Thursday, August 31, 2006

More "Forward into the Past"

Our fine friends at the TSA are once again protecting us from the last "attack", instead of doing anything to protect us from the next one. We're all aware, by now, that as a result of the foiled terra plot in the UK (and our British cousins are quite pissed at Dubya and his cronies for making various statements that will make it difficult for the British to secure convictions), TSA has now banned most liquids, gels, and so on.

"Yeah," you ask, "but what can be done to protect us from the next attack? We don't know what they're gonna do, or when or how! We have to be lucky 100% of the time, they only have to be lucky once!"

Well, that's true, to a certain extent.

Several well-known security experts (like Bruce Schneier, whom I've cited before) have suggested using psychological profiling techniques (not racial or ethnic, psychological) to weed out potential troublemakers. El Al, the Israeli national airline, has been doing this for years. Their security people look for behaviors that indicate nervousness, fear, etc. It has worked out extremely well for them - there hasn't been a highjacking involving an El Al flight in something like 30 years.

The problems with applying such techniques here are significant, but not insurmountable:
  • First, we have to ensure that the Bushistas, with their emphasis on the "A-rab menace", don't allow the screening criteria to deteriorate into racial/ethnic profiling;
  • Second, we have to ensure that training contracts are given to appropriate, qualified companies. This does NOT include Bechtel, Carlisle, Halliburton, and the rest of the usual war profiteers;
  • Third, it will require significant retraining for the TSA screeners (many of whom don't need to be in their jobs in the first place, but don't get me started on TSA'a half-assed screening of their own damned screeners). I doubt the TSA (or DHS or FBI, for that matter) has the expertise, resources, or even interest to make it successful;
  • Fourth, the 60%+ of us who don't trust the administration will have to resist the (natural) impulse to jump on the first glitches -- and there will be some, inevitably -- and start screaming that once again, the Bushies have fucked up. I'm sure they will, mind you; that's as certain as Dumbya mangling more of the English language before he returns to life-long exile in Crawdad.

Even if we don't want to try to retrain everyone to look for signs of trouble (other than possession of nail clippers and Evian), there are some steps we can take to make life a lot safer a lot quicker:

  • Force the chemical and energy industries off their collective asses and start making some serious progress in securing their respective facilities. Same thing with ports: fewer than 6% of the shipping containers coming into the US are inspected in any fashion. Chemical plant security is a joke: recent articles in the NY Times, for instance, showed open, unmanned gates into freight yards handling hazardous loads (no link cause I just have an undated clipping from the physical paper). Energy plants -- with the exception of nuclear facilities -- fare little better: your average coal-fired plant's perimeter is as porous as SpongeBob's fanny. Nuke plants are a little more secure, but, again, their training is seemingly geared towards the last threat.
  • Enable effective and reliable communications between all levels of Federal, state and local law enforcement. As a former cop, I can tell you communication with the Feds is always one-way: we give, they take. despite the much-ballyhooed "fusion centers", etc., it's still almost impossible to get any useful info from a Fed. Don't believe me? Ask an FBI agent for the time; he'll put you through a full-blown security background check before he tells you. Don't bother asking a TSA staffer for the time, they don't have the faintest idea how to read a watch (although they can recognize and steal a Rolex in a heartbeat).
  • REMOVE FEMA FROM DHS AND RE-ESTABLISH IT AS A SEPARATE ENTITY. When FEMA was a Cabinet-level agency (under the Clemis), they really did do "a hell of a job." Under Brownie, Skeletor, and company, they couldn't manage a baby pissing in it's diaper. James Lee Witt, the former FEMA director, should be cajoled/bribed/begged to come back and re-create the original, "real" FEMA.

More a little later.

No comments:

Post a Comment