Bruce Schneier on The War On The Unexpected

Old Nov 1, 07, 12:17 pm
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Bruce Schneier on The War On The Unexpected

Plenty good food for throught here, all related to the current hysteria on security:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archive...ar_on_the.html

-A

Last edited by ph-ndr; Nov 1, 07 at 12:17 pm Reason: Speling
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Old Nov 1, 07, 3:44 pm
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"This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere. It's a result of our relentless campaign to convince ordinary citizens that they're the front line of terrorism defense. "If you see something, say something" is how the ads read in the New York City subways. "If you suspect something, report it" urges another ad campaign in Manchester, UK. The Michigan State Police have a seven-minute video. Administration officials from then-attorney general John Ashcroft to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to President Bush have asked us all to report any suspicious activity.

The problem is that ordinary citizens don't know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can't tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector, or a trash sculpture; or the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians, or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy, usually based on fear, media hype, or just something being different."

Well, the knew enough to report the bombs in vehicles in London, saving some damage.

"Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted."

No, if he's wrong it's not that he loses his job, if he's wrong people die.

A subtle but nevertheless important distinction.

And his belief that people "always" come forward to report the genuinely suspicious? Oh vey. This is nonsense. Most people ignore things because they don't want to get involved. If they report it then it is their problem. Ignore it and go about your life and it's not.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:06 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
No, if he's wrong it's not that he loses his job, if he's wrong people die..
There is no guarantee in either direction from an anonymous tip. People may die, or they may not. People may be hurt, or they may not. Just my take on your "subtle but nevertheless important distinction."

People should use common sense. Report the "suspicious incident" to someone who has the authority to investigate it. In an airport, that would be an Airport LEO, not a TSO, not an FA, not a GA, etc. That LEO should have enought training to at least complete a preliminary risk assessment and initial investigation to determine if the "incident" needs to be escalated and other resources involved - in the fire service, we call it a circle check. Your circle check gives you the initial information you need to perform an adequate analysis of needs and dictate a response level.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:06 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
No, if he's wrong it's not that he loses his job, if he's wrong people die.

A subtle but nevertheless important distinction.
But is that a reason to throw logic, risk assessment and good sense out the window?

I guess it's easier to harass some people just in case so people don't die, right? As long as we all sleep well at night and everyone's safer.

And his belief that people "always" come forward to report the genuinely suspicious? Oh vey. This is nonsense. Most people ignore things because they don't want to get involved. If they report it then it is their problem. Ignore it and go about your life and it's not.
Come on now. This world is full of "do gooders" who feel the need to tell on every little thing. Especially in this culture of fear and reporting, people want to look like the "good citizen" and hopefully be famous for saving people from a big disaster. Did you click on any of the links in the article he posted of how stupid some of this "tell us" mentality is?

Schneier is dead on in this. It's all about CYA for the bureaucrats and ignorance and prejudice of everyday people. Has anyone ever thought that this would be a perfect smoke screen for a REAL event? Distract enough resources with someting stupid like a blinking sign and strike when everyone is worried about CYA. How can they cover them then?

You can only overreact so much. If people don't report it, it's because they've seen the hassle that reporting it would cause and it's just easier to accept the risk rather than going thru the BS of yet another false alarm.

With politics of fear, no one is safe.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:11 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
And his belief that people "always" come forward to report the genuinely suspicious?
Where does Schneier say, or even imply, "always"?
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:20 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
Well, they knew enough to report the bombs in vehicles in London, saving some damage.
Really ? Ordinary citizens ?
Originally Posted by BBC
The incident began when an ambulance was called to a nightclub at around 1am to treat a person who had fallen ill. The ambulance crew noticed a Mercedes parked outside the club, and saw that the vehicle appeared to have smoke inside it.

Witnesses said they had seen the light metallic green saloon car being driven erratically earlier. It then crashed into bins before the driver ran away.
Originally Posted by The Times
Around half an hour later traffic wardens issued a ticket to the second Mercedes on Cockspur Street and arranged for it be be towed to the holding car park near Hyde Park.
(bolding mine)
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Bruce Schneier
If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.
Bless you, Bruce, for writing this.

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. People have always come forward to tell the police when they see something genuinely suspicious, and should continue to do so. But encouraging people to raise an alarm every time they're spooked only squanders our security resources and makes no one safer.

We don't want people to never report anything. A store clerk's tip led to the unraveling of a plot to attack Fort Dix last May, and in March an alert Southern California woman foiled a kidnapping by calling the police about a suspicious man carting around a person-sized crate. But these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically assess, not automatically escalate, citizen tips. In criminal matters, law enforcement is experienced in separating legitimate tips from unsubstantiated fears, and allocating resources accordingly; we should expect no less from them when it comes to terrorism.

Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.
Dead on.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 4:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Wally Bird View Post
Really ? Ordinary citizens ?(bolding mine)
I stand corrected. I thought I remembered it being nightclubbers or the like doing it. Thank you for the correction.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 5:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Superguy View Post
But is that a reason to throw logic, risk assessment and good sense out the window?

I guess it's easier to harass some people just in case so people don't die, right? As long as we all sleep well at night and everyone's safer.
My rule of thumb is - if it makes you look twice, satisfy your curiosity.

Come on now. This world is full of "do gooders" who feel the need to tell on every little thing. Especially in this culture of fear and reporting, people want to look like the "good citizen" and hopefully be famous for saving people from a big disaster. Did you click on any of the links in the article he posted of how stupid some of this "tell us" mentality is?
I did.

And sure, some people will always be nosy nellies. But most people? Nope, not in my experience. Most people have enough on their plate without getting involved. They like to keep their head down and go about their business. It's amazing what you can train yourself not to see.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 5:06 pm
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Originally Posted by DevilDog438 View Post
There is no guarantee in either direction from an anonymous tip. People may die, or they may not. People may be hurt, or they may not. Just my take on your "subtle but nevertheless important distinction."

People should use common sense. Report the "suspicious incident" to someone who has the authority to investigate it. In an airport, that would be an Airport LEO, not a TSO, not an FA, not a GA, etc. That LEO should have enought training to at least complete a preliminary risk assessment and initial investigation to determine if the "incident" needs to be escalated and other resources involved - in the fire service, we call it a circle check. Your circle check gives you the initial information you need to perform an adequate analysis of needs and dictate a response level.
If it's reported the LEO has to go take a look. End of story.

To do otherwise is nonfeasance.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 5:12 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
I stand corrected. I thought I remembered it being nightclubbers or the like doing it. Thank you for the correction.
I think those were the early reports, media looking for "heroes" syndrome.

But in many ways this supports your other argument that people tend to do nothing in certain circumstances. A guy (presumably a dark-skinned individual ) crashes into garbage cans and runs away and nobody bothers to report it. I don't remember who recognized the towed car for what it was or how long it took (hours), but that wasn't exactly a shining example of citizen vigilance either .
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Old Nov 1, 07, 5:14 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
If it's reported the LEO has to go take a look. End of story.

To do otherwise is nonfeasance.
Not what he said. A good cop ought to be able to assess a situation before automatically escalating it to an 'alert'.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 6:28 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
If it's reported the LEO has to go take a look. End of story.

To do otherwise is nonfeasance.
No, not thinking is nonfeasance.
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Old Nov 1, 07, 7:54 pm
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Originally Posted by whirledtraveler View Post
No, not thinking is nonfeasance.
http://www.answers.com/topic/nonfeasance
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Old Nov 1, 07, 8:07 pm
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Originally Posted by law dawg View Post
Exactly.
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