“Compared to a real-life terrorist situation, what’s missing from these covert tests is the ability to collect any intelligence. That is often the most important part of detecting and deterring a putative terrorist. When you take out the whole intelligence element of it, it really skews their ability to get through.” – Former TSA head John Pistole in Why the TSA catches your water bottle, but guns and bombs get through [at washingtonpost.com]

54 Responses to Quote of the Day: Lack of Intelligence Edition

  1. So if you know the terrorists are coming, you’ll catch them, is that really what this guy is saying? So for 7.3 billion dollars the muj have to send a letter of intent before boarding, or are you expecting them to declare “jihad” as the reason for travel?

    • I don’t think he meant that the TSA had the intelligence, but that the red team had intelligence about the detection abilities, and limitations, of the TSA. On the same note, if one of these “agents” decided to go rogue and gave, sold, or used that type of info, the results could be grave. Ultimately, the security theatre that is the federal apparatus needs to be dismantled and the responsibility of protecting people put in the hands of those who are responsible both morally and financially.

    • Welcome to LA for your Jihad Tour. Blow something up today and enjoy! Do you need rounds for your AK? LOL

    • “Suicide bombing? Good. One vest per person, line up on your left. ”

      “Suicide bombing? ”

      “Oh, no, actually I’m going to visit my parents in Des Moines”

      “Oh… well off you go, then…”

      “Ah, just kidding – it’s Suicide bombing.”

      “Ah, you got me, you joker. One vest per person, line up on your left. “

  2. Well I didn’t realize that the 65 year old guy in the TSA uniform at the airport, who is nodding off at his podium got the daily NSA/CIA terrorist activity reports….I mean how could he possibly do a pat-down without one?

  3. Holy missing the point, Batman! Does this guy not understand the point of the Red Team tests is to see how well security does against a well-informed, unexpected foe? Or does he think most people are dumb or complacent enough to just accept his explanation?

    • “Or does he think most people are dumb or complacent enough to just accept his explanation?”

      Yes.

        • He doesn’t really think about that, this is bureaucratic duck and cover CYA pure and simple, making it up as he goes and hoping the sound bites so generalize it that he gets away with it.

    • We the Sheeple must be dumb and complacent, the TSA still exists after nearly 13 years of abusing our civil rights while giving us nothing in return.

  4. So when they invasively pat down a crying 4 year old kid from Peoria, it’s because they have intelligence saying the kid is plotting a terrorist act? And are they really expecting every potential (real) terrorist to post their plans on Facebook or discuss them on the phone?

    • You hit exactly on the joke that is the NSA.

      The terrorists and just about anyone with half a brain has figured out the NSA cant possibly process and analyze all of the data being passed in and around the interwebz. The system is so easily overwhelmed that it’s laughable.

      Surrendering liberty for the illusion of safety is how this republic will die.

  5. Had to shake my head. During a recent trip, one of our group had a 16 ounce bottle of pepto bismol in his carry on. He wasn’t allowed to bring it. So he went into the store and bought 4 four ounce bottles. THAT was ok.
    WTF?

    • So the tangos have to bring in their liquid explosives in small bottles and pour them into their large empty drink bottle before detonating. Oh, that’s will stop them! thanks Jack! I feel so much safer now!

        • Keisha & Ne-Ne say “I ain’t got no time fo’ dis, don’t be axing me why you can’t take dat on da plane, dat’s what da book say.”

  6. I love how he said that the tests were unfair because the Red team is more prepared that potential terrorists are when one of the fake bombs that go through was just taped to the back of the tester….

    • Here is the problem with all our red team efforts. We typically send highly capable team members who use US TTPs to simulate what the bad guys could do. However, the bag guys don’t have Seal Team Six or Delta capabilities. That doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish their mission only that they will try to do it differently. Training to catch our guys is not training to catch terrorists.

      • Is everyone at TSA missing the point – if a guy wearing a bomb-vest doesn’t make it through airport security, he’ll just blow it up right there in line. Either way, dozens or hundreds of dead people. He WINS ANYWAY.

        Which means, there aren’t any people looking to blow up airports in the US of A, because it would already be happening.

        Hence, the TSA is a worthless joke and a waste of BILLIONS of dollars, not including the wasted manhours standing in line.

        • Lucky for us the terrorist have generally be looking for the next big thing. An airport or mall suicide bomber isn’t good enough for them despite the fact that they could do a lot of damage. An airport really isn’t the ideal target for a bomber because not everybody flies. An attack at a mall or a sporting event would have a much bigger impact because it can happen to anyone.

  7. This is BS. The whole point of consistent security controls – doesn’t matter if it firewalls rules on your network or physical security at the airport – is so that security DOES NOT HAVE to be reliant on good intelligence. Having good intelligence and having a target profile is great and it is an important activity. But if we follow his line of reasoning, then security at the airport depends on having accurate intelligence – which is even more scary.

    A better argument to explain the covert tests is that the testers know exactly how the security works – for example orientation of the xray scanner in the little tunnel – not that that is really hard to figure out.

  8. Is this the TSA equivalent of “what difference, at this point, does it make”

    “Did we totally screw up air travel or make everyone feel safe while actually being less safe…what difference,at this point, does it make”

  9. Let’s be real, I’ve seen the average, run of the mill TSA agent, and an specialized, anti-terrorism unit they are not…

    It’s just a gov’t job with a pension to them, no more, no less.

  10. This is assuming that a large, organized, September 11 style terrorist attack is the only, or even the primary, threat against which we are trying to guard. A shooter acting alone (which seems to be the vast majority of mass shootings/spree killings/whatever in this country) is far less likely to be under surveillance for years leading up to an event.

    Further, if the CIA, FBI, etc. already know or suspect that someone is a terrorist, I doubt their primary method of pursuit would be to sit around waiting for the TSA to pick them up for forgetting a bottle of Pepsi in their carry-on. In that sense, the only way I can see the TSA even having a pretext for running security as they do would be to try to catch the threats that fall through the cracks and AREN’T already being watched. So, Mr. Pistole, contrary to your claims, the tests do accurately reflect the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of airport security.

    • Exactly. The big terrorist attack takes a lot of training and preparation and it is very likely that all or part of the plot will be discovered sending the planner back to square one. The reason that the “lone wolf’ has been more successful is that there is no bureaucratic tail to wag the dog and he can do it on the fly.

  11. The problem with the TSA model of security is twofold:

    1. The entire agency isn’t a security agency, it’s a jobs program for Democratic voters, ie, the low-IQ, low-motivation types who want a steady job with government comp/bennies packages.

    2. Screening of the sort that TSA performs is a very poor security model. If you get past the screener, the inner part of the air travel system is easy to penetrate. There’s no “defense in depth” in our airline security, and that’s because the airlines want it that way. They want no weapons on the flight, they want no non-paying security people on the flights, taking up seats that could be sold to paying passengers.

    The whole thing is a sham.

    Here’s my model of airline security. Everyone, upon boarding, is given (1) one, each, Ka-bar, USMC-issue, in a sheath. Upon debarking, they must return the knife to the flight attendant on the jetway.

    • While a knife is certainly better than nothing in a defensive situation, I’m rather lacking in upper body strength, so could we replace the Ka-bar with a Beretta M9 with one magazine of 9mm? (Passenger will be charged if any bullets are missing post-flight without an incident occurring)

        • Knives only make sense if the other guy is either unarmed or only has a knife too. An airplane is not gonna fall out of the sky if you poke a couple of 9mm sized holes in it. The outflow valve alone for cabin pressurization is over 3 inches in diameter, and there are two of them in the average airliner. Gonna take a lot of 9mm holes to overcome that flow rate. So, yeah, issue me a 9mm. Or better yet, let me bring my own.

    • Maybe first class passengers get to keep the KaBar.

      I could even imagine it being stamped with the airline’s logo (gee, I hope not).

    • “In the event of a water landing, your seat will double as a flotation device. Just remove the seat bottom, insert your arms through the straps, and hold across your chest when exiting the plane.

      “In the event of an attack by a mentally disturbed person or terrorist, your seat also doubles as a sheath for your emergency knife. Just remove the knife from your seat, insert into the individuals chest, and repeat as necessary.

      We know you have a choice when choosing how you fly, and we thank you for flying Delta.”

  12. That’s the problem these days … those pesky terrorists and spree killers often fail to notify us of their intentions before they attack.

    Perhaps we can start blanketing all media outlets with Public Service Announcements asking terrorists and spree killers to kindly inform government before embarking (pun intended) on their missions.

    Uh, waaaaaaait a minute … I think some of the terrorists actually have already notified our government of their intention to harm good people in the United States. Hmm. I wonder what this means for the TSA???

  13. So thats why they pull me out of line and fondle the magentas…They are looking for a water bottle.

  14. none of this security theatre addresses the goal of terrorism.. terror.
    TSA approaches airplane security as if the goal is boarding the airplane. The day a hadji detonates a vest in the screening line on one of the busiest flying days of the year is the day they achieve their goal and the day the TSA starts making people line up outside of the airport. TSA will move the goal post but leave the goal vulnerable.

  15. The “red” team defeats “security” 95% of the time because of inside info. The TSA knew about these weaknesses and have done nothing to remedy them.

    In the course of “normal” operations, are people assuming no weapons are making it to planes? Of course there are unauthorized and undetected weapons reaching planes. Haven’t heard of shootouts, stabbings or violence aboard a U.S. aircraft with secreted weapons.

    As RF has maintained, this is security theater. It’s all about feeling safe.

  16. We can’t even believe that if terrorists announce their intentions the TSA or Fatherland Security would do anything.
    These jihadis are on clearnet social media like Facebook and Twitter discussing their plans and announcing their intentions and still all the mechanisms of the police state are left dumbfounded and surprised.

    The gov like to talk about Snowden and encryption as threats, the NSA as a necessary grace and I have to see any evidence that anyone up to the highest levels of DHS has the slightest f@#$ing idea what anything is or how it is used.
    Should they ever be called out on it the excuse is funding. Because if jihad Joe is using discarded 10 year old hardware and running open source software to plan, hide and communicate then of course DHS needs a billion dollar black budget and quantum computing to scour Facebook and Twitter.

    DHS and the NSA is nothing but a bunch of ignorants and amateurs who still struggle to set up an email account and use passwords like “NS@123.”

  17. Well, just be glad you aren’t getting all the government they are billing you for.

    Imagine how much damage they could do if they used their 7.3 Billion dollars a year to actually try and do something.

    • Aha, this explains it all! Cunning how the CIA was able to videotape this conversation without their knowledge.

  18. THIS is why minimum wage shouldn’t be 15bucks/hour…and what are the qualifications of your average TSA op? IQ of 80? And they want to arm them? I have no idea how 67 out of 70 failures can be explained away…

  19. “…if you take out the whole intelligence element…” I don’t think he realizes just how correct he is.

  20. What, were you expecting him to come out and say “Yup, for the past 14 years we’ve been taking your money and groping your grandma for essentially no benefit to you?”

  21. His argument is, essentially, the same old trope of security by obscurity; if only our opponents (simulated in this case) didn’t have access to info about our security, then they could not defeat it.

    What he, apparently, doesn’t realize is that security by obscurity is no security at all. If your whole security scheme relies on your opponent not knowing the processes by which you secure the target (as opposed to knowing/having the keys/passwords/etc) then you are, essentially, doomed to abject failure at some point, because someone WILL figure out those processes and you will have no defense.

    All of the things he listed that the Red Team is privvy to, and asserts that the ‘terrorists’ are not, are, in fact, probably things that the real opposition (foreign intelligence as well as well organized terrorist organizations, which operate much like foreign intelligence) actually do have some, or total, awareness of already.

  22. This is all rather silly. If TSA really wants to level the intel playing field, all it has to do is call the Saudi royal family and ask them which terrorists they’ve funded this week.

  23. So, he’s telling us that the only way they can find anything is if someone tells them exactly what, exactly who, and exactly where well in advance? X-Rays don’t do anything? He’s actually saying this shit out loud?

  24. I work for the Canadian version of the TSA and he’s full of crap. We don’t get or rely on terrorist watchlist updates or anything to do our work. If agents are missing things during patdowns and on the xray machine it’s cuz they aren’t paying attention.

    If you’ve ever seen an image of a gun from these xray machines you’d see how easy they are to spot. And that’s to people who don’t work at these machines daily.

    Bombs can be much more difficult but it’s really just a question of not paying attention. I’ve seen coworkers miss obvious infiltration tests because they were talking.

    In any case, security theater, etc…

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