Bruce Schneier has a nice essay on cover your ass security in the latest Crypto-gram.
"Since 9/11, we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars defending
ourselves from terrorist attacks. Stories about the ineffectiveness of
many of these security measures are common, but less so are discussions
of *why* they are so ineffective. In short: much of our country's
counterterrorism security spending is not designed to protect us from
the terrorists, but instead to protect our public officials from
criticism when another attack occurs.
Boston, January 31: As part of a guerilla marketing campaign, a series
of amateur-looking blinking signs depicting characters from Aqua Teen
Hunger Force, a show on the Cartoon Network, were placed on bridges,
near a medical center, underneath an interstate highway, and in other
crowded public places.
Police mistook these signs for bombs and shut down parts of the city...They overreacted because the signs were weird...
if a weird device with blinking lights and wires turned out to be a bomb
-- what every movie bomb looks like -- there would be inquiries and
demands for resignations. It took the police two weeks to notice the
Mooninite blinkies, but once they did, they overreacted because their
jobs were at stake.
This is "Cover Your Ass" security, and unfortunately it's very common...
We might be better off as a nation funding intelligence
gathering and Arabic translators, but it's a better re-election strategy
to fund something visible but ineffective, like a national ID card or a
wall between the U.S. and Mexico...
Sadly, though, there might not be a solution. All the money is in
fear-mongering, re-election strategies, and pork-barrel politics. And,
like so many things, security follows the money."
I'd recommend his piece on private police forces too.