unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)

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unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 05:24 pm

So here’s a brighter idea:  The government could recognize that it’s impossible to screen passengers (and cargo) for every type of banned material.  If a terrorist plot has gone undiscovered by the world’s intelligence agencies, by the U.S. military, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by local law enforcement, the chance is high that the plotters are also more sophisticated than the TSA.  It’s better to accept some level of risk, minimize the TSA’s ever more intrusive disruptions to American life, and redirect some of its enormous budget to agencies that can eliminate terrorist plots before they mature to the point that conspirators are boarding planes.

YES, YES, a hundred times YES.

The TSA and its antics would be hilariously funny, in a hollywood sitcom — assuming you could get an audience to believe that an agency so institutionally incompetent could continue to exist. (Then again, we are talking about government agencies.  In that context, I suppose it's not really such a stretch.)

In the real world, where they inconvenience, humiliate, and violate the rights of real people while doing nothing productive except give Congress a false sense of security and swell the coffers of companies that manufacture airport security systems that either don't work in the first place, or which terrorists can figure out how to defeat or circumvent faster than they can be developed and put into service, the TSA is ... somewhere between bewildering, pathetic, and appalling.  It has the trainwreck-nature.  It strains belief in the limits of stupidity and incompetence.  And as if this wasn't enough, the TSA recently announced that it is taking its program of incompetence, exceeded authority, civil rights violations, and sexual assault on the road.  (I don't have a link handy right now, I haven't hit the right search keywords.  Maybe one of you can provide one.)

The TSA needs to be defunded and dismantled, and sooner rather than later.  It is worse¹ than useless as an anti-terrorism agency, wasteful of money that's in short supply, destructive to individual civil rights, and dangerous to the Constitution.


The inestimable [personal profile] hugh_mannity came through with a reference to what the TSA calls its VIPR program, which currently conducts 8,000 unannounced random security screenings a year, completely devoid of any actual legal authority and in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.

[1]  Yes, I meant it — worse than useless.  Partly because it uselessly diverts vital resources from where they can do more good, and partly because the TSA actively tried to prevent implementation of one of the few actual sound anti-hijacking measures put in place in the US, the Federal Flight Deck Officer armed-aircrew program.  Then, after it failed to kill the FFDO program, the TSA instead set about a program of actively sabotaging² it by measures such as imposing burdensome application procedures that discouraged most pilots from even applying; restricting FFDO training to a single small, remote facility; summarily disqualifying pilots who fly significant numbers of international flights; and deliberately failing many of the best-qualified trainees in the program.  Then they mandated a stupid locking holster that serves no useful purpose whatsoever and has already been the cause of at least one accidental discharge in the cockpit.  (And this doesn't even get into the fact that of the first thousand sidearms issued to FFDO program graduates, almost a third were lost, mislaid or misdirected while in TSA hands within the first year of the program, 275 of them in one single three-month period.  At least one sidearm was permanently "lost" — or perhaps stolen — and has never been found.)

[2]  See the testimony of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.

unixronin: Rodin's Thinker (Thinker)
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 08:39 am

STRATFOR's George Friedman has posted an article on the years since 9/11 and their impact on US global strategy.  His focus is specifically on the US's global strategy, but his observations have lessons for domestic policy as well.

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States.  It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world.  In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.


In looking back at the past nine years, two conclusions can be drawn:  There were no more large-scale attacks on the United States by militant Islamists, and the United States was left with the legacy of responses that took place in the first two years after 9/11.  This legacy is no longer useful, if it ever was, to the primary mission of defeating al Qaeda, and it represents an effort that is retrospectively out of proportion to the threat.


But let me state a more radical thesis:  The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States.  Let me push it further:  The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States.  Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attack.  That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy.  Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it.  But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world’s only global power cannot be captive to this single threat.

And he's absolutely right.  For the past nine years, we have allowed Islamic terrorists to not only be the focus of US global policy, but dictate far too much of US domestic policy.  There have been no more large attacks (not counting designed-to-fail fiascos incited by the FBI), and no proportionately greater number of lone-wacko incodents.  But the damage done to American society and American freedoms by the pervasive fear that has driven Congress — and that Congress has in turn incited in the American people — has been incalculable.

In the morning of September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda launched a single massive attack against the United States that would never work again.

By lunchtime on September 11, 2001, Congress was wetting itself in fear.

But the American people weren't wetting themselves in fear.  America was mad as hell.  America began to fight back while the planes were still in the air, as Americans in the sky over Pennsylvania took the terrorists' fourth weapon away from them.

And then Congress continued the terrorists' work for them.  And that needs to stop.  It's gone on for far too long already.  Congress's fear — amplified by the hysterical, sensationalist mouthpiece of the mainstream media — is weakening, dividing and harming America, and changing the nature of American society in ways that are good for Congress, but bad for America.

So am I saying here that the best interests of Congress are not aligned with — nay, are opposed to — those of America as a whole?

You betcher ever-lovin' ass I am.

In a timely footnote, Bruce Schneier just posted an excerpt from an NPR article citing Barnes study results, which found that while the actual top five causes of injury or death of children are car accidents, homicide (usually by someone who the child already knows), abuse, suicide, and drowning, the five threats that parents are most concerned about are kidnapping, deranged school snipers, terrorists, dangerous strangers, and drugs.  Thank you, Congress and the media, for so COMPLETELY screwing up America's priorities.

unixronin: Galen the technomage, from Babylon 5: Crusade (Default)
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 07:21 pm

It's been a quiet week on tha anti-terror front?  Ah, what the heck:  Blow up My Little Pony.

Don't miss comment #16 on that article, either, from one Rachel Brown.  The TSA made her check her suitcase because she had a jar of raspberry jam in it, stole her underwear while they were at it, and completely overlooked the straight razor in her purse.

Do we have enough security theater yet?