Friday, August 11, 2006

A New Era in Security Theatre

Is flying naked the only thing left? I have to thank blogger and securitologist Phil Libin for introducting me to the term "security theatre." It's that that weird post-9/11 paradox where taking visible security measures actually compromises security. Face it: check points of all kinds give us a false sense of safety (that is, if you're not from a "questionable" demographic), and create exactly the kind of human bottlenecks terrorists love. And recent allegedly-thwarted events have launched a new wave of it.

Will hairstyles change now that we can't travel with gel? Will the airlines have enough water to hydrate the passengers? What kind of air rage will ensue when we are denied our own choices for inflight entertainment (ipods, laptops, or even books and pencils), and have to watch the stupid censored movies?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for thwarting terrorist plots. I saw and breathed some awful stuff downtown 5 years ago, and I do consider myself lucky to be here. But in my opinion, the only effective security measures are invisible ones. Which have their own ethical quagmires. And what thwarts terrorist attacks is not metal detectors, it's plain old espionage, efficient sharing of intelligence, and being awake enough to identify a serious threat. In other words, real intelligence, the kind you have between your ears.

Here are a couple funny archive posts from Phil's blog, Vastly Important Notes. In one, he analyzes the security theatre at a Jamaican airport. And in another, he introduces Mr. Driver's License.


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