Threat is not Random

random check procedureMore often than not, security systems miss the mark when they skip a vital step in developing their security standards and procedures. They do not first clearly define the threat. But only once you understand the threat, can you understand what is suspicious and then have a road map for procedures.

Take random checks as an example. Think about how ambiguous it is when an officer is asked to “randomly” check a given number of people or objects. Given the open-ended nature of that directive, the officer chooses what to check motivated by what amounts to him: perhaps the officer has a non-confrontational personality and will avoid anything or anyone that appears troublesome. What and whom he chooses to check could likewise be motivated by subconscious sexism, racism or some other psychological mindset. With humans, there is no such thing as random. A random check procedure can translate to a real vulnerability for a security system because it allows an officer to make screening decisions based on his own inclinations.

What’s more, a random check procedure is passive. It requires no active assessment and no critical or analytical thinking.

Many security officers if asked “what exactly are you preventing against, in a given time and place?” would have a hard time explaining what exactly makes someone or something suspicious. It’s not for lack of education, sense of duty or low pay – but simply because their mission – the threat – is not carefully articulated for them in an SOP.

An effective Security Operation Procedures (SOP) includes proactive procedures that aim to detect relevant suspicion. It defines the criminal or terrorist MOs that a given suspicion indicator reflects. It supports an attempt by an officer to refute the suspicion and then deploy accordingly. Every step of the process is related to understanding what the threats are. In sum, there is nothing random about effective security.

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  1. TK on August 29, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Random checks occur in distinct places –transportation hubs, arenas, government buildings or high profile conventions. By the time you get to the guy who squeezes your diapers you’re in an area where everyone’s blood pressure and pulse are high enough to max out a polygraph, and the guy doing the squeezing probably couldn’t tell the difference between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun. How much profiling occurs before and after security checkpoints?
    Some does, but where does it start and how comprehensive can it be? Is it also compromised by PC? How many competent watchers are available, and what price will we pay to make marginal improvements? Finally, no matter what the quality of defensive measures, does anybody have any practicable suggestions about defeating terrorism so we can get back to working and enjoying our lives? So far we seem to have accepted it as an ongoing problem rather than a win/lose situation.

  2. Allon K on August 30, 2011 at 1:00 am

    I think the key point in the article is the “attempt to refute the suspicion and deploy accordingly”. In any situation this is the most important part, because only after acquiring an insight in someone’s motives one can decide if suspicious behaviour is in fact worrisome and needs to be acted upon.

    As for random checks, the checks can be random in terms of timing and location. All the rest needs to be built on well planned SOPs…

  3. Kenneth Carlisle on August 30, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Excellent, but to elementry for TSA and DHS to understand.

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