Security Theater… Or Why I Had To Go Dumpster Diving At The US Capitol Last Week
from the feeling-safer? dept
We’ve had plenty of stories about the ridiculousness of security theater at airports, but it’s been spreading elsewhere as well. Last week, I was in Washington DC from Monday through Thursday, for a few things (mostly related to the SOPA/PIPA debate). On Thursday morning, I took part in a press briefing about the SOPA/PIPA fight (this was before it had been shelved, but after the web blackouts) at the US Capitol. I was actually heading to the airport soon after, so I had checked out of my hotel, and had put the metal water canteen that I use in my bag. It was empty, knowing that I’d have to go through airport security a little later.
However, at security to get into the Capitol, I was told I could not bring the canteen in, even though it was empty. I asked if there was any reason for this. I was told I just couldn’t bring it in. I asked if there was any place I could “leave” it, and I was told to go outside and there were dumpsters to the right. I even asked if someone could hold it for me, since it would just be an hour or so. No luck. Dumpsters, outside to the right. The canteen isn’t anything special, but I do like it. According to the price tag still on the bottom, it cost $11 when my wife bought it for me. I can buy another canteen, but really, there’s a bit of a principle thing to all of this. If the canteen itself is dangerous, then, putting it in a dumpster outside isn’t going to change that.
I went outside and there were some police there, so I asked them if there was anything I could do. They also pointed me to the dumpsters. I asked if I might be able to get it back, and they said, “if you don’t mind climbing in… and if the garbage isn’t picked up by then.” And so, an hour and a half later, after the press briefing was done, I (wearing a suit), climbed into the dumpster at the Capitol to pick up my water canteen, so I could take it with me back home. Again, it certainly wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I’d lost it. But I’m at a loss as to what this little bit of security theater accomplished. Either the canteen is dangerous, or it’s not. If it’s dangerous, I shouldn’t be able to leave it right next to the Capitol… and I shouldn’t then be able to go retrieve it. If it’s not dangerous (and, um, it’s not), then the whole thing is a complete joke. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the other punchline: I saw at least two people in the press briefing with their own (brought from home) water canteens.
Somehow, none of this makes me feel any safer.