Bruce Schneier, as usual, is dead on in his analysis of government security theater:
In short: Much of our country’s counterterrorism security spending is not designed to protect us from the terrorists, but instead to protect our public officials from criticism when another attack occurs.
Schneier provides plenty of examples in support of this, but does come up a bit short in considering solutions. Which prompts Paul McNamara to ask – are we just stuck with this? Wouldn’t our politicians respond to a public demand for more common sense, and less cover your ass security?
Well, I fear we are stuck with it. For quite some time, actually. As Schneier points out, it’s human nature to CYA, and that will be the default, unless there’s a great incentive to do something more. And while McNamara understandably looks to the public to provide that incentive in terms of public pressure on politicians, I really don’t think we’ll see that any time soon. As we’ve seen over the past few years, the US public will treat as credible almost any fantastically ridiculous threat (Liquids on a Plane! Plastic Utensils for (Some) Passengers! Target: Rappahannock, er Tappahannock, er . . . nevermind!). And the vast majority of people that I talk to about security issues (often while waiting in a TSA line, natch) seem to pretty much follow the “well, if it keeps us safe . . .” line. And it just makes my head explode (wait, maybe *I’m* a security threat . . .) that they appear to believe that it *does* keep us safe.
So, absent real public pressure, what will be done? Very little. There is an enormous industry devoted to selling snakeoil/”homeland security solutions”, and plenty of snakeoil salesmen who have absolutely no compunction about hard selling us totally useless products for millions of dollars in the name of “security.” Worse, securing contracts for these pushers also happens to be an excellent way for a Congressman to bring home some pork (how’s that working for you, Virgil?).
In sum, we’ve got complacency in the public, motivated salesmen in the industry, and eager buyers in government. It will get much worse before it gets better.
(And as I finish this up, with CNN on the tv in front of me, the TSA announces further deployment of “backscatter” x-ray machines, which will make involuntary exhibitionists out of all of us . . . )