Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Fear Wears Off: More UK Liquid Explosives Plot

As the shock and awe wears away, we learn more about what happened and why. Perhaps this plot was not about to go operational, as MSNBC reports that “U.S., U.K. at odds over timing of arrests.” Meanwhile, after years of debate over warrantless surveillance, the Washington Post reports that a “Tip Followed ’05 Attacks on London Transit.” Maybe we should spend more time talking to people, and less time listening to random phone calls. That’s not to say that communications intercepts aren’t useful, as CNN reports that a “‘Do your attacks now’ message triggered arrests.” Those interceptions could well have been done legally, with warrants, under FISA, if the suspects were in the US. I also find this leak really worrisome, and would like to ask when the investigation of that leak will commence. I’m generally in favor of a lot of openness, but:

The message, which was intercepted and decoded, was part of the reason authorities in Britain decided that an attack was imminent, possibly just a few days to a week away, according to an unclassified security memo sent to law enforcement agencies Friday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

That seems to give away a lot more operational capability information than anything the NY Times has reported on the SWIFT monitoring.

On the costs side of things, Russian musicians are taking trains from London to Moscow to avoid checking their irreplaceable instruments as baggage, as the BBC reports in “Cabin baggage ban hits musicians.

To analyse the effects of hierarchy versus distributed organizations, John Robb writes on “Al Qaeda’s Achilles Heal [sic]: Residual Hierarchy.” Reminds me a lot of a post here from March, “The Emergent Field of War and Economics.”

Sources included Bruce Schneier, Boingboing, Sivacracy and probably others.

3 comments on "Fear Wears Off: More UK Liquid Explosives Plot"

  • Chris says:

    Even if the measures taken against this threat are well-designed and effective, it seems logical to conclude that the result simply will be to displace the threat (for example to commuter rail) as has already begun to happen. There is no realistic way to have TSA-style checks on commuter rail, of course, so as the kids say “game over”, unless other approaches to securing the infrastructure are used. Clearly, human intelligence is absolutely critical. I hasten to add that just because we aren’t reading about it doesn’t mean it isn’t occurring.
    Infosec geeks might like Ross Anderson’s “Topology of Covert Conflict” (Google it — I’m lazy), which is all over the hierarchy v. distributed thing. The interdisciplinary crossover aspect is nice to see.

  • Iang says:

    > There is no realistic way to have TSA-style checks on commuter rail…
    Chris, the communist authorities from 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall maintained quite good control over all means of communication. It would be even easier these days with ubiquitous cameras. Don’t cut the ability of any government short!

  • beri says:

    Just another reminder: don’t believe everything you read. And always question the source. The government agenda to instill fear in order to undermine our rights leads them down some strange paths.

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