Schneier is persuasive in his argument that the government's recent efforts to prevent terrorism have been a colossal waste of money and effort. Checking the IDs of everyone who gets on a plane, for instance, is useless. All the 911 terrorists had ID cards, the shoe bomber had an ID card, and so has every other terrorist.
Schneier believes that using more trained guards (uniformed and plain clothed) walking around airports looking for suspicious behavior, is a much better way to spend money than by wasting time searching a grandmother's luggage for a penknife.
RU: A recent BoingBoing headline read “TSA missed 90% of bombs at Denver airport.” (Obviously they weren’t talking about real bombs, but a test.)Transcript | MP3 interview
BS: And the real news there is it wasn’t even surprising. This is consistent in TSA tests both before and after 9/11. We haven’t gotten any better. We’re spending a lot more money, we’re pissing off a lot more fliers, and we’re not doing any better.
There’s a game we’re playing, right? Think about airport security. We take away guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. So we take away box cutters and small knives, and they put explosives in their shoes. So we screen shoes and they use liquids. Now we take away liquids; they’re going to do something else. This is a game we can’t win. I’m sick of playing it. I’d rather play a game we can win.
RU: The reactive thing is terribly absurd. The whole shoe-bomber thing — my ongoing joke is that if he were an ass bomber, taxpayers would now be buying a lot of Vaseline.
RU: So if you were in charge of airport security, are there any things that you would implement?
BS: I think we should ratchet passenger screening down to pre-9/11 levels. I like seeing positive bag matching. That’s something that was done in Europe for decades. The U.S. airlines screamed and screamed and refused to do it, and now they are.
Really, I would take all the extra money for airport security and have well-trained guards, both uniformed and plainclothes, walking through the airports looking for suspicious people. That’s what I would do. And I would just give back the rest of the money. If we secure our airport and the terrorists go bomb shopping malls, we’ve wasted our money. I dislike security measures that require us to guess the plot correctly because if you guess wrong, it’s a waste of money. And it’s not even a fair game. It’s not like we pick our security, they pick their plot, we see who wins. The game is we pick our security, they look at our security, and then they pick their plot. The way to spend money on security – airport security, and security in general — is intelligence investigation and emergency response. These are the things that will be effective regardless of what the terrorists are planning.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects