Bruce Schneier makes some good points about the embarassing public displays of stupidity that culminate in a broken home front against terrorism. In his essay, The War on the Unexpected, he writes:
The problem is that ordinary citizens don’t know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector, or a trash sculpture; or the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians, or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy, usually based on fear, media hype, or just something being different.
Here’s the crazy part: all of those examples, if you follow the link to view them on Schneier’s site, actually happened. Particularly interesting are his points about how law enforcement employees, fearful of losing their job, lose their common sense in the process.