Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Schneier: "Stop the Panic on Air Security"

A good article by Bruce Schneier on the tendency for overreaction to dramatic and rare events, such as hijackings and attempted underwear bombings, while ignoring far more common dangers which don't make the news headlines.

We're doing these things even though this particular plot was chosen precisely because we weren't screening for it; future al Qaeda attacks rarely look like past attacks; and the terrorist threat is far broader than attacks against airplanes.

We're doing these things even though airplane terrorism is incredibly rare, the risk is no greater today than it was in previous decades, the taxi to the airport is still more dangerous than the flight, and ten times as many Americans are killed by lightning as by terrorists.
We can see the effects of this all the time. We fear being murdered, kidnapped, raped and assaulted by strangers, when it's far more likely that the perpetrator of such offenses is a relative or a friend. We fear school shootings, even though a school is almost always the safest place a child can be. We worry about shark attacks instead of fatal dog or pig attacks -- both far more common. In the U.S., over 38,000 people die each year in car crashes; that's as many deaths as 9/11 each and every month, year after year.

Nothing he hasn't really said before, but well stated and all the more significant these days, given the hilarious ban on liquids and the ridiculous fiasco of Newark Airport being temporarily shut down and causing hours of delays because an innocent Chinese student crossed a laughable rope barrier to give his girlfriend a goodbye kiss.
Of course, instead of admitting that security was basically a joke (on the one hand, you're made to take off your shoes, be frisked, have your luggage X-rayed and possibly have someone examine your bits in a full-body scanner, then you enter the 'secure' area which is separated from the 'insecure' area by a cinema-waiting-line rope) and that they overreacted badly, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg stated that "what he did was a terrible injustice" to the thousands of people who were inconvenienced. Even though it was what airport security did that caused the inconvenience...

Let's stop the panic!

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