A brief scan of recent media articles, opinions and commentary on what Via Rail should do about its potential new security measures boils down to this question. While some agree that action should be taken to prevent possible terror attacks (see TorStar Editorial here), the security measures Via Rail is exploring (e.g. more vigilance, ID & luggage screening) should not impede the freedom of travel or become an 'airport-style' nuisance.
Unfortunately, such simplified (and bipolar?) thinking is prevalent in the Canadian psyche and the roots can be easily understood. In a society that has become accustomed to live in the self-indulging cocoon of "Nothing can happen here!", a rude awakening to rapidly changing global and local realities can be very painful. When it affects the national security, groups that refuse to recognize challenges and adapt to OR affect change in a studied manner, usually find themselves accepting draconian measures that cost billions and trample rights/privacy after the fact. Human history provides us with ample evidence for that. So, what is to be done?
The challenges Via Rail (a large public, service-delivering operation) is facing are many, and so are its vulnerabilities. As usual, the decision as to what security measures to adopt will be based on a threat & risk assessments, prioritization of vulnerabilities, and then oscillate between available budgets, security value of each measure and public perception. In order to be truly proactive, we hope VIA Rail chooses to concentrate on the preventative measures that increase deterrence and detection capabilities, as oppose to adding surveillance technologies (security vs law enforcement mentality). In terms of the overall approach, the new security system must be flexible and scalable above all (see for other attributes here). Based on a risk matrix, such system would ensure security operations can be expanded or reduced when the situation requires it.
Since it is likely that the attention would concentrate on the high-impact areas, i.e. passenger terminals along the Eastern corridor, what could some of the sensible options introduced at this point be?
With that, the most important part is this -- if VIA Rail wants to create a proactive, risk-based model based on common sense and true security (preventative) it should be based on Quality and performance measurements for its staff and processes. Good security is based on regular assessments (i.e. accountability) and the professionalism of deployed security officers and managers who can motivate them. Various tech gadgets come later.
CHI Security team includes professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. In this blog we share our musings on how to build a resilient security force. Hardware comes later...