Obama: "The buck stops with me"

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
It saddened me today to learn that Bush and Cheney left behind as big a mess in our intelligence gathering and sharing systems as they did on the economy. His DHS is a scam and has wasted billions.

Link


President Obama on Thursday ordered a series of steps to improve the government’s ability to collect, share, analyze and act on intelligence of terrorist threats, saying the findings of a government review of the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day revealed significant shortcomings in national security.

“We are at war,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House State Dining Room. While he promised not to “succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices” America’s civil liberties for security, he called for the immediate strengthening of the nation’s terrorism watch lists by expanding the criteria on adding people to those lists.

“In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s what these steps are designed to do.”

The president said intelligence reports involving threats to the United States would be distributed more widely among agencies.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
While that's good to hear in a way, I wonder what that really means for our freedoms. Remember, the Patriot Act is still around.
It's freaking ridiculous. We spend billions on DHS, have had 7 years to improve our communications yet a guy, using the same MO as the "shoe bomber" boards a plane with explosives.

All we did was create a new and bigger bureaucracy.
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
It's freaking ridiculous. We spend billions on DHS, have had 7 years to improve our communications yet a guy, using the same MO as the "shoe bomber" boards a plane with explosives.

All we did was create a new and bigger bureaucracy.
Because, as I stated before, safety and security are illusions. There will never be a time when you can be completely 100% sure that there isn't a terrorist on your plane who's found some way to get past security. There simply isn't.
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
Because, as I stated before, safety and security are illusions. There will never be a time when you can be completely 100% sure that there isn't a terrorist on your plane who's found some way to get past security. There simply isn't.
True. But with the proper organization, danger can be minimized significantly.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Jan 9, 2004
29,641
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
It's freaking ridiculous. We spend billions on DHS, have had 7 years to improve our communications yet a guy, using the same MO as the "shoe bomber" boards a plane with explosives.

All we did was create a new and bigger bureaucracy.
I'm sure the kissing bandit is not going to make the government look good, either. :p

I don't know. I always saw the DHS move as a very expensive and risky proposition that had a high likelihood of becoming a land grab against civil liberties, but it's less clear to me that one can say, just because the DHS did not prevent Abdulmuttalab, that this is evidence that the Bush administration screwed up intelligence.

As for Obama and his promise, I think this administration wants to do the right thing vis-a-vis civil liberties, but there is a lot of work to do to fix the civil liberties infrastructure of our country, and they're being drawn off in a lot of other directions.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
Because, as I stated before, safety and security are illusions. There will never be a time when you can be completely 100% sure that there isn't a terrorist on your plane who's found some way to get past security. There simply isn't.

Of course not. We over-react to almost everything in this country. Great opinion piece on it.

Link



The Underwear Bomber failed. And our reaction to the failed plot is failing as well, by focusing on the specifics of this made-for-a-movie plot rather than the broad threat. While our reaction is predictable, it's not going to make us safer.

We're going to beef up airport security, because Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly snuck a bomb through a security checkpoint. We're going to intensively screen Nigerians, because he is Nigerian. We're going to field full body scanners, because they might have noticed the PETN that authorities say was hidden in his underwear. And so on.

We're doing these things even though security worked. The security checkpoints, even at their pre-9/11 levels, forced whoever made the bomb to construct a much worse bomb than he would have otherwise. Instead of using a timer or a plunger or another reliable detonation mechanism, as would any commercial user of PETN, he had to resort to an ad hoc homebrew -- and a much more inefficient one, involving a syringe, and 20 minutes in the lavatory, and we don't know exactly what else -- that didn't explode.

At that point, AbdulMutallab's fellow passengers quickly subdued him. Yes, the screeners didn't notice any PETN in his underwear, but the system was never intended to catch that particular tactic. There probably were intelligence failures -- why wasn't his father's tip followed up on, and why wasn't his visa revoked? -- but it's always easy to connect the dots in hindsight.

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.

In fact, we're focusing on the specifics of the plot, not despite these facts, but because of them.
The Underwear Bomber is precisely the sort of story we humans tend to overreact to. Our brains aren't very good at probability and risk analysis, especially when it comes to rare events. Our brains are much better at processing the simple risks we've had to deal with throughout most of our species' existence, and much poorer at evaluating the complex risks modern society forces us to face. We exaggerate spectacular rare events, and downplay familiar and common ones.

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.

Overreacting to the rare and spectacular is natural. We tend to base risk analysis on personal story rather than on data. If a friend gets mugged in a foreign country, that story is more likely to affect how safe you feel in that country than abstract crime statistics.
We give storytellers we have a relationship with more credibility than we give strangers, and stories that are close to us more weight than stories from foreign lands. And who is everyone's major storyteller these days? Television.

I tell people that if it's in the news, don't worry about it. The very definition of "news" is "something that hardly ever happens." It's when something isn't in the news, when it's so common that it's no longer news -- car crashes, domestic violence -- that you should start worrying.

But that's not the way we think. The more an event is talked about, the more probable we think it is. The more vivid our thoughts about the event are -- again, think television -- the more easily we remember it and the more convincing it is. So when faced with a very available and highly vivid event like the Underwear Bomber, 9/11, or a child kidnapping in a playground, we overreact. We get scared.

And once we're scared, we need to "do something" -- even if that something doesn't make sense and is ineffective. We need to do something directly related to the story that's making us scared. We implement full body scanners at airports. We pass the Patriot Act. We don't let our children go to playgrounds unsupervised. Instead of implementing effective, but more general, security measures to reduce the overall risk, we concentrate on making the fearful story go away. Yes, it's security theater, but it makes us feel safer.

As circular as it sounds, rare events are rare primarily because they don't occur very often, and not because of any preventive security measures. If you want to do something that makes security sense, figure out what's common among a bunch of rare events, and concentrate your countermeasures there.

Focus on the general risk of terrorism, and not the specific threat of airplane bombings using PETN-filled underwear. Focus on the general risk of troubled teens, and not the specific threat of a lone gunman wandering around a school. Ignore the movie-plot threats, and concentrate on the real risks.


The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Schneier.
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
Of course not. We over-react to almost everything in this country. Great opinion piece on it.

Link
Exactly. It's like some of my relatives when I go back home for a visit.

"So- which suburb of Chicago do you live in?"

"I live in the city."

"Oh no! Oh why would you do that?"

"It's beautiful and has tons of opportunities."

"But aren't you scared all the time?"

"No. Why would I be scared?"

"Well, we hear about shootings in the city all the time!"

"That's mainly in certain neighborhoods that I've never even been to."

"But it could happen to you too!"

"Yes, it could. And you could get trampled by a deer, or hit by a car."

Ridiculous, but sadly true.
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
It can, but it doesn't need to be at the expense of our freedoms or privacy.
I agree.

I mean, full body scanners now?
I've got mixed feelings about the full body scanners. I don't really have a big problem with them. I haven't fully decided yet though.

Are the full body scanner images recorded? If the answer is no, then I'm fine with that.

Is the screen only visible to the trained agent doing the screening? If the answer is yes, then I'm fine with that.

My concern has lied more with the dose of radiation that is given to the passenger as they are scanned. From what I have read, the radiation risk is extremely low:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60553920100106 and
http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/24/35041/do-full-body-scanners-pose-radiation-risk.html


Besides Lee.... I'm sure you've got nothing to be ashamed of under those clothes.....;)
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
I agree.



I've got mixed feelings about the full body scanners. I don't really have a big problem with them. I haven't fully decided yet though.

Are the full body scanner images recorded? If the answer is no, then I'm fine with that.

Is the screen only visible to the trained agent doing the screening? If the answer is yes, then I'm fine with that.

My concern has lied more with the dose of radiation that is given to the passenger as they are scanned. From what I have read, the radiation risk is extremely low:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60553920100106 and
http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/24/35041/do-full-body-scanners-pose-radiation-risk.html


Besides Lee.... I'm sure you've got nothing to be ashamed of under those clothes.....;)
Ha! No- but I don't need my full body scan showing up on the internet either. ;)

Seriously, I would think that they would keep a record of those scans.
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
I agree.



I've got mixed feelings about the full body scanners. I don't really have a big problem with them. I haven't fully decided yet though.

Are the full body scanner images recorded? If the answer is no, then I'm fine with that.

Is the screen only visible to the trained agent doing the screening? If the answer is yes, then I'm fine with that.

My concern has lied more with the dose of radiation that is given to the passenger as they are scanned. From what I have read, the radiation risk is extremely low:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60553920100106 and
http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/24/35041/do-full-body-scanners-pose-radiation-risk.html


Besides Lee.... I'm sure you've got nothing to be ashamed of under those clothes.....;)
From what I've read, the images are not stored and the viewer of the images is in a room where he can't see who is in the machine.

If this is the tech we need to stop explosives from getting on planes, then I'm ready for my close up Mr DeMille.

EDIT: Pic of xray added.

 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
Ha! No- but I don't need my full body scan showing up on the internet either. ;)
You can use it in the MacRumors Pics! thread.....:D


From what I've read, the images are not stored and the viewer of the images is in a room where he can't see who is in the machine.

If this is the tech we need to stop explosives from getting on planes, then I'm ready for my close up Mr DeMille.
Same here.

They just need to figure out a way to screen quickly and efficiently.

These new 'no carry on' rule is way over the top.
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
It worked fine from 2003-2008...
No attacks during that time does not mean it was working. It just meant that there were no attacks.

Are you really trying to imply that as soon as Obama took over last year, a switch was pulled and the DHS stopped working? Don't be ridiculous.
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
Same here.

They just need to figure out a way to screen quickly and efficiently.

These new 'no carry on' rule is way over the top.
No carry on? I think my flying days are over. That's f***ing ridiculous, especially now that so many airlines charge to check your bags.
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
No carry on? I think my flying days are over. That's f***ing ridiculous, especially now that so many airlines charge to check your bags.
Sorry, my bad. I don't know why I said "no carry on".:confused:

It pretty much is no carry on though. No more bringing a small suitcase so you don't have to check your bag. A woman can bring a small purse or a laptop, but not both. A man can bring a laptop, but nothing else. I don't think a man can bring a small bag as carry on.

I think it's like that.
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
Sorry, my bad. I don't know why I said "no carry on".:confused:

It pretty much is no carry on though. No more bringing a small suitcase so you don't have to check your bag. A woman can bring a small purse or a laptop, but not both. A man can bring a laptop, but nothing else. I don't think a man can bring a small bag as carry on.

I think it's like that.
I can handle that. But that's going to be a windfall for a lot of airlines. I think they should be required to do away with that fee.
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
I can handle that. But that's going to be a windfall for a lot of airlines. I think they should be required to do away with that fee.
I just don't see the point for the change. What was wrong before? The carry ons were being screened on the xray scanner and rummaged though by an agent if necessary. Why wasn't that good enough?

I don't recall the underwear bomber having any carry on bags....
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Original poster
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,409
I just don't see the point for the change. What was wrong before? The carry ons were being screened on the xray scanner and rummaged though by an agent if necessary. Why wasn't that good enough?

I don't recall the underwear bomber having any carry on bags....

Both the 'shoe bomber' and 'underwear bomber' had no luggage and paid cash for the tickets, one way.

Face palm, that's it. We ban people from flying who pay cash and have no bags. Wait, what?
 

Surely

Guest
Oct 27, 2007
15,043
8
Los Angeles, CA
Both the 'shoe bomber' and 'underwear bomber' had no luggage and paid cash for the tickets, one way.

Face palm, that's it. We ban people from flying who pay cash and have no bags. Wait, what?
I guess this guy wouldn't be able to get on the plane and save the day then:



"I'd like one ticket to Chicago. No baggage!"