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Friday, July 29, 2005

More on Menezes 

A batch of items from our stalwart colleague Mark of Recidivist Journals:

Our esteemed colleagues at Crooks & Liars have posted video footage of an unidentified guest on Fox News Live who theorized, bizarrely, that Menezes was deliberately attempting to discredit the London met cops by forcing them to shoot him seven times in the back of the head:
IT WOULDN'T BE OUT OF THE QUESTION FOR THEM TO PICK ON SOMEONE WHO MAY NOT BE MIDDLE EASTERN BUT WHO MAY LOOK MIDDLE EASTERN. SAY, SOMEONE WHO IS FROM SOUTH AMERICA, SOMEONE WHO IS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA, AND, SAY, YOU KNOW, WE KNOW THEY'RE RACIAL PROFILING US, SO WE'RE GOING TO TRY TO GET SOME PUBLIC OPINION ON OUR SIDE. LET'S DRESS THIS GUY UP, TELL HIM TO ACT SUSPICIOUS, AND IF THE POLICE APPROACH HIM, TELL HIM TO RUN AWAY, AND WHEN THE POLICE CATCH HIM, THEN HE APPEARS TO BE INNOCENT, SO, YOU KNOW, IN ESSENCE, THEY START SENDING OUT DECOYS.
In other words, Menezes was not a suicide bomber per se; more of a suicide run-like-hell-as-fast-as-you-canner. After careful consideration of this suspiciously Br'er Rabbitesque scenario we have concluded that the Fox analyst was, in all likelihood, an Al Qaeda plant attempting to delude the London police into believing that by shooting suspected bombers they would only be playing into the terrorists' hands.

We should also mention Jarrett Murphy's "Terror by the Numbers," from the Village Voice:
[Prof. Geoffrey] Heal's expertise on terrorism concerns the choices that governments make to defend against the threat of random violence. In this calculus of security, there are certain givens, says Heal. One is that suicide bombings are easy to pull off as long as you've got volunteers. "The first few times it happens," he adds, "it's virtually impossible to stop."

The surest way to protect the subway system from bombs would be to screen every passenger's bag. But that would not only be enormously expensive in terms of time and manpower, it could have a human cost. The subways would become very inconvenient to ride, more people would drive cars, and there'd be more fatal road accidents. That's not to mention that the long lines of riders waiting to get screened would pose a tempting target.

So searching every single bag is out. But what about searches using a profile, so that not as many innocent people are inconvenienced? Besides the civil liberties questions, there's a basic problem with targeted searches: The targets know they've been tagged. "This transparency . . . enables the system to be reverse engineered," wrote M.I.T.'s Samidh Chakrabarti and Aaron Strauss in a 2002 paper about screening air passengers. "You know if you've been questioned. You know if you're asked to stand in a special line. You know if you've been frisked. All of this open scrutiny makes it possible to learn an anti-profile to defeat [the screening system], even if the profile itself is always kept secret" . . . .

That terrorists are switching to lesser targets could be a sign that the airlines have become more secure since the 2001 attacks. But it also reflects a reality of the security business: As you harden one target, others become more appealing. Israel is a case study of this shifting risk. El Al employs legendary security measures, so terrorists don't bother trying to hit Israeli jetliners. Instead they target malls, buses, and nightclubs. The casualties are lower, but there are still casualties.

"The important thing to understand is that security that moves a threat around is useless. So if we spend billions saving New York City subways and the terrorists go into movie theaters, we have wasted billions of dollars," says Bruce Schneier, a California-based security expert. "Defending the targets is the wrong way to think, because for the terrorist it doesn't matter if he hits the subway or a nightclub or a restaurant or a supermarket or the line at the DMV to renew your driver's license or the Oklahoma City federal building."

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