Kelly and I were working at a craft fair trying to sell some of her jewelry and the weather was just gorgeous. In the morning it was a bit low so I walked to a little neighborhood market to get a bite to eat for us. While there the nearby railroad crossing started flashing and dinging as a train approached the crossing. So I walked over to take a look.
OK, so apparently the universe is not done sending me slightly macabre and random stories. This time, I’m OK with this. This one is almost funny.
Many of you who know me know that I am a great admirer of Bruce Schneier, a renowned cryptology and security expert who has been a thorn in the side of those who believe all security issues can be solved with big, expensive machines and the push of a button. He is the inventor of the term “security theater”, or measures that are more effective at looking like you are doing something than actually doing anything to make you safer. I have several of his books and I highly recommend them. Anyway, recently Bruce was uninvited from testifying in front of Congress at the insistence of the TSA. I imagine this has something to do with the fact that he is a very vocal critic of the TSA and many of their policies.
Confused? You aren’t the only one.
Those of you who know us know that Geoff and I HATE to fly. I’m generally not a fan of traveling, but I specifically hate to fly. It isn’t that I dislike planes or have a problem with a fear of flying or anything like that. It’s the TSA. I hate the TSA with the fiery passion of a 1,000 suns.
The TSA, an organization rapidly on its way to becoming both a punchline and the most-hated Federal agency in the country, has committed yet another mind-bogglingly stupid act. This time, they have forced an elderly cancer patient to all sorts of humiliating search procedures, including forcing her to remove her adult diaper. How does this make anyone safer? It certainly does not make anyone’s travel experience more fun. This sort of thing is why I have decided I will not fly domestically anymore. It’s either driving or the train. And it is positively infuriating to see this sort of thing being condoned by so many people who should know better. This is security theater, in the truest sense of the term. it is an utter waste of time and resources, and it makes ordinary people mistrust the people entrusted to protect them. It does not make flying more safe, it makes airports more unbearable.
The answer is, and always has been, better intelligence. Have we made the creation of more interpreters in Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, and other relevant languages a priority? Not really, no. In fact, until recently the policy of the government was to be more afraid of interpreters that might be gay than they were of the terrorists. And we continue to collect huge piles of raw data that sit sometimes for weeks or months with no one looking at it because there is simply too much for the overworked analysts to do. The data is useless unless someone can actually examine it. Most of the time, that sort of data can be used to show trends and patterns. It rarely if ever has everything all wrapped up in a neat little package like TV or the movies. Just grabbing all the e-mails and tapping all the cell phones the way was done with AT&T is such a colossal waste of time it makes my head hurt. It’s not like by grabbing all the Tweets in the country the government is suddenly going to find the one that says “Terrorists Abdul Johannsen and Ali Ibn Humperdink are going to bring a suitcase bomb onto U.S.A. Airways Flight 2112 on December 25th. Merry Christmas infidels!” And profiling of the most completely asinine sort has been policy, rather than behavior profiling, which is not only what is done in places like Ben Gurion airport in Israel, but is what we already do in the FBI and other crime analysis units around the country. And it works, people. IT WORKS. So stop trying to reinvent the wheel, and stop trying to insist for political expediency that the square wheel you invented really is better.