Friday, July 08, 2005

Homeland Security = Terrorist Insecurity

Yesterday showed that it's next to impossible to defend soft targets like transport systems. Any idiot can tape a timer plus Semtex under a seat and kill a bunch of innocents. How do you search every bus and every railway carriage every minute of every day? Games theory has the solution - spend your resources targeting the killers.

Bruce Schneier elaborates:

We need to resist the urge to react against the particulars of this particular terrorist plot, and to keep focused on the terrorists' goals. Spending billions to defend our trains and busses at the expense of other counterterrorist measures makes no sense. Terrorists are out to cause terror, and they don't care if they bomb trains, busses, shopping malls, theaters, stadiums, schools, markets, restaurants, discos, or any other collection of 100 people in a small space. There are simply too many targets to defend, and we need to think smarter than protecting the particular targets the terrorists attacked last week.

Smart counterterrorism focuses on the terrorists and their funding -- stopping plots regardless of their targets -- and emergency response that limits their damage.

In an example from WW2, the Germans built huge and armored V-3 guns in France to fire massive shells at London. Instead of building an impossibly expensive and technically infeasible "shell defense shield", the Brits built a 22,000 pound bunker-buster and destroyed the V-3.

There are maybe 1 million potential terrorists, and 1 billion potential targets. It's cheaper to neutralize the terrorists.