A heartening reminder for all you holiday travelers out there forced to surrender your snow globes, printer cartridges, and half-drunk Fantas to airport security: the T.S.A. is a lavish waste of time, effort, and money.
Bruce Schneier, a cryptographer and security technologist, has made a hobby of testing the T.S.A.'s effectiveness. And the results are (unsurprisingly) frustrating:
"…the great bulk of the post-9/11 measures… are little more than what Schneier mocks as 'security theater': actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job. In fact, the continuing expenditure on security may actually have made the United States less safe."
Did he just say less safe? We're less safe now than we were in 2001? That flies in the face of… well, the color-coded terror advisory alert system, for one. (Rest in peace.)
It's really worse than we thought. Body scanners, those little wet pads they swipe your hands with to test for bomb residue, shoe x-rays, boarding pass checking, all that junk-touching: it's all done basically nothing to make us more resistant to a terror attack, Schneier says. But boy has it cost a lot! Billions and billions and billions, he guesses.
Not only is it a problem with the security itself, Schneier says, it's a matter of focus. What makes terror so terrifying is that it can come from anywhere:
"The terrorist's goal isn't to attack an airplane specifically; it's to sow terror generally. 'You spend billions of dollars on the airports and force the terrorists to spend an extra $30 on gas to drive to a hotel or casino and attack it,' Schneier says. 'Congratulations!'"
There's a little thought for your next mall outing.