Monday, December 28, 2009

Fighting the last war

I don't know what annoys me more: Janet Napolitano saying "the system worked" when what she means is "the system failed, but smart passengers proved that the system is unnecessary", or the moronic new rules the TSA is apparently putting into place in order to "prevent" future such occurances. The TSA's obsession with fighting the last war is so strong that I expect any day to see them building wooden forts at our nation's airports in order to keep the redcoats at bay. Every time they miss something, we have to give up more liberty. ...

No, what this points out is not that Napolitano is incompetent, but that our elaborate system of security theater is probably next to useless. I cannot imagine where this is going to end. No, actually, I can imagine all too well: with passengers checking all luggage and flying in specially issued hospital gowns. And when some enterprising terrorist manages to sneak through that cordon by swallowing his explosives, the TSA will tell us that "the system works" and start the cavity searches.
--Megan McArdle, Atlantic Monthly, on security theater creep

1 comment:

Paul said...

I don't think the system is worthless. There are countless ways to bring down a plane and no security system can stop them all. When terrorists have to resort to esoteric methods with very low success rates, it suggests that the more effective ways of blowing up planes are being effectively prevented by the system.

The success or failure of the system hinges on the ex ante probability that the Nigerian dude was going to succeed. I have yet to see evidence pointing to either a high or low probability, so it seems too early to judge whether the system has failed or succeeded.