Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year-end Terror Special

Janet Napolitano had an unfortunate little moment of idiocy a couple days back when she said the thwarted Christmas Day airliner attack showed that "the system worked," unless TSA's new super-effective security system relies on incompetent terrorists setting their nuts on fire, immobilizing them long enough for the nearest Dutchman to get them in a headlock. In which case it worked just fine.

Arizona's own esteemed junior senator, Jon Kyl (R-OhForFuck'sSake) piled on yesterday with his own little bout of idiocy.
Sen. Jon Kyl said he doesn't "feel totally safe'' with Janet Napolitano at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security, given that agency's handling of the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner.

Kyl said it was bad enough that the Nigerian got on the plane in the first place given what should have been warning signals. But in response to a question about whether he feels secure with Napolitano heading Homeland Security, he said that is only part of the problem.

Yes, the guy was dragging more red flags than the entire Pamplona running of the bulls and The Last Samurai combined and still managed to buy a ticket in Africa and get on a plane in Amsterdam. But. Unless Janet Napolitano was personally standing at the jetway door in Lagos saying come in! you fool! and waving Captain Underpants onto the plane without a passport, I'm not sure she's the one who needs to be slapped around here. Except, of course, for saying the parts of the system not involving self-immolation and alert Dutchmen worked.

Frankly, her words may have been more of an inadvertent slip than the up-is-down doublespeak/dumbassery we took them for at first. TSA security is... not thought out perhaps as well as it could be, shall we say, something I've thought ever since Richard Reid failed to ignite his Chuck Taylors and condemned the traveling public to taking off their shoes at security at the rest of forever. I said then that if I ran an al Qaeda cell I wouldn't bother trying to actually kill people, but would simply send a string of flunkies onto planes to pull off increasingly absurd failed attacks involving increasingly intimate levels of undergarments, just to see how far TSA would go with their reactionary rather than preventative rules. OMG a shoe bomber! Everybody take off your shoes! Jesus, a bra bomber! Sorry, ladies, but that's going to have to go into the bin. Holy shit, a hair bomber! Please hop into the barber chair right here at the shoe dropoff, okay?

And then aQ went and spoiled it by ramping up immediately to their underwear bomber, and the best TSA could bring themselves to do is no blankets and no laptops and no paperbacks and no wanking through your pants in the last hour of flight. Because the very first thing that went through everyone's mind when this news broke was underwear bomber = everybody flies naked now and TSA can't make that particular the-jokes-just-write-themselves joke come true. So they slap together more patchwork rules that essentially say okay, don't try THAT particular tactic again, which does pretty much zero to prevent the next new thing aQ will think up to make air travel even more annoying and possibly deadly, and I'm left with the distinct impression that the ultimate fallback system TSA is really counting on is passengers noticing something off and saying oh FUCK no and jumping the next guy who tries to blow up a plane.

Bruce Schneier, whose job is to think about this stuff, thinks the same thing.

"Security theater" refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security.

Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders.

When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn't truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn't make any sense.

Happy traveling, America! And hey, keep your hands where I can see them.

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