Entries Tagged "sports"

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Tom Ridge Can Find Terrorists Anywhere

One of the problems with our current discourse about terrorism and terrorist policies is that the people entrusted with counterterrorism—those whose job it is to surveil, study, or defend against terrorism—become so consumed with their role that they literally start seeing terrorists everywhere. So it comes as no surprise that if you ask Tom Ridge, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, about potential terrorism risks at a new LA football stadium, of course he finds them everywhere.

From a report he prepared—paid, I’m sure—about the location of a new football stadium:

Specifically, locating an NFL stadium at the Inglewood-Hollywood Park site needlessly increases risks for existing interests: LAX and tenant airlines, the NFL, the City of Los Angeles, law enforcement and first responders as well as the citizens and commercial enterprises in surrounding areas and across global transportation networks and supply chains. That risk would be expanded with the additional stadium and “soft target” infrastructure that would encircle the facility locally.

To be clear, total risk cannot be eliminated at any site. But basic risk management principles suggest that the proximity of these two sites creates a separate and additional set of risks that are wholly unnecessary.

In the post 9/11 world, the threat of terrorism is a permanent condition. As both a former governor and secretary of homeland security, it is my opinion that the peril of placing a National Football League stadium in the direct flight path of LAX—layering risk—outweigh any benefits over the decades-long lifespan of the facility.

If a decision is made to move forward at the Inglewood/Hollywood Park site, the NFL, state and local leaders, and those they represent, must be willing to accept the significant risk and the possible consequences that accompany a stadium at the location. This should give both public and private leaders in the area some pause. At the very least, an open, public debate should be enabled so that all interests may understand the comprehensive and interconnected security, safety and economic risks well before a shovel touches the ground.

I’m sure he can’t help himself.

I am reminded of Glenn Greenwald’s essay on the “terrorist expert” industry. I am also reminded of this story about a father taking pictures of his daughters.

On the plus side, now we all have a convincing argument against development. “You can’t possibly build that shopping mall near my home, because OMG! terrorism.”

Posted on March 4, 2015 at 6:40 AMView Comments

Security at Sports Stadiums

Lots of sports stadiums have instituted Draconian new rules. Here are the rules for St. Louis Rams games:

Fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:

  • Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.” (Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags are available through club merchandise outlets or at nflshop.com), or
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
  • Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap, may be carried into the stadium along with one of the clear bag options.
  • An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.

Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.

Of course you’re supposed to think this is about terrorism. My guess is that this is to help protect the security of the profits at the concession stands.

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 6:29 AMView Comments

Fixing Soccer Matches

How international soccer matches are fixed.

Right now, Dan Tan’s programmers are busy reverse-engineering the safeguards of online betting houses. About $3 billion is wagered on sports every day, most of it on soccer, most of it in Asia. That’s a lot of noise on the big exchanges. We can exploit the fluctuations, rig the bets in a way that won’t trip the houses’ alarms. And there are so many moments in a soccer game that could swing either way. All you have to do is see an Ilves tackle in the box where maybe the Viikingit forward took a dive. It happens all the time. It would happen anyway. So while you’re running around the pitch in Finland, the syndicate will have computers placing high-volume max bets on whatever outcome the bosses decided on, using markets in Manila that take bets during games, timing the surges so the security bots don’t spot anything suspicious. The exchanges don’t care, not really. They get a cut of all the action anyway. The system is stacked so it’s gamblers further down the chain who bear all the risks.

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 7:29 AMView Comments

The DHS Partners with Major League Soccer to Promote Fear

It seems to be harder and harder to keep people scared:

The Department’s “If You See Something, Say Something™” partnership with the MLS Cup will feature a “If You See Something, Say Something™” graphic that will aired on the video board during the MLS Cup championship game in Carson City, Calif. Safety messaging will also be printed on the back of MLS Cup credentials for staff, players, and volunteers and in game day programs distributed to fans. Throughout the MLS season “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign graphics appeared on video boards and on the MLS website, and the “If You See Something, Say Something™” Public Service Announcement was read at games.

Will there also be “If You See Something, Say Something™” Day, with Janet Napolitano bobbleheads given to all the kids?

This kind of thing only serves to ratchet up fear, and doesn’t make us any safer. I’ve written about this before.

Posted on November 28, 2011 at 7:26 AMView Comments

Football Match Fixing

Detecting fixed football (soccer) games.

There is a certain buzz of expectation, because Oscar, one of the fraud analysts, has spotted a game he is sure has been fixed.

“We’ve been watching this for a couple of weeks now,” he says.

“The odds have gone to a very suspicious level. We believe that this game will finish in an away victory. Usually an away team would have around a 30% chance of winning, but at the current odds this team is about 85% likely to win.”


Often news of the fix will leak so that gamblers jump on the bandwagon. The game we are watching falls, it seems, into the second category.

Oscar monitors the betting at half-time. He is especially interested in money being laid not on the result itself, but on the number of goals that are going to be scored.

“The most likely score lines are 2-1 or 3-1,” he announces.

This is interesting:

Oscar is also interested in the activity of a club manager – but his modus operandi is somewhat different. He does not throw games. He wins them.


“The reason he’s so important is because he has relationships with all his previous clubs. He has managed at least three or four of the teams he is now buying wins against. He has also managed a lot of players from the opposition, who are being told to lose these matches.”

I always think of fixing a game as meaning losing it on purpose, not winning it by paying the other team to lose.

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 12:41 PMView Comments

Hiding in Plain Sight


When he’s out and about near his Denver home, former Broncos quarterback John Elway has come up with a novel way to travel incognito—­he wears his own jersey. “I do that all the time here,” the 50-year-old Hall of Famer told me. “I go to the mall that way. They know it’s not me because they say there’s no way Elway would be wearing his own jersey in the mall. So it actually is the safest thing to do.”

Of course, now everybody knows.

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 7:34 AMView Comments

Terrorists Targeting High-Profile Events

In an AP story on increased security at major football (the American variety) events, this sentence struck me:

“High-profile events are something that terrorist groups would love to interrupt somehow,” said Anthony Mangione, chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Miami office.

This is certainly the conventional wisdom, but is there any actual evidence that it’s true? The 9/11 terrorists could have easily chosen a different date and a major event—sporting or other—to target, but they didn’t. The London and Madrid train bombers could have just as easily chosen more high-profile events to bomb, but they didn’t. The Mumbai terrorists chose an ordinary day and ordinary targets. Aum Shinrikyo chose an ordinary day and ordinary train lines. Timothy McVeigh chose the ordinary Oklahoma City Federal Building. Irish terrorists chose, and Palestinian terrorists continue to choose, ordinary targets. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that ordinary targets are easier targets, but not a lot of it.

The only examples that come to mind of terrorists choosing high-profile events or targets are the idiot wannabe terrorists who would have been incapable of doing anything unless egged on by a government informant. Hardly convincing evidence.

Yes, I’ve seen the movie Black Sunday. But is there any reason to believe that terrorists want to target these sorts of events other than us projecting our own fears and prejudices onto the terrorists’ motives?

I wrote about protecting the World Series some years ago.

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 7:53 AMView Comments

The Futility of Defending the Targets

This is just silly:

Beaver Stadium is a terrorist target. It is most likely the No. 1 target in the region. As such, it deserves security measures commensurate with such a designation, but is the stadium getting such security?


When the stadium is not in use it does not mean it is not a target. It must be watched constantly. An easy solution is to assign police officers there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is how a plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge was thwarted—police presence. Although there are significant costs to this, the costs pale in comparison if the stadium is destroyed or damaged.

The idea is to create omnipresence, which is a belief in everyone’s minds (terrorists and pranksters included) that the stadium is constantly being watched so that any attempt would be futile.

Actually, the Brooklyn Bridge plot failed because the plotters were idiots and the plot—cutting through cables with blowtorches—was dumb. That, and the all-too-common police informant who egged the plotters on.

But never mind that. Beaver Stadium is Pennsylvania State University’s football stadium, and this article argues that it’s a potential terrorist target that needs 24/7 police protection.

The problem with that kind of reasoning is that it makes no sense. As I said in an article that will appear in New Internationalist:

To be sure, reasonable arguments can be made that some terrorist targets are more attractive than others: aeroplanes because a small bomb can result in the death of everyone aboard, monuments because of their national significance, national events because of television coverage, and transportation because of the numbers of people who commute daily. But there are literally millions of potential targets in any large country (there are five million commercial buildings alone in the US), and hundreds of potential terrorist tactics; it’s impossible to defend every place against everything, and it’s impossible to predict which tactic and target terrorists will try next.

Defending individual targets only makes sense if the number of potential targets is few. If there are seven terrorist targets and you defend five of them, you seriously reduce the terrorists’ ability to do damage. But if there are a million terrorist targets and you defend five of them, the terrorists won’t even notice. I tend to dislike security measures that merely cause the bad guys to make a minor change in their plans.

And the expense would be enormous. Add up these secondary terrorist targets—stadiums, theaters, churches, schools, malls, office buildings, anyplace where a lot of people are packed together—and the number is probably around 200,000, including Beaver Stadium. Full-time police protection requires people, so that’s 1,000,000 policemen. At an encumbered cost of $100,000 per policeman per year, probably a low estimate, that’s a total annual cost of $100B. (That’s about what we’re spending each year in Iraq.) On the other hand, hiring one out of every 300 Americans to guard our nation’s infrastructure would solve our unemployment problem. And since policemen get health care, our health care problem as well. Just make sure you don’t accidentally hire a terrorist to guard against terrorists—that would be embarrassing.

The whole idea is nonsense. As I’ve been saying for years, what works is investigation, intelligence, and emergency response:

We need to defend against the broad threat of terrorism, not against specific movie plots. Security is most effective when it doesn’t make arbitrary assumptions about the next terrorist act. We need to spend more money on intelligence and investigation: identifying the terrorists themselves, cutting off their funding, and stopping them regardless of what their plans are. We need to spend more money on emergency response: lessening the impact of a terrorist attack, regardless of what it is. And we need to face the geopolitical consequences of our foreign policy and how it helps or hinders terrorism.

Posted on October 9, 2009 at 6:37 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.