Friday, February 19, 2010

In the same vein of "What about safe flights?" Bob Kustra recently interviewed world renowned security expert Bruce Schneier for some powerful insights on the subject:

"Remember the day after the 'underwear bomber', our Secretary of Homeland Security said, basically, that security succeeded on Christmas Day, and she was villified for it, which frustrates me, because, you know, security did succeed. Think of what happened: we had no bomb explode, no plane crash, nobody die, and terrorist arrested. Sounds like a success to me, sounds like a phenomenal success. I think we should be very happy, and we should be laughing at this guy.

"Instead, we went into sort of 'full fear mode', and, really succeeding in terrorizing ourselves, and this frustrates me. Here it is, this guy failed and yet he's succeeding and causing terror.

"And when you think about why he failed, and this is very important, he failed because of pre-9/11 security. Because, in Amsterdam airport, they screen for obvious guns and bombs, the bomb-maker had to build an inefficient bomb. So instead of using a plunger, or a timer, or a fuse, or something any normal, commercial user of this plastic explosive might employ, he had to build an ad hoc, home-brewed detonation device, with a syringe, and 20 minutes in the bathroom, and a fire in his lap, and actually we don't know what else. That failed. And that's security succeeding. And then after that, new developments in airline security, which is passengers fighting back, quickly subdued him, and the plane landed safely....

"When people are scared, they want to feel better. People are scared of stories. The Christmas Day suicide bombing attempt was a story, and the story made people afraid. And when people are afraid, they really can't hear. You know, 'it wasn't a big deal, relax.' You remember, the day after Christmas, nobody wanted to hear that. Everyone wanted to hear 'how are you going to make us safer? What are you going to do?' There's a belief that perfection is possible, that when something goes wrong, someone must be at fault, someone must be to blame, and there must be a fix.

"Even though in the real world, as we all know, you can do everything right and still have things go wrong. There doesn't have to be a fault. But as a politician you can't say that. So you have to look tough on terror, you have to give people a competing narrative.... even if it makes no sense, [even if it's just 'security theater'].

Thanks to Fort Boise's Tom von Alten for pointing this out.

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