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TEN UNCERTAINTIES OF RISK-MANAGEMENT APPROACHES TO SECURITY
Richard V. Ericson
Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto
This paper examines 10 sources of uncertainty in any risk-management system and illustrates them in security measures against terrorism. First, any risk assessment is an uncertain knowledge claim about contingent future events that cannot be fully known. Second, only some risks can be selected for attention, and those left unattended are sources of uncertainty. Third, specific decisions in risk management bear the uncertainty of false positives and false negatives. Fourth, risk-management technologies manufacture new uncertainties, some of which pose risks greater than those they were designed to control. Fifth, risk is reactive: as people act knowledge of risk, they simultaneously change the risk environment and create new uncertainties. Sixth, the complexity of risk-management systems can result in multiple and unexpected failures occurring simultaneously; such “normal accidents” are a source of uncertainty beyond any direct human capacity for control. Seventh, catastrophic failures result in the urge to risk manage everything: intensified surveillance, audit, and regulation increase system complexity and yield more uncertainty. Eighth, risk managers facing an increasingly litigious environment for failures become defensive, focusing more on operational risks that might affect the reputation of their organization than on the real risks they are supposed to manage. Ninth, excessive precaution escalates uncertainty and breeds fear, leading to risk-management measures that are at best misplaced and at worst incubate new risks with catastrophic potential. Tenth, risk-management systems can restrict freedom, invade privacy discriminate, and exclude populations. Such self-defeating costs and the uncertainties they entail can be minimized only by infusing risk-management systems with value questions about human rights, well-being, prosperity, and solidarity.
GESTION DES RISQUES, LUTTE CONTRE LE TERRORISME
École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées,
Laboratoire Techniques Territoires Sociétés
Examining natural, industrial, health, and other characteristics of modern risk management in industrialized countries and trying to draw from them ideas, techniques, and approaches that could make a useful contribution to the war on terrorism takes researchers down different paths. Following one path, the researcher concludes that the current process of technical democratization in risk management, at least as it is practised in Europe, with the increasingly strong tendency to inform users, citizens, and communities about, and even involve them in, the issues concerned, is incompatible with the propensity to withhold information specific to anti-terrorism activities because releasing it may pose “a risk.” By following another path, however, it may be possible to transpose to an anti-terrorism context the findings of research on the difficulty of gathering and structuring incident databases with a potential to help prevent disasters, current investigations into the application of lessons learned to ultra-secure systems (nuclear facilities, aviation), and studies on “organizational reliability.” A third path, that of the distinctive “enlightened catastrophism” school, leads to simultaneous consideration of both risk-management and anti-terrorism perspectives.
L’EXPERT, LE PROFANE ET LE TERRORISME : QUELQUES ÉLÉMENTS DE RÉFLEXION SOCIOLOGIQUE
ORS PACA, INSERM U379
The management of technological and health risks has been the source of many sociological studies in recent years. The purpose of this article is to draw on some of them to show how both the successes and the failures of technology and health risk management can contribute to ideas and discussions on terrorism prevention. The author examines three main questions: (1) Is terrorism a risk, or can it be treated as one through the application of conventional risk prevention tools? (2) What is, or should be, the role of the general public in preventing terrorist acts? (3) What is the primary goal of prevention? To prevent attacks or to prevent terror? Recent incidents show that managing one risk may intensify risks elsewhere and that there is a need to take into account not only the expectations and working conditions of those actually implementing the preventive measures but also public reaction. User empowerment and accountability is unlikely to be a contributing factor in terrorism prevention. On the other hand, some prevention efforts must be aimed at the general public, if only to forewarn people of the potential for terror and its devastating effects.
AIRPORT SCREENING, SURVEILLANCE, AND SOCIAL SORTING: CANADIAN RESPONSES TO 9/11 IN CONTEXT
Surveillance Project, Department of Sociology, Queen’s University
Since 9/11, aviation security has become a major preoccupation of Western governments, not least Canada’s. Some unprecedented security measures have been taken, and all air travelers are aware both of how these now affect their need for certain documents and of the extra time required for air travel. When placed in a broader frame, however, these developments may be seen as rational expansions of existing measures increasingly common to what might be seen as the symbiotically growing “surveillance society” and “safety state”. Here, surveillance has become a feature not of specific monitoring of suspects but of generalized social sorting of populations, in this case in relation to their perceived levels of dangerousness. And safety is the new criterion of good policy within risk-management regimes. The result, in Canadian airports, is a new emphasis on Advanced Passenger Information (API) and the Passenger Name Record (PNR) as the means of tracking travelers and the development of a coordinated plan under the new Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) for the screening of passengers and baggage. The demands of global free trade mean that mobility of goods and persons is a high priority, but this is constrained by the need to demonstrate that airport conditions are safe and that certain classes of person do not cross the (internal) border easily.
RISKS, ETHICS, AND AIRPORT SECURITY
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University
A key distinction needs to be made between formal and informal risk profiling. It is usually assumed that formal risk profiling, based on statistical data, provides an optimal means of prediction and thus of detecting high-risk individuals or situations. However, it must be recognized that formal profiles are based extensively on informal profiles – those built upon the experience and working cultures of security-related officials. Formal profiles are thus prone to the same errors and tend to produce self-fulfilling prophecies, resulting in both errors of fact and discriminatory consequences for false-positive cases. All profiles, however, are fraught with problems, perhaps the most obvious and significant being that the targets of interdiction readily become aware of them and modify their operations to incorporate activities and/or individuals that do not fit existing profiles. Consequently, totally risk-based security, ironically, may become less effective than alternatives such as randomly assigned focused interdictions.
NEITHER SAFE NOR SOUND? THE PERILS AND POSSIBILITIES OF RISK
Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford
The rise of risk as a basis for public policy has profound implications for civil liberties. Where risk prevails over adherence to rules in public policy making, it has the potential to undermine both human rights and basic legal values. The fact that threats to security license derogation from basic rights requires careful attention to the limits to scientific measurement of human risks. Distinguishing between the assessment and the management of risk offers only a partial solution to the danger that political considerations inform and distort risk measurement. Examining how adjacent social scientific disciplines conceive, deploy, and respond to risk and uncertainty reveals a powerful, if problematic, set of analytical resources with which criminology might profitably engage.
SÉCURITÉ NATIONALE ET SÉCURITÉ GLOBALE: L’ADAPTATION DES SERVICES DE RENSEIGNEMENTS FRANÇAIS
Centre d’Études et de Recherches de Science Administrative (CERSA)
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Since the terrorist of 11 September 2001, all intelligence services have been encouraged to reorganize, based on the conclusion that their ability to respond to new types of threats was limited. In France, the impetus for change has been twofold. The intelligence services of the ministries of defence and the interior are being asked to cooperate more effectively while remaining secret services. At the same time, a new rhetoric of “global security”, originating in prefecture offices, seems to have taken root in support of the push for change. The author examines the premises underlying these phenomena, drawing on classified documents. While actual practices are not questioned, the author outlines the nature of the changes sought in the state bureaucracy, which must be carefully kept beyond citizens’ control.
REFLECTIONS ON RISK ANALYSIS, SCREENING, AND CONTESTED RATIONALITIES
Peter K. Manning
College of Criminal Justice, Northeastern University
The concept of risk and modeling it (imagining possible outcomes with negative consequences) has a long history in social science and crisis management. Risk lies in the shadow between the known and the unknown. This article reflects discussions of low-probability, high-cost events such as those reflected in the conventional tactics associated with terrorism. Risks and fear of them are shaped extraordinarily by “big bang events” such as 9/11, and these shape imagined future deciding, prevention tactics, and organizational routines. Short-time crisis deciding is guided inordinately by “group effects”, pressure for consensus, and action over cogitation, difference, and muddling through. The attraction of risk analysis to security matters is clear: It makes simple decisions that are not. It easily fits with the technological conceit that assumes electronic-computer-based surveillance, artifice, and models can reduce human judgement to questions easily answered by a computer with a database. It enables a front stage of statistical rational planning and execution of policies that fail but permit backstage manipulations, profit taking, and obfuscation of matters of human judgement.