Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

September 5, 2008

Security theater

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:01 AM

These are words you might have heard people mentioning. What exactly is Security Theater? Basically its security precautions that do nothing to make you safer but look impressive and make you feel safer. What am I talking about? Lets take a couple of examples:

In India if you visit a Mall or movie theater they frisk you before they let you come in. They also check your bags for explosives/whatever before they let you in. 95% of the time I have been to either places they just check me from my shoulder to my pockets. I could be carrying a bomb strapped to my feet or in my shoes and no one would know. So how is it making me safer? Its just an additional hassle that I have to go through everytime I want to shop/watch a movie.

Plus to make things even more secure, girls/women are not frisked. They get to walk in without any checks at all. So if I wanted to blow a bomb all I had to do was find a female crazy enough to believe that killing a bunch of innocent people was a good idea and I got the bomb in without issues.

Now lets take a look at the bag check they have. I have gone to the mall a couple of times with my laptop, (No I wasn’t planning on using it there. I took it with me because I didn’t want to leave it in the car) and those of you who know me know what a mess I carry around with me (chargers for my phone, camera, laptop, bluetooth, My camera, couple of headsets etc) and I know its hard to figure out whats in there unless you know (like I do) or you take everything out and look at it. Every time I have taken it inside the guy didn’t spend more that 30 seconds looking through it. I could be carrying anything in there and they wouldn’t know. In-fact once while flying to NY from kansas I was asked what all I had in bag as the security people couldn’t make out what was in it. I had to tell them what all I had in there (Those days I had a blackberry, ipod with their chargers in addition to everything above) before they let me board the flight. So I know you can’t look through the bag in 30 seconds.

So what does all this do? It makes people feel safer. The public sees something being done and is happy. The people in-charge can point to these measures and claim that they are taking actions to protect people. In reality nothing changes to reduce the threat.

Second example: In the sector where I stay all cars leaving the premises after 10 pm have to be logged with the house no where the owner stays. This is supposed stop people from stealing cars from the sector. My question is simple: What is stopping a thief from saying he is from B-xyz and then happily driving away? Nothing. Is there some list where all the cars in the sector are listed? Nope. So the guard has to believe what the person driving the car tells them. So how does it make the sector safer? It doesn’t. What makes people safer is the guards patrolling at random intervals and the patrols. This check at the entrance is just irritating and of no particular use.

Are there other examples of security theater? Absolutely. Though I am not going to go through all of them here ’cause that can fill a book.

Stop being so scared people. If you act scared, they win. Live your life normally. Don’t let terrorists win. When I was in the US in 1999 I was told not to go to Times Square for New Years eve as it was a terrorist target. Guess what I went there and had a blast. If I had acted scared and not gone I would have missed a once in a lifetime experience (I am pretty sure I won’t be around for 2999 celebrations) and nothing would have changed.

I am not saying don’t take basic precautions but there a difference in taking precautions and living scared. Don’t let them win.

– Suramya


  1. Excellent post. Here in America, we have so much of this S.T., it drives me absolutely crazy. Our whole “Terror Threat Level” system is laughable, our airline security is an utter joke (we cannot take over a few mL of any liquid on flights now, because they’re worried about impossible-to-make binary bombs). But people think it’s making them safer…

    Comment by Mike Palumbo — September 15, 2008 @ 4:17 AM

  2. yes- removing the cans is kinda dumb. But then, if you think about it, our police & military are so understaffed and under budgeted, they can’t devote the resources to look through trash cans.
    US created ‘transparent’ cans. PATH never even had trash cans. But they could do so because of their budget and the money that went into anti-terror activities.
    Our police are only doing the best they can given their pitiable situation.

    Comment by Subhi — September 30, 2008 @ 12:29 PM

  3. PATH never even had trash cans

    I hadn’t noticed that.

    Comment by Anomalizer — October 22, 2008 @ 11:07 PM

  4. Well, PATH was a closed system where No food or drinks were allowed so the lack of trash cans wasn’t that badly felt.
    Infact in 8 years I don’t remember needing a trashcan and not finding it.

    However in the case of Connaught place (CP) the whole area is full of street vendors and they sell food/drinks. So the cans are a lot more required and needed. I noticed the lack within a couple of hours after I got there.

    Doesn’t that tell you that there is a big need for them? The lack is certainly not stopping terrorists but is certainly helping in reducing the cleanliness of the area.

    Comment by Suramya — October 22, 2008 @ 11:45 PM

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