Security Theater

It’s my opinion that anyone who has grown up watching heist movies or reading mystery novels is capable of dreaming up two or three dozen methods of circumventing most security measures employed by the TSA at airports.

All of those hoops we jump through — removing shoes before tiptoeing through x-ray machines, powering up laptops to show they’re real, drinking a bit of your infant daughter’s formula to show it’s not a deadly poison — are, in my opinion, nothing more than so-called “security theater” — a well-choreographed show that is designed to make us feel safer, but bears little relationship to actual security.

An article in tomorrow’s British Medical Journal comes to the same conclusion, while highlighting the staggering costs.

At heart, airport safety agencies seem to rush to implement new screening tests based on publicity around a perceived threat, without any scientific rigor or analysis of if the screening method is effective. A skeptical approach is called for, one that examines the evidence of the threat and then designs the least intrusive and most cost effective method of controlling for that threat.

I imagine that if a terrorist organization manages to smuggle bombs in their underwear or invents an explosive substance made out of cotton, we’d all be required to travel naked.

Our family is next flying in March. If you’re flying this holiday season, enjoy the security show. It costs you $9 of each ticket you purchase. Why, that’s practically the cost of a heist movie.

3 Responses to “Security Theater”

  1. Justin Says:

    Hi Stephen,

    You might be interested in reading this interview with Kip Hawley, TSA Admnistrator.

    http://www.schneier.com/interview-hawley.html

    justin

  2. Stephen Says:

    Interesting link, Justin, thanks.

    Here’s a blistering editorial along the same lines as my post from the NYTimes.

  3. Stephen Says:

    This is exactly the kind of thing that grinds my gears.

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