TSA : A game of cat and mice [sic]

December 31st, 2010 § 1 comment

Whenever I think of the TSA security theater at our airports I’m reminded of the cable black boxes of the 90’s. The cable companies spent years and who knows how many millions of dollars developing and then building these trucks that could drive around neighborhoods and detect if you were using a black box to “steal” content. They announced their new program with lots of fanfare and self congratulations. Two weeks later the internet had come up with a $5 part you could stick to the end of your cable box and thwart this multi-million dollar program.

The attitude of the TSA is equally as myopic. They seem to think that they can solve their security issue by creating gadgets to stick in the hands of low-paid workers. When up against the might of distributed intelligence, though, these gadgets are all but destined to fail. In the case of the TSA they will fail catastrophically. While those battling piracy like the RIAA have the difficult task of trying to persuade millions of people to change their behavior, they can focus on making a few high profile examples to try and discourage the masses. Catch a few mice and hang them high for all the others to see and fear. While it may be an ultimately futile endeavor the consequences of failure are not life and death. If some or even most mice get past it’s merely a matter of lost revenue.

The TSA is fighting a battle of similar proportions but with vastly different consequences. It only takes one mouse to get past their poorly trained but well equipped cat for the mice to win. Hundreds will die and despite the fact that more people will die on American roads in a week it will have a near paralytic effect on the American psyche. Yet instead of re-evaluating their tactics, instead of taking a long hard look at how and why they failed so catastrophically, they will respond with more of the same.

Where does it end?

We are not living in a police state, but the TSA represents a police state mechanism that is steadily being ratcheted up. It’s almost a trite quote but I must invoke Ben Franklin here.

He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.

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