It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that I’m a fan of Bruce Schneier’s work. I’ve written about him repeatedly, especially about his idea of “security theater.”
Vanity Fair just published a great article about this topic. Author Charles C. Mann visits the Reagan National Airport in DC with Schneier, who quickly dismantles nearly all post-9/11 security procedures. It’s a very interesting read. Mann writes:
Terrorists will try to hit the United States again, Schneier says. One has to assume this. Terrorists can so easily switch from target to target and weapon to weapon that focusing on preventing any one type of attack is foolish. Even if the T.S.A. were somehow to make airports impregnable, this would simply divert terrorists to other, less heavily defended targets—shopping malls, movie theaters, churches, stadiums, museums. The terrorist’s goal isn’t to attack an airplane specifically; it’s to sow terror generally. “You spend billions of dollars on the airports and force the terrorists to spend an extra $30 on gas to drive to a hotel or casino and attack it,” Schneier says. “Congratulations!”
But it’s not all negative. Schneier does believe some security procedures are worth the money. But as pointed out in the article, these procedures aren’t very visible–they don’t make you feel safer because they operate subtly in the background. That’s security theater in a nutshell.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Vanity Fair next time you’re at the airport.