The War on Security
Bruce Schneier almost always says sensible things on the subject of security and in response to the London bombings he doesn't disappoint:
We need to resist the urge to react against the particulars of this particular terrorist plot, and to keep focused on the terrorists' goals. Spending billions to defend our trains and busses at the expense of other counterterrorist measures makes no sense. Terrorists are out to cause terror, and they don't care if they bomb trains, busses, shopping malls, theaters, stadiums, schools, markets, restaurants, discos, or any other collection of 100 people in a small space. There are simply too many targets to defend, and we need to think smarter than protecting the particular targets the terrorists attacked last week.
But in the past few weeks so many frankly stupid ideas have been floated into the public arena that, if they were strictly reactive and targetted at last week's attacks, it would be a major improvement. Some of the "security measures" being proposed aren't targetting any significant threat, let alone a bomb on the tube. Let's review some of the more obvious boners, shall we?
- The National ID card. Our Prime Minister tells us we needed to have a debate about this. And after enough people have pointed out the obvious fact that such a scheme would not have prevented any recent attack, nor any plausible hypothetical one, I guess the debate is over. That was easy. Next up:
- "Random" bag searches. They won't work in NY, and they won't work here either, Bob.
- CCTV. There may be a case to say that this technology might help catch the bad guys, but it's highly doubtful they make us any safer from attack. Never answered is the question of who's going to actually watch the images. Besides voyeurs, obviously. Maybe what we need instead are spiders...
- Turn off cell phone service in subway tunnels. "Noo! Shut them all down! Curse my metal body I wasn't fast enough!"
- Banning books containing statements of the bleeding obvious, such as: "The form this [suicide bombing] usually takes nowadays is to wire up one's body, or a vehicle or a suitcase with explosives, and then to enter a conglomeration of the enemy and to detonate". This is apparently the most hate-filled passage that the Fairfax journo could dig up. Praise Allah and pass the detonator.
- More public denouncements of terrorism by prominent Muslim leaders. In fairness it's not obvious whether this is free PR advice to Muslims, or an attempt to actually make us safer. Or something else?
- Commercial aircraft with frickin laser beams. I'm sure that we can learn much about security from Dr Evil.
- Invading Iraq... ('Nuffsaid)
The prevailing view seems to be that a high-profile problem requires a high-profile solution. Even if the high-profile solution isn't a solution to the high-profile problem.