Bruce Schneier, my security guru, thinks that the President should confront the American people with the hard truth: Onerous new security regimes in our civilian aviation system won't protect us. What will protect us is our own resilience. I had an e-mail exchange with Bruce yesterday, and here is an edited transcript:
Jeffrey Goldberg: Do you think that we are moving toward the Israelification of American airport security?
Bruce Schneier: I don't think it's possible. The Israelis rely on a system of individual attention -- interviews, background checks, and so on -- that simply can't be replicated on the scale required for America. If anything, we're moving in the opposite direction: layers of annoying, time consuming, ineffectual, static -- but automatic and scalable -- security systems. Although it seems that we're finally hitting the limit as to what the American business travel will put up with, and no security measure will survive wholesale rejection by the airlines' most profitable customers.
Goldberg: But what will happen if there is a successful attack of the type we almost saw in the skies above Detroit? Does air travel survive?
Schneier: Probably. Air travel survived decades of terrorism, including attacks which resulted in the deaths of everyone on the plane. It survived 9/11. It'll survive the next successful attack. The only real worry is that we'll scare ourselves into making air travel so onerous that we won't fly anymore. We won't be any safer -- more people will die in car crashes resulting from the increase in automobile travel, and terrorists will simply switch to one of the millions of other targets -- and we won't even feel any safer. It's frustrating; terrorism is rare and largely ineffectual, yet we regularly magnify the effects of both their successes and failures by terrorizing ourselves.