The latest casualty in the war on terror

(via boingboing)

The terrorists continue to win in the war that isn’t really a war. The latest casualty is liquids. Well, liquids and common sense. I get that this is a real threat. I get that terrorism is a real problem. But this liquid explosive thing was done over 10 years ago. So for over 10 years the governments of the US and the UK have not felt the need to protect citizens on airplanes from the potential threat. Now the British police arrest a score or so folks who planned on trying the liquid explosive thing again. Only they tracked the suspects for nearly a year. So at the very least, the British government has known since December (and quite possibly longer) about this but felt no need to protect the British flying population (nor tourists, I suppose, for that matter)? And of course, there’s the constant kicker that the attack had not even been attempted yet, nor was it supposed to occur on the day of the arrests.

So we have a foiled attack using a threat over a decade old that was known about for somewhere around a year in advance and that was disrupted before any attempts at attacking were made, and we have to stop bringing liquids and gels on board? And the end result of these kinds of failed attacks result in people getting grilled for accidentally dropping any electronic devices they are carrying?

I’m just tired of hearing all these restrictions going on everywhere. In the end, they do little to protect us (some say they do nothing), but they certainly inconvenience us, and make people everywhere scared. Oddly enough, that’s all the terrorists are trying to do. Body count doesn’t actually matter – fear does. So our government is feeding the fear, giving more victories to the terrorists, and in return we get reduced freedoms and greater intrusions into our lives. I just want someone who will fight the war on terrorism, not feed it. I’m tired of saying this over and over and knowing no one will listen to me because I’m a nobody, so I’ll let Bruce Schneier say his peace, which is the same as mine:

Hours-long waits in the security line. Ridiculous prohibitions on what you can carry onboard. Last week’s foiling of a major terrorist plot and the subsequent airport security graphically illustrates the difference between effective security and security theater.

None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation. Details are still secret, but police in at least two countries were watching the terrorists for a long time. They followed leads, figured out who was talking to whom, and slowly pieced together both the network and the plot.

The new airplane security measures focus on that plot, because authorities believe they have not captured everyone involved. It’s reasonable to assume that a few lone plotters, knowing their compatriots are in jail and fearing their own arrest, would try to finish the job on their own. The authorities are not being public with the details — much of the “explosive liquid” story doesn’t hang together — but the excessive security measures seem prudent.

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won’t make us safer, either. It’s not just that there are ways around the rules, it’s that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It’s easy to defend against what the terrorists planned last time, but it’s shortsighted. If we spend billions fielding liquid-analysis machines in airports and the terrorists use solid explosives, we’ve wasted our money. If they target shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. Focusing on tactics simply forces the terrorists to make a minor modification in their plans. There are too many targets — stadiums, schools, theaters, churches, the long line of densely packed people before airport security — and too many ways to kill people.

Security measures that require us to guess correctly don’t work, because invariably we will guess wrong. It’s not security, it’s security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer.

[tags]The latest casualty in the war on terror, Our government’s ongoing feeding of the fear the terrorists are trying to spread[/tags]

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