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Bruce Schneier On the Marathon Bomber Manhunt 604

Should Boston have been put in a state of lockdown on Friday as police chased down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Pragmatic Bruce Schneier writes on his blog: "I generally give the police a lot of tactical leeway in times like this. The very armed and very dangerous suspects warranted extraordinary treatment. They were perfectly capable of killing again, taking hostages, planting more bombs -- and we didn't know the extent of the plot or the group. That's why I didn't object to the massive police dragnet, the city-wide lock down, and so on." Schneier links to some passionate counterarguments, though. It doesn't escape the originator of a recurring movie plot terrorism contest that the Boston events of yesterday were just "the sort of thing that pretty much only happens in the movies."
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Bruce Schneier On the Marathon Bomber Manhunt

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  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Saturday April 20, 2013 @12:59PM (#43504353)

    Two devices went off, police were looking for two suspects... there was no particularly strong evidence that there would be dozens of people out there or something. I suspect it comes down to just the word "terrorism" causing people to refuse to apply the kind of logic they normally apply.

    I've lived in neighborhoods where people were shot, and the gunman was an fugitive. It was more likely in those cases that there could be wider involvement of a larger group, because often people who perpetrate shootings are gang members. While it's rare, occasionally these fugitive scenarios actually do end up in a shootout that involves a dozen people. Yet, the police don't lock down all of Atlanta every other week just in case.

  • Home of the Fearful (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jazman_777 ( 44742 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @01:03PM (#43504385) Homepage
    America is a land of fear. It is easy to paralyze us, we are already just short of paralyzed by fear all the time anyway.
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @01:14PM (#43504465) Homepage

    The worst outcome of this isn't necessarily that Boston got locked down, although that's definitely worth discussing.

    The worst outcome is that lockdowns are becoming more and more common, far out of proportion to the actual risk. Once it becomes normal to lock down an entire city in response to a very real and significant threat, it then becomes much easier to feel normal about it when we lock down an entire college campus because a mentally ill homeless person made some faculty or staff uncomfortable. It becomes normal to do what some community colleges in my area are doing, which is to have an active shooter drill once a year in which adult college students are locked in a dark room for 30 minutes and told they can't leave. (This passive response is, BTW, not at all in line with what experts recommend in such a situation.)

    Destroying 30 minutes of instruction for a whole campus and violating students' civil rights is way out of proportion to the risk of getting killed by an active shooter, which for a college student is on the order of 1 in 300,000 per year. A college student's risk of being a victim of rape, robbery, or assault is about 1 in 100 per year, but we're uncomfortable dealing with that -- in fact, there is a wave of lawsuits right now by women who say their rights were violated when their colleges refused to take action about their being raped.

    To use an analogy suggested by Scheneier, active shooters and the marathon bombing are like shark attacks, and other violent crimes are like dog bites. The number of people killed by dogs every year is much, much greater than the number killed by sharks. But we find shark attacks much more psychologically compelling.

  • by RabidReindeer ( 2625839 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @01:36PM (#43504613)

    If two people with makeshift bombs can cause a major city to go on lockdown, isn't the message to terrorists that a multi-city disruption -- say, shutting down from Boston to Philly -- wouldn't take very many people or that much coordination?

    Our only real defense against terrorists is that terrorists are A) stupid and B) incompetent. Terrorists fixate on certain targets, such as airplanes. We all know that if you wanted to disrupt air transportation these days, the airplane itself is one of the least vulnerable targets, but they keep focusing on the airplanes.

    As for the stupid part, Wile E. Coyote could do better than most of them.

    Only where something new and radical is tried do they tend to have success, and that generally isn't repeatable. We adapt. They don't.

  • Re:Slippery slope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @02:08PM (#43504833) Homepage

    I am, for example, *FAR* more likely to be run down by a taxi or MUNI bus while crossing the street downtown than I am to be killed in any kind of terrorist attack.

    Massachusetts averages less than one traffic fatality per day []. If you were in the Boston area yesterday, it would not be an unreasonable calculation to think the risk of being killed by a terrorist - who was known to be armend, dangerous and in the immediate vicinity - was at least as high and potentially much higher than that of being run down while driving or crossing the street.

  • by jopsen ( 885607 ) <> on Saturday April 20, 2013 @02:09PM (#43504845) Homepage
    Maybe, but notice that the fear was created, not by terrorist, but by:
    1) Politicians scoring a cheap leadership point, and
    2) The media pushing ads with a "good" story,

    This might very well have been way out of proportions.
    I think the politicians eat it because it was great chance to show leadership, and the media loved the idea of doing live coverage for hours on end...

    End result, more fear... but I'm not sure it was the terrorist who scared you.
  • Re: Slippery slope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cduffy ( 652 ) <> on Saturday April 20, 2013 @02:17PM (#43504909)

    I just cringe at the thought of someone who's life was affected reading some of the comments in this discussion.

    Far more lives were affected by the lockdown than by the bombing itself. Who are these hypothetical "someone"s you speak of? The victims' families?

    You can't predict an individual's reaction any more than I can -- I can only predict my own. I'll tell you this: Civil panic would be a horrible way to "honor" the death of one of my loved ones. Speaking only for myself -- the only person I can speak for -- I would find no offense, and perhaps even some small glimmer of comfort, in my community and country opting to follow the British war slogan: "Keep calm, and carry on".

  • Re: Slippery slope. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 20, 2013 @03:18PM (#43505287)

    Do those shootouts involve bombing suspects throwing pipe bombs that are clearly very inclined to cause further intentional civilian damage?

  • Re:Slippery slope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @04:48PM (#43505841)

    In retrospect, it's interesting that the bomber didn't kill more people when they actually had the chance. During their escape, they held up a convenience store and stole a car --- without shooting the robbery victims. An interesting artifact of human psychology, even at its most twisted: the terrorists willing to blow up random strangers weren't willing to look a shopkeeper or driver in the eye and shoot them; in panicked flight and personal contact with potential victims, they showed far more restraint and respect for human life than their premeditated impersonal cold-blooded murders just hours before.

  • Re:Slippery slope. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @05:02PM (#43505931)

    31,076 gun deaths in 2012.
    20,000 of those were suicides. Since the US suicide rate is comparable to other countries [] it seems that those people would commit suicide anyway by other means if a gun weren't available. It is dishonest to include this statistic in a gun regulation debate.

    Out of the remaining 10,000, take out those committed by felons (who are banned from owning guns anyway) who wouldn't care about any gun laws, plus justifiable homicides in self-defense by citizens and by the police, and you find that number beginning to look far less impressive.

    Now, you have to ADD the number of people who would have lost their lives if they did NOT have a gun ( [] )

    Then you have to decide if the number of deaths is the only criteria to consider. Is it better to increase the rape statistics by one or to add a dead rapist to the "gun death" statistic? You can "improve" all kinds of statistics very easily: banning driving over 5 mph with 20 years prison penalty for violations would overnight save 10s of thousands of lives each year. Killing a healthy person and harvesting his organs to save 5 dying patients would improve statistics too - 1 death is better than 5, right?

    Then, even the proponents of Feinstein/Obama style gun laws (such as banning black plastic guns but allowing brown wooden ones, limiting capacity etc) would admit in the end that they won't make a single bit of difference. After all, those exact same laws were tried before by Clinton so its not like we don't know.

    Finally, none of the above matters. It's a basic human right to defend one's own life and the lives of one's family and the only way to do that realistically is by owning a gun. By denying someone that right you are denying them their basic humanity and treating them as interchangeable part of a machine, to be sacrificed if needed as long as the machine as a whole would benefit as measured by some statistic.

  • Re:Slippery slope? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ColoradoAuthor ( 682295 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @06:01PM (#43506257) Homepage
    Did anyone else listen to this on a scanner? It's amazing how many times the dispatcher had to remind officers to exercise discipline and to follow the orders which they had been given. Apparently many officers felt compelled to converge on any suspected sighting, abandoning their assigned lookout posts. In general, I was impressed by the police response, but it was far below the standard that would be expected in many other cities.
  • by SplashMyBandit ( 1543257 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @06:04PM (#43506269)

    It is the result of the indoctrination of Cultural Marxism. While Marxism was defeated economically in the Cold War the Marxists of the Frankfurt School were clever enough to plant the seeds of Cultural Marxism in the universities, where it has grown ever since the 1960's. Pretty much university graduates in the States have been subjected to that narrative. That means politicians (low-fact guys at the best of times), university professors and decision makers of all stripes have their thoughts influenced by this narrative. This is the same narrative that guides Hollywood and now seeps into popular culture. It is so pervasive that many American citizens can't see it anymore, and thence vigorously deny that they are indoctrinated at all. We can see this working in the Occupy movements, the false narratives about US foreign policy aims, the complete misunderstanding of the history (the Republicans were founded to end slavery and have always been about *equality* [no special treatment]; the Democrats were pro-slavery, and fought emancipation).

    Yes, this is a bold claim. Before you rant that I'm some paid agent of some American conservative (I'm not, if I could get paid for telling the truth I would) please watch this two hour video about the history of Cultural Marxism. Once you are aware of it, you will see the transparent bars of the Matrix that many Americans (particularly those on the political Left/Democrats that haven't cross-checked the facts about their memes) now live in: []

    ps. as a non-US foreigner I liked your post. Very insightful!

  • Re:Slippery slope? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KGIII ( 973947 ) <> on Saturday April 20, 2013 @06:07PM (#43506287) Journal

    Your main concern isn't the increases in government power, control, and loss of freedom but is, instead, about money?

  • Re:Slippery slope? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday April 20, 2013 @10:53PM (#43507365)
    That's almost a divide by zero error since terrorism is rare in the USA. Pick just about any unlikely but real cause of death and you'll get similar results.
  • Re:Slippery slope? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Concern ( 819622 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @07:26AM (#43508673) Journal

    Wow - you felt like this was the right time to beat the "tort reform" horse?

    Dead civilians, dead cops, and you pulled that hoary old saw out of your trove of political hobbyhorses?

    By the way - you can let it go.

    Visit China or Mexico or India. The courts have no power over the rich in those places, and safety measures are considered a foreign luxury. If while at work on the assembly line, you lose your hand en la Máquina then there's no system at work to tell anyone it should have had a simple safety feature to keep your hand out - you were the careless one, after all - so you just go on the street to beg with your other hand, with the crowd of other one-handed people. Your life is worth less than the little money and effort a bit of safety engineering would cost, in those places.

    Oh, for the millions of people it benefits, a small percentage of people abuse it - just like health insurance, taking fake sick days at work, the welfare system, the military procurement system, and every other human system ever invented, except at least in the case of torts, you have to fool both a judge and a jury to do it. It's actually one of the least abusable systems we have. If only everything else worked that way.

    And yet, propagandists will try to convince you to be riled up over someone who got a jury award in a courtroom because they want to distract you from a banker who got a bonus on a bailed out bank, or bribery in congress, or a drug company who thinks quality control is a big government intrusion onto their profits.

    Even that lady who got millions for spilling McDonalds coffee on herself... didn't get millions for spilling coffee on herself. She got $640k, in the end, because McDonalds decided to serve coffee 40 degrees hotter than everyone else, and when it spilled on her lap, she suffered horrific agony, massive burns on her vagina, needed skin grafts, and her medical treatments continued for two years. McDonalds already knew they were injuring hundreds of people like her, and even paid out up to half a million in the past in settlements, but they couldn't be bothered to tell people to turn down the knob in the coffee makers to where everyone else sets it. And the manager of that particular location was a douche, and decided "no one should get money for spilling coffee." Well, if you make it hot enough, you do injure people, to the point where it shocks the conscience. (reference []) Amazingly after this case the knobs got turned down and the coffee went to normal temperature and everyone stopped getting hurt.

    This is why I say you can let it go. Get outraged about legal bribery (Citizens United, etc), bank bailouts and billions of military budget dollars wasted and lost that was supposed to go support our troops. If you really hold on to tort reform so much that it seems relevant in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, go live in one of the many earthly paradises that has no tort, and see for yourself what it's like.

  • Re:Slippery slope? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:03PM (#43510263) Homepage Journal

    In my observation, the average grunt cop is intelligent enough, but incredibly narrow-minded. We're the cops, and everyone else are potential perps, to put it in a nutshell. Misuse of intelligence, one might call it.

Forty two.