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United States Security Politics

9/11 Made Us Safer, Says Bruce Schneier 280

Posted by timothy
from the silver-lining dept.
richi writes "Security guru and BT CTO Bruce Schneier discusses terrorist attacks. In fact, Bruce seems to be saying that 9/11 actually made us safer from terrorists, which seems like a curious argument. While Bruce's blog post is interesting and no doubt insightful, I'm not sure I really buy it. And what's the deal with the new rules for searching the TSA No Fly List? Why is it, in 2010, we're still mucking about with publishing database extracts and waiting hours for them to be searched? How about checking within seconds of an update? Couldn't someone volunteer to show them how to implement a reliable, scalable, NoSQL setup? Instead, the TSA plan to fix this is a classic 'big government' solution."
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9/11 Made Us Safer, Says Bruce Schneier

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  • by craznar (710808) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:31PM (#32140394) Homepage
    .. not to mention thousands of soldiers and their families.
    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:42PM (#32140486) Journal
      Man, if I had mod points I'd love to mod this up

      9/11 also seemed to flare up a lot of deep-seeded racial profiling urges in a lot of people. Honestly I think we may be in a self-fulfilling prophecy scenario here.

      Extremist groups of terrorists attack the country ->
      The US gets very hard nosed to these terrorist groups creating an extremist backlash ->
      Extremists groups of the US start treating anyone from a "threat country" as a second-class citizen ->
      More citizens of that country at large become hostile towards the US in response ->
      Extremist terrorist groups abroad grow in response.

      Would you be particularly friendly to a foreign nation coming in and telling you how to run your government? Just curious.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, people in Germany and Japan weren't all happy and friendly when they lost WWII, but they lost the war, and they had to do and listen to what we said.

        And look how well it turned it has turned out for them. In some ways, messing with the USA is probably the best thing evil governments can do that turns around those countries.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by smoothnorman (1670542)
          yep... see also the plot of "The Mouse That Roared" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mouse_That_Roared )
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by toastar (573882)

          I think Germany after WW1 is a better example, Tell me again why we invaded Iraq/afganastan/pakistan? then maybe i could tell you why a native pakistani/american decide to attack us.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by kdemetter (965669)

            Well , in both cases ( WW I and WW II ) , they German people suffered heavily after the wars :

            After WW I , there was an enormous inflation , and general poverty . That's actually one of the reason WW II started : the people had nothing , so they were easy to manipulate.

            After WW II , the country was split up in two , with Western Germany leading a relatively acceptable life , but for Eastern Germany , it was centuries of suffer .

            • by c0d3g33k (102699)

              After WW II , the country was split up in two , with Western Germany leading a relatively acceptable life , but for Eastern Germany , it was centuries of suffer .

              I assume you meant *decades* of suffering, not centuries, considering that the GDR only existed for 41 years. It may have felt like centuries to those suffering, I'll grant you that.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        Would you be particularly friendly to a foreign nation coming in and telling you how to run your government? Just curious.

        Depends on who their predecessor was, what that "how" is, and whether they'd leave willingly.

        The US enforcing democracy would have been universally welcomed by Hungary in 1956 [wikipedia.org].

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        The US gets very hard nosed to these terrorist groups creating an extremist backlash ->

        This most recent "Times Square Bomber" is a good example of this. In the part of Pakistan where he's from and has been visiting (so I understand), there has been a lot of civilian death due to Predator drones. The US military so loves to use these drones, which while preventing US casualties often kill a lot of people that they don't even bother finding out the names of the people they are targeting. At first, they

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          Good sentiment and nice liberal touch but sadly your accounting doesn't favor reality.

          Faisal Shahzad said his reasons for attempting the bombing was because of slew of deaths among leaders of the terror group ehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. So it isn't the deaths of innocent civilians that took him to evil, it was the deaths of leaders mixed in with the evil that brainwashed him in the first place.

          Whether or not this was sparked by a bombardment of images of the enemy dieing is sort of a moot point. In any war, t

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by INT_QRK (1043164)
        First of all, it is clear to anyone who actually reads Schneier's article, that he said nothing of the sort. Secondly, the popular leftist and anti-American narrative that the US' response to 911 is responsible for fostering more terrorism is equally specious and circular, especially the equine excrement fairy tales of oppressed muslims in the US treated as "second class citizens" by "racist extremist groups." I call BS. BS. BS. BS. Propaganda unanswered is nothing short of complicity.
    • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:19PM (#32140764)
      The thing is, that this is a stupid straw man argument that's been put into Schneier's mouth. 9/11 may or may not have made "us" more likely to be killed in terrorist attacks. However terrorist attacks are almost completely irrelevant to the lives of anyone living anywhere except for Iraq. If you've read Bruce's blog, it's pretty clear that he believes 9/11 and more importantly the over-reaction to it in the USA has made pretty much everyone less safe. Just one statistic: more people have died travelling by car to avoid travelling in a plane through dislike of the TSA than died during the 9/11 attack. More importantly, taking away freedom has reduced our security because often the government can be the biggest threat. Since people no longer know what their rulers are doing it is more difficult to make sure they do the right thing.
      • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:31PM (#32140844)
        That's shocking, who wouldn't like to have virtual strip searches, specious claims that they're on some sort of mythical no fly list or be hassled because they look vaguely middle eastern?

        We've lost sight of the fact that the money we're flushing down the toilet on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and TSA bullshit could be much better spent on other things. Such as crime prevention programs, education and making various corporations live up to necessary safety standards. More people have died in the last 9 years in non-terrorist plane crashes than in terrorist cause plane crashes. While that doesn't suggest that we can rest on our laurels, what it does suggest is that perhaps the money would be better spent in other ways. Fixing real problems rather than pushing them elsewhere. Especially efforts that blatantly violate the US constitution.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          While I agree entirely with your Iraq/Afghanistan points, I'm compelled to point out the fallacy of one of your logical conclusions regarding the statistic "More people have died in Non-Terrorist plane crashes, than terrorist ones." Doesn't that imply that, perhaps, those safety measures HAVE worked? Consider this: Imagine that a year prior to September 11, 2001, there was a sweeping measure to bolt lock all of cockpit doors. September 11 comes, and goes. 9 years later we hear you opine that "Spending billi

          • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @05:29PM (#32141680)

            Doesn't that imply that, perhaps, those safety measures HAVE worked?

            No. The reason it doesn't is because terrorism is fungible. The terrorists aren't going to say, "Damn the cockpits are bolted closed, I'm just going to pray instead!" They will just find some other target. The fact that the only significant attack was the fort hood shootings - when there are hundreds of thousands of other soft targets - suggests that the risk really isn't there.

            • by thesandtiger (819476) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @12:22AM (#32144288)

              Absolutely.

              If terrorism was such a threat to the US, there would have been hundreds of minor, soft-target attacks on US soil. There are dozens of ways I can think of, off the top of my head, for a single individual to kill dozens/hundreds of americans without actually putting their life at risk. Why aren't terrorists leaving cars packed with explosives outside of Starbucks, daycare centers, shopping malls, sporting events and any other place where people routinely go? Why haven't suicide bombers run screaming into the HUGE crowds that are waiting to get through the security checkpoints at airports?

              I'll tell you why: There simply just isn't an interest in doing that kind of thing. Or, I should say, not much of an interest. Right now, if I wanted to - if I really had a bug up my ass and was willing to do something about it - I could go out and kill dozens to hundreds of people - for less than $200 bucks by renting a car and plowing into a crowd of people on a busy sidewalk in my city. The fact that we don't have people doing this kind of thing *at all (except for maybe Fort Hood)* let alone all the time shows me exactly how much of a threat terrorism isn't.

        • by gtall (79522)

          Yes and no. Yep, we could use that money for other things. On the other hand, if the terrorists get a nuke and New York goes foom, I'm guessing the U.S. expenditures and effort on security get seriously upgraded. If you believe they will do it regardless of how hard we try to stop them, then you should start saying your prayers now, it will help prevent the logjam later.

          Or you could make suggestions about what should we do to make the Islamic terrorists happy. Well, in the Koran it say infidels should pay t

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gordonjcp (186804)

        However terrorist attacks are almost completely irrelevant to the lives of anyone living anywhere except for Iraq.

        Or Ireland.

        • However terrorist attacks are almost completely irrelevant to the lives of anyone living anywhere except for Iraq.

          Or Ireland.

          Or Israel.

          • We do not live in the era of horses and five week mail delivery any more. Before you put up stupid shit like this, how about at least making sure we can't easily check it. If you look at basic cause of death statistics [who.int] for Israel, terrorism isn't even listed it's such a minor issue. Please come back when you've realised that Google exists.

            In fact the only good thing about your post is it was less stupid than it's parent post. At least there really are some suicide bomb attacks which kill people in Isr

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gtall (79522)

          Or the Philippines, or Thailand, or Kashmir, or India, or Indonesia, or Nigeria, or Israel, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Morocco, or Algeria, or Chechnya, of Dagastan (sp?), or Russia, or Pakistan, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, or Spain, or Britain.

          Now, for the big question, what do all these cases have in common? Think hard now? Which well-adjusted, 21st century group of like-minded homicidal maniacs has a problem with the people living in these areas?

    • by selven (1556643) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @04:34PM (#32141234)

      Can we please try to avoid making emotional appeals in place of logical arguments? Letting emotions win over logic in a casino makes you lose money, letting emotions win over logic when lives are at stake makes you lose lives. Maybe if we had some cold hard rationality in the government we wouldn't have sent any soldiers over to the Middle East at all.

    • And all the people who died in car accidents prior to the mandatory installation of seatbelts would disagree that we are now safer?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Onymous Coward (97719)

      "Just under three thousand people would disagree... (Score:5, Insightful)"

      To say that 9/11 hasn't made the US safer afterwards ... because of the loss during the event itself ... is confused. (You are referring to the 2,976 killed on 9/11, aren't you?) For that to be scored 5 Insightful demonstrates there is something faulty with the rating system here.

      Now, what you referenced about thousands of US soldiers (about 4,400) being killed is insightful. 9/11 endangered our troops by whipping up popular need

  • LOL (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mark19960 (539856) <Mark@@@freequest...net> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:35PM (#32140416) Homepage Journal

    Safer? How?
    Shoe bomber... underwear dude... the recent SUV failure?
    So much for the TSA... homeland security and all other billion dollar agencies created.

    All it did was make ordinary people more aware.....
    After the 9/11 attack... I don't think any plane will be hijacked and flown into a building as easily as before.
    They have a new problem: the passengers.
    I don't think we need these agencies when we have an aware public.

    The terrorists attacked a way of life, and won.

    • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:40PM (#32140462)

      Did you even read the article? I know this is something despised around here, but you could at least pretend you tried. You even assert that we are more safer in your own post, after you say that we aren't. I'm not aware of any successful major terrorist attack after 9/11, if you do, will you please share it with us?

      • I'm not aware of any successful major terrorist attack after 9/11

        I don't know if I'm even aware of a major (publicized) terrorist attack attempt post 9-11 that COULD have been successful. We had a guy with a binary explosive in his shoes, the Christmas fellow, that group of fellows on the east coast (I want to say) a few years back that the media tried to play up as a threat, and then the Times Square fellow who didn't know what he was doing at all despite being trained.
        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          Those examples are reinforcement that we must continue to fear the "terrorist" enemy. They may be false flag operations, or single individuals (or small groups) trying to execute plans beyond their ability.

          The Times Square bomber couldn't have had proper training in executing what he attempted. Training would have included practical experience in the creation and detonation of the item in question. If he had training and practical experience, he would have known that his met

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by russotto (537200)

        I'm not aware of any successful major terrorist attack after 9/11, if you do, will you please share it with us?

        In the 10 years BEFORE 9/11, there was only one in the US (Oklahoma City), so the sample is too small to make any conclusions.

        (outside the US there have been plenty of successful terrorist attacks since 9/11, including the London and Madrid train bombings)

      • Oh? [wikipedia.org]

        Or are 191 people killed not large enough numbers for you? (and 1800 injured)
    • Re:LOL (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:40PM (#32140470) Journal

      I guess it made us safer in the same way y2k made our software date handling better. It prompted us to finally close some of the biggest holes We certainly are still getting it wrong much of the time though and in many instances the best cure we have managed to implement is much worse than the disease.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sirknala (1807374)
        Exactly. Maybe "safer" isn't the right word to use but it's very close. No major incident since 9/11. Everyone is more aware. Military strikes are taking the fight elsewhere. You can't really disagree with it. I'm in the military and have been to Afghanistan and Iraq several times and I'm going again soon... there's no way you can tell us we aren't helping to keep us safer. And to explain the recent failures in the system... as all programmers know, you can't prevent every exploit since there will alwa
        • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:37PM (#32140878)
          Umm, Iraq wasn't involved in 9/11 nor was there any credible evidence that Saddam was able to attack us in the US. Perhaps you might explain to the rest of us how that makes us safer. And while you're at it, you might consider explaining how the mission in Afghanistan is protecting us more than the alternative of cruise missiles to training camps would.

          What we have done is dedicated a huge amount of resources to nebulous goals in parts of the world of little strategic value, without defining the victory conditions or making credible back up plans for the instance where we need to engage in combat elsewhere in the world. There may be something I'm missing here, but Sun Tzu was right on when he indicated that fighting wars far away for prolonged periods is a serious indicator of failure.

          This is largely the same problem we had in Vietnam and Korea, where there was a secondary war going on, which we weren't particularly involved in, which kept our troops in the crossfire. Such wars rarely if ever go well, and the lack of interest in the higher levels of the DoD and Federal government to commit resources we don't have to the mission at hand does not indicate that we're likely to make a meaningful positive difference.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sumdumass (711423)

            I think you might be conflating several things into one and then scratching your head when you can't see the connections.

            Umm, Iraq wasn't involved in 9/11 nor was there any credible evidence that Saddam was able to attack us in the US. Perhaps you might explain to the rest of us how that makes us safer. And while you're at it, you might consider explaining how the mission in Afghanistan is protecting us more than the alternative of cruise missiles to training camps would.

            First, these are completely separa

            • Re:LOL - WMDs (Score:3, Interesting)

              by chill (34294)

              Nice response, but (IMHO) your argument on Iraq is flawed.

              The problem is the term "WMDs". It is a vague, political term that was introduced on purpose. The idea was to lump together nuclear weapons, which generate lots of fear and concern, with biological and chemical, which aren't in the same class.

              We KNEW Iraq had chemical weapons because they used them publicly against the Kurds and Iranians. It was common knowledge, and WE DIDN'T CARE. They were little to no threat to the U.S. with those.

              We KNEW the

      • Re:LOL (Score:5, Informative)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:28PM (#32140818)

        Actually, no, that's not what he's saying.

        He's got several points, but the one the second article mangles is a two-parter: (A) A big attack like 9/11 is hard to organize and pull together successfully, without getting caught along the way. (Mostly due to old-fashioned police work, or just the fact that one of you suicide-attackers-in-training might come to the realization that they can actually live this life usefully. And that's assuming you managed to find enough of them in the first place.) (B) No smaller attack is likely to make an impression on the people you need to impress.

        So, basically, he's saying is that terrorism has become an all-or-nothing proposition: Either you pull of something spectacular, or you fail. And the more spectacular you try to be, the more likely you are to fail before you get to the point where you pull anything off.

        • He's got a point there. I remember to some degree the hostage-taking that was happening to Westerners in the Middle East in the 1980s. Even as a kid, I grew used to hearing it on the news, and eventually it stopped in part because it grew to be useless in dealing with the governments.

          Terrorist groups have to do something big or something new to catch the attention of Western audiences. They don't have the manpower to undertake large-scale campaigns, and no real sympathy in the populace to let them conduc

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:35PM (#32140418)
    Bruce never said 9/11 made us safer. Read his words, not the words someone put into his mouth.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly, he never said that, stupid journalist.

    • by ZekoMal (1404259) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#32140526)
      "After the enormous horror and tragedy of 9/11, why have the past eight years been so safe in the U.S.?"

      "If you're a representative of al-Qaida trying to make a statement in the U.S., it's much harder. You just don't have the people, and you're probably going to slip up and get caught."

      If you actually read his words, he said that it's much harder to make a big statement terrorist-wise, because the longer it takes you to do it the more likely you are to get caught. He didn't literally say "The US is safer because of 9/11", but he did make the comments that post-9/11 terrorism is all about scale, and that it's harder to pull off a large scale terrorist act because of the threat of being caught.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by YXdr (1396565)

        That was one of several possibilities he proposed in response to the original question (why no attacks?)

        There, he's basically saying that 9/11 changed the equation, which is a statement we can discuss rationally. But instead we get a bunch of responses to the emotion-laden headline.

      • by dzfoo (772245) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:09PM (#32140688)

        Lewis Page, of The Register, said it better, and more eloquently:
                http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/08/mutallab_comment/ [theregister.co.uk]

                Check out the second page of the article, entitled "OMG - why aren't we all already dead?"
                -dZ.

      • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:18PM (#32140760)

        He didn't literally say "The US is safer because of 9/11", but he did make the comments that post-9/11 terrorism is all about scale, and that it's harder to pull off a large scale terrorist act because of the threat of being caught.

        Yes... that's the premise of Jennings' article. But is that the same thing as being safer?

        First - you have to look at context. Schneier wasn't talking about a factor of safety. He was answering the self-imposed question "Why Aren't There More Terrorist Attacks?" [schneier.com] From Schneier's article:

        As the details of the Times Square car bomb attempt emerge in the wake of Faisal Shahzad's arrest Monday night, one thing has already been made clear: Terrorism is fairly easy. All you need is a gun or a bomb, and a crowded target. Guns are easy to buy. Bombs are easy to make. Crowded targets -- not only in New York, but all over the country -- are easy to come by. If you're willing to die in the aftermath of your attack, you could launch a pretty effective terrorist attack with a few days of planning, maybe less.

        But if it's so easy, why aren't there more terrorist attacks like the failed car bomb in New York's Times Square? Or the terrorist shootings in Mumbai? Or the Moscow subway bombings? After the enormous horror and tragedy of 9/11, why have the past eight years been so safe in the U.S.?

        Note that he's saying these attacks are easy (arguably no less difficult than before 9/11 - though that's my conjecture, not his). And, in fact, he even lists attacks that happened after 9/11.

        The kicker to Jennings' article is that it imposes a conclusion on someone else's work that was never made. If you go back and look at a lot of Schneier's writing, he often notes that terrorism is not and has never been a major threat. And certainly not the threat that the current crop of fear-mongers make it out to be. To take Scheier's article and conclude that there has been a drastic change in the environment is a step away from claiming that everything done in the name of combating terrorism has been effective. Something else that Scheier is constantly critical of in his writings.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      He didn't use those exact words, but he did say:

      Even 9/11, which was planned before the climate of fear that event engendered, just barely succeeded. Today, it's much harder to pull something like that off without slipping up and getting arrested.

      Which essentially implies that 9/11 made us safer. It made us safer mainly because people are watching out for that kind of thing, not because of weird airline regulations, like the OP suggests. And frankly, I think he is right.

  • I think a lot of programmers would rather just be busy elsewhere, or make it as complicated as possible so it earns a lot of money and the project fails under it's own weight.
  • by HalAtWork (926717) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:38PM (#32140452)
    It didn't make us safer, it just made us more paranoid. That may mean we are looking for trouble in more areas but it doesn't make us more effective at doing so. It increases the amount of noise in the system and costs us a lot of money, liberty, and even sanity in a lot of cases.
    • But are you really paranoid if they are out to get you?

      I don't buy into the fact that all of the changes since 9/11 have made us safer. They have caused us untold inconvenience and hassle. There is little doubt that the entire TSA is a waste of time, effort, and money. The billions of dollars that have been spent on upgrading the civil defense structures (police, fire, EMS and so on) have maybe helped communities out by having some additional equipment but they really aren't doing much to deter terrorism

      • by gtall (79522)

        I see. So if we did nothing to react, security wise, to 9/11, the terrorists would say, yep, been there, done that, no point in doing it again. They hit all the targets worth hitting right? They made their point?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HalAtWork (926717)
        Dude, there's crazy people out to cause destruction to get noticed for Reason X all the time. That's not something you can control. It's a fact you're going to have to live with.
  • Hah! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZekoMal (1404259) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:39PM (#32140456)
    The illusion of safety is what we earned. Just because we haven't been attacked doesn't mean other countries haven't been. Furthermore, if the plan of a terrorist is to incite terror through violence, they definitely fucking achieved their mission. The average drooling moron is scared shitless of terrorists, and covers it by being excessively racist towards Arabs.

    Something smells mildly like V for Vendetta around here...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Not to mention that terrorists are the least of our worries. Wall Street and the government printing presses are going to accomplish what the terrorists haven't yet been able to.

  • Am I wrong, or would a clever misspelling on a ticket bypass the entire point of an automated no-fly list?

    I know the people that check your boarding passes don't check *that* closely. If your name is Faisal Shahzad, you could probably substitute an a for an e or a silent q or something without it being noticed.

    Or am I helping the terrorists now? It's all very confusion.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      you could probably substitute an a for an e or a silent q or something without it being noticed. Or am I helping the terrorists now?

      I just turned you into the FBI for "aiding and abetting terrorists". Enjoy the view, and don't drop your soap, ever.

  • I buy it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:44PM (#32140506)

    Pre 9/11:
    Plane hijacker: Open the cockpit
    Pilot: Ok
    *passengers cower in fear*

    Post 9/11:
    Plane hijacker: Open the cockpit
    Pilot: I'm sorry, I can't, the door cannot be opened until we are on the ground
    *passengers storm the hijackers*

    It used to be you played real friendly with hijackers in a hostage situation. Now we know better. We didn't need to change a thing to keep 9/11 from happening again. As much as I'm a critic of many of the anti-terror changes, though, some just make sense (bullet-proof cockpit doors so air marhsells can shoot into them, locking the doors during flight, pilots carrying guns, etc)

    On a semi-related note, a friend of mine's father is an airplane pilot. A few years ago, he was going through the security checkpoint. So he hands the TSA agent his gun and goes through the procedure. On the other side, the agent hands back his gun, and says "I'm sorry, sir, I need to confiscate your shampoo"..."you do know I'm a pilot right? And you just handed me a loaded gun?"..."I know sir, please don't make it any more ridiculous than it already is"

    • Re:I buy it (Score:5, Informative)

      by mikael_j (106439) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:16PM (#32140738)

      It used to be you played real friendly with hijackers in a hostage situation. Now we know better.

      Well, pre-9/11 the reason everyone just went along with what the hijackers wanted was because in general the hijackers wanted money, to make a political statement while getting themselves dropped off somewhere where they wouldn't get arrested or simply make a statement by landing the plane somewhere safe, taking all the passengers off and blowing up the empty plane. Basically if you just played along you'd be a lot safer than if you tried to take down the guy carrying a submachine gun and a hand grenade...

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Cooperation and appeasement with criminals was just as idiotic an idea then, as it is now. We have a sad, sad culture where we are supposed to leave criminals alone, and do nothing but call the police. Why? Because the police tell us to do so.

        Imagine if what happened to hijackings happened to day-to-day crime... When a few cops are fighting against you, you have a pretty good chance. When the entire public is fighting against you, you have no chance at all...

        • by mikael_j (106439)

          It wasn't like there were no security checkpoints at airports prior to the WTC attack, it was just that experience had taught everyone involved that if someone did hijack an airliner it was generally better to go along with their demands unless they were threatening to kill people.

          I also don't think it's accurate to compare hijackings to regular street crime, the crack addict who stick a knife in your face and wants your wallet is a bit of a different creature than the average airplane hijacker.

    • "I know sir, please don't make it any more ridiculous than it already is"

      Not to worry, that would be impossible.

    • We didn't need to change a thing to keep 9/11 from happening again.

      Well, there are only two things you can do to prevent 9/11 from happening again:

      a) Change your calendars to skip from the 8th to the 10th of September
      b) Take all your troops back to your country, and stop messing in other countrie's affairs.

  • by Goobermunch (771199) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:44PM (#32140508)

    The reason it takes so long to check the list is that the airlines are not giving the manifest data back to the TSA. The TSA updates the lists, but it doesn't have access to the manifests, so it cannot check. Instead, the airlines check the lists whenever they chose, but no less than every two (previously eight) hours.

    The big government solution would be to compel the airlines to provide the data to the TSA, which can then check the manifests against the lists as the data comes in. But privacy advocates and European governments are opposed to giving the "big government" real time access to people's travel plans. The government has been willing to accept the current system as a compromise.

    Ultimately, the question is whether you want to allow the private sector to actually perform the no fly list reconciliation and keep your data relatively secret, or whether you want the government to be able to instantly identify people on the no fly list, but have access to your movements via air travel.

    The choices are not great, and I won't express my preferences.

    --AC

    • Why is it only possible for the government to check the no-fly list in real time? If the data is available to them the airlines should be just as capable of doing that.

    • Actually you can do a "no fly" list real-time without sacrificing privacy. All that is involved is the government (TSA) coming up with an algorithm to produce a 1-way hash per person on the no-fly list. Airlines get real-time updates from this list, and run the same algorithm to produce the same 1-way hash for passengers. Those 1-way hashes that match can be reported back to the government w/o the exchange of any personal information. If a match is found you could then send more detailed information to the

  • To give him the benefit of the doubt, it appears he's saying that 9/11 was a "wake up call" which should have brought us out of a certain level of ignorance about the state of things both outside and inside our country. While ignorance might be bliss, nobody ever said it was safe or smart.

    The problem with this is that it seems to assume that there's a surefire way to prevent all attacks or acts of aggression against the country. Like I was telling somebody yesterday, the only reason that bomb didn't go off

    • There's an old saying along the lines of "The people planting the bombs only have to get lucky once, but the people trying to stop them have to get lucky every day."

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Like I was telling somebody yesterday, the only reason that bomb didn't go off in NYC is luck. The guy was stupid

      It may be more complicated than that. He used low-grade explosives probably because the higher-grade ones would attract more attention during acquisition. Thus, it appears that it's merely an attempt to get around the system by using crappy weapons. Maybe it would have worked slightly better if he didn't make other planning mistakes, but not much.

  • Why NoSQL? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tuxish (1022783) <adapa@shiftout.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:48PM (#32140522) Homepage
    Slashdot has previously posted about the decline of NoSQL. It was a nice idea, and some stuff was learnt from it, but it's not really any better than an SQL system which has been tried and tested with over 20 years of experience. There's a reason Google uses an SQL backend.
    • by kurtmckee (870398) *

      OP clearly has an agenda.

      > How about checking within seconds of an update?

      No cigar. For whatever advantages it may have, NoSQL's tradeoff is that it's only eventually consistent. You can't update the database and get nationwide replication immediately.

      Come to think of it, maybe they're already using a NoSQL database. That'd explain why that guy was added to the no fly list over the Atlantic. He was probably blacklisted well in advance, but the database wasn't updated until he was already on the plane.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:51PM (#32140540) Homepage Journal

    Couldn't someone volunteer to show them how to implement a reliable, scalable, NoSQL setup?

    If you don't have A.C.I.D., then you are in political hot-water if one slips away. It's one thing to lose a random face-book image, but a terrorism flag is another. A big-ass Oracle or IBM-DB2 can do the job if you pay enough for tuning.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jda104 (1652769)

      A big-ass Oracle or IBM-DB2 can do the job if you pay enough for tuning.

      Why is it that, ever since Key-Value DBs came into vogue, that relational databases instantly got perceived as so neanderthal?

      A normal-ass Oracle database would surely be just fine for storing a no-fly list which, by necessity, has magnitudes of order less than 6.whatever billion names; I'm guessing it would do so without much tuning, also.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        I'd definitely go big-ass (DB/2, Oracle, or even MS SQL Server). A normal-ass database might not have the following features:

        1: Real time backups (since this database is critical, a backup system should be catching all writes and socking them away, perhaps to a D2D2T configuration.) You don't want to lose even 5-10 minutes worth of new information, so you either backup all writes, or you make sure the archive log files are well kept. Since this is a 24/7/365 database, there is no time to quiesce the tab

    • by Gorobei (127755)

      NoSQL and ACID are pretty orthogonal concepts. ACID is actually a mix of common-sense ideas and some subtle handwaving:

      Atomicity and Isolation are solid ideas and actually doable.
      Consistency is ill-defined, sneakily introduces semantics and computability, then declares it's all ok via marketing brochures.
      Durability is flat out impossible. Gutsy to even use the term after nukes were invented.

  • Volunteer to Help? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:00PM (#32140614) Journal

    What has he been smoking? Volunteer? As in giving away your services to an agency that has a mission to take away your rights?

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:03PM (#32140646)

    They're busy killing people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Queada has _exploded_ in political and "terrorist" operations there, it's become part of daily politics. It's also far more effective for their immediate goals of political control, fairly effectively counteracting the military might of the wealthiest nation on Earth.

    After all, it worked against the British Empire and later the Soviet Union as invaders of Afghanistan.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      The Soviets could have afforded to stay as long as they liked. Their casualties, by Soviet standards, were trivial.
      They weren't driven out, but realized they'd never have a capable government of locals.

      The strategy of giving Jihadists attractive places to fight and then letting prolonged conflict wear out their local support isn't anything the US would sanely admit to, but it is working pretty well in Iraq. The jury is out on A-stan.

  • by Squeeself (729802) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:12PM (#32140702)
    No, Richi Jennings who wrote a blog post linking to Bruce Schneier's blog post said that Bruce said that 9/11 made us safer from terrorists. Bruce's claims are insightful, Richi is just stirring up controversy...
  • It's striking how ineffective al-Queda has been over the last decade. Bin Laden called for attacks on oil facilities back in 2004 [time.com] - nothing happened. Bin Laden is still out there, issuing audio tapes, but few seem to be listening.

    It's very hard to operate covertly against a hostile or unsupportive population. During WWII, the French resistance was able to operate successfully and was able to support British and American commandos. But no OSS spy dropped into Germany ever even made radio contact with H

  • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:27PM (#32140814)
    Bruce Schneier: Terrorism is hard, and 'topping' 9/11 in order to really impress their backers is harder.
    Columnist: Bruce Schneier says 9/11 made us safer! But not really, that's how I interpret it!
    Slashdot: Bruce Schneier says 9/11 made us safer! That's what he said!
    Next iteration: Bruce Schneier is AN EVIL MUSLIM NAZI!
  • I think I'll take a solution that works, and try not to care so much about whether internally it queries in SQL or JSON. But since I'm entertaining this absurdity with a response, let's remember that the NoSQL databases are designed to be eventually consistent, which isn't necessarily a property I want my government's law enforcement relying on.

  • Leading up to 9/11 [blogspot.com] was a motive and facts that allowed terrorist to gain self sacrificing followers.

    Wanna win out over terrorist? Simply stop giving them reasons to do what they do.

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @03:48PM (#32140940) Homepage Journal

    Bruce seems to be saying that 9/11 actually made us safer from terrorists, which seems like a curious argument.

    I don't see what's curious about it.

    Did the Japanese attack on pearl Harbor make the US less vulnerable to surprise attack by carrier-borne aircraft? Of course it did - from that point onwards.

    Perhaps the submitter thinks the attacks should have somehow prevented themselves, which as far as I'm aware violates causality.

  • The only thing any superpower nation can do to protect themselves is to retire from calling itself a "superpower". Any country that gets nationalistic and starts tossing its weight around as a superpower is certain to have plenty of nationalists from other countries focused on figuring out a way to knock that superpower off the top of the hill. China, you want to be called a superpower? Think it would feel good to have the world's hatred pointed squarely at you? Or is there another country that would li
  • Safer? If you call security theater and constant fearmongering safety, then yes. But we lost a lot of freedom for that illusion of smoke and mirrors.

  • The probability of any single individual dying from a terrorist incident prior and post to 9/11 is so vanishingly small as to be considered negligible, especially in comparison to the MUCH GREATER probability of dying in a car crash -- as 41,000 or so die annually according to the government's own statistics.

    So how, pray tell, are we any "safer" by any measure any rational human being would entertain?

    Is this yet again another fine example of how government wishes to manipulate us by fear of the paper lion? When car travel comes anywhere close to being as safe as air travel, then we might entertain these stats again.

    The sad fact is, even if there were a 9/11-level incident every year, driving would still be far more dangerous.

    Oh, but our friendly little government will seize upon any chance to yank more freedom away from us. Bush, Obama -- makes no difference. Remember that when they have all of those T-ray body scanners in every airport that will render you, your wife, and your kids nude to some pervert in a room nearby.

    But I guess idiots love a false sense of security, I suppose.

    Thank you Bush and Obama!

  • . . . then baffle them with bullshit. Let's be honest, this problem is too complex for a group of humans to solve. Like viruses, there will always be vulnerabilities. We survived 9/11, and we would have survived with or without a new massive bureaucracy. So, why did we bother? The same reason they round up the usual suspects, tell god to bless america, or rail against injustice -- we need the release. It offers some hope, a chance to believe that there is a simple solution, pablum for the masses. By
  • I don't think this is what was said.....

    9/11 has been used as an excuse and a reason to subvert the constitution and make us less free.

    Like a lot of people, I don't believe the official story, and I think that anybody who does really hasn't done the research, or just doesn't want to think about all of the implications.

    I believe that the only way in which we MAY be slightly safer is that people are more observant of their surroundings, but any possible additional safety does not make up for what we've lost.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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