Thursday, June 4, 2015

Counter Secure

I’m a regular gym goer. Four to five times I week I rise before the roosters and put my body through its paces. The facility I use now is a great suburban club, meets my needs and hasn’t been updated in a generation. It is quite a difference from the brand new 24-Hour Fitness I used in Minnesota where everything was so shiny I worried about scuffing the dumbbells. The wide range of spiffy health clubs I belonged to in Los Angeles had every nifty new gizmo to take away the reality of exercise. These newer venues have the latest greatest equipment and have allocated precious space for a café. Before or after your work out you can get a latte and a snack. I was always amused to see the various cookies and cakes on display. From a business perspective it’s a great move – ancillary income plus by selling sugar laden goodies you guarantee that your clientele will continue to need to use your club to work off the calories. From a ‘health’ and ‘wellness’ perspective it’s counter intuitive. Much like the U.S. approach to security as it played out this week.

The U.S. Patriot Act expired on May 31, 2015. (Yea!) The law was enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and has been renewed with huge majorities of votes several times. Privacy advocates like myself have long bucked the expansive nature of the bill. Less than 72 hours later the USA Freedom Act has been passed “overwhelmingly” and has become law. Every element of the Patriot Act has been renewed except for Section 215 – that permitted the government’s gathering of individual’s telephone and internet metadata. Section 215 was deemed illegal less than a month ago. (See my recent blog “Deflated Consequences”) Nearly a third of the Senate wanted to retain a law that was found it to be unconstitutional. Now that’s terrifying!

On June 2 – days after the Patriot Act expired and right before the Freedom Act was implemented – ABC News reported on widespread security failures at US airports. “According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.” 95% failure rate. The consequence? The TSA Administrator was reassigned – not fired – just given a different job.

“This is not the first time the TSA has had trouble spotting Red Team agents. A similar episode played out in 2013, when an undercover investigator with a fake bomb hidden on his body passed through a metal detector, went through a pat-down at New Jersey's Newark Liberty Airport, and was never caught.”

After a 2009 review that found similar results $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training has been spent. There’s been no change in effectiveness. Americans must undress, have restrictions on shampoo and other assorted insults in the name of security.


The immediate renewal of the provisions of the Patriot Act shows that American political leadership would find it natural to have a bakery inside of the gym. The message is mixed: pass laws in the name of security, but then have a level of implementation that is so inept to render the goal useless. It’s not counter-intuitive, it’s counter-secure.


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