lucas Heights is a research reactor. It produces medical isotopes and performs research, and doesn’t produce power.

Posted on April 24, 2007 at 7:12 AMView Comments

Sky Marshals in Australia

Their cost-effectiveness is being debated:

They’ve cost the taxpayer $106 million so far, they travel in business class, and over the past four years Australia’s armed air marshals have had to act only once — subduing a 68-year-old man who produced a small knife on a flight from Sydney to Cairns in 2003.

I have not seen any similar cost analysis from the United States.

Posted on March 8, 2007 at 7:37 AMView Comments

Fraudulent Australian Census Takers

In Australia, criminals are posing as census takers and harvesting personal data for fraudulent purposes.

EDITED TO ADD (8/21): I didn’t notice that this link is from 2001. Sorry about missing that, but it actually makes the story more interesting. This is the sort of identity-theft tactic that I would have expected to see this year, as criminals have gotten more and more sophisticated. It surprises me that they were doing this five years ago as well.

Posted on August 21, 2006 at 6:24 AMView Comments

Australian Minister's Sensible Comments on Airline Security Sparks Outcry

I’m the first to admit that I don’t know anything about Australian politics. I don’t know who Amanda Vanstone is, what she stands for, and what other things she’s said about any other topic.

But I happen to think she’s right about airline security:

In a wide-ranging speech to Adelaide Rotarians, Senator Vanstone dismissed many commonwealth security measures as essentially ineffective. “To be tactful about these things, a lot of what we do is to make people feel better as opposed to actually achieve an outcome,” Senator Vanstone said.


During her Adelaide speech, Senator Vanstone implied the use of plastic cutlery on planes to thwart terrorism was foolhardy.

Implied? I’ll say it outright. It’s stupid. For all its faults, I’m always pleased when Northwest Airlines gives me a real metal knife, and I am always annoyed when American Airlines still gives me a plastic one.

“Has it ever occurred to you that you just smash your wine glass and jump at someone, grab the top of their head and put it in their carotid artery and ask anything?” Senator Vanstone told her audience of about 100 Rotarians. “And believe me, you will have their attention. I think of this every time I see more money for the security agencies.”

The Immigration Minister also told of a grisly conversation with Mr Howard during a discussion on increased spending on national security.

Senator Vanstone said: “I asked him if I was able to get on a plane with an HB pencil, which you are able to, and I further asked him if I went down and came and grabbed him by the front of the head and stabbed the HB pencil into your eyeball and wiggled it around down to your brain area, do you think you’d be focusing? He’s thinking, she’s gone mad again.”

Okay, so maybe that was a bit graphic for the Rotarians. But her comments are basically right, and don’t deserve this kind of response:

“(Her) extraordinary outburst that airport security was a sham to make the public feel good has made a mockery of the Howard Government’s credibility in this important area of counter-terrorism,” Mr Bevis said yesterday. “And for Amanda Vanstone to once again put her foot in her mouth while John Howard is overseas for serious talks on terrorism is appalling. She should apologise and quit, or if the Prime Minister can’t shut her up he should sack her.”

But Mr. Bevis, airport security is largely a sham to make the public feel better about flying. And if your Prime Minister doesn’t know that, then you should worry about how serious his talks will be.

Vanstone has been defending herself:

Vanstone rejected calls from the Labor Party opposition for her resignation over the comments they said trivialised an important issue, saying she was not ridiculing security measures.

“If the day has come when a minister can’t say what every other Australian says and that is that plastic knives drive us crazy, I think we’re in desperate straits,” the minister told commercial radio on Monday.

Vanstone said she did not believe the security measures should be scrapped.

“What I have said is that putting a plastic knife on a plane doesn’t necessarily make you very much safer. Bear in mind there are other things that are on planes,” she said.

“People should not feel that because plastic knives are there, the world has dramatically changed — because there are still HB pencils.”

Plastic knives on airplanes drive me crazy too, and they don’t do anything to improve our security against terrorism. I know nothing about Vanstone and her policies, but she has this one right.

Posted on November 22, 2005 at 1:41 PMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.