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This Is Totally Worthless

So Dave Johnson at Seeing The Forest found out that he was on a list, and enters TSA purgatory when he tries to fly.  Mary at Pacific Views notes that 60 Minutes did a piece on Flight Risks, talking to a number of people named Robert Johnson, another name on the list.

CBS found out that the “Robert Johnson” on the list is actually a known alias of a whacko convicted of plotting to blow up a Hindu temple in Canada, which makes the list worthless.

The thing about criminals is that the best and most dangerous are not stupid people. The stupid ones get arrested quickly, before they hone their skills. The best know that when it comes to an alias you pick a common name which makes it harder to rule out as an alias. There are a lot of Robert Johnsons and chances are that one of them will have stats [age, height, weight, race] close to the criminal’s, which gums up the system.

When they include names that they already know are fake, they invalidate the point of the system. The real criminal, using his real identity is not going to be caught by a reference to Robert Johnson. No real terrorist or criminal is going to move around using a name they know the police have. These people tend to do legal things with legal names.

Having every David Johnson, David Nelson, Edward Kennedy, Gary Smith, John Williams, and Robert Johnson going through secondary processing every time they fly is a pointless waste of resources.

8 comments

1 whig { 09.07.07 at 10:33 pm }

If we’re not going to prosecute terrorists what is with the department of pre-crime?

2 Bryan { 09.07.07 at 10:45 pm }

It seems like everything I read about is another time and money wasting boondoggle that doesn’t actually do anything.

Most of these things depend on incredibly stupid criminals and/or statistical improbabilities. You catch criminals by gathering and following clues, not by hoping they’ll come into the station and confess.

Every once in a long while you get lucky, like having Senator Craig’s daughter show up and support him so the cops in Idaho could serve a warrant on her, but most of the time to have to track people down.

3 whig { 09.07.07 at 10:46 pm }

How did it get this way?

4 Bryan { 09.07.07 at 11:10 pm }

It’s simple, the people in charge don’t know what they’re doing and they have chased all of the competent professionals out of the various departments. When every hire is a political hire, you aren’t going to get real pros.

In the Federal system everything is fed to the US Attorney, and it’s fairly obvious now that the DoJ is totally compromised. There haven’t been many prosecutions, because they don’t have the staff capable of preparing the cases for trial.

Fitzpatrick in Chicago continues to roll along, because he seems to have the one office in the US staffed by competent people.

This corruption case in New Jersey was centered on a school board, for crying out loud. Yes they should have been prosecuted, but you need something with a little more bite to clean up Jersey politics.

These people have made every government agency worthless, in their own image. The next administration is going to be forced to fire a huge portion of the Federal work force and start hiring from scratch. There hasn’t been a mess this big since Grant.

5 whig { 09.08.07 at 12:26 am }

Will we be able to construct a decent government on the ruins?

6 Bryan { 09.08.07 at 12:28 am }

We are going to have to, but it will be a long and painful process.

7 Steve Bates { 09.08.07 at 1:32 am }

One conservative Republican friend and frequent colleague of mine says he is always singled out because he has a large, full beard. Maybe so… his name is so unusual as to be almost certainly unique. I tease him mercilessly that the whole process, which Bruce Schneier would doubtless call “security theater,” is all his (my conservative friend’s) fault.

I’m going to surf elsewhere for a bit. I hate having that “long and painful process” as my last thought before I sleep. 🙂

8 Bryan { 09.08.07 at 10:54 am }

I’ve watched valid security procedures ignored while the “theater” moves into high gear. They aren’t trying to make the country safer, they just want people to think that’s what they’re doing.