As illustrated in Bruce Schneier’s blog, the TSA is reconsidering their stance on security measures they’ve deployed against – what Mr. Schneier terms – “small pointy things”. (Clearly not in reference to some people’s minds.) In no surprising turn, this has a few ‘interested parties’ concerned, but truly that goes without saying and will go without saying more; for now. However in a follow-up comment, he points out how this relates to his concept of “agenda”.

Now pardon me if this is not a new application of the term since in my opinion it does appear so, but he defines agenda as the application of “actual vs. perceived” to security concepts. Agenda is generally defined as a planned list or set of goals that determine direction. I suppose that it’s logical to say that ones security agenda may lead to a gap between perceived and actual results. Based on that I see it as being valuable to assess ones agenda to ensure that your security system doesn’t go off course. Since my point is that the most interesting piece of this puzzle is that gap which exists in the applied security controls, I won’t examine this idea further at the moment. What I find most interesting is the gap between what we perceive as where we are and the truth of the actual results we’ve obtained.

The public has been put for lack of a better term, under a veil of security. However just like a regular cloth veil trying to hold back the impact of an semi tractor-trailer, it has very little effect to the overall security of the public. Here is my reasoning:

  1. Security is a process not implemented solely by technology. The TSA has implemented technology in the form of:
    • Extra metal detector requirements and more stringent policies
    • Tighter controls on passenger boarding (Do-Not-Fly list for example)
    • Special tests for suspected persons (personal pat-downs)

    The TSA has not addressed the factor of fighting a determined attacker because technology can be circumvented (and has been much to their chagrin and embarrassment.) It’s obvious the human factor in the equation is missing every time a 10-month old baby is delayed from boarding because the same John Smith is listed on the DNF list.

  2. Security is never truly accomplished by taking the ability to control security away from individuals. It’s true that any individual with the ability to provide their own security controls could also bring compromise to the controls of others, but this falls onto my next point.
  3. Individuals are responsible for taking action for their own personal safety. On September 11th, a plane intended for the White House didn’t hit its mark. This is because there was some brave soul(s) on that plane who understood the importance of this concept. People need to accept that they have personal responsibility.

Now ultimately perhaps this is what our government leaders want. It would not be unfounded for a government to beguile it’s population for the end-result of stemming off hysteria or rampant non-constructive criticism. After all if I can poorly quote the movie “Men in Black”, “There’s always something just waiting to destroy all life on this planet as we know it. The only reason people can get on with their lives is because they do not know about it!” Still when the cost of providing that protection is heavily taxing the public (in more ways than just financially), those responsible need to take more care with their actions.

This cost is not perceived vs. actual like their implementation. It’s flat solid numbers that are causing government auditors to raise many questions about the efforts of the TSA. According to the Washington Post, the TSA lost control of over $300 million dollars. There’s nothing ‘perceived’ about that kind of a number, unless one’s perception is clouded by an extra-heavy eyeglass prescription and they can’t read their monitor.

Based upon Bruce Schneier’s comments and my own thoughts on airline security, I would personally like the DHS/TSA, congress and the president to start thinking about actual risks, so that they can apply their actual monies to actual security. All agendas aside.