Security Theater Goes Underground


David Alpert is making sense:

Following news that the FBI orchestrated its own, fake Metro bombing plot to catch a potential terrorist, Metro transit police are already pondering instituting useless "security theater" methods like random bag searches.

I declare a fatwa against your delicious chili burgers.

Bag searches look good but don't do anything. Anyone can simply turn around and enter a different station. If someone wanted to bomb a station, they just wouldn't do it when the bag searches are taking place. As I discussed on yesterday's Kojo Nnamdi show, we've spent far too much money building security barriers around buildings or running big "show of force" exercises….

Besides, is there really a specific threat to Metro at all?

The Post reported this morning that the idea to bomb Metro came from the FBI. In other words, no terrorist (that we know of) actually was planning to hit Metro. The FBI could easily have suggested any other target. If they had suggested Ben's Chili Bowl, would we now be talking about the need to beef up security in half-smoke shops?

NEXT: All Your Waste Are Belong to Us

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Doesn’t matter how stupid it’ll be to do it – they’ll do it.

    After all, the sheeple must be made to feel secure.

  2. C’mon, really? London, Madrid? Big numbers. That’s what terrorists like. Ben’s might get a few people to stop going to half-smoke shops. But a metro station would fuck up commuter traffic nationwide. Not sure that “theater” would prevent it, but why not?

    1. Not sure that “theater” would prevent it..

      So let’s drop the theater stuff. It’s inefficient and essentially useless.

      but why not?

      Because the time and money spent on security theater is time and money that isn’t spent on disaster preparedness and first responders.

      1. Because the time and money spent on security theater is time and money that isn’t spent on disaster preparedness and first responders.

        Indeed. We know the actuarial value of a life. If your regulation is entirely useless and wastes that much money, you’re killing people.

    2. Pretty sure that a metro station would fuck up commuter traffic metrowide. DC is not the nation.

      The ensuing theater, OTOH, would fuck up commuter traffic nationwide.

      1. My friend, if DC metro blows up, the effect will be felt in other cities’ transportation systems, you can be sure. And, I might add, it will lead to not “theater” but actual intrusions on our civil liberties. With virtually an entire nation of frightened people idly accepting it. Remember TSA. A little theater is not wasting any first responder time. More like donut eating time. Or maybe, busting people for weed time. And if it helps even a little, who cares? It is not “real”.

        1. At this point you just need some kids shooting firecrackers off in a metro station to cause the entire nation to go into panic mode and put up security checkpoints outside of every single piece of public transportation.

          1. Pretty timely suggestion, just right for classic and legendary Haloween pranking!

        2. And, I might add, it will lead to not “theater” but actual intrusions on our civil liberties.

          See, we have a disagreement about terms here. Those actual intrusions on our civil liberties, we call that theater too, because it’s still for show.

          Just because it imposes costs doesn’t make it not theater.

    3. rac’s larger point is that terrorists do go after mass transit because (1) that’s where the soft targets are; (2) it fucks with infrastructure too! A “suspicious package” alone is enough to stop the metro for a few hours. Actual casualties would tie it up for a day or two at least.

    4. The DC metro getting absolutely collapsed would not affect traffic outside the DC area. It certainly wouldn’t affect traffic in any city that doesn’t have a subway or commuter rail, even indirectly.

      And security theater is bad, not just for the cost, but because it inoculates people with the Police State virus. It is grossly unconstitutional; I don’t buy for a minute that a search is being done “voluntarily” and doesn’t need probable cause if you can be denied anything at all, including a subway ride, by denying the search.

  3. Chili dogs are delicious. Everyone likes chili dogs. Therefore, I’m sure a chili dog establishment will not be targeted for bombing.

    Now, a Thai place, that’s different…

  4. If it was Ben Gurion’s Chili Bowl, it might be a target. Otherwise, no.

  5. If they had suggested Ben’s Chili Bowl…

    …would Hard Times benefit or be harmed?

    1. I used to meet up with homeless kids at the Hard Times Cafe in Minneapolis (not affiliated with the ones you linked). It was a hippy/punk cafe on the West Bank in Minneapolis. The bathroom walls were covered with graffiti. The one that I will never forget? Someone wrote on the hand soap dispenser “Jew Juice”.

      1. You just brought back happy memories for me. That place was great. The city hated that place though.

  6. It’s not about security, its about control. I have a better chance of being struck by lightning than I do of being injured in a terrorist attack.

  7. Last weekend, there was a guy on C-span (Washington Journal, I think) talking about a newer, even more invasive TSA identification rule. I got so pissed off I had to change the channel.

    Later, it occurred to me I should have called in and asked whether he could prove the TSA hadn’t killed (by causing them to drive hundreds of miles when they might in the past have flown) more people than they saved.

    1. Has the TSA ever caught anyone? It seems like all the terrorists post-9/11 have been dumbasses that scorch their genitalia and attempt set their shoes on fire well past the security checkpoint.

      1. Has the TSA ever caught anyone?

        Probably not, since that would have been trumpeted louder than Joshua’s army at Jericho.

      2. They catch idiot rappers who “forget” to take their guns out of their travel bags. Oh, and people who have weed.

      3. It’s almost certain that there have been foiled attacks that the public never heard about.

        1. That’s hilarious! Stop, you’re killing me!

          1. Esteban is a terrorist! He’s killing Citizen Nothing!

            1. Guilty as charged(?)

        2. if they actually caught a terrorist, they would tell us all about it to help justify themselves.

    2. We need the TSA so that somebody can lecture us on the proper way to pack our deodorant. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if people were allowed to pack such things as they chose?

  8. The TSA has foiled hundreds of plots, and saved millions of lives. But they can’t talk about it; state secrets and whatnot.

    1. Part of the goal of terrorism is to terrorize and send a message. People get freaked out about terrorist attacks and change their behavior (see: Airline industry after 9/11). Do you really think that it’s in the best interest of the nation for the public to know about every attempted attack?

      1. They don’t advertise their “catches” because they’re instances of shaking down innocent travellers not familiar enough with their arcane procedures to avoid the roving eyes of the Garthok.

        1. So you speak from experience then, I assume.

      2. Apparently it’s in the best interest of the nation to know about every attack the FBI plans, so… sure? Fear works for our leaders as well as terrorists.

  9. “He had trained himself in martial arts, use of firearms, and knife and gun tactics, according to the documents, and he offered to teach those skills.” sounds like a bunch of jason statham fans i know.

    “He stated that between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. would be the best time to stage an attack to cause the highest number of casualties.” oh c’mon now, everybody knows it would be better to be between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

    1. oh c’mon now, everybody knows it would be better to be between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

      No, the 4pm to 5pm one is right. First, tons of people in DC leave work early (and commute in early), just as many go in and leave late, in order to mitigate the traffic. I shudder to think what traffic would be like if everyone actually left at 5pm.

      So for maximum casualties, you have to hit that first wave of people leaving at 4pm, and then you get the follow-on casualties that occur when everyone who hasn’t left yet realizes that they’re going to be stuck in the city overnight and starts killing each other.

  10. Huh…”Metro”, not “the Metro”?

  11. People get freaked out about terrorist attacks and change their behavior (see: Airline industry after 9/11).

    If, by “the airline industry” you mean “Congress”. The airlines sure as hell didn’t create the Department of “Homeland Security”.

    1. And people didn’t fly as much? And drive as much? Was I dreaming?

      The DHS is stupid, wasteful, and redundant, I agree.

  12. I went to the NYC police headquarters for some paperwork. The first time through the security gauntlet, I had to empty everything. On my first trip, I got sent on a wild goose chase. I was understandably peeved when I returned an hour later. The police let me go through the metal scanner without emptying the metal from my pocket. Apparently, frowning is enough to get you exempt from a security check at a “high value target”.

  13. Watch out how you act or you may find yourself in a “suspicious activity” data base.


    Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.