Policy

"Security Is Always a Choice Between Different Sets of Risk"

Politico profiles the maverick security specialist Bruce Schneier.

|

Politico profiles Bruce Schneier, a security specialist who has emerged as one of the foremost critics of the security state. Here's an excerpt:

I was going to insert a joke here about the British "Carry On" films, but a discriminating alt-text connoisseur like yourself doesn't want to see that kind of shit.

After 9/11, Schneier saw a familiar utopian thinking creeping into the politics of national security, and he grew into an outspoken critic. He coined the term "security theater" to describe the showy-but-ineffectual performance of security around air travel, a choreography designed to produce a feeling of safety despite being poorly implemented, defending against the wrong danger, or both. His blog, dedicated to cryptography and tech security, was for a time a catalog of the many ways that ever-changing TSA regulations had been defeated by people with everyday resources but above-average creativity. And last year, he caused a small controversy when he cited research claiming that in the years following the September 11th attacks, enough people had chosen long-distance driving over air travel that the increase in auto-accident fatalities surpassed the number of deaths in the Twin Towers.

For Schneier, security is always a choice between different sets of risk, and there is no such thing as a perfect defense; you calculate the probabilities, and the potential costs of your decisions, as best you can. His arguments illuminate not only the places where politics and superstition have worked their way into supposedly rational systems, but also, in sometimes unexpected ways, how the shadow of 9/11 continues to define U.S. national security.

Read the rest here. Read Reason's interview with Schneier here, and read a piece he wrote for us here.