Bruce Schneier: The War on the Unexpected

by Volker Weber

We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.

Bruce does not only analyze the situation, he also has advice:

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. ... Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong.

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The best example of the war on the unexpected in the UK was that unfortunate incident on the tube wherein an innocent man was shot, having been mistaken for a suicide bomber - and that was the police themselves. No member of the public reported anything.

The police were recently found guilty of a breach of health and safety law as a result - darkly amusing, given that the health and safety of at least one man were clearly compromised though it was not the damage to his health and safety that directly gave rise to the prosecution.

The evidence presented during the case however shows clearly exactly what Mr Schneier describes - a succession of escalations and innocent behaviour being found suspicious (e.g. he got off a bus, then back on it, which no non-terrorist would ever do, obviously).

Chris Linfoot, 2007-11-02

the entry before this one about the liquids ban is also a good one. If I were not asked everytime at the airport whether I have liquids in my handluggage, I would laugh. But the thinking of those guys scares me...

House of Lords on the Liquids ban

One of the comments brings it to the point:

Bert: I said you still have that banana in your ear!

Ernie: (loudly) Yeah, I know!

Bert: You know? But why did you put it in your ear?

Ernie: Listen, Bert, (loudly) I use this banana to keep alligators away!

Bert: Alligators??? Ernie, there are no alligators on Sesame Street!

Ernie: Right! Works pretty good, doesn’t it, Bert?

Ernie and the Banana

Armin Auth, 2007-11-02

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


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