Bruce Schneier: that's not what I meant!

By Richi Jennings. May 10, 2010.

In a soberly worded response to Friday's edition of The Long View, Bruce Schneier clarifies that he didn't expect anyone to think he believes that 9/11 made us safer.

I'm indebted to Bruce for clearing that up. In his response, he comments:

Terrorist attacks have a secondary purpose of impressing supporters back home, and 9/11 has upped the stakes. ... From there to 9/11 making us safer is quite a leap. ... I suppose by extension we might be safer because of it. But you'd also have to factor in the risks associated with increased police powers, the NSA spying on all of us without warrants, and the increased disregard for the law we've seen out of the U.S. government since 9/11.

Or, as Daniel Staal interpreted it:

He's saying ... terrorism has become an all-or-nothing proposition: Either you pull of something spectacular, or you fail. And the more spectacular you try to be, the more likely you are to fail.

Thanks, Bruce; apologies for misunderstanding your post. And thanks for being a good sport about it. 

While I'm talking about Friday's post, the subject of using NoSQL for the No Fly List bubbled up in one of the Slashdot threads. Thinking about this some more, I didn't really mean 'NoSQL' so much as a replicated database. As many commentators pointed out, the No Fly List is hardly likely to be a massive data set. Replicating it quickly and reliably should be a well-understood problem. Alternatively, real-time access to a centralized list might be an option.

In any case, a 24-hour window for checking changes against passenger lists is utterly bonkers. Reducing it to two hours is only marginally better. And I'm waiting for the privacy outcry when mainstream media get hold of the 'news' that airlines will be sharing passenger lists with the government. (Of course, international passengers entering the U.S. have been subjected to this type of system for more than two years.)

Think about reservations systems. It's important to be able to reliably book seats on planes from anywhere in the world. If American Airlines could implement SABRE in 1960, allowing wide-area access to it by the late 1970s, why is a similar system so difficult in 2010?

Incidentally, I'm endlessly fascinated by the '9/11 truthers' who believe -- apparently sincerely -- that the U.S. government deliberately murdered 3,000 people as a pretext to start wars with those they considered evil and/or to violate the Constitution. (Not to mention the amusing diversion into whether Barack Obama's relatives said he was born in Kenya.)

Richi Jennings, blogger at large

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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