Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Below are reprints of a number of much older entries - the first is on the topic of profiling; the second some basic math concepts for security; the third re a reliance on "science and technology" to ensure safety; and the fourth a framework against terrorism. Reading and integrating all four might be useful in achieving a holistic view of the issues.
Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 there have been many discussions regarding "profiling" at airports. These discussions have been chaotic, with proponents and opponents firmly entrenched in their positions and talking past each other. The inability to have a useful and substantive discussion has mainly been due to the lack of a common agreement of what constitutes "profiling". The following is a very brief attempt to focus in on profiling, and to provide an example of a system that might be used for profiling airline passengers for increased scrutiny......
Profiling is not simply picking out a certain racial or demographic group for increased scrutiny. Besides being unethical and possibly illegal, this is also inefficient and of limited utility. The use of overly broad categories (e.g. Middle-Eastern looking males, dark-skinned men with beards, etc..) will only result in the identification of many people for increased scrutiny. This results in an increase in the dissatisfaction of the target group without a commensurate increase in real security. Profiling is the judicious use of a select group of specific criteria designed to shrink as much as possible the universe of subjects to be identified for increased scrutiny. These criteria need to be focused on the target that is to be screened for. By this means resources may be deployed effectively with a much higher probability of identification of the target, resulting in a real increase in security.
For example, the following is a system that could be used for airport profiling. Each passenger would be assigned different weights for a number of criteria based on subject demographics, travel information, and environmental factors:.
a) Demographic data:
- Country of origin. A weight between 1 and 10 by country of origin, e.g. Saudi Arabia 10, Switzerland 1
- Age - 18-40 +4 / >60 -4
- Gender - Male +5 / Female -1
- One-way ticket +4
- Ticket purchase: >6 months prior to trip -2 / 4-6 months prior to current trip +1 /
- No luggage +2
- A weight between 1 and 10 by country of visit for each overseas trip in the previous 3 years (e.g. France, Germany, U.K. +10, Iran +5, Hong Kong +2, Switzerland +1, etc.)
- US citizen > 20 years -7
- US citizen 10-20 years -3
- US resident > 20 years -5
- US resident 10-20 years -2
- High alert +10, medium alert +5
For this system to work it would be necessary that:
- The criteria and weightings not be public knowledge, to prevent terrorists 'gaming' the system.
- The criteria be updated (both the individual criteria and the weightings) on a regular basis to ensure that the system evolves with changes in the threat profile.
- While the system should be followed as much as possible, room needs to be left for human discretion e.g. security check of a person exhibiting excessive nervousness, etc.
- Base rate fallacy:
Assuming that one in twenty five million flyers actually is a terrorist, the mechanism's false positive rate means that in addition to the one person who is a terrorist, (1-0.9999)*25,000,000 = 2,500 people will also be incorrectly identified as terrorists. Thus the probability that the person identified is a terrorist actually is one is 1/2500*100 = 0.04%
Thus, though the accuracy of the mechanism is high it is very likely that the rate of false alarms would eventually cause the people running the mechanism to distrust its results. Any such mechanism (e.g. biometric identification of iris) would also be expensive, and its deployment in every airport would be a burden in terms of dollars, manpower, etc.
- Crossover error rate:
III. OPED14: Science to the rescue (reprinted from Feb 2002)
- As reported in the British journal Nature, researchers at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) have found that when people lie the blood flow around their eyes increases, and so have proposed that screeners using high-definition, heat-sensing cameras could determine if someone was telling the truth or a lie. Preliminary experiments have been conducted using this technology and the findings are that the accuracy of this system is slightly higher than that of polygraphs. In the experiment the camera identified 75% of the "guilty" subjects and 90% of the "innocent" subjects. The Mayo Clinic study authors' hypothesis is that this blushing is part of the "fright or flight response", which can signal willful deception. Skeptics point to the possibility that the physiological changes could be due to anxiety and not guilt. Others have noted that the number of subjects used in the experiment is too small to determine if this truly is meaningful. However, Honeywell has patented this system, and tests will be ongoing to see if this will work in real-life situations.
- Another technology showing promise is using an ion mobility spectrometer to detect minute traces of explosives. The Sandia National Laboratories has developed a portal for airport use that closely resembles the existing metal detectors. As the passengers pass through the portal air flows downwards from the top of the portal. Small air jets on the sides agitate the passengers' clothing to dislodge any contamination. The airflow is then pulled into a 'screen preconcentrator' in which the large volume of air is passed through a high-density metal screen. Heavy organic molecules (e.g. trace explosives) are trapped by the screen. The screen is then heated to 200 degrees Centigrade, which converts any collected explosive traces back into a gas that is then passed to the ion mobility sensor. The net effect is that trace explosives from a large volume of air are concentrated by a factor of 100-1000 before passing to the spectrometer for detection, thus increasing the chances of detection. Experiments done at the Alburquerque airport in 1997 were positive... A throughput rate of five passengers/minute was achieved, with a false detection rate of less than one percent (information on the types or quantities of explosives this system can detect were not disclosed for security reasons.) Further refinement of this portal has been underway for several years, and it may be commercially available in the near future.
- A problem with airport screeners is that even well trained security personnel find it difficulty to maintain the requisite level of concentration while watching X-ray scanner screens for long periods. PerkinElmer Instruments (Boston, MA) has developed a software package known as TIP - Threat Image Projection to combat this and to ensure that screeners stay alert. The software can project images of guns, knives, or explosive devices on the images of the bags that are passing through the scanners. This is used to improve the screeners' abilities, as well as to periodically check on their alertness.
- Another promising technology is Quadropole Resonance. It is known that when explosives are bombarded with certain radio frequencies the nitrogen compounds in the explosives vibrate, and that QR scanners can then detect these vibrations. This technology is being adapted to scan trucks, shipping containers, etc. The truck or container is bombarded with low-power radio waves of specific frequencies. If explosives are present their nitrogen compounds begin to vibrate, and very sensitive radio receivers that surround the truck pick this up. A computer system can then identify the explosive present by comparing the signals captured against a database of known compounds. Since the radio waves do not effect people and are not distorted by steel shipping containers, entire vehicles could be scanned at one time.
IV. OPED23 A framework against terror (reprint from Apr 2002)
This OPED attempts to demonstrate a framework against terrorism. First some background:
- The struggle against terrorism is not "a war". While the war metaphor might seem apt given the magnitude of the endeavor, it is counter-productive in the longer run. First, although military action is a significant and integral component, a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy will also have intelligence , diplomatic, civil defense or homeland security, economic, financial , law enforcement, and human rights components in addition to the military component. Second, the war metaphor tends to imply an end point, when in reality the fight against terrorism has no conclusion and must be an integral part of society. Third, the war metaphor might make people feel that the struggle against terrorism is only the responsibility of the armed forces when in fact every citizen has a role to play. Lastly, the war metaphor twists the terms of the debate which can have unfortunate and unintended consequences - examples might be a lessening of concern about our civil liberties that result in inappropriate actions (e.g. certain parts of the USA PATRIOT Act), or a stifling of the debate that is a vital and integral part of our democratic system (e.g. when any discussion over the direction the country is taking is shouted down by people as inappropriate while we are "at war")
- The complexity of the counter-terrorism strategy with all its different parts places a premium on coordinating the various efforts.Finally, in general the various components of the counter-terrorism strategy enumerated above must all posses the following characteristics:
- Appropriate funding for long-term viability.
- Multi-layered, redundant services to provide protection "in depth".
- Utilization of people with the appropriate levels of expertise and core competencies.
- Real-time detection and response.
- Resilient security that is adaptive and can respond to a changing threat environment.
- An emphasis on partnerships.
God, "Bob" is really looking old (Robert DeNiro at Kennedy Center Honors) #
Fox anchor: "Iran is seeking to beef up its supply of enriched uranium by importing it" ¤ Ore, LEU, HEU, bomb... apparently synonymous #
Prev tweet was teaser before ad break. Rpt said "yellowcake" so person watching all & knowing what it is would be OK, otherwise misinformed #
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
To the rescue? (reprint of OPED7 Israel - Lessons to learn?)
Annie Jacobsen, writer about aviation security and homeland security, reports that “America is finally showing interest in adopting Israel's approach to airline safety which looks for bombers, not bombs — and won't confiscate your tiny bottles of shampoo,” see article below.
Israeli-Style Airport Security Coming to U.S.?
While, no doubt, there are lessons to be learned from Israel in this area, simply attempting to copy their methods is futile, as this blogger wrote up in 2002, see reprint below:
01/08/2002 OPED 7 Israel – Lessons to learn?
What lessons can be learned from Israel and El Al? Following 9/11 many articles have appeared in the press unfavorably comparing US airport screening and airline security with that of El Al, the Israeli airline. A similar message has been common from television pundits. It is true that that the security screening at US airports has been abysmally poor. It is also true that El Al's security is the 'best' in the business, and certain practices such as passenger profiling, the use of armed air marshals, the checking of every bag for explosives and subjecting them to decompression, the use of a professional security staff, etc. should be adopted here in the US. However, even if the will existed to adopt the same methods here in the US it is not at all obvious that it would be possible to successfully scale up El Al's security from the relatively small number of passengers that they need to screen to what would be necessary in the much larger US market. The following figures give an idea of the relative sizes of the two endeavors:
In 1999 El Al carried 1.14 million passengers worldwide, while (in 2000) US domestic airlines had some 650 million passenger emplanements. In the US in 1998 1,903 million people were screened at US airports (of whom 660 were arrested for firearms violations, and 86 for giving false information).
Thus the two tasks are magnitudes apart, something that is not addressed by any of these commentators. Additionally, given the 'hardening' of this target, terrorists wishing to strike Israel have simply shifted their terrorist actions to easier targets e.g. suicide bombers targeting discos, marketplaces, and other places where groups of people assemble.... Terrorists have penetrated Israel in spite of all the countermeasures in place. Israel's borders are 1,006 km long, the borders of the US are 12,248 km in length and in 2000 they were transited by:
489 million people (142 million by airline from overseas)
127 million passenger vehicles and 11.6 million maritime containers
11.5 million trucks and 202 million rail cars
829,000 planes and 211,000 vessels
During debate prior to the passage of the Airline Safety Act of 2001 there were differences between Democrats & Republicans, and between the House and the Senate regarding the 'federalization' of airport screening personnel. Disagreements were voiced about who could run this function most efficiently, government workers or the private sector. Unfortunately this debate was missing the point. Given the magnitude of the numbers above it is clear that while US airports and the US border need to be controlled to a greater degree than is the case at present, security can not be brought about by mere inspection but needs to be part of a larger system in depth.... Arguing back and forth about who can run this process the most efficiently is a sterile debate... unless airport and border security and screening are part of a much larger and systematic approach to security, the problems of 9/11 can happen again....
Note: Annie Jacobsen's claim to "fame" results from her claim to have witnessed a terrorist 'dry run' on Northwest flight NW 327 in 2004. Some consider her a nutjob. This blogger has no idea re what happened, but is not particularly impressed by this recent article...
2/2 Dis-ableism: -noun. Idea that if a person gets a physical injury he/she should be happy, lest he/she offend & be accused of 'ableism' #
OK, so gave it a whirl on my BB 9700. Re-downloaded and re-installed ScanLife to make sure that I had the latest version, grabbed some books, tried... and tried... and tried... a half-dozen times with no success.
Hmm, so do I have the right version? The on-phone help does not list UPC/EAN as supported, and the ScanLife FAQ says "Most camera phones cannot read a UPC code. Phones that can read UPC codes: Android. Others coming soon"
Sent an e-mail inquiry to the company, will see what they say... The bottom line: if it now really can scan UPC/EAN codes as well, then the application is worth keeping on the BB (which it is not if it only does the 2D codes, which are very few and far between "in the wild.")
Previous entries on this topic:
No luck - Dec 15th, 2009
QR codes to hit the U.S.? - Dec 13th, 2009
Misc. update (BB/2D barcodes) - Aug 22nd, 2009
BB & 2D barcodes - Apr 21st, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
111 attacks by Somali pirates last year, 210 so far this year, despite flotilla of 36 naval vessels in area (heard on radio) #
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Good excuse for airlines to discontinue providing blankets (to save $) Re: bomber "covered himself w/blanket after returning to seat&qu ot; #
Local news: suspicious person "locked himself in the bathroom" Hmm, doesn't EVERYONE who goes to the bathroom lock themselves in? I do! #
Recently we had a flurry of articles similar to the Wall Street Journal article, Insurgents hack U.S. Drones: $26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected, which continued this tradition/meme... Iraqi insurgents suddenly showing evidence of "sophistication," intercepting unencrypted UAV video feeds... hmm, surely foreign intervention!
OK, so this has been reported on since at least 2002 (e.g. a CBS-TV report that showed feeds from UAVs in Bosnia being intercepted...), and know from even earlier in the '90's. Other sensational language exaggerates what has happened e.g. intercepting an unencrypted, over-the-air signal is hardly "hacking", etc. But, when done by insurgents (rubes) it must be "sophisticated" and they must have had help! Great reporting!
The June 16th, 2008 blog entry, 'Reflex', and a March 22nd, 2002 entry, 'OPED 21 "Straight talk" on Hazar Qadam', had already noted the propensity of the military to reflexively deny ever making any errors... and that after any strike with unanticipated consequences "... the Pentagon’s first reflex after any error is to deny everything, then to deny everything, then to partially admit the possibility of an error (if the evidence becomes irrefutable) while obfuscating the issue, but never to forthrightly admit that an error has been made ..." This practice of obfuscating, dare we call it lying, looks to have changed from being reactive when things go wrong, to being proactive "... and by design, there is never any debate or discussion over the propriety or wisdom of these strikes..." The press by its continued acquiescence in this process aids and abets these efforts...
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Since then the economy grew in the third quarter of 2009 (initially pegged as at a 3.5% annual rate, which subsequently has been dialed back to a still positive 2.2%), signaling the end of the recession. Growth is expected to continue, although multiple warnings that employment will be slow to rebound continue to be made...
Previous blog entries related to this topic:
Random chart... - Nov 7th, 2009
Massive cuts? Or not? - Nov 2nd, 2009
So what happened to... - Jun 7th, 2009
Random chart - May 17th, 2009
Random chart - April 18th, 2009
Held to account? - April 16th, 2009
Automotive restructuring - April 4th, 2009
Theory vs. practice - March 30th, 2009
Random chart - March 18th, 2009
Random chart - March 12th, 2009
Random chart - March 9th, 2009
Random thoughts - Feb 15th, 2009
Rhetorical questions - Feb 11th, 2009
Better charts - Feb 10th, 2009
Random charts - Feb 9th, 2009
Random chart - Feb 8th, 2009
The high and mighty... - Feb 6th, 2009
Stimulus update II - Feb 3rd, 2009
Stimulus update - Jan 28th, 2009
Some recovery info - Jan 28th, 2009
Random chart - Jan 13th, 2009
Irony alert! - Jan 7th, 2009
Misc TARP updates - Dec 20th, 2008
Bailout/handout - Dec 13th, 2008
Recession decision - Dec 11th, 2008
Oh wow - Nov 24th, 2008
The answer? - Nov 18th, 2008
G20 - Nov 17th, 2008
Misc. financial crisis - Nov 15th, 2008
Financial Crisis misc. - Nov 11th, 2008
Goofs - Nov 7th, 2008
The money PIT - Oct 31st, 2008
Repeat question - Oct 30th, 2008
Up or down - Oct 29th, 2008
Lest we forget... - October 27th
One possible reason... - Oct 27th
Great quotes... - Oct 27th
Thank you California and Florida - Oct 26th
The elephant (and donkey) in the room - Oct 25th
Great quotes... - Oct 25th
Say what? - Oct 22nd
Crisis unfolding - Oct 21st
Once, squared, cubed - Oct 8th
Mortgage mess - Oct 7th
Crash victims... charities - Oct 6th
Executive compensation (Section 111) – Oct 4th
MOAB – Oct 4th
Quotes… (updated) – Oct 4th
Fingers crossed – Oct 4th
Great quotes – Oct 2nd
Wall Street vs. Main Street – II – Oct 2nd
Wall Street vs. Main Street – Oct 1st
Yet another plan (Soros) – Oct 1st
Ouch – II – Oct 1st
Ouch – Sept 30th
All about CDSs – Sept 30th
Genius! – Sept 30th
Crisis expanding – Sept 29th
Great quotes – Sept 27th
Redefining “too big to fail” – Sept 27th
Crashing the party– Sept 27th
Rough Landing – Sept 25th
Confused and nowhere to go (updated) – Sept 24th
Street-wise – Sept 24th
One can dream – Sept 23rd
Government bailouts – Sept 23rd
What it took – Sept 23rd
Truth RIP (updated 9/22) – Sept 22nd
Vox clamantis in deserto – Sept 22nd
Finely calibrated reactions – Sept 16th
Fannie and Freddie – Sept 10th
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – Jul 24th
Mortgage meltdown (update) - Apr 1st
Mortgage meltdown – Mar 31st
Housing Stories III – Jul 29th
Housing stories – II – Mar 6th
Housing stories – Apr 5th
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Issues Brief: UNSC Resolution 1887: Packaging Nonproliferation and Disarmament at the United Nations provides much more information on the "back story" - the evolution of the resolution from draft to final version, and country-by-country and issue-by-issue summaries. Its conclusion? That "... the orientation of the resolution clearly emphasizes nonproliferation goals over disarmament, in both the initial draft and the final version of the resolution. The substance of the resolution adds very little to the disarmament objectives already enunciated by the Obama administration..." and that "... Resolution 1887 demonstrates its ambivalence to the NPT review process as a vehicle for serious action. Nonetheless, the revisions made to the resolution between drafts that cater to the NNWS are indicative of the effort, albeit modest, to achieve a successful outcome at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, an endeavor with uncertain prospects for realization."