August 31, 2006

To Be or Not to Be

…Profiling that is.

As a general rule I believe that profiling is a great deterrent in preventing crime and catching criminals, looking out for the tell-tell signs of a drug runner up Interstate 95 results in a lot of drugs being taken off the streets, likewise focusing our efforts on Islamic males in the fight against terror is also going to net us a large return but I have to admit neither approach is One Hundred Percent fail safe. Some drug runner/dealers slip through and innocent travelers who made the mistake of looking like a drug dealer get harassed, and yes some Muslim males traveling via air are doing just that traveling. So how do we combat terrorism and catch the terrorists without pulling the 85 year old blue haired lady and strip searching her because she has knitting needles on her person?

Ry a denizen of the Castle Argghhh! writes a compelling post today on this very subject, his solution, refuse to allow any carry-on luggage onto the airplanes:

“I cannot deny the enemy access to the ‘battlespace’ of public transportation as a truly effective screening practice would take over an hour, but I can deny you the means to do something nefarious in that battlespace---hence, no carry on luggage according to Ry. Quick, someone restrain SWWBO before she strangles me. Yeah, I get the cost and the imposition. I’m still for it. We’re in a global war. What have we sacrificed for it?”

What indeed have we sacrificed for the war on Islamic Imperialism? For most business men and women traveling about the country they are forced to go through the asinine security procedures imposed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), that focuses not on the actual components of the threat but rather the semantics of the search. For the TSA who lives so deep in the world of political correctness, children and their parents are more of a threat that single males of Middle Eastern descent. Little Tommy’s stuffed bear is a greater threat as a weapon than a plastic based gun and your Italian Leather shoes represent more of a threat than that single male wearing the leather jacket in the middle of August.

In contrast to Ry’s assertion that we have not sacrificed in this war, I would say we have sacrificed though not in any meaningful way that makes us safer but in a manner that simply inconveniences the millions of valid travelers that pass through our airports on a daily basis.

“But denying carry on luggage (and I mean all luggage and electronic devices in the cabin)? I’ve now denied you the means to do anything other than be a sardine in your can. I’ve ensured that the air marshal or pilot/driver, or taken a step toward ensuring, is outgunning whatever bad guys get past the veneer only security check points.

It would require a much larger conspiracy and well connected on, with security being inversely proportionate to the number of people in on the secret, to sneak weapons or explosives onto the plane to do the dirty deeds. Of course the exploit exists---as some studies of Portland, OR airport (PDX) have shown--- but as my old basketball coaches taught me: the key to being a good defensive player is laying a trap for an opponent by making him think you're giving him something and then quickly closing what he thought was an opening.

We can control the cabin environment, meaning what is in it, a whole lot easier than we can control who does and does not get to travel. Mr. Bad Guy is going to get on that plane, bus, ship, and train. That’s his main mission. He trains for it intensively. He works a long time on that task alone while we have to toil away in mind numbing tedium hoping to actually spot the needle in the haystack.

So we take away his chance for weaponry instead. That is something we can control.”

And I must agree, if our goal is to make the cabin a place that is inhospitable for someone who wishes to do the crew and passengers harm, this is the only way we can effectively put the advantage back on our side. Is it going to be an inconvenience, hell yes, but isn’t that better than becoming the next Flight 93? But is it possible to get the American public to go along with this? If it’s a government imposed rule their isn’t much the public can do about it, the real question is, will the airlines go along with it or will they have to be compelled by some other means. It stands to reason that some of our routine travelers will balk at the idea of losing all that time preparing for the next meeting, and most likely they will choose to begin traveling in other manners or to not travel at all, after all their time is valuable, much too valuable to be inconvenienced by some terrorist that plans on killing them simply for not being a Muslim. However as a security specialist it’s not my job to worry about whether you are inconvenienced my job is to inconvenience the person trying to kill you.

Rys agrees and explains further why we could never effectively profile everyone:

“There are things that can be done to close the holes that were found at PDX and control the cabin environment on all manner of long range public transit---that’s the offer them an exploit and close it kind of thing, a trap basically, Val Potestas taught me to do to shut down the other teams high scorer. There’s little we, the traveling public, will tolerate to truly enhance security in the cue to make profiling worthwhile, or any other measure for that matter. We’re just too impatient; and to do anything takes time and a diligence our Constitution enshrined civil liberties cannot coexist with. So it is just a non-starter to talk about racial profiling since we aren’t even willing or able to do that ‘right’.”

He’s right about that, we could never as a people take profiling to the level it needs to be at to be a truly effective tool in combating terrorism, for the simple reason, terrorism is not a law enforcement matter it is now a military matter and as such simple police tools are no longer going to work. This is a battle against a people that want to kill or convert everyone on the planet, if you don’t believe that just ask Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. Now having said all of this I can hear the complaints already, “But Dave, if we do that, then the terrorists have won!” I disagree, if we do this the terrorists lose because an effective and deadly battlespace has been removed from their repertoire and we as a people become a little safer, and before you say it, this is not an unconstitutional plan, there is no guaranteed right to convenience and if you insist that there is then you are allowing the terrorists to win because you are so caught up in your own little world that you can no longer distinguish between safety and a loss of civil liberties. I know a lot of major bloggers are big proponents of profiling to combat terrorism, especially since most police agencies both local and federal are so caught up in the world of political correctness that they can even decide when the actions of a terrorist are well, the acts of a terrorist, or even criminal for that matter.

The only other option at this point is to stop the ineffective and almost comical security measures at our airports and replace them with something along the lines of El Al’s methods. I don’t’ think many people are going to like going into that little room to be thoroughly searched. It’s up to you, either find another method of ensuring that the battlespace is safe for you and not the enemy; or you can continue to have that TSA security guard continue to feel that that little old lady sitting next to that middle-eastern male is the terrorist and not the Muslim couple with their baby.

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