Non-theatrical security

As it turns out, a good friend was on that Northwest flight. I won’t identify him (though I know he reads this blog occasionally). What happened to him has made me think of my own responses in such a scenario. But it has also made me question the TSA’s kneejerk ineffective new guidelines.

Especially in light of the potential accuracy of this report, if true, suggests that real security measures ought to be taken. What the TSA proposed and implemented would not have stopped this.

Bruce Schneier, noted security guy in computing had this to say:

December 26, 2009

Separating Explosives from the Detonator
Chechen terrorists did it in 2004. I said this in an interview with then TSA head Kip Hawley in 2007:

I don’t want to even think about how much C4 I can strap to my legs and walk through your magnetometers.

And what sort of magical thinking is behind the rumored TSA rule about keeping passengers seated during the last hour of flight? Do we really think the terrorist won’t think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?

For years I’ve been saying this:

Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.
This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.

Yeah … why not use real security measures. Please? Especially in light of the promise of more bad guys. Look at security that actually works and really prevents attacks. Do what they do.

But lets put this absurd theatre out to rest. It didn’t help here, it wouldn’t have helped here. Implementing it and pretending that it helps is worse than doing nothing. That is self delusion.

Since passengers are more likely to be security instruments post 9/11 and 11/25, why not work with that? I had proposed something like deputizing the frequently traveling folks, giving them close quarters combat training, and other things like that post-9/11. People who travel a lot want to get to point B from point A. Not to a place between B and A. Often they want to return to point A. They are often highly motivated to stay alive. Why not leverage this?

Real security … please.

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7 thoughts on “Non-theatrical security

  1. “I had proposed something like deputizing the frequently traveling folks, giving them close quarters combat training, and other things like that post-9/11.”

    To be honest, Joe, that idea scares me. You will have a bunch of combat-trained amateurs reacting to situations like the one that took place yesterday with perhaps lethal force.

    What happened yesterday was that two guys in a plane that was landing were watching a Hollywood movie about the middle East and one of them was being somewhat loud. A passenger got scared; the plane was diverted off the runway, met by security personnel; blah, blah, blah; after being interviewed, it was determined that the “perps” hadn’t done anything wrong and were allowed to continue on their connecting flight.

    Do you really want to see combat-trained frequent fliers handling these situations? Do you really want to see two combat-trained frequent fliers duking it out when one thinks there’s a threat and the other doesn’t?

    There’s no accountability in that proposal. As the Inspector says in Dial M for Murder: ” “They talk about flat-footed policemen. May the saints protect us from the gifted amateur!”

  2. Happily, sanity prevailed, and the TSA backed off its silly new rules, that would not have provided any more security, not have prevented the attempted downing of the plane.

    @Peter

    “Combat trained amateurs” is not precisely what I have in mind. Something more akin to National Guard folks. Trained as needed several weeks per year, and at least one weekend a month.

    I don’t know what happened yesterday. I do have a good sense of what happened on the flight into Detroit on Christmas.

    Someone I work with professionally, a very close personal friend, was on that flight.

    Two schmucks arguing over a movie is not a cause to use force. A (insert expletive here) terrorist actively working to bring down an aircraft is a cause to use force.

    What saved that plane was one passenger using force. I can’t believe that anyone would be against this.

    Do I want combat-trained frequent fliers handling this? Until the TSA gets a clue, tears down their security theatre, and starts paying for air marshals on every flight … yeah … I want people on the flight who are highly motivated not to allow some idiot to bring it crashing down. The fellow who saved all these lives was not combat trained as far as I know. He was simply an observant individual who reacted as everyone should have.

    The question is, what would you do if faced in a similar situation? Would you (not you Peter specifically, but people in general) resort to the application of force to protect yourself? If the answer is no, then ask yourself if you would also hinder the application of force which may bring benefit to you by protecting you as well as others. Some folks are put off by any application of any force in any situation. I am not one of those.

    A terrorist risks their life in order to take one or more lives (not their own, or not just their own). The application of lethal force to prevent them from achieving any part of their aims is IMO a valid response to their threat, and in fact provides a significant deterrent. If the “soft” targets are not “soft” …

    More to the point, I’ll answer your quote with a paraphrase of Heinlein. He pointed out that those who insist that violence achieves no aims better ask the residents of Carthage whether or not their view has any validity.

    It is possible to do what I indicate, with accountability, training people to recognize, assess, and manage a situation. If a situation calls for the application of force, non-lethal or lethal, in order to protect human lives, yes, these folks should be able to act. We train our National Guard for missions like this, we can train frequent travelers for stuff like this. In the past (though possibly not today) most pilots are ex-air force/navy/marine fliers. It seems that we can have a simple command and control structure in flight, under the command of the pilot.

    Should we also not train amateurs in CPR, as they are not doctors, but “gifted” bystanders? Failure to perform CPR or the Heimlich maneuver correctly could lead to death. I’d argue the opposite, that even doing something partially wrong is often better than no action what-so-ever. This is a metaphor for the TSA’s current security.

    But, as noted, such ideas wouldn’t be looked at, in part, because they are non-theatrical.

  3. Joe,

    Re. the National Guard analogy: if there is a line of command and responsibility to parallel the training, then fine. Yes, of course I am in favor of what you propose to save oneself and companions, etc. But vigilante forces have a way of getting out of hand, and that’s the part that scares me. -P.

  4. And it gets worse. Instead of a mea culpa, the gubment is going after the people who broke the story.

    and this is smart … how?

    Do something dumb, get called to the carpet, be forced to retract it …. and then seek revenge against those who called you to the carpet?

    I’ll refrain from saying what I think. I am guessing that quite a number of you are thinking similar things.

    This is a solvable problem, via HR. Someone desperately needs to find a new job somewhere else. If this is coming down from the “system worked” level … well …

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