Use the known cure, not security theater

Via Bruce Schneier we have this extremely timely and fascinating article, The Evolving Challenges for Explosive Detection in the Aviation Sector and Beyond:

Another misnomer propagated largely in the press is that these type of explosives threats are not detectable with currently deployed technologies. This is false. The latest generation ETDs, when used in combination with the latest X-ray technologies, are generally excellent at detecting TNT, plasticized explosives such as C-4, PETN (Detasheet), and Semtex. This powerful combination of technologies should catch these explosives threats, even if it were concealed in the electronics of a laptop, because ETD swabs can detect minute amounts of residue.

Even an amateur chemist doesn’t have to think about this topic much to come up with explosives that are undetectable with the latest generation of explosive trace detection (ETD) equipment. As near as I can tell things I pointed out nearly nine years ago are still vulnerabilities.

The OIG also reported last summer that tests of the screening system showed that 95 percent of attempts to smuggle weapons through U.S. checkpoints were successful.

This has actually gotten worse since they started prohibiting weapons on board over 40 years ago. They should just give up on this and let passengers defend the cabin.

The reality of our current war on terrorism is that the costs are inversely correlated. Terrorists can use inexpensive but highly effective means to attack high-value and highly protected targets, forcing governments to take stricter and more costly measures to provide protection. Their model scales while ours becomes more difficult to sustain. Until we are successful in changing the paradigm in which cheap terrorism is effective terrorism, we need to be prepared to continue to invest in technologies and processes that make it more difficult for them to succeed.

Emphasis added. I agree with this. We must change the paradigm. We currently have nothing but security theater.

We are spending trillions of dollars and have nothing of substance to show for it. Those resources could, and should, have been spend in some serious elimination of terrorists rather than attempting to make it incrementally difficult for them at exponential costs to us. We have the resources and technology to make it exponentially expensive for them at incremental cost for us. We have a ruthless enemy who is willing to murder untold numbers of innocent people. We dealt with cultures like this in WWII and fundamentally changed their mindset to make the culture more tolerant to people who were different from them. These intolerant, evil, enemies are now tolerant, functional, members of a world society. It’s time to treat our current enemy with the known cure for evil.


13 thoughts on “Use the known cure, not security theater

  1. This is where I point out the level of mass destruction, starvation and death it took to persuade the Germans, and the Japanese, to stop and play nice for a while. Major infrastructure destroyed, navy and air power virtually eliminated, communications crippled, mass shortages of all essentials, day and night bombing raids almost non-stop, whole cities wiped off the map…you fill in the rest. It goes on and on. That’s the tactical, bullets and bombs war.

    There was a decades-long war that had to be essentially lost by the U.S., Europe, most of Asia and the UK before W.W. II began. That’s the idealogical, hearts and minds war.

    By the time the Nazis invaded Poland, both England and the U.S. were deeply infested with the Progressive mindset. Hitler is on record of saying he got a lot of his ideas from the Americans. It had already spread throughout Europe.

    W.W. II was a war of Progressives in England, Progressives in the U.S., and communists in Russia, against Progressives (National Socialists actually, but that’s a distinction with no important difference) in Germany and Fascists in Italy. All Marxist. One coalition of Marxists fighting another coalition of Marxists and Imperialists.

    Nothing has changed, ideologically, since. The tactics of Progressivism have been at work, more carefully and delicately this time, ever since. To say that we’ve fundamentally changed their mindset is, I think, incorrect. Tactics yes, mindset, no. A psycho-killer that acts nice is a psycho-killer angling for the next opportunity. Europe’s democratic socialism is based on the same ideology it had in 1930, and the U.S. hasn’t changed either. Japan? Russia? The UK? They’re not exactly hotbeds of libertarianism and noble principles.

    The point is that this isn’t about armies or missiles, or high tech espionage or any of that. It never was. It’s always been about hearts and minds. We could wipe all jihadists off the map and not really change much for long. The authoritarian mindset will regroup, rearm and reemerge in another form in some other place, or several places at once. It’s already in the works. Without a clear, idealogical opponent it’s always a contest between “street gangs” on a global scale. They oppose one another the same way rival gangs oppose one another. They wear different colors, and kill one another, but fundamentally they’re on the same side.

    • And how do you characterize Japan then and now?

      Certainly not Libertarian. But they generally get along with others well enough that no one I know of has them on their “radar” as a threat to world peace.

      • Apparently, they ban moslems from any functional purpose in their country. They may be able to stop in for lunch, but that’s about the extent of their contact or interaction. Frankly, I wish the rest of civilization would follow their example in this matter. As fracking becomes widespread, most all of them should be able to turn off the welcome sign, and perhaps hasten their decline into irrelevancy and insolvency.

  2. They like to call WW2 the “good” war. Just don’t say you want to use the methods needed to win that war or they’ll call you a nazi.

  3. We dealt with cultures like this in WWII and fundamentally changed their mindset to make it tolerant to [sic] people that were different from them.

    …except, fundamental difference, those cultures’ mindsets were not based on a religion that teaches your greatest calling is to subdue or kill those not of your religion, or die trying.

    And I don’t think Islam is structured in such a way that this will – or can – ever change.

      • I propose a solution akin to the firebombing and nuclear bombs that ended WW2.

        The terrorists are vested in their religion. They are a shame-based culture and they adore violence. So, take the steps needed to discredit their Satanic religion and cast them into profound doubt (or my proposal will precipitate WW3 and we can get this over with once and for all).

        Stop our efforts at hardening targets and instead warn them that any major terrorist attack will result in the immediate nuclear destruction of Medina and Mecca. It would disprove their religion. How can you go on your required trip to these sites if your destination is radioactive molten glass?

        If we had a real leader they took seriously, the threat of this response would cause all the islamic governments to crush any unsavory elements in their societies and reign them in.

        • “…the threat of this response would cause all the islamic governments to crush any unsavory elements in their societies and reign them in.”

          Very doubtful. They continue to threaten and attack Israel, and that nation could turn the Middle East into the proverbial glass parking lot that glows-in-the-dark. Apparently, Islam creates “somewhat” functional lunatics. Expecting them to think rationally about such a threat is wishful thinking. Only demonstrating a clear cause=effect might get their attention, but I still wouldn’t want to rely on the response being very rational, from our perspective.

      • Sadly, I can’t really see a solution that isn’t as bad as the problem, if perhaps more brief.

        Some portion of Muslims may not really understand what their faith actually demands of them, and the intolerance and hatred embedded in it, and if they learn the truth may leave in disgust. Those we should try to help see the light.

        But for the ones who do understand it, and gladly embrace it, I suspect the only functional answer is “if you worship death so fervently then let us grant your wish”, which is nauseatingly messy.

        We mustn’t surrender to Islam (as current official western policy seems to be), and there is no effective way to keep us separated or Islam isolated from those it seeks to harm (i.e. everybody else).

    • The death cult of islam cannot change. A crucial belief is that the koran is the literal word-for-word recording of the will of allah. To suggest any reformation is dismissed as heresy or apostasy. So, we are locked into this death struggle whether we want to participate or not.

      Our best hope is to deal with them harshly, like the Barbary pirates and get a reprieve as they lick their wounds. A dead terrorist can no longer kill. I say we kill enough of them to deplete the pool of reward virgins.

  4. You were talking about security theater.

    Let’s keep this simple. Use the Israeli method – look at the people, not the tools. Profile, profile, profile, and don’t be ashamed of it if you make it work. Punish abuses if they happen, but basically, train people to know what terrorists look like and act like, and focus attention on them. Leave the 75-year-old grandmas with their walkers alone.

    Mind you, the Israeli method, as currently practiced, doesn’t scale well. We can’t have highly-trained ex-paratroopers looking for signs of trouble at thousands of airports and tens of millions of passengers. But we can scale the principle, if we want to. For the money we’ve wasted on security theater, what sort of AI systems could we have developed over the past fifteen years, to serve as the first line of defense? (e.g. train computers to watch the video cameras for us, and flag suspicious people, erring on the side of not missing any bad guys. Those flagged get an initial screening, intended to let the innocent go as quickly as possible. Those still looking suspicious get a second screening. And so forth. Ask the annoying El Al questions, of EVERY passenger, in re did you pack your own suitcase etc., to identify those who don’t know they’re carrying something. And so forth.)

    Tourists to Israel used to complain about how annoying security was. They still complain about how arbitrary it seems – because that’s how directed security, done well, looks on the receiving end. But it works… and that SHOULD be what matters, right?

    • There are two problems with the Israeli screening method: (1) it requires far too much time. TSA at its Chicago worst is vastly speedier than the Israeli screening procedure. (2) it still doesn’t recognize that encouraging (not just permitting — encouraging) armed passengers is a good thing.

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