Welcome Kip Hawley (KipHawley.com) and Bruce Schneier (Schneier on Security)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of Security

Welcome to the Firedoglake Book Salon. For the next two hours, we’ll be talking to Kip Hawley. Hawley was the TSA administrator from mid 2005 to early 2009. He has a new book, Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security, that chronicles his time at the TSA. For most of us, the TSA is our only contact with the “war on terror,” and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of talk about that.

I’m Bruce Schneier, and I’ll be your host. I’m a security technologist and author who has written extensively about airline security, terrorism, and security in general. Hawley and I have debated several times in the past, most notably in this Q&A from 2007 and in The Economist earlier this year. Hawley reviewed my latest book, Liars and Outliers, on his blog earlier this week.

I have just finished reading Permanent Emergency, and I learned a lot about the TSA and their approach to airport security — stuff I had never seen before. I can’t even begin to summarize it here; perhaps the best thing you can read to get up to speed on Hawley’s thinking is his op ed for The Wall Street Journal from last month. My commentary on it is here.

Please ask away. Probing is good. Challenging is good. We’re not the mainstream media and we’re not going to limit this to softball questions, but I’d like the conversation to remain civil. I have some questions prepared to get things started but we’re counting on you.

Okay, go!

138 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Kip Hawley, Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of Security”

BevW May 20th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Kip, Bruce, Welcome to the Lake.

Bruce, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Thanks Bev and Bruce for hosting. Looking forward to the discussion! – Kip

BevW May 20th, 2012 at 1:56 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 2

Hi Kip, thanks for being here today.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Kip, your book has the first coherent explanation of the liquid ban I have ever read. For the benefit of those who have not read the book, can you explain 1) which liquid explosive you were concerned about, 2) why you were unwilling to allow a 12-oz. bottle of liquid through airport security but were willing to allow four 3-oz. bottles plus an empty 12-oz. bottle, and 3) what was the security reason for the baggie?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I appreciate your scheduling this around the Celtics-76ers game. With all respect to the “L” in FDL…

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:04 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 4

Hello Bruce – 1) highly concentrated liquid hydrogen peroxide with a sugar fuel and some other things. An extremely powerful explosive.

BevW May 20th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

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Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

2) Our labs found that the mixture was extremely finicky and that mixing it was not simple. Our professional chemists in labs had difficulty making the bomb and found mixing to be problematic. AQ valued bomb-makers and were not sending them out on suicide missions. The times they asked operatives to do minimal bomb-making (Richard Reid & Abdulmutallab), they botched it. It was risk management in the end. A possibility but remote in my opinion.

Synoia May 20th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

What’s the plan for Lithium batteries?

With a laptop battery one could blow a hole in the side of a plane with one, under the right simple circumstances.

A cell phone battery could cause a major fire.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

3) the baggie allowed the liquids to be gathered so officers would’y have to hunt for them and the vapor lock captured hydrogen peroxide vapor for easy testing.

(end)

dakine01 May 20th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Good afternoon Bruce and Kip and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Kip, I have not read your book so forgive me if you answer this but why does so much of the effort by TSA seem to be more Security Theater than actual steps that protect people?

Case in point, I spent most of 2002 traveling each between St Louis to Albany, NY and back. For 6 weeks in a row, as I was leaving Albany on Friday afternoon, I would be pulled aside a the gate for extra searches. I know TSA was trying to be ‘random’ but after the 4th week, the TSA folks were just shaking their heads and recognizing that it was more theater seemingly than actual protection.

Is the show supposed to make us feel safer or feel better? If so, it isn’t working…

laurelei23 May 20th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hi, there are quite a percentage of people who cannot “read” body language, and most of them seem to be TSA agents. Would think it should be one of the tests given to applicants, then enhanced with training.

Elliott May 20th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Is air travel down because of all this?
It sounds soo unpleasant these days, I’d look for any other way to get to Point B.

(lol Rube)

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to Synoia @ 9

Thanks Synoia — not speaking for the agency but we looked at lithium a lot and did not consider it a threat to penetrate the hull. It could contribute to a bomb as an energy source but not as the main explosive charge. Fire hazard is real which is why the FAA has rules on them.

(end)

Synoia May 20th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 14

What rules on laptop batteries? They do appear to be very high risk for malefactors.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to laurelei23 @ 12

Great question. The behavior observation specialists are selected from TSOs who have experience at checkpoints and they recruit the ones who have the behavior skills. Actually TSA recruiting and testing seeks to identify people who are good at pattern recognition. One challenge is getting people into the right slots where their talents are put to best use. Still an on-going issue.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

As you remember, a lot of chemists dismissed the idea of an effective liquid bomb back when the ban was imposed. I hope they’ll re-look at their analysis in light of what you’re now saying. Certainly I don’t have the chemistry expertise to judge the veracity of your explanation.

What I really want to know is why an explanation took so long. Why didn’t the TSA explain the ban in these simple terms back in August 2006? Why doesn’t the TSA explain it now? Why did it take you leaving office and writing a book before anyone gave a clear explanation of the liquids ban?

Suzanne May 20th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

welcome to fdl kip and thanks for hosting bruce.

kip i found this book to be a particularly good read — and not what i expected. your writing was easy to read and i learned a lot — both about the tsa and the fed response to disasters such as katrina. thank you so very much for writing it and joining us today.

why did you want to write this book?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Synoia @ 15

FAA has rules and this raises the key point about risk management. Is TSA there to stop malefactors who could use lithium batteries or lighters to start a fire or should TSA be primarily concerned with things like bombs that could have catastrophic results?

(end.)

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Kip

I haven’t had a chance to read you book yet. But one thing I’ve seen is the FBI use an attack in a sting–such as an attack on the Metro–and then use that sting as an excuse to have TSA do random searches on Metro and other subways.

This was under Pistole, not you. BUt it really seemed to be Pistole’s former agency setting up stings so as to create teh need to police a resource.

What was the relationship between FBI and TSA–and do you have any idae whether it has changed under Pistole?

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

How much formal education is required prior to allowing an agent to feel up a grandmother at a small (5 gates or less) regional airport? And what is the average hourly rate for newly hired TSA ‘agents’?

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Elliott @ 13

It’s hard to know how much air travel is down because of the TSA. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence that some people are not flying because of the full-body scanners and enhanced pat downs. One study concluded 500 additional people die in the U.S. each year because they decide to drive instead of fly.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 17

Bruce, we tried to explain it in simple terms back in 2006 and since and I just plain failed to get it across. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to try to answer the complicated questions like 3-1-1. It took 6 pages (159-165) and my co-writer Nathan Means really contributed a lot to making it understandable. Plus we had the actual scientist and explosives expert who were involved involved in the process (and are also characters in the book).

(end.)

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Is it true that the ban on cigarette lighters was dropped because it cost TSA too much to dispose of the apprehended lighters rather because cigarette lighters are now ‘safe’ in the air?

dakine01 May 20th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 22

Yet traffic deaths are at record lows and miles driven are also lower

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Bruce

I had read your earlier debate with Kip.

I’m wondering–in addition to the liquids explosive, what else did you learn in the book. Anything you’d say differently than you did in your earlier debate?

And did Kip’s explanation about the liquid explosives convince you?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 18

Further to why I wrote the book (in addition to help explain a lot of misconceptions), I had learned an awful lot about TSA’s strengths and weaknesses and wanted to pass what I had learned off to the next Administrator. As you know, it took a year and a half to get one so somewhere in there. I decided to ‘open source’ my security thinking and share it with the crowd to maybe debate and resolve some of the big on-going problems.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 23

“Bruce, we tried to explain it in simple terms back in 2006….”

I challenge you to find records of any such explanations.

The TSA was able to afford writers to make explanations understandable back in 2006. Especially since the value to the TSA of explaining to people what is going on is enormous.

The TSA made the same mistake with full-body scanners in 2010. They classify any reports on the machines’ efficacy, even of their safety. They refuse to explain why they’re necessary. They refuse to justify the cost. I really don’t want to wait for Pistole’s post-TSA book before I read a clear six-page explanation of what the TSA is thinking.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Dearie @ 24

No, the lighters were a distraction for our officers whom I wanted focussed on bomb parts and a waste of time.

I gave a tip of the hat to none other than our host when I announced it in 2007: “Taking lighters away is security theater,” Mr. Hawley said. “It trivializes the security process.”

http://boingboing.net/2007/07/20/tsa-head-calls-light.html

(end.)

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Dearie @ 21

TSO’s have to have high school or equivalent and a new Officer makes about $27,000 or so. Not exactly sure I am up to date on that but ballpark. The key is that the good ones have a career path and bonus potential for high performance.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 26

I did learn a lot reading the book. I’m saving some of it for future questions; we still have 97 minutes left in this discussion. Some of it, like the liquids ban justification, I don’t have the science to evaluate. And some of it — with all due respects, Kip — I don’t know whether to believe or to write it off as an attempt to rewrite history. The fact is that we have never had visibility into the TSA and their decision making process. This is why they have no real credibility anymore when they say “trust us.”

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Are ALL TSA agents given full and rigorous background checks before being allowed to do “enhanced pat downs” (AKA: gropes, feel-ups)?

You can probably intuit that I flew recently and it was miserable. Matron Rached actually ‘felt up” my braids….quite disconcerting….and this was after I’d already been herded through the porn machine……Air travel used to be a luxury; now it is a humiliating and stupid experience. Thanks for that.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 29

Don’t think I didn’t notice when you used the phrase “security theater.” That phrase is my best shot at immortality.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

In your Wall Street Journal essay, you said that the technology in existing x-ray machines is sufficient to justify getting rid of the liquids ban:

Existing scanners could allow passengers to carry on any amount of liquid they want, so long as they put it in the gray bins. The scanners have yet to be used in this way because of concern for the large number of false alarms and delays that they could cause. When I left TSA in 2009, the plan was to designate “liquid lanes” where waits might be longer but passengers could board with snow globes, beauty products or booze. That plan is still sitting on someone’s desk.

Many of us were surprised; we knew about new technologies that could detect explosives in liquids, but we had no idea currently deployed technology could do this as well. You book goes into this too, but can you explain what you mean?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 28

I will post on my blog later but quickly, here’s my 2008 blog post
http://blog.tsa.gov/2008/10/path-forward-on-liquids.html

and in 2006 at the time

http://www.tsa.gov/press/releases/2006/press_release_09252006.shtm

(end.)

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 30

What is that career path?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 28
Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 36

Can move up supervisory ladder or go to Behavior Detection Officer, technical route in equipment maintenance, Bomb Tech, Inspector, and Federal Air Marshal. One year when I was there, a former TSO finished #1 in his class of Air Marshals.

(end.)

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Kip

I fly out of GRR now–so a small airport, with lots of recognizable frequent fliers.

We recently got backscatters (or maybe got forced to use them because of the latest UndieBomb Saudi plot). It seemed like it took 3X the number of people to train people to use the machine, to get everything including boarding pass out of the pocket, to watch the bags piling up on the other side, and the communicate the clean scan. I feel like this was because it’s a small airport (that is, one person had to do the “training” for just one line). But I wonder–is this normal in the roll-out of backscatters? Is it a possible response to TSA’s discovery of problems with the backscatter scans?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 34

Yes, I guess I am sensitive about the topic since I am the guy known as the person who foisted the baggie on the public.

We were almost set to go at the end of 2008 to get rid of the baggie. We had installed brand new technology at every airport and designated “liquid lanes” so that the public could put large liquids in the gray bin and they would go through the scanner like your carry-on. Our scientists and some in the industry had developed algorithms that were superb at finding threat liquids…

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 37

Yeah, I just read those three links. None of them say “liquid hydrogen peroxide with a sugar fuel.” None of them talk about the skill differential between the bomb maker and the bomb carrier. None of them say “vapor lock captured hydrogen peroxide vapor for easy testing.” Those links were all along the lines of “trust us, we’re the TSA.” And it didn’t work.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:44 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 34

… but they had high false positives. I was pushing to get the algorithm deployed as a software update before leaving in January 2009. The clock ran out and then “things happened” that first repealed my requirement that manufacturers share their test data. Then TSA got convinced that they should wait for a “better machine” (versus just a software upgrade) that would allow detection of threat liquids inside the bag.

My WSJ piece references that and says, “GET OUT THE SOFTWARE ALREADY AND LET PEOPLE CHOOSE!”

(end.)

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Full and rigorous background checks for ALL ‘agents’ who interact with the public?

Squekyshoes May 20th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 41

Hah, so the bar for success now is predicting the future? And do you expect the TSA to write the bomb recipe for al-qaeda? Maybe even go ingredient shopping for them? Get real, schneier.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 41

Back then Bruce, a lot of that was either Classified or sensitive with colleagues in other countries. You bring up a good point about the book. Quite a bit of the book describes things that used to be Classified. I went to each security agency and worked with them to clear off on what I wanted to use. First time this particular approach has been done. I have fully learned the lesson that “trust me, it’s secret” doesn’t work. That’s why we did the Blog (then unedited my officialdom, unlike now where postings have to be cleared up the political chain.)

I got the message on transparency but it was not universally loved within the government. (!)

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 45

I assumed that you had to get the book cleared for publication. When you say “each security agency,” which ones in particular? What what were the sorts of things — I presume you can only talk in generalities here — that these agencies edited out of the book?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Dearie @ 43

Background checks. Read Bruce’s Liars & Outliers (after you’ve read Permanent Emergency) and it will cause you to think deeply about the nature of trust and how one establishes that one is trustworthy. Trust is also a moving target because some people move in and out of being trustworthy and are trustworthy on different things. Huge issue in security, not just at TSA. But to answer your question, yes – such as it is…

(end.)

tuezday May 20th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Squekyshoes @ 44

It works for the FBI and CIA, why not the TSA.

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Kip@47: Is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’? Full and rigorous background checks on ALL ‘agents’ who interact with the public?

Perhaps I’m just still in a fume about being groped, but I do not understand your answer.

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 45

I noted you didn’t answer my question about the FBI stings using things they rolled out as TSA targets a few weeks later. Shall I assume that’s classified then? Which would suggest there’s something there.

It is crystal clear that FBI chose to “sting” a target w/a Metro attack just weeks before Pistole rolled out the effort to do random searches on public transport.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Dearie @ 49

Kip, I believe that Dearie is specifically asking about background checks against sex-offender databases. Not an unreasonable question, considering what they’re doing to travelers.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 46

TSA, CIA, FBI, NSA, NCTC, ODNI specifically. Plus I consulted with friends abroad who had equities and also other former officials, not to mention lawyers. It was a surprisingly positive process. I would say a batting average of .750 with TSA since I pretty much knew what would fly with them and about .500 with the others.

They flagged a lot of the operational detail and some things that personally identified current players but we had a feisty debate and they backed off of some and I others. The level of detail in PE is truly amazing. When I say that person X (identified in the book) made a call at y hour or entered a building at z time. They are literally accurate. Only in places where I really had to did I change and tried to use an analogy to give the reader the right feel.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Sam Harris and I have been debating profiling. He thinks we should profile “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim.” I argue that it would reduce security. Could you talk about the TSA’s view of ethnic profiling at airports? I’m less interested in the political repercussions of the idea and more of the security efficacy.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Dearie @ 49

Sorry. YES.

(as currently defined and subject to the operational rules blah blah like Atlanta airport workers) My point is that People who have had top security checks for real and who are trustworthy, sometimes change like Afghanistan and Maj. Hassan, Robert Hanson, etc.

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be sarched, and the persons or things to be searched.

How quaint.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Dearie @ 55

Airport security checkpoints are a Constitution-free zone in many ways. Freedom of speech doesn’t work very well there, either. (But, to be fair, the government isn’t demanding to quarter TSA agents in my home — yet.)

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 53

Short and sweet.

Profiling on the basis of LOOKS is terrible security.

AQ has hundreds, literally, of agents selected specifically because they don’t look like young middle-eastern men. Here’s one.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTxtf9Q-hjOUZMdyowuQA-Qpa_A7usrMjOKHMXJNJHmVNLQyhx2qA

(many more examples!)

(end.)

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Kip, I am late to the party, however I hope that you might answer emptywheel’s question @ 20 regarding the FBI.

DW

RevBev May 20th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 56

Thanks for the candor….Is all this intrusion justified by the eternal war on terror? Do you foresee any consideration of let-up?

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Bruce@56; They just want to ‘quarter’ their agents in my bra. Otherwise, have a lovely trip, no tipping allowed. And after another underpants bomber (if the story is true……you know, trust and all that), my motto is “Fly Naked!”

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 50

Yes, your surmises appear correct, Marcy. Kip have you anything to add to this assessment?

DW

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 50

Sorry I missed your point.The FBI arrests and TSA screening in mass transit are completely unrelated. The mass transit issue is years old and is based on real intell. I don’t know anything about the example you cite but there’s a big difference between law enforcement and intelligence, but I suspect you know that.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 57

Are you assuming this because we know that al Qaeda has tried to recruit terrorists that don’t fit the profile? Or is the government actually tracking “hundreds, literally, of agents selected specifically because they don’t look like young middle-eastern men” by name?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 58

I think I just did. Come back at me if I didn’t. Thanks, k

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to RevBev @ 59

My WSJ article should tell you that I think that we can go a long ways in backing off intrusions on the public for security. I believe the threat is very real and we need to get the public back in support of smart security. The intrusive pat-down should stop now.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to RevBev @ 59

I don’t believe it is. Terrorism is a risk, but it is hardly existential. That being said, I think it will take another generation to undo the security excesses of the current one.

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 62

A big “difference”?

Do we actually “know” that, Kip?

Given the dreadful state of the Rule of Law in this nation, and whether you might like it or not, there is considerable reason for skepticism and doubt.

Presumably that surprises you?

DW

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 63

We know this from ten years of intelligence work by many countries and agencies. Very very specific. That’s why I used Zubair in my book as the quintessential western operative that you never heard of. (My editor could fix that sentence.) AQ has trained hundreds of western operatives, including from North America, of all ages, colors, genders, whatever — many of whom we know by real name, some only by nick-name. Bryan Neal Vinas was one.

Long Island altar boy, Little Leaguer, captured in Pakistan. The real deal lots on him in the press and in PE.

(end.)

RevBev May 20th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 66

That is very discouraging since we are generating more enemies by our actions of drones and aggression. Is there any dialogue from security people that we may need less/fewer excesses if we mitigated our own aggression?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 67

No, doesn’t surprise me. It’s a real issue, bigger than TSA or FBI. This is what we should be talking about. The checkpoint mess just concentrates us on the wrong issues. If we fix the checkpoint, I think more of the real issues will emerge.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

The TSA was originally about airport security, but now we’re seeing it at ports, on trains, on subways, and so on. Where does the TSA’s authority end? Is there anywhere they’re not allowed to set up security checkpoints?

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 66

Assuming that civil society is not already turned into a locked-down police state, and that our economic system has not devolved into a neo-feudal form, you are likely correct Bruce. In the meantime, “endless” war and the crack-down on dissent, even as we see in Chicago these last few days, the cry of “terrorism” will ruin and destroy many lives … “national security” at the price of civil rights and individual justice is a very poor bargain, indeed.

DW

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Kip@70: would you be so kind as to suggest what some of the “real issues” might be and how we might approach them?

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 70

Then, by all means, let us speak bluntly to the issue of trust and the concept of of actual reason and NOT political expediencies.

What say you, Kip?

Shall we?

DW

Squekyshoes May 20th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 74

I can’t think of a less blunt way to ask whatever he is asking.

tuezday May 20th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Hi Bruce. I’ve been a fan of your writing for years. Just wish more people agreed with your common sense approach to security.

With that I will go back to my corner as a cantankerous devil is sitting on my shoulder.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to RevBev @ 69

I’ll take just a small piece of that. Many have written about “soft power” in terms of using America’s peaceful strength. I totally agree. Everybody agrees with that but it’s harder since I am not convinced that we really know what converts so many young people to bin Laden-style extremism. Clearly we could do better with soft power but what about all the westerners and Americans who convert? We must understand this better. Yes, I agree that isolating various ethic, cultural, religious groups by blanket security measures is about the worst thing we can do. I got in trouble with some at TSA when I trained TSO’s on what the Haj is all about.

(end.)

JonPincus May 20th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Kip and Bruce, thanks for the discussion. Curious about what you see as the prospects for change; and how those of us who want change can best be advocating and organizing.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to tuezday @ 76

I believe you can still go through airport security with a cantankerous shoulder devil, but you may have to put him in a separate bin and send him through the x-ray machine.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Squekyshoes @ 75

Hang on, let me think and answer another. We probably agree and I am just being dense. – k

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 62

That’s impossible. Pistole said, “look at [I forget the name of the young Muslim arrested in a FBI-created sting.” We need to patrol mass transportation.

You may be saying, “there has been evidence people wanted to attack mass transport for years.” But that doesn’t explain why Pistole specifically cited an FBI-created sting, rather than that evidence (or even the Zazi plot) as justification to Congress.

So perhaps my question is better framed, what push is there to tie specific surveillance to specific attacks, even if the FBI created the plot laid out in the alleged attack? And is it done for Congress, or the public?

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 77

What do YOU think converts “so many young people to bin Laden-style extremism”?

Certainly they do NOT “hate us for our freedoms”.

What possible threat do you imagine that “we” pose to them?

DW

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 66

We won’t be able to afford that, though. So it won’t take another generation bc we’ll go broke first.

Failing to educate the next generation of engineers bc we had to pay for the latest Mike Chertoff technology is not sustainable even one more generation.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 71

On TSA authorities, here’s the scoop:

http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/Aviation_and_Transportation_Security_Act_ATSA_Public_Law_107_1771.pdf

It says that TSA has authorities in all modes of transportation. TSA supplements local authorities at their invitation in other modes. The communications lines are much better than ten years ago and intell is shared widely and TSA doesn’t force itself into an area. The local authorities have figured out that TSA is a budget-friendly partner because TSA picks up its own costs.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Let’s talk about Sky Marshals. There is considerable analysis that concludes that the program is not worth it. But in your book, you talk about how the Federal Air Marshal Service is about a lot more than sitting on random airplanes waiting for hypothetical terrorists to jump up and go “boo.” Can you explain? Also, do the pilots and flight attendants know when a Sky Marshal is aboard the plane and who he or she is?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 81

I can only speak to my experience — everything we did on specific threats originated with AQ or like groups.

(end.)

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 83

BINGO!!!

We cannot afford the extreme excess of our present “security” hubris nor the “cost” of maintaining military empire while bankrupting the future.

DW

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Kip@84: ‘Scuse me! I think the American people pick up TSA costs. Jeez!

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 77

Isn’t part of the problem that our country treats Muslim terrorists very differently from white terrorists? Since we treat them so differently (maybe not at TSA, but certainly from a prosecutorial standpoint–FBI even brags about how much longer the sentences are for foreign terrorists), we prevent ourselves from assessing what makes someone embrace radical violence, regardless of the particular brand?

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Dearie @ 88

Even so, Dearie.

;~DW

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 86

So when pitching Congress on a new need to surveil, did you feel restricted by classification of other plots and therefore pick a convenient (if inapt) face?

I guess part of what I’m trying to understand is whether these things are being sold to Congress or the public in a certain way because of a perceived need to scare someone.

We know for a fact, for example, that the govt used the plots Abu Zubaydah “revealed” under torture for years, even though there were surely real plots that resembled the ones he “revealed” in the midterm. Why?

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Now that all the people are piled up in a huge mass in line for security screening, what will be the next step of restriction after some nut invariably gets into the middle of them and blows himself up?

Perhaps a TSA agent on the residential doorstep of each traveller before they leave home, and a TSA vehicle escort all the way to the gate of departure?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 74

What I want to talk about is our security strategy. That is what Permanent Emergency is about. But there are so many intertwined privacy issues relating to technology and government and or private entities that have come up in the TSA context that I think that understanding what happened with TSA can be useful in discussing the larger societal issues. What are the government roles, how do we use regulation and when? What about our foreign partners, how to we work together? Hard for me to describe in web chat format. But hopefully you get what I am saying.

(edit.)

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I swear! I’m a pleasant old grandma, but I really wanted to say to Matron Rached at the small regional airport, “I pay your freakin’ salary…..get your hands of my boobs!”

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Dearie @ 88

Point taken.

darms May 20th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Two quickies for Kip and/or Bruce -
1)Is every commercial flight in the US using bag matching for every traveler? (i.e. every checked bag is associated with someone who boarded the plane, I know they do this in Europe)
2)Is every bit of cargo destined for a commercial flight now inspected & X-rayed?

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Additionally, considering that more people die each month from simple influenza related issues than have died as the result of travel-based terrorism in the last century, what do you think is a reasonable proportion of government resources used to mitigate travel-based terrorism relative to government resources used to fight the infection and consequences of the flu?

100:1 in favor of the much less dangerous risk of terrorism? 1000:1? Can you corroborate why the significantly more benign threat of terrorism should receive such outsized attention relative to influenza viruses?

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I hear this argument — that the terrorist can just below himself up at the TSA checkpoint — and I think it’s a red herring. We can’t possibly prevent lone terrorist attacks everywhere 50 or more people come together in close proximity. That would include restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, dance clubs, government offices, churches, sports stadiums, Apple stores after the release of a new iPhone, and on and on and on. Sometimes we’ll get lucky and the results won’t be so bad. Sometimes — like in Norway last year — we’ll get spectacularly unlucky and the results will be horrific. Aside from investigation and intelligence, and emergency response, there’s nothing we can do.

RevBev May 20th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 93

I think we are trying to figure out if anyone else is getting it. The invasive, scary stuff seems ramped up all the time….jars, shoes, feels….where is any push back? Modulation? Maybe we just aren’t hearing it, but the public relations stuff has been a disaster. Flights more miserable and more expensive. Do we need to be scared to death?

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 91

An example of a real issue to discuss. It may surprise you that the real government people involved in surveillance are extremely conservative about staying within the bounds. They are not going to risk their careers for some overzealous higher up who wants a headline. My experience was that the intelligence that came in was carefully documented where it came from and that there was obsessive attention to staying clear of the gray areas. This may be a case where the rhetoric on both sides swirls above a reality that isn’t as good/bad as the debaters think.

(end.)

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to emptywheel @ 89

Yes, that is very much part of the problem.

I have always thought that the “war on terror” metaphor was actively harmful to security because it raised the terrorists to the level of equal combatant. In a war, there are sides, and there is winning. I much prefer the crime metaphor. There are no opposing sides in crime; there are the few criminals and the rest of us. There criminals don’t “win.” Maybe they get away with it for a while, but eventually they’re caught.

“Us vs. them” thinking has two basic costs. One, it establishes that world-view in the minds of “us”: the non-profiled. We saw this after 9/11, in the assaults and discriminations against innocent Americans who happened to be Muslim. And two, it establishes the same world-view in the minds of “them”: Muslims. This increases anti-American sentiment among Muslims. This reduces our security, less because it creates terrorists — although I’m sure it is one of the things that pushes a marginal terrorist over the line — and more that a higher anti-American sentiment in the Arab world is a more fertile ground for terrorist groups to recruit and operate. Making sure the Muslim majority is part of the “us” fighting terror, just like we’re all together fighting crime, is a security benefit.

Dearie May 20th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Nathan@97: Excellent question. And, to be trite, follow the money. Believe me, it isn’t the GED level ‘agent’ who is getting rich off the terror-terror-terror flap nor off the machines that are to keep us ever so safe.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to RevBev @ 99

Please check out my WSJ piece. If we did the things I recommend there, it would take a lot of the distrust away without hurting security.

(end.)

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 93

“Permanent Emergency”.

Consider those words, Kip.

That vests the executive with “endless” power and, very often, make the people the “enemies” of the state>

It allows Congress to consider permitting propaganda to be used on the American public, it allows fear to become the instrument of first resort.

It allows the nation to be LIED into a war.

And, it is also a lie, there IS no permanent emergency, simply an opportunity for power to expand.

And that, Kip, is how many of us see “security strategy”.

In all of its splendor.

Have to leave now, but it has been …interesting. Many thanks to all.

DW

CTuttle May 20th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Is this really necessary…? Cameras monitor every move in parts of Hampton Roads… For example…!

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Kip, remember those incidents when TSA screeners found blocks of cheese with wires and such? I know that cheese has the same density as plastic explosives, and is a plausible stand-in for a dry run to test the efficacy of airport screening machines. I never heard the end of that story. How many cheese blocks were found? Where? Was there a plausible explanation for the cheese-and-wire combinations? Were there arrests? Was it all a hoax? To us sitting in no-explanations-from-the-TSA-land, it was all a bit surreal.

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 98

Considering the number of airborne terrorist attacks, and the completely not invasive or annoying measures to prevent them (ie. air marshals and locked-reinforced cabin doors) it seems pretty safe to say that in security screening you’re not doing anything to prevent them either.

Furthermore all you did was dodge the question. It’s inevitable that such a thing will happen, and considering how pointless most of what the TSA does to travelers already is, I cannot fathom how such an event could happen and the TSA would just say, “Sorry folks, we can’t save you from everything. Just don’t stand in big lines that we force you to stand in.”

What would be the next logical step to mitigate the incredible and existential thread of travel-based terrorism?

Squekyshoes May 20th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Amen — best take-away from this chat.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to darms @ 96

Bag matching? — I think they are supposed to be but it’s another rule that with better scanners we could retire.

International screening? — They just announced the answer to your question, earlier in the week and I don’t know it. Net is that almost all of it is but there is no way 100% happens.

Check out this if you’d like a perspective on what threatens a plane and what doesn’t.

https://www.chds.us/coursefiles/cip/lectures/transportation/cip_underwearbomber/player.html

(end.)

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Dearie @ 102

Thanks. It annoys me to no end that these discussions get mired in tactics and minutiae of implementation when I don’t think the proponents of any of it have even come remotely close to validating their very existence at all.

When you listen to them talk you’d think that 747′s were flying into skyscrapers every other Sunday and twice on Tuesday.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

“What would be the next logical step to mitigate the incredible and existential thread of travel-based terrorism?”

The same things that have worked in the past, and play to our strengths: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

Thanks DW — the name Permanent Emergency is meant to say that we cannot sustain what we are currently doing. I am not advocating for a PE. !

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 100

There’s no two sides here, thanks. Pistole used an FBI created plot as his reason to roll out new surveillance. That’s on the record, public, uncontested. It’s similar to the way the Admin ALWAYS uses the alleged assassination attempt on the Saudi Ambassador–the location and weapon for which (and therefore the outlines of the terrorist charges) were chosen by the government–in their efforts to drum up efforts against Iran.

There is only a question of WHY he did that. You tell me the threat is real, goes back years. OK. So the question I’m trying to ask–because the facts are not in dispute here–is why Pistole would use an FBI created plot RATHER THAN refer to the real dangers going back years. And so I’m wondering if it’s because of something about CONGRESS, or about the PUBLIC, in these new technologies?

In short, WHO needs to have a convenient, recent scary face–rather than a reference to classified evidence–to be convinced these new technologies are needed? Congress? Or the public?

BevW May 20th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Kip, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and your time with the TSA.

Bruce, Thank you very much for Hosting this Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Kip’s website (KipHawley.com) and book (Permanent Emergency)

Bruce’s website (Schneier on Security) and book (Liars and Outliers)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 112

And, to be fair, the amount of editorial control a book author has over his title is close to nil. The point of that title is to sell books.

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

Beyond the fact that we’re ignoring the far more real emergency, climate change.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Good question. There were real AQ plots and dry-runs using “stand-in” explosives like cheese. Since that intell was highly Classified, we went through our domestic incident logs to find proxies for the real probes. That allowed us to send it out to our workforce and train them on what we knew AQ was doing but could use real examples (although the examples themselves were benign). The remote control toy vehicle issue was the same. Our workforce knew the subtext but obviously not the press and it made a big flap. No we didn’t have a war on cheese.

http://www.tsa.gov/press/happenings/remote_control_vehicles.shtm

JonPincus May 20th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Has anybody estimated the total cost of aviation security measures? A lot of people are flying less (or not flying); add that to staffing, the machines, wait time etc…..

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you all! Appreciate the active participation. Thanks Bev and Bruce, best, Kip

Elliott May 20th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks! Another great salon

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

So then I should expect my loved ones and friends to be able to greet me at the terminal like back in the good old days before fabricated paranoia took over travel-security?

Because you’ve accomplished exactly nothing by keeping them out of the terminal, except only moderately increasing the speed with which the grand theater of security can be performed by the scanning stations, while putting all of us at greater risk by forcing us to pile together in crapped corded off lines from which there is no escape in the event of an emergency.

Again. You’ve got Air Marshals and reinforced-locked cabin doors, better trained airline personel, and more vigilant travelers. What’s the point of all the TSA we’re forced to deal with?

I mean if you want to just come out and say it’s a jobs program for those that don’t qualify for military service, then just do it. At least that would be more credible.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

We’re almost at the end of our two hours. Thank you Kip. Thank you all. Thank you FireDogLake.

And you’re all welcome to my book salon on June 17th.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:58 pm
In response to JonPincus @ 118

Just got a copy of Terror, Security & Money by Mueller/Stewart that is on that subject. get that it’s a thicket of indirect costs.

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to JonPincus @ 118

Yes. I don’t have time to find the links, but look at the work done by John Mueller.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Hmmmm wonder what I am doing on June 17…. : )

CTuttle May 20th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Amen, Now just imagine the sheer amount of terrorists we’d create if we Iraq Iran…! Congress seems to be slobbering over that very possibility these days…!

Bruce Schneier May 20th, 2012 at 4:00 pm

And y’all should do a book salon with him.

JonPincus May 20th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Thanks very much Kip and Bruce. Great discussion!!!

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

It would be spectacular if people promoting these policies and institutions could provide even some faint analysis that justifies their significance and scope.

How much of a threat to each American traveller is the risk of being caught up or harmed by a terrorist plot? Is it higher or lower than the risk of being struck by lightening? How much higher or lower? If lower, then ought we to first consider the compelled rubberization of all citizens before they’re allowed to go outside?

Am I more or less likely to be the victim of a terrorist attack as a traveller than I am to be the victim of identity theft through the mail? If less, then perhaps we should consider spending the TSA’s resources on banning junk mail generated by financial institutions?

CTuttle May 20th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Mahalo, Bev, Bruce, and Kip, for another spirited Book Salon…! *g*

juliania May 20th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Given that the fear factor is a premium quantity in the political agenda to put power in the hands of the government to surveil and apprehend which are clearly un Constitutional, is the benefit of increased surveillance what it purports to be. (You probably address this in your book – apologies for not having read it.

Weren’t we as a community immediately safer once the dastardly happenings of 9/11 took place, and even in the midst of them as the brave folk in Pennsylvania showed? Even if nothing had been done to change the security measures in place, would not there have been a huge uptick in alertness on the part of the public, on the part of all involved in the airport security of the time?

There will always be risk, as you point out. And sometimes, less is more.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 4:10 pm
In response to Bruce Schneier @ 85

I missed this air marshal question. Air marshals are highly trained and are so much more valuable that just the ‘protect the cockpit’ mission. For instance, when TSA got intel a few weeks ago about the new underwear bomb, I’ll bet $10 that TSA had flights flooded with air marshals to and from the region. They get intell briefs and watch boarding areas and coordinate with the flight crews. They also help with VIPRs in other modes than air. Very flexible, incredibly fast to deploy, and they don’t all look like Ving Rhames.

Kip Hawley May 20th, 2012 at 4:17 pm
In response to juliania @ 131

I understand what you are saying. I came to TSA from the transportation technology world, not law enforcement or the military and I wondered myself what the continuing real threat was. The book details what happened. Essentially, I can swear to you that there were dozens of 9/11-scale attacks that could not have been stopped by heroic passengers during my time at TSA. And I have seen some of the recent intell that confirms that it is still with us. Regardless of whatever our government does wrong, there truly are real plots and courageous men and women all over the world in intelligence services, the military, law enforcement, and yes, TSA, that do their part to stop them.

Nathan Aschbacher May 20th, 2012 at 4:23 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 133

Can you swear to me in the form of actual quantitative risk analysis metrics? If the threats are so pertinent and frequent as you suggest, then it ought to be trivially easy to show that, absent the presence of the TSA’s policies, I’d be at serious risk, and furthermore it should be trivially easy to do so in comparative terms.

Like am I more or less likely to be killed by a terrorist plot when travelling than I am to be electrocuted by my razor over my bathroom sink?

I’m sure you’re a nice man with the best intentions, but it would be really superb to have some peer reviewed analysis on the mathematics behind your risk assessment and mitigation strategies. Then we wouldn’t have to rely on your sworn oaths to random bloggers, we could assess the statements properly scientifically like they should be.

darms May 20th, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thanks, Kip, Bruce & BevW, yet another interesting salon. I wish I’d gotten an answer to my “is all cargo screened” question as the last thing I heard was it was not which makes all this TSA security theater crap a sick joke at best…

CTuttle May 20th, 2012 at 4:48 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 133

Blowback from our failed Foreign Policy is at the root of our foreign ‘Terrorist’ threat matrices…! We’re growing ‘em daily…! 8-(

DWBartoo May 20th, 2012 at 4:49 pm
In response to Kip Hawley @ 133

If these “dozens of 911/scale attacks” have “occurred” (or merely been “planned”) and been successfully thwarted, then why is that “news”, for such it is to me, not ballyhooed from the rooftops?

The government, Kip, need not give away ANY secrets in the telling, unless the successes are “secret”.

Are “the people” of an ostensible democracy not entitled to know what wonderful things have been accomplished in their names? To their supposed benefit and “security”?

Beyond that, genuine evidence, not its lack, despite what some higher-ups may claim, from time to time, needs to be forthcoming to support your assertions, else we’ve nothing but your word.

Perhaps you might imagine that, despite whatever veracity YOU may claim, it hardly suffices to convince and seems, to me, at least, to be so speculative, so vague, and frankly, so incredible as to create more suspicion and doubt than prove prowess, purpose, or capacity.

DW

emptywheel May 20th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Kip, Bruce,

I got pulled away before I got to thank both of you for the spirited discussion.

And thanks to Bev to setting it up.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post