All the rigamarole we go through at the airport, the hundreds of thousands of videocams keeping track of our every action, the eavesdropping we suffer at the hands of the FBI, CIA, and NSA; and those rampant violations of our U.S. Constitution shoved down our throats by Presidents Bush and Obama in the name of the neocons' "World War IV" against terrorism; all these have led to my growing feeling of encroaching danger these past ten years. The centralized and oppressive authority of our civil servants grows ever larger and everyone seems to think we need it. Every once in a while, though, I see the sun breaking through the clouds... For instance, just now son Joseph wrote the family:
Happened across a website of a security expert (Bruce Schneier) about a week ago, and I've been reading it ever since. Yesterday I discovered that he's written about airport security. He got into a very long argument with Sam Harris, who claimed that we should be doing racial profiling at airports, since we basically know what group the next terrorist will come from. Schneier says that to do proper profiling requires behavioral profiling, not racial profiling, and that it's too expensive. Doing racial profiling would actually result in less security, since it would introduce needless complexity as well as giving the terrorists a predictable system that could be gamed. Thus, random screenings are better than anything else we can afford since they can't be tricked. Ultimately I think that Schneier is right, although Harris makes a valiant effort to support the use of "common sense", and it is appealing.
Anyway, the reason I'm writing is because Schneier wrote two shorter pieces that are incredibly helpful. He doesn't just explain what the real problem is with airport security post-9/11. He also explains the problem with our country's reaction in general to terrorism, and what the cultural forces are that push us in the wrong direction.
Here is the shorter one more particularly explaining what we should do with airport security. Teaser: "Exactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money."
This one is a bit longer and explains the bigger picture. Two teaser paragraphs:
We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice -- not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism.
Today, we can project indomitability by rolling back all the fear-based post-9/11 security measures. Our leaders have lost credibility; getting it back requires a decrease in hyperbole. Ditch the invasive mass surveillance systems and new police state-like powers. Return airport security to pre-9/11 levels. Remove swagger from our foreign policies. Show the world that our legal system is up to the challenge of terrorism. Stop telling people to report all suspicious activity; it does little but make us suspicious of each other, increasing both fear and helplessness.
I read both pieces to Heidi this morning and her response was to comment on how fear-driven our society is, today. Schneier says that fear is politically expedient, but bad for true security.