When backpacks are outlawed, only outlaws will have backpacks.
That'll be the case at the forthcoming Bay to Breakers. Runners (and onlookers) at the May 19 footrace/seven-mile crosstown bacchanalia may or may not be clothed. But backpacks are verboten.
So are any large bags, containers (think: coolers), or any carrier exceeding 8½-by-11-by-4 inches. This dictum drew a withering response from Bruce Schneier, a security expert, cryptographer, and the foremost critic of the Transportation Security Administration.
Naturally, he noted, no one will be able to tote a bag exceeding 8½-by-11-by-4 inches because "Bombs are always 11 inches long. So, 10 inches is perfectly safe. That's really smart of them."
Schneier summed up the Bay to Breakers' measures as "really stupid" -- but noted that San Francisco has plenty of competition when it comes to knee-jerk overreactions to the Boston bombings.
"You want to get stupider?," asks Schneier, who coined the phrase "security theater" to describe overt, heavy-handed responses to terror that make people no safer. "The Kentucky Derby is banning cameras that have interchangeable lenses."
Considering the crucial role that amateur photos played in making sense of the Boston attacks, this is an interesting stance from the Derby folk.
Unlike the Boston Marathon -- where onlookers massed at the finish line to cheer on participants -- Bay to Breakers runners and observers tend to form a de-facto walking parade through the entire city.
That would render a backpack ban even more difficult. But Schneier feels it's a fool's errant regardless. When asked if it's even possible to weed out everyone with bags exceeding 8½-by-11-by-4 inches from a citywide course, he replies "of course not. But they can make life miserable for some of them."
The proper course of action for the Bay to Breakers, he continued, would be "The same thing they're doing to stave off an alien invasion: Nothing."