National Security Analyzed with Schneier Models
Bruce Schneier writes about security and describes models of
Protection, Detection and Reaction in his book "Secrets and Lies."
How is our national security system measuring up to those models?
By analyzing the terrorist action on September 11, 2001
we can see what works and what does not in our national security systems.
After reading and listening to pilots respond to the terrorist attack
that used the transportation system to attack other national systems
I have some questions.
Why were proven protections ignored, (locked cockpit, air marshals,
etc.) and useless measures like banning curb side check in enacted?
My guess it was probably a "Terrorism Response Plan" that high priced
blowhard terrorism consultants created and sold to the FAA.
But way cheaper than air marshals and secure doors.
That mixed with "private sector" airport security with profit rather
than security as its goal and you have no real protection.
Many other national systems are built to catastrophically
fail and have no security. Some protection can be built but
it will be difficult to defend systems that are centralized and
catastrophic by nature, such as nuclear power plants. It is better
to replace and redesign such systems.
The attack was detected at least three weeks before it occurred.
One of the suspected terrorists was apprehended August 17, in
Minnesota, while trying to pay cash for large jet simulator time.
Almost a month before the attack. Yet the FBI apparently did not
check out other air simulator companies for similar patterns.
Several of the suspects were known terrorists, or had problems with
their documents and paid cash for air simulator time at other
pilot training companies and should also been detected.
This could have
disrupted the terrorist attack or caused it to fail completely.
But apparently the Immigration Service got the guy in jail for
being an illegal alien and only the air simulator
company cared that he was training for a terrorist attack.
The FAA should have known many planes were hijacked and when.
How the third and fourth plane were allowed to proceed is not a
question being asked. It looks like a terrible system failure.
Late detection also happened and was partially successful.
Passengers on one of the hijacked planes found out what was going on
and reacted much quicker. Using a wonderfully distributed flexible
communication system (cell phones) the passengers figured out exactly
what was happening and fought the hijackers. The plane crashed instead
of being used as a weapon.
Detection of attacks is probable, recognizing the threat and stopping
the turf wars by institutions is much more difficult but is a
question of training and priority, not budget or expanded powers.
Both early and late detection occurred. Our institutions failed to act
in a timely manner when the attack was detected. The passengers of
one plane did act because of good communications and prevented greater damage.
Lack of knowledge of what happens when a steel tower catches fire killed
hundreds of fire and police workers. Lack of knowledge of how and why
to get out of a steel tower, next to one fire killed hundreds of
office workers. The loss of life was much higher, maybe by a third or more
than it could have been if everyone had evacuated that could. For a city
of skyscrapers like New York it was only a matter of time before a
building lights up and falls down.
Panic shutdowns of financial systems, air transport,
sports, shopping centers across the country and major media
communications systems propaganda spamming for almost a week appeared
harmful to the economy and useless. President Bush hiding in Nebraska
for several days and Vice President Cheney still disappeared is useless.
Our national leaders look like cowards, panic ruled.
Contrast that behavior to New York Mayor Guliani who had a World Trade
Center tower fall on his disaster command post, picked his way out of
the rubble and continued to work.
Air defense was enacted, but was too late, and not effective.
According to the 911 Commission
the hijackers turned off the transponders that ID the commercial aircraft
making them invisible except by radar, not good enough to find them
easily. So why is it so easy to turn off a transponder in a commercial
aircraft in the air?
Longer term reactions look like a mixed bag.
Enhancing powers of the police forces that bring
back Nixon's enemies list, Watergate, 1950's Commie witch hunts
with a vengeance and directed at our own citizens will not help.
Adding another cabinet level secret police organization will not
make cooperation better between agencies. It is just another
player in the turf wars and allows another place where
power can be abused.
Forty Billion dollars voted by Congress without question for what?
Crazy plans for starwars missiles. Duh. This does nothing to
enhance security. Starving or bombing Afghanistan is just as stupid.
FBI and investigating agencies are actually tracing what happened.
This is the only action that is useful and it is using resources
already in place.
The next steps of criminal justice for the people who assisted in
the September attack will happen, also with the powers and resources
already in place.
Some protections that do work for the air transportation system may be
enacted, like armed marshals, transponders that stay on in flight
and locked cockpits. Other reactions like better training and
procedures to handle tower fires and emergencies will also help;
better immigration procedures and rules may also prevent some
terrorists from entering the country.
The nation lacks leadership that understands what security is.
Or worse, the national leadership is using 9-11 to advance
faulty policy that benefits the interest group that paid for the
The fear and panic shown by the national leaders Bush and Cheney
is disgusting. Our government leadership is a deeply distributed
system that can lose one, ten, twenty people from the top and should
not be affected. Personal safety should not be the top concern for the
leadership, they are sworn to defend the Constitution, not their skins.
Informed plane passengers showed better leadership and understanding
than most of our institutions.
Air marshals, secure doors on planes and better threat
detection by the non-cooperating intelligence, immigration and law groups
does not cost forty billion dollars. It does not involve
stripping citizens of rights. We already have all the money
and powers needed without PATRIOT ACTs.
The air transport system, tall buildings and the national stock
market are not the only vulnerable systems that can fail catastrophically.
Distribution of centralized systems and design that does not fail with
horrible effects will take many years to accomplish, but is very
Unfortunately, our present leaders are doing the opposite of what
is needed, advocating more nuclear power and other centralized systems,
removing freedoms and creating police state structures.