Are Substantial Improvements in Air Passenger Security Readily Available?

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James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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  1. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    Michael notes that he doesn’t have good data on how much improvement these methods will produce. Despite this, he is willing to at least provisionally employ them, a point which I harshly criticize* given the civil liberties invasions the methods entail.

    This is not my position nor even my perspective. James, you have me arguing as a policy maker in your above quote while all I’ve argued as is a citizen.

    If I were a policymaker I would never promote spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a process that is intrusive unless I had empirical validation of its utility, which in this case can be easily calculated prior to purchase. Instead as a citizen I am provisionally willing to assume the government does have empirical validation that this process yields a significant improvement in reducing defects from the past screening process. I’m also assuming that this supposedly significant improvement is the government’s motivation for employing this new process suite rather than cronyism, corruption, or political pandering as others have argued. A primary reason I qualify my support as merely provisional and modestly held is because the actual improvement in screening this new process supposedly affords is classified along with my not having encountered any benchmarking for alternative competing processes, e.g., Israel’s screening process.

    This is as far as I’ve read James.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

      Michael,

      “Willing to employ them,” vs. “willing to support their employment.” I think in this case you’re reading for possible interpretations, rather than the obvious one, since clearly I know you’re not a policymaker. I still don’t understand your position that you’re “provisionally willing to assume the government does have empirical validation” of their effectiveness. I see no reason for such an assumption, and plenty of reason to be skeptical about that, beginning with your own correct statement that the government is under tremendous pressure from the public.Report

    • “Instead as a citizen I am provisionally willing to assume the government does have empirical validation that this process yields a significant improvement in reducing defects from the past screening process. ”

      There is plenty of empirical evidence that this is simply not the case. James does a pretty good job of showing why, in that post. So if you are even provisionally willing to assume this, you’re mistaken.Report

      • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        Pat Cahalan stated:

        There is plenty of empirical evidence that this is simply not the case. James does a pretty good job of showing why, in that post. So if you are even provisionally willing to assume this, you’re mistaken.

        Making a mere assertion which you don’t validate isn’t much of an argument. I’m perfectly cognizant of James’ argument and also have expertise in this area (the process part, not the security aspect), so you’ll need to do a lot better than wave your finger ‘over yonder’ and claim I’m mistaken in absolute terms. Pretty weak tea from my perspective.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley states:

    Michael employs a useful term from his background in the manufacturing sector, “defect rate,” which I like and will use here, defining a defect rate as the number of flights in the U.S. that experience an attempted terrorist attack.

    A bit of a quibble, but you can’t correlate this process to attempted terrorist attacks since there are other places in this process which should also be measured or other opportunities to bypass this screening point. I would instead limit our definition of “defect” at this process point alone (not the plane) where one defect is one passenger who is passes this point possessing materials intended to be used in a terrorist attack of the plane. From this perspective your population passing through this process over this Thanksgiving Holiday is 24 million people which I assume approaches 48 million opportunities given most booked round-trips. That also doesn’t count crew.

    The fact is almost none of these members of the population are a terrorist or someone acting on behalf of a terrorist. Another fact is that our political climate demands zero defects, that is the assumption the government is using to react to this political demand which is near monolithic.

    From a quality control perspective, this is the most daunting challenge I’ve ever encountered, where my background had me working on getting processes from defects in the low hundreds of thousands of defects per million to 7 DPM. As James knows, I’ve argued we need much more focus on reducing the supply of terrorists by reducing demand. I also think we need to focus more on being a more serious people when it comes to confronting terrorism. Both should be much higher priorities than this screening process. I make these point because I don’t want readers to think I’m acting out of fear, naivety, or a defectively optimistic view of screening procedures. Screening is also mere containment of a symptom, it rarely eradicates the source of the defect where this process certainly can’t in the short-term.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

      I note this objection near the end. The problem is that using that standard is a path to not being able to do an analysis because we can’t know the baseline. So we can legitimately quibble about the terminology, but the really substantive issue is the level of safety achieved.Report

  3. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I think it’s odd to look at these numbers from the point of view of personal risk. In fact, the “personal risk” formulation is guaranteed to lead this kind of outcome simply because there are many fewer terrorists than flyers and airplane attacks have relatively limited damage. I’m sure if you re-ran your calculations on the prospect of removing metal-detectors that too would show up as a negligible change.

    But even the terrorists themselves are not motivated by direct casualty rates, so why should our defenses? Even though the 9/11 attacks resulted in many fewer deaths than obesity and drunk driving, the reason they were perpetrated was because of their massive ripple effects on our society as a whole. In that context, I see a 10-fold reduction in attempts as a pretty big deal.

    What really frustrates me is that even though I understand the criticism of the de-humanizing TSA scans and pat-downs, I also remember the way our leaders responded to the last major attack and what that did for civil liberties and human dignity. So my tolerance for protective measures is pretty high given the expected alternative.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to trizzlor says:

      Safety is all that really matters, in th end, because it is individuals who make the choice to fly. Politically, the ripple effects are important, but a zero-rate of potential terrorists getting on planes is impossible, so we have to look at rates. I’m just trying to show that the rate is already so low that there’s not room for really significant improvements.

      I cannot even comprehend your last paragraph. You object to the effect of government’s response to 9/11 on our civil liberties and dignity, so you have high tolerance for measures that negatively effect our civil liberties and dignity?Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to James Hanley says:

        First, I think the approach you’re taking is really commendable, as it gets to the heart of the matter of “how much is too much” with some actual numbers. That said, I also think the metric you’re using is too forgiving and could just as easily lead to the conclusion that we should get rid of all airport security entirely. If, for example, we looked at the overall effect and measured “time to next attempt”, the 10-fold increase in effectiveness you describe would reduce attempts from 1 per decade to 1 per lifetime. Now the improvement doesn’t look so insignificant and can actually have a pretty important effect on the nation’s stability and decision-making.

        To the second point, it’s not one that I’m entirely comfortable with but I think it’s eminently realistic. I classify involuntary civil-liberty violations such as rendition, torture, ignoring habeas, and warantless wire-tapping as much more egregious and despicable than semi-voluntary incursions such the security scans. So I’m willing to put up with a lot more of the latter if it means significantly reducing the chance of the former. I don’t think this is too hypothetical actually, given that we know how the country reacted after the previous attack and I haven’t seen much change in that. That doesn’t mean there’s no line it all, but that the line is firmly based on effectiveness rather than principle (which, to be clear, there’s yet to be evidence of effectiveness for backscatter scans).Report

  4. I wonder, are there any studies out there correlating math and science test performance with cost of security policy?Report

  5. Avatar Heidegger says:

    I’ve seen everything I need to see on the news tonight with regard to the Enhanced Grope Downs. How’s this—a 5 year-old boy forced to remove his shirt during a pat down. Yes, that’s what it has come to. If this does not cause a profound loss of one’s dignity, then nothing does. If Mr. Hanley feels similarly, (especially considering his children), that being forced to undergo such an intrusive, invasive and wholly unnecessary procedure, how do you argue otherwise? Last time I looked, the existing security protocols were 100% successful. How do you improve on that?Report

  6. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley:

    I’m just trying to show that the rate is already so low that there’s not room for really significant improvements.

    James, and this where I’ve really been trying to teach you. You are way out of your element on this one. And Re your hope your not pissing me off. On the contrary you haven’t written one word that should offend me, while I’ve been patronizing in an effort to let you know the paradigm of our discussion here on this one aspect of this debate is not one of teacher/student (you/me) or of equals which is our normal discourse, but in this rare case teacher/student (me/you). Not in regards to the privacy issue where each have a compelling argument, but instead on how the government can optimally think about expectations for what is possible from a process-yield perspective for a pre-board screening process given the near-monolithic political demands they contain all terrorist attempts to commit terror in a plane.

    Allow me to illustrate in hopes the lightbulb will go off. And please don’t think I’m being to disrespectful, I’m not aware of anyone who ever “got this” without being educated on it, our intuition has us arguing from your perspective. The following is an eye-opening experience for people who lived with some owneship for the quality of products they’ve built though I’ve always taught in graphical form though I’m confident you’ll get in textual form here.

    Consider two groups of people, group A and B. Both groups are representative of the exact same population, in this case each is a representative sample of professionals coming from a high-volume repetitive manufacturing environment circa 1970. The difference between the two groups will be the information we provide where we measure their reaction.

    Group A is shown a graph trended over a span of 1 year that represents the number of finished goods which pass the first test process for “Widget A”. The X-axis is all the work days in this year, the Y-axis intersects the X-axis at 0% yield where the top value is of course 100%. The yield of course is the number which pass this test relative to the number tested for that day. It measures the level of quality as a percentage. Production yields in the first month of production averages 70% and continuously progresses through the months. By the end of month 11 entering into our last month, month 12, the average yield is 99% for the last month, some days were 100%, some were less, but the average for the last month was 99% with no progression for that month – the line of best fit for that month was a flatline. The trend line of course slopes up as the year passes until it flatlines in month 12.

    Group B is shown a graph trended over the same time period showing the exact same pass/fail results. The X-axis is the same. Only in this case we use the DPM rate. Therefore the top of the Y-axis is a value of 1,000,000 DPM, equivalent to the other Group A’s graph 0% yield, the value where the Y-axis intersects the X-axis is therefore 0 DPM – a perfect yield. The first month therefore has an average DPM rate of 300,000 month 1 (70%) where the trend line progressively slopes down as time goes by until at the start of month 12 where again it flattens out, averaging a DPM rate of 10,000 though some days had a DPM rate of 0, and some higher than 10,000, but the average for month 12 was 10,000.

    We’ve taken the very same results and put them on graphs which look at these results from two different perspectives.

    Once the two groups understand their respective graphs, you ask them the odds of further improvement and also ask them how big the opportunity is to “increase the yield / “reduce the defect rate”. I have never seen an empirical study on what I’ve observed, however I was formally trained on these concepts by Ford as a Tier II supplier of their’s, helped install this concept into two of our factories, formally taught these concepts to hundreds of manufacturing professionals in our other factories and within our supply base just as Ford taught me, and as a Purchasing Director – formally audited and certified hundreds of suppliers transform their quality mgt. systems by transforming their mindset from Group A to Group B.

    My observation:

    A significant portion of Group A will claim no significant improvement is possible unless some major modifications are done, most of these folks will point to a need by design engineering to make a more manufacturable product (the old “stove-pipe”, “throw it over the wall” mentality prevalent in 1970). They are looking at how close 99% is to 100% on the graph and the fact the yields flatlined for the entire month. The remainder who think improvements are possible think those opportunities are minor to modest.

    Group B on the other hand, usually unanimously, though reluctantly agree significant improvement opportunities exist even without blaming Design. I state reluctantly because their paradigm was always Group A’s so they realize one graph has just blown-away their comfortable paradigm so there is some embarrassment they defectively limited their thinking on what’s possible. Group B, looking at how far 10,000 DPM is from zero and the huge gyrations between 10,000, 0, and output above in 10,000 in month 12 will also universally think that significant improvement opportunities exist.

    In addition, the seeds for moving beyond even this paradigm and into an even higher plane of thinking takes seed with some of the brighter ones (usually the process engineers, sometimes the test engineers as well). The really bright pros in Group B won’t just look at how much opportunity there is between 10,000 and 0, but will also argue they’d be embarrassed to associated with the wide variances of yields in month 12, that we shouldn’t just work on reducing defects, but also reduce the margin of results we see from day to day. This is where people start to think like those who are certified in “Six Sigma” management techniques.

    This is my paradigm James. I see the government held to a 0 DPM standard by the public, especially when it comes to using planes. Certainly the public doesn’t appreciate the enormity of their demand. However I also see this technology eventually holding the keys to significantly reduce the DPM rate to the point I don’t think we’ll see terrorists making a continued effort to bring terrorists/people on planes by mixing-in with the general public or using an innocent to get their stuff on board. I continue to disagree we can only look at a few attempts, I think the government must be held accountable for insuring policies and processes that don’t change this to far more attempts as well.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

      Michael,

      I do get your point, even if I didn’t clearly follow that approach in my analysis. But you have consistently refused to demonstrate that our DPM rate actually is at a rate that is substantially improvable. You’ve said nothing here that actually enlightens me, because you’re reiterating a methodological argument that you want employed, but are not able to actually employ it because you have no data. I will repeat–I reject the idea of implementing an invasive security policy without some actual data, even reasonable hypothetical data like I gave–that supports doing so.

      Out of my depth? Sorry, but in the field I operate in, people who can’t apply their preferred methodologies because they lack any data, but still reject methodologies that actually do have some data, aren’t accorded great amounts of respect. Give me some data that makes your preferred approach actually useful, instead of just hypothetically superior, and maybe I’ll start listening more closely.Report

      • “And I repeat about the public, fuck them and their 0 DPM standard, when it interferes too greatly with my civil rights.”

        This concept is so simple, yet so difficult to grasp. If only there were some kind of structure that maintained individual rights whilst hedging against the madness of crowds. Like, instead of direct democracy, we could have an executive chosen by state legislatures instead of popular vote…if only such a thing existed.Report

      • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to James Hanley says:

        James Hanley:

        Give me some data that makes your preferred approach actually useful, instead of just hypothetically superior, and maybe I’ll start listening more closely.

        This is a pretty childish reaction to the effort I put into putting forth a framework different than your very flawed one. You know the data exists but is classified; if I had it I would of course use it but don’t so I only have my experience to guide me and therefore my arguments have theoretical, modest, and qualified. So killing my argument by forfeit seems both intellectually cowardly and a fairly fierce avoidance tactic. I am not trying to make an argument to swing you to my side being in support of this new process at this checkpoint, I’m instead trying to get you to make your own argument within the context that such screening measures can be an extremely effective tool to contain defects from turning into tragedies – especially in an environment where close to zero defects are demanded.

        Your “fuck the public” is a typical juvenile libertarian response, not because the argument isn’t a worthy one in some cases, gay rights is an example where it is, but because in this case there is a very strong argument to be made contra yours that greater rights exist than your own (unlike the anti-gay argument). I’m not trying to persuade you to jump to the security side, I am arguing your easy dismissal of it is bad form.

        I am not disrespectful of your civil liberty objections though I think you inflate the harm and fail to adequately consider the security benefits. In fact it’s my perception your attempting to not even consider the security benefits, you certainly argue without that consideration. You can do better James, right now you appear to be to one of those ‘utopian to a fault’ libertarians which disqualifies them from serious consideration; that’s a side of you I’ve never seen you demonstrate before.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

          Michael, you dismiss my “fuck the public” comment as juvenile. Rather more juvenile is the attitude that we should all shut up and accept what the government tells us and take seriously the public’s fears when those fears are clearly reactionary and irrational. You keep trying to say that you respect the civil liberties argument, but in fact you do nothing but dismiss it each time you move beyond those mere assertions to actually address it.

          You claim the data is classified, so I should accept your argument. That’s complete BS. There’s enough data out there that you ought to be able to make some tentative evidentiary argument. You haven’t, yet you want me to accept your data-less framework. That’s astonishingly ridiculous.

          I will note once again that to the best of our public knowledge there has not been a single terrorist attempt on a domestic-origin flight since 9/11–over 80 million flights. Why do you think the shoe and underwear bomber attempts were on foreign-origin flights? You say we have to get the security measures down to the level where it deters the terrorists, yet you are confident that the 0 in 80 million number doesn’t suggest that we’ve reached the point.

          Sorry, Michael, but your pleading that you don’t have the data because it’s classified cannot be taken seriously for two reasons. First, there is some public data available, and there are reports from experts on the likely efficacy of these machines, and you have not bothered to incorporate any of that into your argument. You have only a methodological argument, not a substantive argument. One of the things I teach my students is we can’t always use the ideal research method because we don’t have the ability to get the data–so in that case we use the next best method that will actually allow us to get the data. Without data you have no argument. To say that isn’t intellectual cowardice–it’s to force you to stop denying that you have a burden of proof that you’ve wholly failed to meet. Second, you are uncharacteristically naive in taking the government’s claim to have have compelling data at face value. Our government has lied to us far too many times about security issues for me to entertain that notion seriously.

          Finally, you say,

          I’m instead trying to get you to make your own argument within the context that such screening measures can be an extremely effective tool to contain defects from turning into tragedies

          This says that you want me to adopt a context in which the outcome is a foregone conclusion. That’s really intellectually dishonest. Hey, I’m more than willing to consider the possibility that these measures can be effective. Just show me some goddam evidence. And even then you still have to convince me that their effectiveness is worth the cost. After all, a true strip search and body cavity check of every passenger, coupled with a polygraph examination, would be an extremely effective security measure, but I would be astonished if you would consider that to be worth the cost. And before you say, “but that’s a ridiculous example,” I’d like you to to be fair-minded and “make your own argument within the context that such screening measures can be an extremely effective [ridiculous] tool.”Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

          Michael, two further thoughts.

          right now you appear to be to one of those ‘utopian to a fault’ libertarians which disqualifies them from serious consideration;

          For christ’s sake, have I argued for no screening? Have I argued that the government has no role to play? This comment suggests to me that you’ve got your mind firmly closed to even considering the possibility that this new method goes too far, because you react to someone who dares suggests that this particular marginal increase in security goes too far by reacting as though I’ve argued for eliminating the whole process. I think you’re reacting more emotionally than rationally.

          Second, have you actually looked at the ACLU’s page of passenger complaints? I think it’s outrageous for you to simply sluff off concerns about civil liberties violations when real people, your fellow citizens, are saying they felt so violated that they broke down in tears, felt like they’d been sexually assaulted, had to go into the bathroom and cry until it was time to board the plane. Your callous–and I really do mean brutally carelessly callous–disregard for the experiences of your fellow citizens, all because it apparently wouldn’t personally bother you to go through that procedure is really rather dreadful.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Michael Heath says:

      See, the thing is, I’d still look at that and say that the limit of the defect rate with the current process is 1%. The question here is not “how do we make that zero”, the question is “can our business work with a 1% defect rate?”

      You’re doing exactly what Hanley does but from a different direction. He says “the possible improvement is small, therefore we shouldn’t spend resources improving it.” You’re saying “no, the possible improvement is LARGE, therefore we SHOULD spend resources improving it.” You’re both making arguments based on the same numbers; you’re just disagreeing about which way to look at the numbers.

      That said: having worked with the FDA and other government agencies, they’d consider a 99.92% to 99.99% improvement to be well worth the cost.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:

        That said: having worked with the FDA and other government agencies, they’d consider a 99.92% to 99.99% improvement to be well worth the cost.

        Well that explains a lot about government waste, since you’re not specifying how much cost it would be worth. Any cost, apparently, which is an indefensible argument.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

          Yes? I’m not saying that it’s *not* an indefensible argument?

          And yes, the FDA is entirely willing to cost something off the face of the earth rather than ban it outright.

          But, y’know, I can’t really blame them. Despite what I said up-thread about Scary Large Numbers, if a reduction in the overall defect rate is possible then it should probably be employed. The real lesson here is the one that everyone should learn from even the most cursory reading of statistical analysis–that you can’t make a decision based on just one number. “It’s a really big number so it’s good” is just as wrong as “it’s a really small number so it’s bad”.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    James,

    I’m not going to directly argue against your numeric argument until after you’ve had a chance to digest what I’ve written above that takes a completely different tack on this subject, which is the tack the government seems to be employing rather than your’s. Actually it appears their tack is not one of choice but of political survival, President Bush’s and now the Democrats (the GOP as a whole has been very good at avoiding any responsibility for national security these past several years).

    I do want to respond to one of your conclusion’s points where you state:

    . . . you’d be hard-pressed to prove that any individual security measure was an important factor in reducing that frequency.

    I didn’t read the 9/11 Commission Report, but I did a book that covered the lessons learned as they were reported out of the Senate Intelligence Select Committee (the book was written by the Chairman, then-Sen. Bob Graham of FL). That book revealed the government analysis post-9/11 was able to pin-point every failure point under our control. I assume, with I think good reason given what I’ve read since then, that our capabilities since that analysis have immensely improved in terms of our ability to identify our weak points and their relative importance. Not optimally since the government has not been starved for funds that get spent in this area which doesn’t provide the discipline that forces better priorities and more imaginative solutions, but immensely none the less.Report

  8. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    I thought I’d elaborate a bit more on my “tack” comment.

    Your tack is the odds of being on a plane with a terrorist. It’s near nil so even major reductions still make it near nil.

    However, this is not about reducing any one innocent individual’s odds of being on a plane with a terrorist. This is instead entirely about stopping a terrorist from getting on a plane with materials. That is what the government is trying to prevent from happening.

    Does the government need to get the DPM rate to near-zero to eventually eradicate efforts by terrorists? No, not even close given how large the population is of people going through. They just need to get it to the point where the perceived odds are sufficiently low enough terrorists will instead focus on other targets. Now we know these terrorists believe that God is with them so whatever we determine a rational expectation is, it needs to be modified to consider the whole miracle belief as well.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

      Actually, that’s just one of my tacks.

      Again, do you have anything remotely resembling data?

      0 terrorist attempts on 80 million domestic flights is data.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

        This is like saying that because nobody has smallpox or polio anymore, we shouldn’t bother with smallpox or polio vaccinations.Report

        • Avatar D. C. Sessions in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Half right: Nobody gets smallpox anymore, and in fact the vaccine hasn’t been given since about 1980. Polio? Still in the wild.

          Or perhaps you’re suggesting that we should still be vaccinating against smallpox?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:

          This is like saying that because nobody has smallpox or polio anymore, we shouldn’t bother with smallpox or polio vaccinations.

          I don’t see how you come up with that conclusion. I’m not arguing for eliminating airport security. I didn’t even argue for scaling it back from what it has been. I only argued against making it more intrusive. An imperfect analogy, but one that’s still better than yours, is that it’s like saying there’s no need to increase the dosage of the polio vaccine.Report

        • That’s actually a pretty serious debate within the medical community, but I get what you’re trying to say.Report

  9. Avatar D. C. Sessions says:

    However I also see this technology eventually holding the keys to significantly reduce the DPM rate to the point I don’t think we’ll see terrorists making a continued effort to bring terrorists/people on planes by mixing-in with the general public or using an innocent to get their stuff on board.

    Michael, you’re trying to justify improving the reliability of a multiple-single-point-failure system by concentrating on only one point which doesn’t cause failures. There will never — precisely never — be another airplane takeover using box cutters. But we screen for box cutters and ignore other attacks which can bring down planes.

    Consider those lovely graphs of yours (we use log scales, by the way — better math and much more impressive.) Now assume that your process has multiple independent defect modes: one at one PPM, another at 0.01 PPM, and a third at 500 PPM. Yes, you can theoretically improve yield by putting all your efforts into the 0.01 PPM mode — but the customers will never know the difference. What’s more, your chances of being blamed by second guessing are greater when someone finds out that you never bothered to address the 500 PPM mode and that’s the one that’s been causing all of the field returns. What’s more, the 0.01 PPM mode won’t even be visible on the aggregate graph.

    This makes about as much sense as looking for your car keys under the only available street light even though you’d never previously been near it.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

      It’s actually slightly worse. Although no one can demonstrate that we’re not already at 0 DPM, or so near it as to be indistinguishable from it, we’re supposed to implement a system that wouldn’t with any certainty diminish the defect rate even if we happen to not be at 0 PPM, and all the while we’re supposed to ignore the personal costs associated with that system.Report

      • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to James Hanley says:

        James Hanley:

        Although no one can demonstrate that we’re not already at 0 DPM, or so near it as to be indistinguishable from it, we’re supposed to implement a system that wouldn’t with any certainty diminish the defect rate even if we happen to not be at 0 PPM, and all the while we’re supposed to ignore the personal costs associated with that system.

        I can assure you were not even remotely close to 0 DPM. That would be self-evident to anyone with any general expertise in containment screens. E.g., we know there are certain materials which would require human observance to screen – human screens are never close to 0, not even close, especially in this environment where the population is large.

        From my perspective you are putting forth an incredibly weak argument because you are depending on the forfeit of the argument simply because we citizens can’t get at data we know exists and is easily created and modeled. Man-up James. Heh, heh, heh.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

      “There will never — precisely never — be another airplane takeover using box cutters. ”

      But is that because “takeover using box cutters” was a one-in-a-million random occurrence? Or is it because potential attackers know we won’t let box cutters get on the plane? (Even though passengers know it’s necessary to fight back now, I wouldn’t want to depend on a bunch of retirees and children to take down a group of suicidal knife-wielding fanatics.)Report

      • Avatar D. C. Sessions in reply to DensityDuck says:

        But is that because “takeover using box cutters” was a one-in-a-million random occurrence? Or is it because potential attackers know we won’t let box cutters get on the plane?

        It’s because:
        1) They ditched the stupid rule that you should always give hijackers what they demand, and
        2) You can’t cut through into the cockpit with box cutters.

        The same goes for a very long list of other “attacks.”Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

          Ditto what D.C. said. I’d add that we’ve changed the “shut up, sit quietly, and wait to be rescued” rule, too. There was logic to it when you had very high odds of surviving a hijacking (although even then it probably added to the hijackers’ incentives). Under those rules, taking over a plane with box-cutters was a rational plan, rather than a mere “one in a million random occurrence.”

          But in the new game structure we recognize that the “shut up and sit quiet” rule no longer has much logic at all (beyond the standard collective action problem logic of, “sure, you guys lead the attack, I’ll be right behind you”). So what we see is passenger reactions that are more than sufficient to stop guys with boxcutters. That’s the real reason it will never happen again, unless some young bucks end up on a plane full of elderly nuns. I’m not a particularly bold person, but I have in fact been challenged with real knives, rather than mere box-cutters, a couple of times in my life, and have cut myself with box-cutters enough time to know how bad such an injury is likely to be (unpleasant, but tolerable). So even I would have little trouble being, probably, third in line in an attack on box-cutter wielding hijackers. The critical factor is just needing one or two gung-ho types to start the charge.Report

        • So, shouldn’t we more or less gradually peel back the security state to pre-9/11 standards plus locked cockpits and aware passengers?Report

          • Avatar D. C. Sessions in reply to Christopher Carr says:

            Sounds to me like you’re soft on terrorism.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

              I think a legitimate argument can be made on those grounds, but I wouldn’t make it. For myself, while I find the current airport security methods annoying, I don’t find them intrusive. I don’t know enough to say whether there’s any real security gains from making us take off our shoes for scanning, but I can’t get worked up about someone looking at my shoes–they’re not that private.

              Metal detectors don’t bother me. I’ve just learned to adjust my travel wear so that I don’t have much metal on me, but it doesn’t seem like a serious invasion of my liberty and dignity, and it has a pretty obvious upside.

              I think putting all checked cargo through bomb-detecting machines is probably a good idea, assuming they’re effective, etc., etc.

              So I can’t say that there’s any particular method I’d roll back, although on any given one I’d be open to arguments that we could do without it. My primary policy push vis a vis current methods would be to try to make the lines shorter at peak periods.Report

            • I’m definitely soft on terrorism; drugs and crime too. I stand with my bff, math, on those issues.

              In regards to specific policies, I would do almost anything to get rid of ESTA so I don’t have to borrow my mother-in-law’s credit card to pay some middle-men somewhere and prove that my non-registered-U.S.-citizen 18 and 3 month-old-daughters aren’t affiliated and have never been affiliated with the National Socialist Party. Baby Nazi’s are everywhere these days. Thank FSM the good folks at Homeland are putting their largest bureaucracy creation since World War II to good use.Report

    • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

      D.C. Sessions stated:

      Michael, you’re trying to justify improving the reliability of a multiple-single-point-failure system by concentrating on only one point which doesn’t cause failures. There will never — precisely never — be another airplane takeover using box cutters. But we screen for box cutters and ignore other attacks which can bring down planes.

      Uh, no I’m not; this is a very weird assessment of my argument. Obviously a screen at this point must screen for all imaginable materials. The fact it can’t do it for all doesn’t mean it only does it for one we don’t expect to be used again.Report

      • Avatar D. C. Sessions in reply to Michael Heath says:

        Obviously a screen at this point must screen for all imaginable materials.

        Such as aluminum?

        I’m trying to take you seriously but statements like this are like Sarah Palin to Tina Fey. Just repeating them gets guffaws.Report

        • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

          D.C. Sessions,

          You appear to arguing with a strawman in your head.

          In addition I’m not arguing the current capability of the hardware screens solely but instead the total process at this checkpoint, which includes human visual screening of the machine results and pat-downs coupled to what I perceive to be the technological road-map where these new screens are in their infancy.Report

  10. Avatar Heidegger says:

    Oh God, I want to kill myself after reading Mr. Heath’s comments. Could you imagine employing this type of abstruse, compacted, dense, logic and actually coming up with a solution? A provable solution? Not likely. Number of hijacked planes post 9/11. Zero. ZERO. Probability of being a passenger on a hijacked airplane? Zero. Or a close to zero as one can get. Yet a five year old boy is forced to take off his shirt as part of a pat down because politically correct nitwits don’t want to create the impression we are singling out swarthy looking middle-eastern men who just happen to match the look and appearance of 99% of perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, where did I put those hari kari knives…Report

  11. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    Heidegger stated:

    Oh God, I want to kill myself after reading Mr. Heath’s comments. Could you imagine employing this type of abstruse, compacted, dense, logic and actually coming up with a solution? A provable solution?

    I stopped reading your comments soon after I encountered them. Thank goodness for that given my slip-up here. In this case this type of thinking is not merely mine, it is instead the very thinking used by every single repetitive manufacturer who has very low defect rates. It’s now industry standard as its been formally trained.

    The typical difference between those that employ such a standard and those who don’t is the difference between DPM rates in the single-to-double digits relative to those who don’t who range in the high-thousands to tens-of-thousands of defects.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Michael Heath says:

      …so if it costs a trillion dollars to lower the defect rate from 1000 DPM to 20 DPM, that’s worth it because you’re eliminating 980 DPM and 980 is a really big number?

      Seriously, the first question I’d ask in response to your philosophy is “what’s the per-saved-unit DPM-reduction cost?” Because if the cost wipes out the profit on the saved units then it’s not worth doing.Report

  12. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    Let me be clear that I’m not arguing against a DPM approach in general. In fact I think it’s an excellent approach, and I appreciate your continued explanations of it to me so that I grow to understand it better. But I’m arguing that a DPM approach without any data in it is as useless as any other analytical method without any data. To use the example of your charts, you’re essentially standing before us holding blank charts, saying, “We don’t know what the DPM is now, or has been for the past 9 years, or what it will be if we employ procedure X. But trust me, procedure X will improve our DPM rate.” The most polite response to such a presentation would be a politely quizzical stare, and a quick suggestion that we all break for lunch.

    Another way to look at it is that you’re saying, “I don’t have the data, and I can’t get the data, but I assure you that organization X has the data, and that this data I’ve never seen and can’t prove exists actually does support my hypothesis.” How can you expect us to take that seriously? As an empirical social scientist, I never* accept empirical claims without data. The reason we analyze the data is because we know that it doesn’t always show us what we expect it to show us.

    I’ve begun prepping my empirical research methods course for next term, and it keeps running through my head how I’d have to grade a student whose project conclusion was, “I don’t have any data, but you can take my word for it that whatever data might exist supports my conclusion.” And I also keep thinking that you’d have had a pretty short-lived business career if you had ever in fact tried to use this approach without actually having data on the DPM for your firm. It’s because I know you’re not a fool that I feel pretty confident assuming that you always did have the data and were hesitant to make major policy decisions to try to reduce the DPM unless you were actually had some data and could show it to those whose support was needed. With your current argument, you’re not acting as either a good manager or a sharp employee would, which I think is quite out of character.

    _______________________________
    *Except when I’m succumbing to laziness and being a bad empirical social scientist.Report

    • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to James Hanley says:

      James,

      Let’s assume you are the TSA official most responsible for making the decision to implement the current process by supplanting the old one. Let’s also assume you brought your best analytic skills to the initiative and you’re confident this was the best decision.

      Now the media is in your face (we wish) about the materials that (I think) can be seen but not alarmed as explosives (requiring a human observation to initiate a patdown) and also wanting a response on all the complaints the ACLU has been publishing.

      You can’t present your data this process is better and worth the initital patdown failures because it’s classified; so how do you convince the media that this novel screening process provides value, is a net benefit to our security methods, and will improve?

      As someone who had to report monthly and quarterly to senior management, billion-dollar/year customers, Wall Street Analysts, and manage suppliers reporting to our company, I’m extremely cognizant that such reporting requires data. See my attendant comment post at the bottom of this thread (evening of 12/2 at about 8:40 EST) for why I think it’s bad form on your part to discard with my argument simply because the data is classified and therefore not available to me.Report

  13. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    DensityDuck:

    …so if it costs a trillion dollars to lower the defect rate from 1000 DPM to 20 DPM, that’s worth it because you’re eliminating 980 DPM and 980 is a really big number?

    I’m certain it would not be worth improving 980 DPM at any cost because the population of terrorists is so low relative to the total population moving through this process. At that rate terrorists would have a .00098 chance of passing. I speculate the actual rate prior to the installation of this new process was above 100,000 DPM, where the new process provides a technology roadmap to get us to the point they’d avoid even trying. I used the DPM rate mind-set to help get James off of defectively thinking about this issue in terms of us non-terrorists moving through this process and instead onto terrorists. I also used this context because it is how how world-class operators create a context to think in terms of making paradigm-busting improvements in their processes which is obviously required in this process given our past failures.

    From this perspective we know that the odds of any one person moving through in the old system approached zero while the odds of a terrorist passing through this process was high enough they’ve had succeeded twice in their last two tries coupled to our also knowing that current scanning technologies still can’t detect all explosive materials. The terrorists are very rational in making this sort of deployment, the TSA has become rational in its response. Technology and process improvements are our best bet to achieve a point where trying is not worth it; currently that technology is very cost-effective at less than $2/transaction assigned to the traveler.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Heath says:

      the odds of a terrorist passing through this process was high enough they’ve had succeeded twice in their last two tries

      What two tries were those? I do hope you’re not referring to the shoe and underwear bombers, neither of whom boarded their planes at a U.S. airport.

      I speculate the actual rate prior to the installation of this new process was above 100,000 DPM,

      Is this speculation actually based on any real evidence? Speculation’s an awful thin reed on which to support a method that a bipartisan group of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians are all calling a civil liberties violation. (They may be a minority, to be sure, but I want to emphasize that it’s obviously not just a partisan reaction, which would be more easily dismissed as motivated by politics rather than principle.)Report

      • Avatar trizzlor in reply to James Hanley says:

        … neither of whom boarded their planes at a U.S. airport.

        Would you mind expanding on this? Every time I’ve flown back into the US (both Helsinki and Madrid recently) I’ve had to go through a special layer of US security that included all of the fancy domestic practices. Is that not always the case or is that security quantitatively different?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to trizzlor says:

          I can’t say for sure. It’s really an empirical question, and I imagine it varies by airport. When I recently flew back from Dubai, I had to go through a fairly thorough pat down (although still far short of the new enhanced pat down here in the U.S.), but when I flew back from there two years ago, the security was noticeably more lax (I remember, because it caught my attention that we did not have to remove our shoes, and that the screeners of the carry-on bags were chatting with each other far more than they were looking at the video screen.)

          The airport in Damascus, Syria, barely had a security check. Of course they don’t have any direct flights to the U.S., but it suggests the variance that is out there. Also, once in another airport to transfer, you don’t always have to go through another security check. I did this time in Dubai–the stringent check was at the gate–so I don’t want to overstate my case.

          But it’s at least worth asking why the two latest attempts were by people who boarded outside the U.S. It’s at least plausible that the terrorists are seeing certain other airports as softer targets. And as Michael noted, they’re rational. I’m sure they’re flying people through various airports with no immediate nefarious intentions, but just to scout the security measures at different ones. I would if I was them. Come to think of it, I’d like to think our government was doing the same thing!

          It would certainly be informative to get more information, even if, like mine, just anecdotal, about security at various airports around the world.Report

    • Avatar D. C. Sessions in reply to Michael Heath says:

      I speculate the actual rate prior to the installation of this new process was above 100,000 DPM, where the new process provides a technology roadmap to get us to the point they’d avoid even trying.

      The probability of a remotely competent attacker getting onto a plane with his materials prior to the current screening was near as matters 1,000,000 DPM. The probability after this screening is still, to within margin of error, 1,000,000 DPM. Granting, however, your trust in the existence of WMDs in Iraq I will accept a 100,000 reduction to 900,000 DPM.

      The more important question then becomes: why haven’t any remotely competent attackers made the attempt since 9/11? Even granting your estimate of 10% success, one suspects that a 9/10 risk of being caught on the way in would be insufficient to deter a suicide attacker. Yet all we have in ten years are a couple of hopelessly inept wannabes. Dare I suggest that it might be because they’re getting what they want as things are and don’t want to mess with success? That conjecture is certainly compatible with the actual teachings of Osama bin Laden, to name one.

      Meanwhile engineers all over the world keep score over beer coming up with still more ways to get plane-killers past security. It’s a good drinking game because you don’t have to be fully functional to come up with lots of good ones. Don’t mistake me: these aren’t going to be detectable by any technology available outside of science fiction or fantasy. Not unless you’re willing to strip- and cavity-search every passenger, then have them wear issue clothing onboard, with their possessions traveling separately.Report

      • Avatar Michael Heath in reply to D. C. Sessions says:

        Me earlier:

        I speculate the actual rate prior to the installation of this new process was above 100,000 DPM, where the new process provides a technology roadmap to get us to the point they’d avoid even trying.

        D.C. Sessions:

        The probability of a remotely competent attacker getting onto a plane with his materials prior to the current screening was near as matters 1,000,000 DPM. The probability after this screening is still, to within margin of error, 1,000,000 DPM. Granting, however, your trust in the existence of WMDs in Iraq I will accept a 100,000 reduction to 900,000 DPM.

        I assume this a joke; I couldn’t read it any other way so if it’s not please elaborate.

        D.C. Sessions:

        The more important question then becomes: why haven’t any remotely competent attackers made the attempt since 9/11?

        I agree this is an absolutely critical question. It’s in the forefront of my mind when attempting to consider the government’s perspective on this matter. I think we’ve come a long ways in containing threats and minimizing attempts domestically. Most recent attempts inside our border have been incredibly incompetent, which would cause many reasonable people to conclude the managers of these attempts either no longer enjoy sufficiently talented recruits or are so unsure of the success of these sorts of attempts they’re merely throwing scrubs at us either as a Hail Mary or to test our response for a more serious future effort.

        D.C. Sessions:

        Even granting your estimate of 10% success, one suspects that a 9/10 risk of being caught on the way in would be insufficient to deter a suicide attacker.

        I was referring to the old process, not the new, and also estimated the rate of success at least 10% rather than 10%. I’m not sure the terrorists have a very sophisticated position on the odds and if they do, that may be why we’re getting comical recent attempts. In addition they believe God is with them with several validated ‘miracles’ I think has them over-estimating their odds.

        From this perspective it’s my opinion that if the government is going to attempt to reach a point where a reasonable person won’t risk it while not pushing to absurd lengths on infringing our civil rights, they must also realize that the terrorists will overestimate their odds of success, which requires a lower defect goal than if one were dealing with perfectly rational actors.

        D.C. Sessions:

        Yet all we have in ten years are a couple of hopelessly inept wannabes. Dare I suggest that it might be because they’re getting what they want as things are and don’t want to mess with success? That conjecture is certainly compatible with the actual teachings of Osama bin Laden, to name one.

        I think it suggests al Qaeda is a far weaker group operationally speaking than they once were. However I also think the demand for terrorism in general will continue to grow as the century progresses and we need to keep ahead the curve – though I wonder if the focus on building a massive intelligence infrastructure has gone overboard. We’d be far better off crafting foreign policies that decrease the demand for terror, become energy independent, and stop being the primary impediment in refusing to adequately deal with global warming – which should significantly increase the rate of a new type of terror I think might be coming our way in the next couple of decades where I think we must prepare now. This is one reason I look at this process as one in its infancy which can realize significant improvements.Report

  14. Avatar Michael Heath says:

    James,

    Long post hitting all your combined replies since I last visited the site. I’m very disappointed in your response for three primary reasons (R). I’m continue to believe you still do not understand (R.1) my primary objection to your argument (R.2) and my secondary objection. (R.3). Two of the parts of becoming a “seasoned” executive is to force oneself to dispassionately analyze controversial issues and to not let one’s ego get ahead one’s position. My primary argument is your argument is a deeply flawed one, primarily an argument from outrage which avoids this proponents best arguments – therefore beneath you given all the great arguments I’ve seen out of you – including many where I did have strong positions contra yours (where I don’t have a strong position here, but instead a humble one with major qualifiers). My secondary argument is to have you argue your case in consideration of the demands placed upon on our federal government.

    James stated:

    Michael, you dismiss my “fuck the public” comment as juvenile. Rather more juvenile is the attitude that we should all shut up and accept what the government tells us and take seriously the public’s fears when those fears are clearly reactionary and irrational.

    This is a perfect example James. Your very first sentence back to me validates the very concern I expressed about how your arguments are emotional ones rather than worthy of consideration. I’ve never argued we should “all shut up and accept what the government tells us . . .” Instead I’ve argued we should consider the government’s position relative to their national security obligations, the public’s demand, and the obvious need that the efficacy of their process remain classified when we take a position.

    In addition you’ve completely failed to validate the public’s fears are “are clearly reactionary and irrational.” I’m not sure one can, you are framing it as an empirical question when your assertion appears qualitative to me. I also don’t think my position is “reactionary and irrational” and have encountered no arguments or facts from you that would overwhelmingly validate such; I have considered your arguments and continue to as well so it’s certainly an arguable point, but not worthy of someone with your stature using such inflammatory language. In fact I’ve been the one to present the idea that the public doesn’t appreciate the cost it would take to meet their zero defect demand, but there mere ignorance regarding the challenge of achieving zero defects is not reason to claim they’re irrational by demanding an aggressive effort to screen terrorists from using commercial aircraft to terrorize us again.

    James stated:

    You claim the data is classified, so I should accept your argument. That’s complete BS.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever argued you should “accept my argument”. I instead argued that it’s bad form you avoid it by forfeit. From my perception this is your emotions or your ego once again controlling your argument. You want to win your argument rather than develop a better argument that properly considers all the most important factors. Again, I’m not trying to bring you over to my side of the argument, but instead point out how truly atrocious I found your argument, first because you were looking at the wrong population to base your position upon (non-terrorists rather than terrorists) and then because you kept making such inflammatory arguments equivalent to how Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly argue. It’s far more unattractive on you than them since you should know better and have proven far better in the past.

    James stated:

    Without data you have no argument. To say that isn’t intellectual cowardice–it’s to force you to stop denying that you have a burden of proof that you’ve wholly failed to meet. Second, you are uncharacteristically naive in taking the government’s claim to have have compelling data at face value. Our government has lied to us far too many times about security issues for me to entertain that notion seriously.

    I would argue this is intellectual cowardice on your part since you appear to arguing a technicality to get a ‘win’ instead winning on the merits with an argument that considers the oppositions best counters. I also strongly disagree with you that I have the burden of proof though I do perceive you having an arguable position on that issue – given that I would be ashamed of myself if I demanded you had the obligation and if I did previously apologize. And once again, I’m not naively taking the government’s claim at face value, I’ve repeatedly noted that I have expertise in this type of process that gives me confidence in the marginal value of the new process relative to the old process, the value of the screening process itself, and how I envision this process developing into a far more effective screen.

    I stated previously:

    I’m instead trying to get you to make your own argument within the context that such screening measures can be an extremely effective tool to contain defects from turning into tragedies.

    James responds:

    This says that you want me to adopt a context in which the outcome is a foregone conclusion. That’s really intellectually dishonest.

    I don’t think so. I’m certainly quavering on my position and can easily make an argument it’s still not worth it in spite of what I know about the efficacy of screening measures. And it’s not dishonest to ask you to consider that the government is actually attempting to better screen terrorists and their material from getting on a plane where you can say no merely because their data is justifiably and wisely classified. Again, from my perspective you are displaying a juvenile overly-utopian libertarian argument – as a friend – you are better than this.

    You get to reject government power on this topic merely because it’s classified, in spite of the fact the exercise of that power is perceived by respected security experts as a legitimate attempt to screen terrorists from boarding a commercial airliner. Don’t you think you’d have a better argument if you considered this and still ended up with your position? I’m certainly not attempting to avoid any of your arguments. I’m merely requesting you assume the government is acting in good faith that there’s a marginal improvement because an expert (me) can easily discern the marginal utility in this process relative to the other. Of course this last statement doesn’t consider the civil rights implications, which must also be considered and why mere efficacy of this screening measure is not sufficient to win the day. Even if we dismissed the civil rights concerns as being concerning but not overly onerous still wouldn’t win the argument because we and should be skeptical on whether this process improvement is in to competing alternatives. Early in our discussion in this forum I laid-out several factors I thought were key in our considerations, one of them was competing processes – their cost and their efficacy. I brought up the Israeli process (as did many others) as an example to test my qualified support; this morning I found a read an article that compelling argues it’s not an economical solution for the U.S., in fact it appears to not be remotely viable though I’d certainly like an experts’ opinion than Dana Milbanks (whose column is relatively new to my eyes). Here’s that article: http://goo.gl/jhOPJ From my perspective whoever put this meme out there was probably an ideologue with a talking point, I doubt it was an expert who properly understood both the U.S. and Israeli operating environment.

    James Hanley:

    And even then you still have to convince me that their effectiveness is worth the cost.

    I believe I did. There is of course an empirical aspect and a qualitative aspect to your question. Your first blog post on this matter, http://goo.gl/9IPLj , had my very first comment reporting that the cost was about $1/transaction, paid for by the traveler. Now I get this only one aspect the cost of which there are others, such as time it takes for travelers to go through this process and the infringement on our rights this process poses to all us, more so to some (patted-down) than others. And again James, I’m not trying to convince you are wrong on your position; I am trying to convince you are making a horrendous argument.

    James Hanley:

    After all, a true strip search and body cavity check of every passenger, coupled with a polygraph examination, would be an extremely effective security measure, but I would be astonished if you would consider that to be worth the cost. And before you say, “but that’s a ridiculous example,” I’d like you to to be fair-minded and “make your own argument within the context that such screening measures can be an extremely effective [ridiculous] tool.”

    As I’ve repeatedly stated, I think some of the pat-downs reported by the ACLU were clearly wrong and modifications to this new process are in order. But I don’t think a mere handful of outlier results relative to the tens if not hundreds of millions of transactions is sufficient to discard with the entire process that’s recently been deployed. As someone whose made radical changes in processes and then had to face skeptics, including the President and CEO of my company, I’ve got tested experience at considering impassioned arguments and their worthiness when a new process turns out some really bad results (they eventually loved my new method so much I was promoted to be the senior person responsible for implementing this process company-wide.) So no, I think your challenge here is worthy of consideration, in fact I did that equivalent example as a mental exercise to test the limits of my own perception very early in this who dialogue (when we debating this at Ed’s blog). What your example does reveal however is you continue to argue to with Heath in your head rather than the one trying to improve your game. And for the record, it’s not worth it nor do I think it’s needed because I do perceive this new process has the potential to make the odds very low a terrorist would even attempt boarding this way with their attendant materials.

    James:

    This comment suggests to me that you’ve got your mind firmly closed to even considering the possibility that this new method goes too far, because you react to someone who dares suggests that this particular marginal increase in security goes too far by reacting as though I’ve argued for eliminating the whole process. I think you’re reacting more emotionally than rationally.

    I think you’ve got yourself in such a bunch you are now projecting. Consider everything I’ve blockquoted on our dialogue in this blog post and the other and how badly you misrepresented what was clearly stated. I’m the one “suggesting” that perhaps this method doesn’t go too far, you are the one arguing in absolute terms we end this type of screening and patdowns unless you can see data you know can not be feasibly shared. And I’m not sure how or where I’ve demonstrated any emotion or irrationally at all – especially the latter given I’ve only requested you consider all the critical factors while you fiercely argue no, you shouldn’t have to, if the government won’t provide data than you can argue this process should be discarded.

    James:

    Second, have you actually looked at the ACLU’s page of passenger complaints?

    You posted a link at Ed’s blog; I read some, but not all of the stories contained there prior to responding again at that thread. I also put them in context where I believe you put them in context of someone with no experience at all at implementing processes that deal with a very large population where some unintended and unacceptable results occurred. Especially since I’m confident these outlier results can be significantly reduced.

    James:

    I think it’s outrageous for you to simply sluff off concerns about civil liberties violations when real people, your fellow citizens, are saying they felt so violated that they broke down in tears, felt like they’d been sexually assaulted, had to go into the bathroom and cry until it was time to board the plane. Your callous–and I really do mean brutally carelessly callous–disregard for the experiences of your fellow citizens, all because it apparently wouldn’t personally bother you to go through that procedure is really rather dreadful.

    Have you ever managed others in a professional setting? Ever had to make decisions where no matter what you did, people were going to be harmed in a significant manner? I’ll respond to your points here after your reply.

    I have encountered arguments like yours where I was the manager or between the people complaining and a decision maker causing them significant harm. Painful decisions are part of seasoning a young manager with the capability of being an executive, sometimes such seasoning is the only reason to hold-back such talent in order that they can optimally deal with issues where the executive must assume that someone is going to get significantly hurt no matter what.

    Me

    . . . the odds of a terrorist passing through this process was high enough they’ve had succeeded twice in their last two tries

    James:

    What two tries were those? I do hope you’re not referring to the shoe and underwear bombers, neither of whom boarded their planes at a U.S. airport.

    It’s my understanding that boarding screens for in-bound flights to the U.S. must meet our security requirements which by default would mean our measures failed. I am also assuming that the new process has elements which attempt to contain for the failures at these check-points – which of course require human observation and intervention in certain cases since the technology can’t automatically detect these materials as explosives – yet (the “yet” is an extremely important point in my overall qualified support). I am extremely confident that government exhaustively scrutinized every failure point in both of these guys getting as far as they did.Report

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