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“We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.”

Metal Detector

In the Washington Post today, security expert Bruce Schneier completely dismantles Major League Baseball’s new metal-detectors-at-the-ballpark rules.

He notes that the metal detectors themselves, weak and ineffective easily bypassed. He notes that, if you’re a terrorist, having thousands of people calmly lined up outside the park is probably a fatter target than having them inside the park. He observes that there have been no terrorist incidents at baseball games and no evidence of any credible threats and that, just because because the Boston Marathon was bombed doesn’t mean that every sporting event is in danger or that, even if it is, it faces the same sorts of risks that the Marathon did. And these are not just rhetorical points: Schneier links to the data which supports these arguments and outlines that there is actual danger in “preparing” for worst-case scenario assumptions.

But there is some rhetoric here too. And it’s not empty. Indeed, it is right on target:

In reality, this is CYA security, and it’s pervasive in post-9/11 America. It no longer matters if a security measure makes sense, if it’s cost-effective or if it mitigates any actual threats. All that matters is that you took the threat seriously, so if something happens you won’t be blamed for inaction. It’s security, all right — security for the careers of those in charge.

But, as Schneier also notes, we live in a time when Americans just accept this. We walk like cattle through metal detectors, regardless if they solve any problem, and we treat anyone who questions whether such measures are wise or even effective as in league with the evil-doers. And he is right on target when he says that “We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.”