It isn't that hard. Yes it is.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Two events in a short period of time brought the security industry into sharp focus for me. First, there was the great middle finger to the city of Boston, where Hub city officials mistook for bombs what were actually obscene digital signs designed for guerilla promotion of an adult offering on Cartoon Network. Second, there was the grandeur of Super Bowl XLI, where security was most notable for how invisible it was. Just think about the security challenges of allowing thousands of "fans" to storm the field during a performance by Prince that involved untold pyrotechnical events in the middle of a stadium that holds more than 70,000 people.
I really feel for the men and women of Boston's homeland security operation: the cops, city officials and federal field staff. Nine other cities had similar devices installed in the same fashion. None of them closed any bridges or interstate highways, as Boston did, spending $1 million in the process. Heck, the Lite-Brite-looking images of a character from Action Teen Hunger Squad had been up for almost two weeks before one was noticed in Sullivan Square, on Route 93, by a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority worker on Jan. 31. A couple hours later, Boston police had blown it apart with a water cannon and knew it was harmless, yet they proceeded to shut down Storrow Drive (the city's backbone) and a few other bridges over the next few hours because of similar devices that were destroyed by both robots and humans.
There are two lessons here: 1. If a blinking sign powered by D batteries can go unnoticed by anyone related to the city's homeland security network for two weeks, I think we can assume that a bomb could go off in Boston at any time, in any place--and that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. A bomb could go off in any city in the United States, any city in the world, at any time. That's something no security system can fix. 2. If Boston officials had one of the portable Siegma Systems made by HiEnergy (those neutron accelerator/gamma detectors I wrote about in October that can analyze chemical makeup in minutes), they at least wouldn't have had to destroy a bunch of signs that will probably sell on eBay for $1,000 each.
Then there is the Super Bowl, which I used to be able to watch without having to think about anything but football. Now I think about how it is the World Trade Center of sporting events, a prime target if ever there was one. The NFL spent $6 million on private security. I've got to think that's more than manpower, and my thoughts spiral about the technology that was likely deployed, but, since nothing ended up happening, you could say it's been spent on nothing at all.
In the end, is that any different from what happened in Boston? They spent $1 million in Massachusetts to make sure nothing happened. The NFL spent $6 million.
All of you are in the business of selling the idea that nothing will happen. Can you deliver on that selling point all of the time? Of course not. And that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.