I, for one, welcome our new security overlords.
For some reason, it doesn't sound as funny anymore.
There was a story recently about how all sorts of various agencies now want their own drones to watch the citizenry as we go about our normal lives. I'll never forget an interview the reporter had with a Congressman. His basic stance was something along the lines of "Boys will be boys. This is just all sorts of other agencies wanting to get in on the UAV bandwagon."
My point is this: I don't think our elected representatives take any of this very seriously at all, no matter what they might say during an election or on TV. I don't think it bothers them for one second that the TSA gets to pick it's own witnesses for each day, or that gradually we're turning into a security state. I just don't think it really registers on their radar.
That being said, it is how the game is played. If one of your representatives are on the committee I would recommend writing them a note, or calling their office, to express how you think they should oversee the activities of the TSA.
One of the issues which needs more coverage is that Security Theatre is not 'harmless mostly, possibly helpful' it is in fact 'harmful mostly, possibly helpful'. This sort of theater cuts into business productivity, makes folks on the planes grumpier, causes millions of dollars in losses when folks miss planes, and erodes the citizens trust in their legitimate law enforcement agencies. It is not harmless, it is harmful and that message needs to get to Congress.
Coming from the TSA, it amounts to "we are afraid to face questions from someone who will know enough to ask hard questions." Which I agree is unsurprising, but it's not exactly a compelling defense of their position.
 Under, for example, Rule 801(d)(1)(A): http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_801
The thing is that what they say changes depending on whether there are hard questions asked or not.
I still think it blows ass, and it's a cheap maneuver to keep the mongoose out of the snake pit.
It's up to Congress whether the TSA is forced to answer a question, and Bruce Schneier is not a member of Congress, he was just going to testify before them. He has no special power over the TSA.
The TSA excuse for exclusion is sham in of itself
If you're going to accuse people of failure to use logic, using a little yourself wouldn't hurt.
If the topic of the lawsuit is going to be discussed, then the invited TSA agent's testimony at the hearing could be relevant to the lawsuit regardless of whether Schneier is there. If the topic of the lawsuit is not going to be discussed, then everything is OK. Remember congress people will do the questioning, not Schneier or Schneier's council. Perhaps Schneier's mere presence could inject some lawsuit-related questions (using a zero-day legal flaw the congress-testimony process, perhaps?) but this possibility seems remote.
More on topic: I believe that one of the main reasons why they don't take it seriously is because they are literally above the law here. They don't have to go through the same process that ordinary travelers do. I can't find an authoritative source, so either all of Congress or only those senior members traveling with a security detail are exempt, but either way, those in charge don't understand the full impact it has on ordinary people's lives.
Not so much ...
"Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge finally called to apologize about the mix-up, and the delays stopped in early April, Smith said."
If you, or I, got on the no-fly list I doubt the head cheese would call up and offer an apology.
This kind of thinking is dangerously misguided. You're not "turning into" a security state, you are a security state. "Freedom of speech zones" and all the other newspeak bullshit, the OWS crackdown, SOPA, ACTA, etc., to name but a few, are not stepping stones on the path to tyranny. They are tyranny. You guys have already arrived. You're there. And your society will not be able to do anything about it until it realizes this.
So quit talking as though it's something that's going to happen if you're not really careful, and start talking as though it has already happened and something needs to be done about it.
Hell yeah. They have had the right to read the subject lines of emails for decades they have been listening in on conversations since the Patriot Act. It's at the point where I, as a Canadian, have vowed not to take a flight into the states due to privacy (both in terms of fingerprints as well as those stupid scanners) until the law changes.
This is starting to impact peaceful, intelligent people. It isn't showing the economic ramifications yet, but it will 10 to 20 years from now. The smart people from Canada (and, presumably, the rest of the world) don't want to come anymore. The US can suffer this in the short term, but in the long term, especially with long term obligations like SS and Medicare/Medicaid, it cannot.
The world a big world. Someone can live a good life and become a billionaire without touching the USA. The US risks declaring itself irrelevant through its treatment of isitors and investors. And through the entirely execrable FATCA.
I remember growing up as a boy in Africa how the pound sterling went from reserve currency status to "who cares" by a series of lackluster Prime Ministers in Britain. The same is happening in the US.
"As a result of FATCA, European banks such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, HSBC, and Credit Suisse have been closing brokerage accounts for all US customers since early 2011 citing "onerous" US regulations, which FATCA will make more complex when it goes into effect in 2013"
Reported by Der Spiegel (which I expect to be a reputable source).
Disgusted With The TSA
I was looking forward to seeing the TSA respond to Bruce Schneier's criticisms in the Oversight Committee meeting today. He is one of the world's experts on security. The news that he was dismissed from the committee makes me think the TSA is much less interested in actual security than in their own appearance, which fits the definition of security theatre very well. Please hold the TSA accountable for their gross misuse of power. Please make them answer to actual security experts on their policies. Thank you very much.
Christopher L. McLaughlin, Transportation Security Administration, Assistant Administrator for Security Operations
Stephen Sadler, Transportation Security Administration, Assistant Administrator for Intelligence and Analysis
Rear Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, U.S. Coast Guard, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security & Stewardship
Stephen M. Lord, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Director, Homeland Security
Kill the name calling. We all agree on the ethical standing of these peeps. No need to state it, let's keep HN authoritative and professional. Great list of the witnesses though - really eye opening as to who they allow in.
That's over 20 different states represented there, so odds are good you can contact one of the members and be listened to. Let 'em know this is bullshit, and that if we're going to spend money on security, it shouldn't be on theater.
Schneier is an effective writer, particular when his audience comes with built-in respect for his accomplishments, but his broad disdain for virtually all of airport security† probably reduces his effectiveness in making a case to the wider public. He's easy to caricature, and traffics professionally in an image of "security muckraking" that suggests he'd oppose the TSA no matter what it does.
† A disdain I share, mind you.
Schneier is different because he's an expert in security and he lays out just why the TSA's approach is bad security. Not because it infringes on liberties, but because it's just not effective, and the money could be used more effectively. This approach is, I believe, the only way to convince an unreasonably frightened American public to back change.
My point isn't that "it's bad security" is a losing argument; my point is that Schneier isn't the only qualified person making that argument.
It also helps to hear from someone who starts from the perspective of "only do things that work and are worth the cost", rather than someone who starts from the perspective of "do anything that could possibly make a difference, it couldn't hurt (given that we don't place any value on anything other than security)".
Schneier's as well-qualified as any to speak to the stupidity that pervades both industries.
My question is how did it happen that Schneier was invited in the first place to testify? Did he propose it to them and got picked (and now withdrawn)? Did congressional staffers choose him?
"Schneier is different because he's an expert in security and he lays out just why the TSA's approach is bad security."
Expert compared to?
He's been quoted and he is well known. But I've been quoted and I'm well known in what I'm good at. But there are others who know what I know. But they aren't as good at promotion as I am.
I don't think he is presumed to be the most effective critic of the TSA. I think the problem is that he would have been the only critic of the TSA to speak before the committee.
Mind you, the chair's comment seems scathing.
> The work of our two Committees has documented a recurring pattern of mismanagement and waste at the Transportation Security Administration. Add to this an unending string of video clips, photographs and news reports about inappropriate, clumsy and even illogical searches and screenings by TSA agents. Americans are right to demand answers from TSA about the return on investment of their tax dollars.
If you showed me a witness list that read:
TSA, TSA, Coast Guard, Schneier, DHS
... I would suggest that the purpose of that hearing was to set up Bruce Schneier.
I agree that it would be a shame if the evidence was presented "sloppily" allowing TSA room for wiggle.
In other words, he has very effective criticisms, which makes him unsuitable for hearings designed to publically demonstrate a lack of effective criticisms.
It has less to do with whether he's the most effective critic of the TSA and more to do with whether he's the most effective critic of the TSA who is [was] going to be present at the hearing. All the qualified scientists and concerned LEOs in the world aren't going to do us any good if Congress doesn't listen to them. The hearing is already heavy on shills and light on saints, we need all of the voices we can get.
It would be cool if you (or anyone) could list a few people who might be really convincing, and we might be able to get them to contact Congress -- it's too late for this hearing, tho'.
With that said, this narrative about the TSA getting Schneier removed from the hearing is helpful to the cause, since it exposes the TSA's nasty manipulative tactics, so I'll be sharing this link around, and I hope you'll join me.
He also has technical credentials a mile long.
In truth, this is an outrage.
It seems rather like refusing to listen to a janitor talk about cleaning airport floors because he's not an "airport janitor."
* Have intimate knowledge of the kinds of day-to-day security events that actually occur in airports
* May be intimately acquainted with security incidents and interdictions that haven't been reported on in the media
* Might have detailed knowledge of the processes by which various types of employees gain access to airport facilities
* Might have detailed knowledge of the monitoring and surveillance systems employed within the airport
* Might have detailed knowledge of specific vulnerabilities to airplanes or fueling systems or other airport facilities
I bring this up because there are people who know this stuff who have been vocally opposed to the TSA. For instance, FBI Counterterrorism Agent Steven Moore. Or: an even better figurehead than Schneier: former counterterrorism "czar" Richard Clarke.
It's extremely telling. Schneier does know about the issues, and the TSA official, IMHO, totally fails to substantially counter any of his arguments. Of course, you should read it yourself to form your own opinions.
Sure, someone who works at an airport might know about details we or Schneier don't know about. Well, then, great. They should tell us. They haven't.
I'm not arguing against the inclusion of other experts, whether in addition to or as a replacement for Schneier. Other experts are great. But they aren't being included either. The question here seems to be "include opposition" vs. not. It's not "include Schneier" vs. someone else instead.
Edit: I'll also add that detailed knowledge of airport security systems isn't strictly necessary to argue against the TSA if general knowledge of common security principles is enough to prove the inadequacies of their methods.
But computer security (knowledge of cryptography, hacking etc with the exception of perhaps "social engineering" ) really is a different animal.
A secret service agent who knows nothing about the bulk of what Bruce knows about most likely would be better qualified to evaluate threats based on their specific training and experience.
Schneier in particular, however, seems to have studied physical security well enough to comment on it without having to use an abstract map from computer knowledge to the real world.
- wrote a best seller "applied cryptography"
- wrote "secrets and lies" (not a best seller)
- wrote "beyond fear"
- wrote "schneier on security"
- publishes a monthly newsletter
- chief security officer of bt.com
The rest of the bio:
...essentially amounts to what publications and others think of him as a result of what he has done (above) I'm guessing. What I would call "assumption of legitimacy".
"Described by The Economist"
"Described by Wired"
"Called by Fortune"
"Regularly quoted in the Media"
"Testified on security before Congress"
"Written op eds for major publications"
"crypto gram has 150,000 readers ..."
Now I don't know enough about security and haven't read any of his writings to independently know whether Schneier is an expert or not. And I'm also guessing that many of the media and others that give him credibility also don't know.
After I was quoted in major media everyone else came out of the woodwork and wanted info from me on what I know about. That of course doesn't mean I am not qualified. But it's really not that hard to get the ball rolling on being an expert once the ball is rolling.
He is also the author of blowfish, which is the basis of bcrypt, which you may have heard people preaching about on HN.
Why did you ignore his time at Bell Labs? Or in the DoD?
Although now I see it on this page:
"My first job after college was with the Department of Defense. Years later, I was laid off from AT&T Bell Labs"
The DOD job was out of college. "laid off" from Bell Labs doesn't offer a time line.
But most importantly it doesn't appear on his own "about" page so for whatever reason while he is highlighting other things he is not drawing attention to that.
Who is presuming that?
I flew over the weekend. I reached a bit of a breaking point about taking the TSA seriously when I heard one of the screeners refer to a contraband item (a bottle of water) in luggage as a "party foul." Everyone but the higher-ups knows that it's an absolute farce and a waste of money. It's a great example of why the tops of hierarchies should _not_ be insulated from the consequences of their decisions - rather, the opposite.
Obviously this is now going to be just another whitewash. sigh
Based on their logic, the TSA should also withdraw from the hearings as they're involved in the lawsuits.
1984 was a very good instruction manual.
"A republic," replied the Doctor. "If you can keep it.”
Feels like we've lost it: the monarchists have won it back.
The pity is they're not even very good monarchists.
Only that the rascals in charge _want_ to be a monarchy, and they're not very good at it.