Feb 12 2007

Identity Project unwelcome in Washington

Travel expert, author, and Identity Project consultant Edward Hasbrouck was expelled from the World Research Group, Inc. “Aviation Security Summit” conference — to which he had been specifically invited, as an author, and for which he had registered, paid in full, and been confirmed and signed in as an author — this morning in Alexandria, Virginia. A Wired News reporter, who has been promised a press pass, was also turned away when they arrived. [More from Wired’s 27B Stroke 6 blog, including an audio file of the voicemaail message promising their correspondent admission, here and here] According to conference organizer Pamela Masselli, one of the speakers was unwilling to give their prepared presentation with an author in the audience.

There are many objectionable aspects to this story. But let’s just think about what it says about airport security and the people managing it, assuming the claims about the reasons for Mr. Hasbrouck’s expulsion are true:

An airport security director was on the verge of giving a talk, containing sensitive information that it would be dangerous to make public, in a publicly advertised open forum to which the press had been invited and encouraged to attend. This would seem to be prima facie evidence of gross negligence in their handling of such sensitive information, and in failing to verify, before preparing a “sensitive” presentation, that the venue would be a secure one and the audience properly “cleared” to receive such information. Don’t hold your breath, though, for them to lose their security clearance, or their high-level security management job, for this negligence.

Then they proposed as a “solution” Mr. Hasbrouck’s eviction — thereby indicating, presumably, that they intended to proceed with the same “sensitive” presentation in a venue and before an audience that has still been neither secured nor “cleared” to receive it.

Mr. Hasbrouck registered in his own name, and truthfully volunteered his actual profession. But no attempt was made to check ID or verify who registrants actually were, Anyone remaining in the room after Mr. Hasbrouck was shown the door could have been — well, anyone. Presumably, if there were would-be terrorists in attendance, they wouldn’t have registered as journalists (or as terrorists), but in either fictitious or stolen identities.

Whoever saw throwing out the one known author as a way to “secure” the roomful of other entirely unknown people thereby proved themselves enthralled by a security fallacy, and grossly incompetent as a security professional. Sadly, that same fallacy is at the root of most of the demands for credentials and information about travellers. These measures, described at the start of the conference in words attributed to Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff as “keeping bad people out of the country and off airplanes”, are premised on the false assumptions (1) that there exists a complete and accurate list of all the “bad people” in the world, and (2) that such people, when they want to “do bad things”, will use their own identities rather than fictitious or stolen identities.

Perhaps, in expelling Mr. Hasbrouck, the airport security authorities revealed more about themselves and their (in)competence than they would have if they had let him stay.

6 thoughts on “Identity Project unwelcome in Washington

  1. This is so blatantly a case of not just hiding but being so scared that what is being planned is very wrong that I hope there is a big outcry.

  2. Brilliant piece of writing, thank you so much for this. These “privacy” meetings are always allowed total secrecy in Europe, it must drive them bonkers when the meetings take place in the US and American journalists assume they are welcomed because we have a “free press.” Communitarian integration in the US proceeds best when it’s behind closed doors.

  3. This is yet another frightening example of the bumbling ineptitude of those we trust to safeguard our nation. We are doomed to failure, either because we are unable to stop the next big terrorist attack or because our leaders strip us of our rights and freedoms to prevent the next big terrorist attack or because they focus so much on the next big terrorist attack that they fail to prepare for the next big natural disaster. Do these people *ever* question their own abilities or decisions? Are they so blind to their own incompetance or are they aware of it, but refuse to abdicate power to someone that is more capable? I guess it doesn’t really matter. We will continue to encourage and reward incompetance until the mushroom cloud rises over New York. Then we’ll just try to find someone to blame. It’s easier for our leasers to blame someone after the fact than it is to prevent the problem in the first place.

  4. I’ve been waiting for those Flashbacks they promised us for 38 years.
    “Monster-Suicide-America” – Steppenwolf
    Perhaps the real evil agenda will have us believing everything and knowing nothing.
    “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” – George Orwell

  5. Pingback: Public/private partnerships for travel surveillance – Papers, Please!

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