Security rules

 

       I understand the need to counter terrorism and mad violence by evil people.  As a survivor of the Brighton hotel bombing and of other terrorist threats in previous years, I do grasp the serious risks there can be.  I sympathise with the authorities as they seek to place enough barriers to  extreme action as possible to protect big international events in the UK.

        What I find curious is the risk analysis that seems to underly some of this security thinking.  Large sporting events these days attract physical security checks and scans for all entrants. Airport security is especially strong, as there have been past attacks mounted by bombers of airplanes. Yet there are no security checks of any kind if I go by train or bus.  This is despite several bad attacks on public transport both in the UK and abroad.

        The evidence of  past security service successes is that the best way to stop terrorists is through eavesdropping and infiltration of their networks and communications. The UK security services have been successful at intercepting several bad terrorist plots before they got to the day of terror. There is less evidence of major finds through individual security scanning, though its defenders would doubtless say it acts as a deterrent.

         What is strange is the idea that we need comprehensive and strong screening at events, but not at stations even where those stations are being used by large numbers of people going to the events. Some of the events I have been to seem far less likely to be at risk than say a busy London terminus station, as they do not have the same visibility or ability to do so much damage.

            I think the securitty forces should review what they do, and look again at what is actually working. We seem to have all or nothing when it comes to security checks. Maybe there should be random checks at places that do not normally get checked, and more risk based checks at places where they currently check everyone.  Part of good security can be varying what you do, to keep the terrorist planners guessing and uncertain.

                     In all the discussion of the failure of G4S to recruit all the promised guards, there has been no discussion of how many guards do we really need, and what they are going to do to make sure we are safe. Sometimes greater intelligence and quality is the better answer than sheer weight of numbers.  If everyone does need to be searched on entry there have to be many entry points, and sufficient  people well trained to spot any problem.

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35 Comments

  1. Adam5x5
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    and more risk based checks at places where they currently check everyone.

    (draws contrast between two different profiles and argues for risk based checks-ed)

    The idea of being able to stop all terrorism activity is ridiculous – read Wasp by Eric Frank Russell. An independent operator, acting alone, is nigh on impossible to stop.

    Seems to me though, with the current security set up at the sports fair we’re about to have the pleasure burden of holding, the easiest way for a nefarious type to get in and cause damage would be to apply for a job at a certain security company. After all, they don’t even know if their contractors can speak English…

    Yet there are no security checks of any kind if I go by train or bus.

    Simple cost, benefit analysis. Planes depart and arrive at very few locations, and can cause casualties and fatalities in the hundreds (if not thousands) if they are deliberately crashed into buildings, cities, chemical plants, etc. Thus beefing up the security at these sites where passengers are forced to bottleneck anyway is relatively simple and cheap – making the cost/benefit worthwhile.

    Trains and buses are part of a far more dispersed transport network, with literally thousands of places to embark/disembark. Also, cold as it may sound, a bomb on a bus will do nowhere near as much damage as a plane flown into a large, central London office block. Therefore it is just not worth the time and cost of checking everyone on such networks.

    The London Underground might be an exception due to high passenger numbers, confined spaces and a small network – although checking everyone would still be very expensive. As you suggest, profiled checks would be the way forward, but again the bleeding hearts would cry foul that poor little Mr.(terrorist-ed) was being unfairly targeted. After all, isn’t it everyone’s human right to blow themselves and other people up?

    • Alistair M.
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Broadly correct;

      It’s cost-benefit analysis; some points are easier to defend than others. $-per-life defended etc. But the numbers still don’t add up.

  2. norman
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Part of the problem is you’re not allowed to profile so random checks wouldn’t work – it has to be all or nothing.

    If you let an 85 year old wheelchair bound granny slip through unchecked then pulled a shifty looking 25 year old man of middle eastern appearance aside it would be raaaaacism.

    • Sue
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Yes. It’s the profiling. I know someone that worked at Luton Airport in security and he told me they were not allowed to search people that would normally be profiled as a “risk”. Total idiocy!

      • zorro
        Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, it is a charade. If we were faced with determined terrorists, they would surely go for far easier, accessible high value targets than airports. After the highly suspicious ‘underpants bomber’ episode there was a clamour to introduce expensive scanners by an American company which jus happened to be a client of the Chertoff Group (security consulting group) (etc etc)

        zorro

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      Profiling and uncontrolled immigration.

      Both make a mockery of security.

      No where has the tolerance, fairness and fortitude of the English people been acknowledged on issues of multiculturalism.

      No one defends us when there are accusations of endemic racism in this country.

  3. Dan
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Very good points, it is unrealistic to have airline level security for Trains or buses so we do nothing, and airlines level of security is a symptom of the something must be done and this is something culture.

    In terms of the Olympics one of the reasons for the searching is the protection of sponsors, so you can not bring in food or drink so you are forces to buy from the facilities of the corporate sponsors, potentially legitimate but not security, and we will now end up with soldiers doing both functions.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      There is a lot of emotion in it, in particular the reason why airport security is so great is the sheer horror of a plane being blown up in the air but not dying for a slow 30,000 feet on the way down.

  4. alexmews
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Hi John

    While I agree some of this might be overdone – the argument as regard to the Olympics is that a successful terrorist spectacular would be live on television, globally.

    I personally think that part of the reason security is so tight at airports and not on trains or buses is because many people fear flying enough as it is. It is a human thing given that flying is so unnatural. Rather than see a complete collapse in air travel after 9/11 folks put together a tighter regime to reassure passengers they were unlikely to be blown from the sky. The ban on liquids and gels happened after then”shoe bomber” was intercepted at airport security.

    • Single Acts
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      The ban on liquids came about after this not the shoe bomber

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_transatlantic_aircraft_plot#United_Kingdom

    • Dennis
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Security is not tight at airports – it is non existent except perhaps after the security checks making pre check-in areas the most dangerous civilian place to be in the world in my opinion. That Mr Redwood did not mention this citing only railway and tube stations perhaps means he has not thought of this thinking that ‘malcontents’ also haven’t.

  5. alexmews
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Written as I board a plane….

  6. Bazman
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Absurd and pointless security arrangements could be solved for very little money by issuing everyone with a cheap AK47 and concealed pistol, but what is the government doing about the ridiculous gun laws that prevent this happening? You cannot outlaw guns. If you do as we have found criminals are the only ones that have them. I trust Mr Redwood you will be with me on this and allow us to follow Americas shining example. What is needed is light tough regulation. Would any theft be carried out if the suspects feel they will face fully automatic weapons and possible booby traps? I think not. Common sense will prevail and should be applied. Sponsorship by Smith & Weston, the innovative company Glock and many other British and American arms dealers will further enhance the games. I for one would feel much safer drinking my £7 quid pint knowing other £7 pint drinkers will be watching my back whilst I read Guns & Ammo.

    Reply: This satire goes too far for me.

    • Single Acts
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      One suspects a Guns & Ammo reader would know it is Smith & Wesson

      • forthurst
        Posted July 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        Not all of them.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Whilst US murder rates are >5x the UK’s, the US has lower rates of burglary, assault, assorted other violent crimes etc. I have previously read this put down to two reasons (i) guns => higher risk for no extra gain if breaking in, assaulting etc., and (ii) long duration sentences – just locking people up so they are not back on the street (presumably just spend miney on incarceration rather than rehabilitation).

    • Bazman
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      The satire of reforms to employment laws, the NHS further taxation of the poor by those pasty faces who would not last five minutes in the circumstances they prescribe which is mainly in the defence of big business, goes to far for me and much of this nonsense comes from middle aged men in jobs they seem not to have the insight to carry out. Red neck Guns & Ammo beliefs wrapped in respectable middle class niceties. Ram it.

    • Alistair M.
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Actually, I’m OK with the concealed pistol. If someone passes a pych evaluation and a firearm proficency course, then I’m fine with arming them. Wouldn’t mind flying in their company at all.

      Even if only 1 in 20 of the “normal” passengers carried light arms, it would make hi-jackings completely unfeasible. ..

  7. oldtimer
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    These seem to me to be very valid points. It is difficult to see any satisfactory alternative to the eavesdropping, infiltration and interception that you mention. If terrorists want to disrupt an event all they need do is explode the device before they reach the security checks.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    John

    Whilst I take your point the difference between a train and a plane is simple

    On a train (or a stadium) it is only the explosion which kills, in a plane it is not just the explosion (which may be small) but the crash, so it is a total loss, plus ground damage if over a city.

    Intelligence is ok, but at what point do you draw the line on contacts, manpower and costs. if you are tracking one person 24/7 and they speak to 10 people, do you then track all 10 people they have spoken to, and then those 10 people speak to another 10 people.

    Given it takesabout a team of 20 people to track one person 24/7 you are then into nearly 2500 people tracking, and you have only got to the second line of contact.

    Surely far better to arrest these people (allow intercept evidence) and jail them for lesser crimes (if guilty) rather than just letting them roam the countryside.

    Likewise strengthen border controls and deportation rules.

    • Sue
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Yes. It doesn’t help if we can’t enforce strict border controls and lose the ability to deport terrorists.

      • zorro
        Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        It certainly doesn’t…..

        zorro

  9. Martin
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    A few years ago whilst holidaying in France our car broke down and had to be trailered home ( it was after all August and no French mechanics were working !)
    Arriving at Calais as foot passengers our baggage was searched and x-rayed and we all had to pass through airport style metal detecting security gates. I’m sure all the other ferry passengers felt much safer knowing that the dozen or so foot passengers had been thoroughly screened.

  10. Simon_c
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Most of the security decisions are made form the “economic” view point of the person making the decision, not from an overall analysis. So if someone in-charge of security for Olympic venues is told there’s theoretical risk of X, but spending Y will make it go away, they will choose to spend Y, no matter if Y could buy better security elsewhere. Afterall, it’s not his money, and nobody’s going to argue *agains* spending Y once someone has made a decision, because it would be their ass on the line should something happen, even if the extra procedures would have had no decernable effect.

    It would be interesting to see the relationships between the security consultants who advise what the risks may or may not be, and possible methods of mitigation with the companies who provide the actual security services & personnel.

  11. Robert Taggart
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Oneself be fearing the Olympic Games !…
    As a ticket holder for two events and an Olympic Park day ticket also – the advice with said tickets is to arrive two hours – TWO HOURS ! – before the events even start !!
    Whether the weather be rain or shine – all that hanging around outside the ‘secure’ areas – they be the ‘best’ place for ‘troublemakers’ to ‘strike’ !!!

  12. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    “In all the discussion of the failure of G4S to recruit all the promised guards, there has been no discussion of how many guards do we really need, and what they are going to do to make sure we are safe. Sometimes greater intelligence and quality is the better answer than sheer weight of numbers.”

    Do you not think that it is very sad that the biggest concern about a Games event, is “Do we have enough Security Staff, Soldiers, Guns and Bullets”?

    “Sometimes greater intelligence and quality is the better answer than sheer weight of numbers” – this sounds a bit Orwellian to me.

    “If the Crowd get’s out of hand why not Nuke ’em”?

    • zorro
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      But how can this be?……I have just been watching the News and it concentrated on the Dorney site (keep your eyes peeled John!) and the Home Secretary personally visited the site in February 2012 and assured the nation that security was all in hand. Indeed, security had been carefully planned before London was awarded the Games in 2005!

      And now we hear allegations on the News that it is shambolic and only 30% of G4S staff are turning up, the radios don’t work and all the rest of it…..Oh dear….I wonder if I should still go?

      zorro

  13. forthurst
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m still bemused by the roof mounted batteries; does ‘al qaida’ have drones or what?

    Who would terrists wish to target? VIPs, specific country’s athletes, anyone in the vicinity? What political or other point would they trying to make? Ahmadinejad will not be able to witness at first hand an attack by the ‘Axis of Evil’, unlike senior representatives of a ME state during the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, as sport again becomes a victim of political grandstanding. If there is an event to be blamed on Iran, Iraq it would be a 99.9% recurring certainty that it was a ‘false flag’ operation in order drag the ‘West’ unwillingly into a very major conflagration. There are of course real terrorists with real or imagined grievances and these need to be interdicted.

    • zorro
      Posted July 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      ‘real terrorists with real or imagined grievances and these need to be interdicted’….it’s not difficult to identify those, they normally kill people unlawfully or assassinate people without due process……’Soyons terrible pour dispenser le peuple de l’etre’…….Forthurst, as for the recent event in Bulgaria, I think that they immediately fingered (etc etc)

      zorro

  14. barry laughton (@kil
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I have maintained that knife crime would be reduced by having hit squads at bus stops. A security squad would just turn up at a bus stop and do a stop and search. Saves the problem of the racial element in stop and search, depends who is waiting at the stop, it would be pretty random.

    • Single Acts
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Good luck stopping and searching me Barry.

      I don’t carry weapons, commit crimes nor submit myself prostrate before goons in jackboots. No probable cause, no search.

      JR won’t permit the words I am thinking.

  15. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    From Wikipedia:

    “”Bread and Circuses” (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. Juvenal decried it as a simplistic motivation of common people and hence the political strategy implied.[1] In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.[2][3][4] The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man (l’homme moyen sensuel).”

    We are asked to endure less or decaying Public Services due to forced Austerity Measures. The Public Transport System is not ready, we are told that the Security is not ready because we now have a lot of enemies in the World – thanks to Tony and Gordon. Our Financial System is crumbling – confirmed by the latest BoE £50 Billion of Quantitative Easing.

    The “Games” are going to cost us over £10 billion and we are seeing Reports of a lack of Security.

    “One in 10 police officers to be axed under Government spending cuts” – Uhm, I wonder if the this News Headline is related to the lack of Security?

    “American security agents drafted in to Heathrow and other British airports to help checks during the Olympics” – I heard the other day – Possibly the BBC, that if there’s one thing the British do well, it’s Security.

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted July 21, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      I have only a superficial knowledge of this but how did these Americans manage to get here like an invading Army? Did they tell our government ‘Clear the airspace, we’re on our way, whether you like it or not’. Did they need work visas, were they given them first or afterwards? How do we allow it? What if each participating country had decided to send a planeload of agents at short notice?

  16. The Prangwizard
    Posted July 21, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Lets give some credit to the police and others who we never see who have managed somehow to spot and stop a numbers of groups and individuals bent on murderous trouble and subversion. They are keeping an eye out for all of us as we carry out our daily routines in routine places. Whether the badguys are planning a bomb attack or are planning a political or religious murder to further their alien views, we should be thankful there are dedicated professionals on our side getting on with risky and unglamorous and dangerous daily fight for our freedoms.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted July 24, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      I agree, we should give some credit to the Police.

      Unfortunately our Government does not agree.

      The number of Police are being cut back as part of the Austerity measures to reduce costs.

      My view is that “cheap” replacements, in the form of “Civil Enforcement Officers”, are being recruited, who do not understand the Laws they are attempting to enforce. They do not take as long to train and it shows.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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