The Irony of Security

This won’t be a very long post.  It hardly needs to be – the stories speak for themselves.  Various security procedures, implemented at great cost, have made people less safe.

Recently, it was discovered that (presumably Chinese) hackers obtained access to millions of forms related to background checks of those who apply for U.S. security clearances.  Embarrassing actions, run-ins with the law, bankruptcy, at-risk relatives – these are classic levers that foreign agents use to bend people with important knowledge.  The government, quite reasonably, makes an effort to discover such levers first.  The tragic irony of all of this is that with these forms being hacked, the Chinese now have the best road-map imaginable to practically every pressure point any employee whose records were stolen might have.

Next story relates to the TSA.  This is NOT about the 3/70 success rate in detecting weapons and explosives – a story I have not covered because other media sources have done a sufficient job, and to me the story is merely depressingly repetitive.  No, this is about the TSA agents abusing their (poorly-paid) position to smuggle drugs past the very check-points they are supposed to be manning.  Those measures emplaced to prevent dangerous objects from going on airplanes become a new way to get them on an airplane (without, as previously noted, significantly limiting the more classic methods).

We’ve covered government bureaucracy and civilian security.  How about national security?  When the United State overthrew Saddam Hussein they went to a concerted effort to remove/fire/expel all Baath party loyalists in the military, lest they support a Hussein-like regime that would eventually return Iraq to its pre-war, anti-American, terrorist-hosting ways.  This put most of the medium-to-upper leadership of the Iraqi army out of work, and made them very unhappy.  The eventual result was that the incalculably valuable logistical and tactical experience of an entire military command found itself a new home in ISIS.  Whether these ex-Hussein officers run ISIS or merely organize it, their presence explains ISIS’ easy transitions from artillery and mechanized divisions to suicide bombers and back as needed and/or practical.  Yes, the United States prevented the security risk of a continuing Baathist shadow regime in Iraq, but the result was a depressingly effective group that uses violence as advertising.

Unintended consequences remain the most direct route to tragic irony.  Sadly, just because they were unintended does not mean they were uniformly unforeseeable.

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