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August 27, 2007

Bruce Schneier on "Security Theatre"

Bruce Schneier is the one who coined the brilliantly apt description of ludicrously ineffective, but highly visible security precautions as "Security Theatre". He was recently, albeit probably inadvertently, honoured for that when the Transportation Security Administration head, Kip Hawley, used the term to explain why it's no longer forbidden to take cigarette lighters on board aircraft:

"There have been exactly two things since 9/11 that have made air travel safer," Schneier said recently over spring rolls at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant on Nicollet Avenue. "Reinforcing the cockpit door and telling people to fight back in the event of an attack." After a brief pause, half-devoured roll in hand, he reconsidered. "Well, maybe three," he said. "I'm on the fence about sky marshals."

One thing Schneier isn't on the fence about is the billions of dollars that the TSA has spent making air travelers pour out their water, take off their shoes, and until recently, throw out their cigarette lighters. All of this, Schneier argues, might make people feel safer, but it does little to actually improve security.

H/T to Jesse Walker.

Update: More on the uses and misuses of security theatre from Wired.

Posted by Nicholas at August 27, 2007 12:27 PM

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