Fighting the Last War--Airport Kabuki and Functional Security

In his blog "What do 9/11, the Detroit bomber and ICS Security have in Common," Joe Weiss makes some really good points.

Our response to the December 25th incident in approach to Detroit's International Airport has been to stir up the anthill, impose more onerous conditions on the innocent travelling public, and fundamentally do nothing to improve security. I've been calling this Airport Kabuki, or Security Theater. I cheerfully admit to stealing those names, but I also admit I can't remember who said them first.

Why do I call it theater? Because it ignores the most important things that you ought to do if you really want to improve security.

1. Scan everything and everybody. It's been said that it is too costly to do this. It has also been said this is an invasion of privacy. Both are nonsense in the face of the threat. This would simply shut down the threat window.

2. Use profiling techniques to isolate potential threats. TSA is prohibited from doing this, since it has been determined to be an invasion of privacy.

3. Seamlessly integrate the threat databases in Commerce, State, Homeland Security, and FBI. This was ordered done, DHS was put on the hook for doing it, but the other departments have been foot-dragging. This is a "must do." Calling it a "systemic failure" as the president did, and slapping Janet Napolitano around doesn't and mustn't disguise the fact that the other agencies, particularly State and CIA, and the FBI and Secret Service, don't and never have played well with others, and have been conducting masterful foot-dragging exercises to keep from "losing control over their turf" like this. So, it isn't ALL DHS' fault.

4. Allow citizens who have permits to carry firearms on board. This one is really controversial, but there'd been no question about what should have happened on the 25th of December last.

The same is true, as Joe points out, for Industrial Control System Security, or functional security. The Federal Government is making a big show, but doing little of substance to require Utilities and other critical infrastructure industries to go beyond simple compliance to standards that are, themselves, weaker than they need to be.

 The same is true for functional safety, where, a year and a half after the deadly coverup and accident at Bayer Cropscience in West Virginia, no one is being held accountable, either for the improper practices that killed two workers, or for the coverup. Congress had hearings, and then it went nowhere. No indictments, no convictions. Do you think things have changed? Probably not, with OSHA a ghost of its former self.

Leadership begins at the top, Mr. Obama. Leadership begins at your insistence that your departments really work together, not just for airport security but for functional security and functional safety as well. Let FERC have enforcement over all the utilities. Let DHS really do their job.

Stop Security Theater Now! 

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