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Thursday, September 18, 2008

But the red sauce was my ticket to the cockpit!

Bruce Schneier is, frankly, a genius when it comes to security issues.  Unlike the TSA and so many government agencies, he notes HOW rules and regulations make use more secure.  His latest treatise is the liquids ban from plane flights.
There are two classes of contraband at airport security checkpoints: the class that will get you in trouble if you try to bring it on an airplane, and the class that will cheerily be taken away from you if you try to bring it on an airplane. This difference is important: Making security screeners confiscate anything from that second class is a waste of time. All it does is harm innocents; it doesn't stop terrorists at all.  
Why doesn't it work?  Because for items that are caught and carry a consequence,  the potential consequence has a deterrent effect.  Bring a gun to a airport and you'll be meeting with police for a while.  If items are confiscated with no consequence (liquids), then it means that screeners must catch every single person, because there's never a deterrent to trying to bring a liquid explosive on board.
If some copycat terrorists try to bring their liquid bomb through airport security and the screeners catch them -- like they caught me with my bottle of pasta sauce -- the terrorists can simply try again. They can try again and again. They can keep trying until they succeed. Because there are no consequences to trying and failing, the screeners have to be 100 percent effective. Even if they slip up one in a hundred times, the plot can succeed.
In other words, skip the liquids ban or start giving folks a hard time for it.  Otherwise, it's just an empty gesture.

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