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TSA to Conduct First Real World Test of Cutting-Edge Backscatter Technology

TSA to Conduct First Real World Test of Cutting-Edge Backscatter Technology

Old Oct 21, 04, 9:30 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by damorgan
Spiff, you seem to be going down the route of acceptable losses here. At what point does the number of preventable deaths/injuries become acceptable against the perceived downsides of carrying out controls? That's next door to sticking your fingers in your ears and hoping it doesn't go bang.

A lorry bomb on a ferry is avoidable through the deployment of TSA checks. It's a possible threat, it's stoppable, why not stop it?
And a WMD attack in midtown Manhattan would be way way more destructive than a lorry bomb. We could probably prevent it if we carried out random searches of homes day and night, screened people on the subway and buses, screen all vehicles before bridges and tunnels, deploy the military in Manhattan, etc. It's a possible threat, it's stoppable, why not stop it?
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Old Oct 21, 04, 10:56 am
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Originally Posted by Japhydog
And a WMD attack in midtown Manhattan would be way way more destructive than a lorry bomb. We could probably prevent it if we carried out random searches of homes day and night, screened people on the subway and buses, screen all vehicles before bridges and tunnels, deploy the military in Manhattan, etc. It's a possible threat, it's stoppable, why not stop it?
So let's do nothing. On the basis that the North Koreans (seems to be a popular little country in this forum) or the Iranians, or whoever, could launch a nuclear weapon, let's stop looking for anything else.

Keep a sense of proportion, I'll add the words 'relatively easily' to the 'it's stoppable' bit in my ultimate sentence.
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Old Oct 21, 04, 11:15 am
  #18  
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Originally Posted by damorgan
So let's do nothing. On the basis that the North Koreans (seems to be a popular little country in this forum) or the Iranians, or whoever, could launch a nuclear weapon, let's stop looking for anything else.

Keep a sense of proportion, I'll add the words 'relatively easily' to the 'it's stoppable' bit in my ultimate sentence.
Yes. Please keep a sense of proportion. As I posted in your 'keep it in context' thread, the risk of an airline terrorist attack, now a ferry terrorist attack, is miniscule. Why are we wasting our resources on huge, expensive explosive detection machines for ferries? It makes no sense when one analyzes the risk with a sense of proportion.

As far as let's do nothing goes. Again, let's keep a sense of proportion. What is wrong with pursuing suspicious activity, performing a professional investigation, and then acting within the confiines of the Constitution of the United States of America by getting a search warrant from a judge pursuant to the 4th Amendment? If law enforcement had done this prior to 9/11 (remember the FBI agent in Minnesota who found out about suspicious activity at flight schools?), perhaps we wouldn't all be running around looking for expensive and unneeded pacifiers. Because that's what explosives detection machines for ferries are, pacifiers.

Last edited by Japhydog; Oct 21, 04 at 11:26 am
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Old Oct 21, 04, 11:28 am
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Originally Posted by Japhydog
Yes. Please keep a sense of proportion. As I posted in your 'keep it in context' thread, the risk of an airline terrorist attack, now a ferry terrorist attack, is miniscule. Why are we wasting our resources on huge, expensive explosive detection machines for ferries? It makes no sense when one analyzes the risk with a sense of proportion.

As far as let's do nothing goes. Again, let's keep a sense of proportion. What is wrong with pursuing suspicious activity, performing a professsional investigation, and then acting within the confiines of the Constitution of the United States of America by getting a search warrant from a judge pursuant to the 4th Amendment? If law enforcement had done this prior to 9/11 (remember the FBI agent in Minnesota who found out about suspicious activity at flight schools?), perhaps we wouldn't all be running around looking for expensive and unneeded pacifiers. Because that's what explosives detection machines for ferries are, pacifiers.
I might agree that the risk of a successful terrorist attack is miniscule, but that's a big difference. Deterrence is as important as detection.

I'm afraid your bit about pursuing a professional investigation is just not attached to reality. Some things happen very quickly; some things happen without prior indication; mistakes often get made; 20:20 hindsight vision regularly gets applied. Life doesn't run like clockwork.
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Old Oct 21, 04, 11:37 am
  #20  
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Originally Posted by damorgan
I might agree that the risk of a successful terrorist attack is miniscule, but that's a big difference. Deterrence is as important as detection.

I'm afraid your bit about pursuing a professional investigation is just not attached to reality. Some things happen very quickly; some things happen without prior indication; mistakes often get made; 20:20 hindsight vision regularly gets applied. Life doesn't run like clockwork.
The best deterrence is finding them before they attempt to get onto the ferry, big pacifier or no big pacifier. And how, exactly, are we supposed to mitigate against the risk of an unsuccessful terrorist attack? Buy giant pacifiers?

I beg to differ with your perception of reality. Getting thousands of pounds of fertilizer on a rental truck does not happen overnight. Planning 9/11 and executing it did not happen overnight. Any major terrorist attack requires months and months if not years of planning.

Again, have a sense of proportion. There are thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest running around with shotguns in their trucks. Do we confiscate those shotguns when they get on the ferry? No. Why not? A gang of them could get together and open fire and kill just about everyone on the ferry. Why not? Because it is their right to carry shotguns around in their trucks. And because it's a miniscule risk. So why do we care about the truck bomb risk enough to go out and buy giant, expensive pacifiers while we ignore the gun-rack crazy gang risk?
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Old Oct 21, 04, 7:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Spiff
are so improbable that there's no point in worrying about them happening!

Just like planes flying into the World Trade Center. That was improable until one day in September of 2001.
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Old Oct 21, 04, 7:59 pm
  #22  
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Not Correct

Originally Posted by TSAMGR
Just like planes flying into the World Trade Center. That was improable until one day in September of 2001.
That is not a valid statement. Algerian terrorists were planning to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower in the mid-90s, I beleive. Fortunately they were caught, but the security agencies throughout the world suffered amnesia over this incident. After 9/11, those who might have prevented this claimed this was beyond imagination.
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Old Oct 22, 04, 4:46 am
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Originally Posted by Japhydog
The best deterrence is finding them before they attempt to get onto the ferry, big pacifier or no big pacifier. And how, exactly, are we supposed to mitigate against the risk of an unsuccessful terrorist attack? Buy giant pacifiers?

I beg to differ with your perception of reality. Getting thousands of pounds of fertilizer on a rental truck does not happen overnight. Planning 9/11 and executing it did not happen overnight. Any major terrorist attack requires months and months if not years of planning.

Again, have a sense of proportion. There are thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest running around with shotguns in their trucks. Do we confiscate those shotguns when they get on the ferry? No. Why not? A gang of them could get together and open fire and kill just about everyone on the ferry. Why not? Because it is their right to carry shotguns around in their trucks. And because it's a miniscule risk. So why do we care about the truck bomb risk enough to go out and buy giant, expensive pacifiers while we ignore the gun-rack crazy gang risk?

Japhydog, you are missing my point(s) entirely. The fact that a particular type of attack is likely to be detected is the deterrent. If Joe terrorist knows that detectors will identify a specific bomb type, then he won't use it. Job done. You have to take these things one step at a time. It hasn't caught Joe Terrorist (yet) but it has slowed him down. Catching him comes next.

Creating a bomb consisting of a lorry-load of fertilzer can be done in a few hours. In my book that's pretty quick and the only way for a 'profesional investigation' to latch on to that and prevent it (other than through sheer luck) is for the type of techniques and intelligence-gathering that would have you howling all the way to The White House.

Why does this forum keep focussing on sophisticated terrorist attacks? There are individuals out there, with possibly half a brain between them, who will carry out criminal attacks given an opportunity. You talk about people going amok on a ferry with their shotgun. Well at least I stand a chance of getting away from that. This is a flying forum. If a gun gets on a plane (in the hands of a terrorist or just plain fruitcake) then my chances of survival are just about nil when the plane goes down. That is why security checks at airports are all the more important, surely?
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Old Oct 22, 04, 10:05 am
  #24  
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Originally Posted by damorgan
Japhydog, you are missing my point(s) entirely. The fact that a particular type of attack is likely to be detected is the deterrent. If Joe terrorist knows that detectors will identify a specific bomb type, then he won't use it. Job done. You have to take these things one step at a time. It hasn't caught Joe Terrorist (yet) but it has slowed him down. Catching him comes next.

Creating a bomb consisting of a lorry-load of fertilzer can be done in a few hours. In my book that's pretty quick and the only way for a 'profesional investigation' to latch on to that and prevent it (other than through sheer luck) is for the type of techniques and intelligence-gathering that would have you howling all the way to The White House.

Why does this forum keep focussing on sophisticated terrorist attacks? There are individuals out there, with possibly half a brain between them, who will carry out criminal attacks given an opportunity. You talk about people going amok on a ferry with their shotgun. Well at least I stand a chance of getting away from that. This is a flying forum. If a gun gets on a plane (in the hands of a terrorist or just plain fruitcake) then my chances of survival are just about nil when the plane goes down. That is why security checks at airports are all the more important, surely?
Actually I'm not missing your point. I'm disagreeing with it entirely. A terrorist may be deterred from a ferry by the giant pacifier, but that terrorist will not be deterred from terrorism. That person will find another target. So we're back to my WMD in midtown Manhattan example.

Quick, easy attacks are unlikely to cause enough damage, fear, and terror for terrorists to be interested (or for the US to try to deter). That's why no one's attacking the local mall in Peoria, Illinois.

My point, one that you don't seem interested in debating, is that there are far more dangerous risks out there than ferries, or at this point, airplanes being flown into buildings. For instance, the nuclear reactors in the US are basically completely unprotected. Why is the US government spending its time and money on such a ludicrously small risk as a ferry when terrorists could relatively easily cause havoc at a nuclear reactor?

If you don't agree with me, give us your risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis.

Last edited by Japhydog; Oct 22, 04 at 10:09 am
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Old Oct 23, 04, 6:55 am
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Originally Posted by Japhydog
s
Actually I'm not missing your point. I'm disagreeing with it entirely. A terrorist may be deterred from a ferry by the giant pacifier, but that terrorist will not be deterred from terrorism. That person will find another target. So we're back to my WMD in midtown Manhattan example.
Well you've just agreed with one of my points - that the terrorist might be deterred from one form of attack. I agree with you that this won't necessarily deter him/her from terrorism; but it frustrates their activities, makes it harder for them to succeed, makes it more likely they'll be detected. In my view, this is an incremental exercise involving a variety of techniques against a variety of threats (in terms of complexity, possible consequences). Not all perpetrators of violence have the means to access the full range of atrocity. Therefore, if a counter-measure can deter the lower divisions - job done. You still need to deal with sophisticated ones, of course, but there is no single solution to the provision of adequate safety levels.

Originally Posted by Japhydog
s
Quick, easy attacks are unlikely to cause enough damage, fear, and terror for terrorists to be interested (or for the US to try to deter). That's why no one's attacking the local mall in Peoria, Illinois.
Didn't you have some problems with powder in the mail not long ago? I'll repeat a view I've expressed elsewhere, why the obsession with sophisticated terrorist attacks? Isn't the TSA there to prevent all manner of criminal and, indeed, accidental act (the smuggled war souvenir hand-grenade that goes off in the hold....)? I think your assertion about the terrorist mind-set is again only looking at the likes of UBL etc. That said, it is far too simplistic, and speculative, to broad-brush motivational drivers.

Originally Posted by Japhydog
s
My point, one that you don't seem interested in debating, is that there are far more dangerous risks out there than ferries, or at this point, airplanes being flown into buildings. For instance, the nuclear reactors in the US are basically completely unprotected. Why is the US government spending its time and money on such a ludicrously small risk as a ferry when terrorists could relatively easily cause havoc at a nuclear reactor?
I agree with you that nuclear reactors pose a risk, but are you telling me that the US Government is doing nothing to protect them? How could the terrorists 'relatively easily cause havoc....' Relative to what? I'd actually say that it was relatively difficult, compared to getting a lorry bomb onto a ferry with 200 people on board.

I'm not disenterested in debating the seriousness of particular threats; I am a firm believer in dealing with the threats wherever you can (however big or small). There seems little point in nay-saying every measure just because it doesn't tackle the most complex and significant threat/groups. You may well be right that, in the instance of the ferries, a sledgehammer is being deployed to crack a nut, but I don't accept that this necessarily means other areas are being neglected, nor that it shouldn't be done. At least the nut gets cracked.

Originally Posted by Japhydog
s
If you don't agree with me, give us your risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis.
Risk assessment - it's a bad world out there. When the times comes, the time comes. I read somewhere that two of the biggest risks to one's safety are the ceiling and your underpants. You take care of the ceiling, I'll take care of my underpants.

Cost/benefit analysis - what price a life? Anyone who wants to play the line of 'don't spend $x because it will only save x lives' is playing God.
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Old Oct 23, 04, 10:03 am
  #26  
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Originally Posted by damorgan

Cost/benefit analysis - what price a life? Anyone who wants to play the line of 'don't spend $x because it will only save x lives' is playing God.
It's the exact opposite of playing God. It's being rational. We only have so many resources. We need to spend them in an appropriate manner to get the most good out of those resources.

You seem to think we can mitigate every risk, no matter how small. That would turn us into a police state. Simply put, I am not willing to run the risk of becoming a police state. In fact, if we had a choice between another 9/11 and becoming a police state, I'll choose another 9/11,

Of course, we don't have that choice (and hopefully won't). We have gradations, which gets back to the risk-management analysis (obviously I wasn't clear when I said risk assessment). How far are you willing to go to mitigate against small risks? Obviously, I'm not willing to go anywhere near as far as you are. In fact, I'd rather build schools and pay teachers more than buy explosive detection machines for ferries.
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Old Oct 23, 04, 11:10 am
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Originally Posted by Japhydog
It's the exact opposite of playing God. It's being rational. We only have so many resources. We need to spend them in an appropriate manner to get the most good out of those resources.
Yes, it's down to choices - and your comment below about rather spending on schools is an example of the choice to be made. A rational decision about schools/scanners; still gives me the feeling of putting others at risk. The choices to be made are endless, however, and I think it's difficult to work on a comparison basis.

Originally Posted by Japhydog
You seem to think we can mitigate every risk, no matter how small. That would turn us into a police state. Simply put, I am not willing to run the risk of becoming a police state. In fact, if we had a choice between another 9/11 and becoming a police state, I'll choose another 9/11,
I'm not suggesting that every risk can be mitigated, far from it. I wouldn't choose a police state either, although would I be prepared to offer up 3000 lives for it? Not sure.

Originally Posted by Japhydog
Of course, we don't have that choice (and hopefully won't). We have gradations, which gets back to the risk-management analysis (obviously I wasn't clear when I said risk assessment). How far are you willing to go to mitigate against small risks? Obviously, I'm not willing to go anywhere near as far as you are. In fact, I'd rather build schools and pay teachers more than buy explosive detection machines for ferries.
What is meant by small risk? What do you actually know about the risk of a vehicle bomb on a ferry? Do you have access to all of the intelligence reporting? It's very difficult to comment on degree of risk when you don't have the full facts.

How far would I go? In respect of air travel, it is the means of criminal act that must be stopped. A terrorist without a weapon is a quarterback without a ball - just someone else on the field. That is why I believe the TSA effort should be directed against finding weaponry, or preventing its use. Identifying terrorists, investigating, arresting and prosecuting them is the job of others. How much information should the TSA have access to to enable them to do their job? Good profiling information, such that is never in the public domain; all of my personal information that is either in the public domain, is commerically available or is held on governmental databases; my honest answers to any questions they might ask of me; my compliance with their reasonable requests.

That's on a personal level. As a tax-payer, I would fund any equipment that would make human participation in the screening process inadvertent; I would deploy that equipment at all travel chokepoints (airports, seaports); I would pay the necessary taxes to achieve that.
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Old Oct 25, 04, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by damorgan
How much information should the TSA have access to to enable them to do their job? Good profiling information, such that is never in the public domain; all of my personal information that is either in the public domain, is commerically available or is held on governmental databases; my honest answers to any questions they might ask of me; my compliance with their reasonable requests.

That's on a personal level. As a tax-payer, I would fund any equipment that would make human participation in the screening process inadvertent; I would deploy that equipment at all travel chokepoints (airports, seaports); I would pay the necessary taxes to achieve that.
Hey, it's all well and good that you're willing to sacrifice some of your rights and your dollars to the notion of "security at all costs." But I don't recall offering you the right to my voluntary compliance, my personal information, or my hard-earned money for the cause.

But then, that's the mantra of those who champion greater governmental control over any aspect of our lives - they're so (selfless / devoted / caring / patriotic) that they're willing not only to put their time, money, and liberties behind the effort, but yours as well! How incredibly thoughtful!

Far too many arguments made on the side of security are rife with hypotheticals -- "If this can prevent another 9/11..."; "Think of all the lives that this could save..."; "It's worth it if it makes us safer..." -- reliance on which, as any decent logic professor will tell you, is usually the sign of a weak position.

For we cannot predict whether, when, or how another attack on our country will occur. All we can logically do is ask: "Will the expense we incur in money, time, and liberties be worth the mitigation of this potential risk?" And then act in accordance with the answer.

Sadly, the more emotional the topic, the more difficult it becomes to consider rational thinking thereon ... and there are few topics in this day and age more viscerally emotional than this one. But, just as shouting your thoughts over someone else's doesn't make your argument more valid, reacting emotionally to such issues doesn't make the decisions right.

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Old Oct 25, 04, 2:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Mook
Hey, it's all well and good that you're willing to sacrifice some of your rights and your dollars to the notion of "security at all costs." But I don't recall offering you the right to my voluntary compliance, my personal information, or my hard-earned money for the cause.

But then, that's the mantra of those who champion greater governmental control over any aspect of our lives - they're so (selfless / devoted / caring / patriotic) that they're willing not only to put their time, money, and liberties behind the effort, but yours as well! How incredibly thoughtful!

Far too many arguments made on the side of security are rife with hypotheticals -- "If this can prevent another 9/11..."; "Think of all the lives that this could save..."; "It's worth it if it makes us safer..." -- reliance on which, as any decent logic professor will tell you, is usually the sign of a weak position.

For we cannot predict whether, when, or how another attack on our country will occur. All we can logically do is ask: "Will the expense we incur in money, time, and liberties be worth the mitigation of this potential risk?" And then act in accordance with the answer.

Sadly, the more emotional the topic, the more difficult it becomes to consider rational thinking thereon ... and there are few topics in this day and age more viscerally emotional than this one. But, just as shouting your thoughts over someone else's doesn't make your argument more valid, reacting emotionally to such issues doesn't make the decisions right.

Mook
Mook, I was asked what I would do, how far I would go. I gave my personal position, I would not suppose to impose those views other than through a fully democratic process.

I have made none of the arguments that you quote, I have not shouted over someone else's views, I do not feel that I react emotionally.

Let's be absolutely clear that I am not entitled to vote in the US, and I don't seek to unduly influence any American citizen's participation in the voting process. I contribute to this debate because I am an international traveller, am subject to the security regime in the US and, as part of the international community, have an interest in what America does. If the American people vote a certain way, with a consequential alteration to the security regime/process, then that's obviously fine by me. I go with the majority position, whether I agree on specifics or not.
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Old Oct 25, 04, 2:34 pm
  #30  
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Originally Posted by damorgan
I go with the majority position, whether I agree on specifics or not.
The majority position doesn't necessarily prevail in the US.
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