Monday, January 4, 2010

Security Theater (Remove Shoes Before Entering)

Aviation security experts like Bruce Schneier call what we’re doing at airports in our country “security theater”, because it does nearly nothing to actually keep us safer. Fear is contagious and it’s whipped up by the media, and politicians like to throw our money away on things which are quite visible, but certainly not effective.

The facts of the attempted Christmas Day bombing are very troubling. A kid without luggage buys a one-way ticket and pays for it in cash; his father has warned authorities that his son hates America; and he actually manages to get explosives through whatever passes for “security” at Schiphol airport.

The kind of security that stops this stuff has nothing to do with limiting liquids to three ounces, or taking your shoes off. It has to do with invisible stuff that doesn’t make good theater, like enhancing intelligence-gathering and forcing diverse agencies to communicate with each other.

In other words, the kind of stuff politicians hate to spend our money on.
After the failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid was thrust onto the world scene, Newt Gingrich decried the hastily-implemented policy of forcing all passengers in our airports to remove their shoes for inspection as worthless, and said - sarcastically - “what are we going to do if some terrorist hides explosives in their underwear”?

Well, Mr. Newt, the joke’s on us, I guess.

What kind of flawed thinking says we’ll be safer if we react to whatever the terrorists happened to do the last time they attacked? Apparently, the kind of thinking most bureaucrats and politicians use.

Every time bin Laden releases another cassette tape, the media give it huge play and find the most scary people they can, to pontificate and sell more fear.
Let’s face it: Homeland Security is a bad joke. It’s nothing more than another hugely expensive government bureaucracy, an outfit my friend Mike calls “too big, too general, too wasteful, too clumsy, and hopelessly larded with career bureaucrats and political appointees.” And the woman who runs it now, this Napolitano woman, is every bit as incompetent and clueless as her politically-appointed predecessors.

As President Obama begins his review of our security agencies - again - tomorrow, I hope he doesn’t conclude that what’s needed is still another bureaucracy of some sort, or even more laws, rules, and regulations.

The more we undermine our constitution, the more we make our airports look like third-world armed camps, the more liberties we surrender under a false sense of “being more secure”, the less work the terrorists have to do.

The more “security theater” we tolerate, the less safe we are.


  1. You can't blame politicians for that.

    Theatre has been very effective for them since the 1980's or so.

    'S why Murdock is mumbling about a 'peaceful overthrow of the Gummint' in a column today.

  2. Good post. Here's some things I'd like to see:
    1. When we have actionable intelligence like say, a guy buys a one way ticket overseas with cash and no luggage and let's say maybe his father reports him as being radicalized, let's act on it proactivley.
    2. Ramp up the breeding of bomb sniffing dogs. They were patroling the Amtrak stations in Philadelphia and DC with them when I was there last summer. Probably works just as well or better than any expensive scanners for bombs on a person.
    3. Bring over some Israeli security experts. Do what they do at their airports. They know what works.