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.