Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On How Terrorists Make Shit Look Smart and WTF TSA? -- By Storyteller Knight

Guest post by Storyteller Knight

I was checking out Jim Hines’ ( blog today (as I do every morning because he is awesome).  Today’s entry consisted of a list of links on the new airport security rules and regulations and ruminations how it was basically tantamount to government sanctioned sexual assault.  I had been hearing buzzing about this for a while but after reading these links and other news stories, I’m seriously disturbed (my heart absolutely broke during the story of the rape victim to whom the choice of full body scanner or the invasive pat down was no choice at all—either option was a trigger).  And I’m really pissed that TSA officials admit to making these new pat downs as humiliating as possible in order to make people think twice about opting out of the full body scanner.  Jeez, people.  This is not okay.

Here’s a fact that I don’t think many people either consider or realize.  Terrorists are dumb.  No, seriously.  These guys make shit look intelligent.  Not to diminish the tragedy that was 9/11, but that wasn’t exactly the most innovative of attacks.  There were a lot of loop holes in FAA regulations- such as allowing blades less than 4 inches into airplane cabins.  Personally, I think were lucky that it took so long for a terrorist organization of any kind to realize that a- 4 inch blades could be carried onto an airplane or b- 4 inch blades can cause a lot of damage.  We went through what?  At least thirty years of air plane travel without anyone capitalizing on that rule?  Either we got really lucky or, as I firmly believe, terrorists are really dumb.

The shoe bomber (who still owes me five hours of my life back, thanks), the liquid bombers and the underwear bomber have done nothing to make me thing otherwise.  And that’s because they’re still so obsessed with blowing up airplanes.  WHY?  I don’t understand.  No, really, what is the point of continuing to try and blow up airplanes?  First off, with the new TSA regulations that grow tighter and more absurd with every terror plot (more on that later), it must be an absolute bitch to try and blow up an airplane.  Second, blowing up an airplane only knocks off about 400 people if it’s a really big plane.  That’s kinda... lame. 

And once again, not to dismiss the pain caused to anyone who hypothetically lost a family member in the hypothetical blown up airplane, but I’m simply not impressed by that plot anymore.  The point of terrorism, as far as I understand it, is to incite terror and create chaos within the infrastructure of whatever you’re attacking.  Blowing up airplanes doesn’t do that anymore.  The people who were terrorized by 9/11 aren’t flying anymore, and shoe, liquid and underwear bombs aren’t going to stop the people who are still flying.  And the infrastructure of flying isn’t going to fall apart if any airplane blows up midflight.  TSA will tighten down security, a new airplane will get built and we move on. 

To me, looking at this from a purely academic standpoint, the attacks on the London buses in 2005 and the Mumbai attacks in 2008 were more useful to the terrorist goals—the incited terror and the caused chaos within those infrastructures.  If I didn’t know that terrorists were dumb, I’d be seriously surprised that no attacks have occurred on American infrastructures yet.  And it’s not like they would even have to come up with the plans themselves.  Thrillers— books, movies, and TV shows run like terrorist tutorials.  The 24 hour news media loves to point out which of our institutions are totally vulnerable to terrorist attacks- ground transportation (cars, buses, subways) food (especially processing), water, schools, hospitals (as the pro-lifers prove time and time again), buildings of worship (and mailing bombs on airplanes are as totally unimpressive as blowing up airplanes—that’s like asking to be caught) and shopping centers.  Hell, if you want to stick with the air theme, blow up an airport.  You could kill thousands of people without ever having to pass through airport security (by the way, how funny is the warning to watch out for unattended baggage?  That totally does not take into account the suicide aspect of suicide bombings).

Which brings me to airport security.  You guys are making the terrorists look smart.  You’re so predictable it’s almost funny.  Someone tries to blow an airplane with a shoe, shoes have to come off.  Someone plots to blow up an airplane using liquids, liquids in containers larger than 4oz are no longer allowed through security (but empty containers larger than 4oz are, so we’ll see how long it takes to the terrorist to figure that one out).  Someone tries to blow up an airplane with his underwear, these virtual strip searches are mandated (which would not have detected the explosives in the underwear, but whatever).  And look, I get that it’s scary.  I was flying during two of those incidences (to Hawaii on the day of the attempted shoe bombing and home from Greece/Amsterdam the day the liquid bombing was supposed to occur).  But none of these restrictions are going to stop a smart terrorist from blowing up an airplane.  It’s barely stopping the dumb ones.  Because these full body scanners only show the surface of the body and not what’s in it, I fully expect in four years to being hearing breaking news on the Tampon Bomber, or the Butt Plug Bomber, or the I ate the Bomb Bomber.  So what happens then?  Will we require actual strip searches and endoscopic probes into the mouth, nose, ears, vagina and anus?  Don’t answer that.

The question is often asked about which plane would people get on if two were offered- one with the highest security possible and one with no security.  Um... I would actually get on the plane without any security.  No contest.  Because terrorists aren’t going to give a flying fuck about the plane without any security measures.  Because those of us on that airplane are showing them that despite all the terrorist attacks on airplanes, we’re still not afraid of them.  And if our airplane gets blown up, everyone will agree that we deserved it because we thought we’d be safe without security.  But if the plane with the highest level of security possible gets blown up, it sends the message that no matter how secure you think you are, we can still get to you.  That will make the news, that will send people into a panic and that’s why the dumb terrorist will go after the secure plane instead of the unsecure one. 

But I’m not advocate that we go back to no airport security.  I’m advocating for airport security that is actually secure instead of one that gives the façade of being secure without any actual security (as I pointed out, these invasive strip searches would not have stopped the underwear bomber).  Go back to metal detectors and x-ray machines.  Let me keep my shoes on.  Let me keep my liquids.  Stop spending so much god damn money on the screening process and spend more money on making sure a handful of air marshals are on every flight.  We’ve gotten to the point where we can no longer predict for/stop every possible threat from passing through check point security.  Now it’s time to make sure that if something bad does get through, people are in place to make sure that weapon or chemical or explosive can’t be used.    

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