Inert Detritus The Internet's dust bunnies

6 October 2006 @ 10am

The Master List: Airline Security Failure at its Finest

From my favorite author, Bruce Schneier:

Famously bad people are or aren’t on it, for no apparent reason. People that ought to be on it, like the terror suspects in Britain’s “airliner plot”, aren’t on it.

Why doesn’t this list work?

  • Because it’s easy to corrupt with bad data, and it’s impossible to purge bad data.
  • Name overlap is common in this country, and everywhere else around the globe. My name is shared with at least four people in the US alone.
  • People get on the list for no discernable reason, such as US Senators, but they have no success at removing their name from the list, even when it’s some verifiable, like a Senator.

In the case of name overlap:

Gary Smith, John Williams and Robert Johnson are some of those names. Kroft talked to 12 people with the name Robert Johnson, all of whom are detained almost every time they fly. The detentions can include strip searches and long delays in their travels

Glad another Christopher Bowns hasn’t decided to do anything suspicious yet, otherwise I’d be put through all that every time I travelled.

Supporters of the no-fly lists and “security theater” we experience at the airports will say, “But you’ve just criticized our approach without giving any real suggestions!”

The suggestions remain the following:

  • Screen all luggage for known explosives, not just carry-ons.
  • Tie luggage to passengers. If someone disembarks before take-off, their bags should not be left on the plane.
  • Invest money in “hinky-ness detectors”: people. More screeners with behavioural analysis training, and less screeners with “poke people with metal detector” training. A well-trained screener can pick up on behavioural “tells” that no machine will ever flag.