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  • Selective Security

    A poll posted to Digg indicates that 57% of all Americans favour "extra" checks for "Arabs" at airports.

    Comments of fascism and racism aside, I wonder if that is the wisest move, and my reasoning is this:
    1. Given a finite set of resources, if you apply relatively more resources to one population subset over another, then you must necessarily apply lesser resources to the remaining population subsets.
    2. Less security for non-Arabs, no matter where they are from, means that an artificial weakness has been created in the security perimeter.
    3. It seems to me that a standard procedure to probe a security perimeter would be to send decoy agents through the perimeter and see who comes out the other side. If the decoys get caught, no biggie - any tactical information they may have would be wrong, and al Quaeda operational security should be able to successfully mask handlers and planners sufficiently so that the agent could not even give thier names up. If the decoy penetrates security, then the handlers simply need to study to characteristics of the penetrating agent to repeat the salient ones in a live operation. Send enough decoys through, and you come away with a pretty good feel for who gets stopped and who goes through.
    4. So, al Quaeda then quickly discovers that whites (for the sake of argument) get through much more easily than arabs. All you need after that is to recruit another Richard Reid or John Walker Lindh (sp?) with the appropriate gear and Bob's your uncle.


    Is there something wrong with my reasoning? What are your thoughts?

    For the record, I don't have any alternatives off the top of my head besides "securing everyone equally" and "making arabs extra secure". I'm just interested in a discussion of the options as I see them currently.

    [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
    [ma-c2][taw-c1]

    Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
    Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

    Treat others as you would have them treat you

  • #2
    Re: Selective Security

    I have mentioned before that this kind of racial profiling is counter-productive in part because most people can't even get their prejudices straight. How many Jews can pass as Italian? How many Pakistanis as Greek? How many Kazakhs as Russian? Chinese as Korean? Etc.

    Logically, you can't stop people on the basis of names or physical attributes because those features do not accurately correspond to the set of people you want to watch. And of course ethically, it's discriminatory and wrong.
    In game handle: Steel Scion
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    • #3
      Re: Selective Security

      Originally posted by Diceman View Post
      Given a finite set of resources, if you apply relatively more resources to one population subset over another, then you must necessarily apply lesser resources to the remaining population subsets.
      That, by the way, is a great starting point for this discussion.

      The problem really comes down to one of: Given a finite set of resources, and demands that exceed those resources, how do you best allocate those resources to acheive the best probability of success? Further, once allocated, should long-term resource allocations remain static or shift with time?

      The second question there is more important than it looks. You correctly note that any static defense will be probed for weaknesses by attackers. It doesnt matter whether we allocate to just check arabs, or check everyone equally, or even just check non-arabs, a dedicated attacker will discover a flaw eventually and be able to exploit it. So an adaptable defense that responds to changing conditions and constantly reassesses its own weaknesses is probably ideal. But we have to start by applying what we know of our opponents methods, and last I heard that involved using arabs more frequently than not.

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      • #4
        Re: Selective Security

        One other thing. You have to wonder if greater scrutiny of passengers will actually deter attempted attacks/hijackings/bombings, etc. Is that really a viable vector given all the other security measures now in place? Or is it just as likely as now as 6 years ago?
        In game handle: Steel Scion
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        • #5
          Re: Selective Security

          Originally posted by Kerostasis View Post
          That, by the way, is a great starting point for this discussion.

          The problem really comes down to one of: Given a finite set of resources, and demands that exceed those resources, how do you best allocate those resources to acheive the best probability of success? Further, once allocated, should long-term resource allocations remain static or shift with time?

          The second question there is more important than it looks. You correctly note that any static defense will be probed for weaknesses by attackers. It doesnt matter whether we allocate to just check arabs, or check everyone equally, or even just check non-arabs, a dedicated attacker will discover a flaw eventually and be able to exploit it. So an adaptable defense that responds to changing conditions and constantly reassesses its own weaknesses is probably ideal. But we have to start by applying what we know of our opponents methods, and last I heard that involved using arabs more frequently than not.
          Yes, it seems to me that a dynamic security system would offer some resistance to probing (snicker), but that programmed change doesn't come for free either. New procedures and policies would need to be authored, the staff would need to be retrained, and potentially new equipment brought in, or existing equipment moved around. There could also be passenger confusion (and thereby more false positives, as people get angry about having missed their flight due to changing security regs) to factor in. And if new security policies were to begin impacting flight operations and costing airlines dollars, then pressure would be applied from the political side of things.

          At the end of the day, the restrictions and considerations that abound when designing and implementing new security policies have such large costs attached to them that I wonder about the feasibility of it all.

          Another concept to work towards might be a strong and secure static perimeter. In this model, the penetrating organization (al Quaeda, for instance) would discover through their probes that one way did not have any greater chance of success than another way. They would hopefully also discover that every way had a very, very low chance of success - but that is a separate question.

          As an aside, I recognize that the idea of securing what is, in effect, a public space is a major challenge, and I don't envy those who are responsible to see this is done. But for me, the poll seems to illustrate the point that the public favours the perception of security (seeing arabs being pulled aside, and checked extra closely) over actual security (where nobody can bring a weapon into a weapons-restricted area).

          [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
          [ma-c2][taw-c1]

          Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
          Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

          Treat others as you would have them treat you

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          • #6
            Re: Selective Security

            Originally posted by Diceman View Post
            Given a finite set of resources, if you apply relatively more resources to one population subset over another, then you must necessarily apply lesser resources to the remaining population subsets.
            Conversely, if you apply resources equally across the entire population, the 87 year old grandma traveling to Disneyland with her two grandkids will face the same level of scrutiny as a group of 18-24 year old males from Syria with a one way ticket to NYC...

            When does common sense end and profiling begin?

            The security system is so flooded with investigating everyone that the real bad guys can easily slip through.

            For instance: When I renewed my SC drivers license last time, I had to wait 4-6 weeks for it as the new license was first sent to a state office to make sure I hadn't become a terrorist in the past year...

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            • #7
              Re: Selective Security

              Originally posted by Iamthefallen View Post
              Conversely, if you apply resources equally across the entire population, the 87 year old grandma traveling to Disneyland with her two grandkids will face the same level of scrutiny as a group of 18-24 year old males from Syria with a one way ticket to NYC...

              When does common sense end and profiling begin?
              I'm not sure - I can't see past the idea that focusing on the most suspect group, while it may seem like a good idea on the surface, actually undermines real security. I think that for something to be fully secure, the security officials would need to deal with the idea that the threatening agency will do whatever it can be use deception as a part of its arsenal.

              This is not an argument for or against racial profiling, per se. This is about using security resources to monitor elements which are not intrinsically part of that which is being secured against. If being arab was a necessary condition for someone to be a terrorist, then I suspect that I would have no problem with it. But it isn't. Anyone (racially speaking) can be a terrorist, and that is the problem, as I see it.

              Maybe you're right that age is a better criteria. How many suicide bombers are middle aged or older? On the other hand, if resources were then focused on the young, would AQ be able to recruit a septuagenarian for its schemes? Conversely, how young is too young? how likely is it for an infant going through security a suicide bomber? How about a 10 year old? I dunno.

              [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
              [ma-c2][taw-c1]

              Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
              Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

              Treat others as you would have them treat you

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Selective Security

                It's impossible to give every an in-depth screening without destroying the traveling business. You're going to have 10.000 people pass in front of you today, you have time to more carefully screen 50.

                How do you select those 50 in a way that will actually improve security?

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                • #9
                  Re: Selective Security

                  Well, I would suggest that those selections be random, I guess.

                  [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
                  [ma-c2][taw-c1]

                  Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
                  Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

                  Treat others as you would have them treat you

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Selective Security

                    Based on what? Just every 50th person? Or do you select to get a representative sample of each age/sex/race/religion/other?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Selective Security

                      based on randomness...so there would be no inputs that would cause one person to be favoured for secondary screening over another. Is that a bad idea?

                      [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
                      [ma-c2][taw-c1]

                      Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
                      Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

                      Treat others as you would have them treat you

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Selective Security

                        How does that make things more secure though? A bad guy only has a 1:200 chance of getting screened, pretty damn good odds.

                        At what point is common sense applied? The person you've randomly selected is the grandma mentioned before, behind her is a young man with wires sticking out of his shirt and a loud ticking noise coming from his torso, do you switch people and check him instead?

                        What if he's just sweating and acting nervous?

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                        • #13
                          Re: Selective Security

                          Random selection doesn't preclude an officer's discretion. If someone needs secondary screening, go ahead and do whatever it is that needs doing. But that's beside the point, because I'm not arguing for removing an officer's discretion; I'm saying that there shouldn't be a policy (which, incidentally, also removes an officer's discretion, by dictating a far more limited set of who will be firstly selected for secondary screening) of selecting arabs -based on nothing more than skin colour, dress and arab mannerisms- over anybody else. Recall that this thread began with a reference to arabs needing "extra" checks.

                          The next point to make is that I've referenced secondary screening, which would imply that there is a primary screening that everybody goes through -grandma, kids, terrorists-. The primary screening would include x-rays of the baggage and metal detectors. The secondary screening would likely involve a physical rummage through someone's bag and maybe a few more pointed questions (but it may involve other steps as well; I'm only thinking of what I see security officers doing when I fly).

                          So, someone not being randomly selected doesn't mean that they are automatically allowed on the plane. There is still that primary screening to pass through. At the end of the day, their job is to find the bad guys, not the brown guys.

                          [drill][medic][conduct][tg-c1][tpf-c1]
                          [ma-c2][taw-c1]

                          Principles of good Sandbox Etiquette:
                          Assume good faith - Be polite, please! - Work toward agreement. - Argue facts, not personalities. - Concede a point when you have no response to it, or admit when you disagree based on intuition or taste. - Be civil. - Be prepared to apologize. In animated discussions, we often say things we later wish we hadn't. Say so. - Forgive and forget. - Recognize your own biases and keep them in check. - Give praise when due.

                          Treat others as you would have them treat you

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Selective Security

                            Random selection doesn't preclude an officer's discretion.
                            Actually, I think by definition they are mutually exclusive. You can come up with any formula for randomizing, but when you introduce a manual selection process, it's no longer random. So why have the random part to begin with?

                            When you take a look at the common traits shared between 9/11 hijackers, Madrid bombers, Bali bombers, Beslan hostage takers, London Bombers, insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are some variations in age, nationality, ethnicity, sex, etc etc. But if you were to draw something like a Venn diagram with these variables, you'd find that where the circles overlap the most, there's a shared set of traits.

                            To me, common sense says that we should focus on the overlapping part, while still not ignoring the other circles completely. But this is profiling... and profiling is bad mmmkay.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Selective Security

                              The entire security process is a farce to begin with. While we're standing in lines like mules, and that 80 year old lady in front of you has to take her shoes off, keep in mind that 100s of TSA uniforms and security badges go lost and unaccounted for each year. Additionally, on nearly every major passenger flight, 100s of pounds of manufactured goods are shipped WITHOUT BEING SCREENED AT ALL.

                              So in the end, all 99.99% of innocent passengers are treated like terrorists while any true terror attack will almost certainly come from a different, unsecured source.

                              3) Support game play in a near-simulation environment. Where the focus of play would not be solely on doing what it takes to win, but doing so utilizing real-world combat strategy and tactics rather than leveraging exploits provided to players by the design of the game engine.

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