Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

Security Theatre, Part n

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
According to a BBC report on the latest security theatre, airline customers are now to be subject to the following indignities for in-flight entertainment:
  • Customers to remain seated during final hour of flight;
  • No access to hand luggage and a ban on leaving possessions or blankets on laps during this hour.
Now I don't know about you, but I don't find this very comforting. The thought of being forced to sit still is inculcated in obedient citizens from kindergarten (a German word meaning roughly "vegetable garden to grow kids"). But at a certain point things like bladder pressure will win out. And what happens if you're in mid-whiz at the one-hour mark? Do you get shot by the air marshall while trying to return to your seat? (Watch the news for this one, folks). The entire process is utterly ridiculous. If the bomber had tried to light his fuse at the 45 minute mark into the flight, who can doubt that they'd ban visiting the toilet between 37 and 52 minutes after takeoff?

Remember the shoe bomber and how airport security made everybody take their shoes off before flight? Didn't stop the next religious fanatic with a fuse to light, did it?

The notion of an allegedly civilized nation dancing its "security" policies in the wind every time there's a real or perceived threat, to so vastly inconvenience its population while at the same time making no difference to the actual terrorists, is so laughable it's earned the term "security theater" - putting on a big show, but doing nothing for actual security.

It's not just me saying so. See Bruce Schnier's many writings on this topic, and his essay The Psychology of Security. Bruce is a well-known cryptology and security researcher; he knows whereof he speaks. TSA, not so much.