Desert of My Real Life

{December 28, 2009}   Even More Security Theater

By now, you’ve probably heard about the thwarted terror attack on a flight bound for Detroit.  If you haven’t heard details, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to light his underwear on fire to set off explosives (the same explosives that Richard Reid–the shoe bomber–used).  He failed to ignite the explosive materials and passengers and crew jumped him and put out the fire.

We’re still living with the legacy of Richard Reid’s attack.  Every time we fly, we have to take our shoes off for special screening.  So I would have expected the TSA response to Abdulmutallab’s thwarted attack to be … well, that every time we fly, we all have to take our underwear off for special screening.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  But imagine the outcry from the public if we had to get naked in order to fly.  And so, naturally, that is NOT the TSA response.  Instead, the TSA has come out with a set of rules that make it incredibly obvious that none of this is about actually making us safer but is instead about responding in some way, in any way, so that people FEEL safer.

What are the rules?  Most of them have to do with limiting passenger behavior during the last hour of a flight.  Why the last hour?  Because that is when Abdulmutallab chose to initiate his attack.  There is absolutely nothing special about the last hour of a flight.  Why not the first hour of a flight?  Because this is about security theater rather than actual security.  So, during the last hour of a flight, you may not be able to use the bathroom or access your carry-on baggage or (and this is my favorite rule) have a pillow or blanket over your lap.  Because that’s where your underwear is, of course.

Feel safe?

Robin says:

I think perhaps if someone stripped down to a brassiere and jiggled a bit in a non-threatening manner during the first hour of a flight, that might lead to better technology to discover indendiary materials, or perhaps more effective screening methods at the gate. Some kind of perverse paradigm reversal may be called for here.

Ava Aubertin says:

According to criminal justice professors, there is no such thing as racial profiling in this country, at least they are not in a position to admit it! This person happened to be the son of a prominent Nigerian banker, hmmmmmm… another Nigerian scam but this one didn’t directly involve taking your money like the 419 financial scams they’ve run for decades? Are they getting brighter and moving into actual terrorist tactics or does this fall under dumb and dumber to light one’s underwear on fire?

From AP: Experts doubted that Abdulmutallab’s intended target was Detroit, but rather causing an explosion over any heavily populated U.S. city. “He was just willing to catch any airliner that would take him anywhere in the United States, whether it’s New York or Los Angeles or Detroit,” said Gregory D. Lee, a criminal justice consultant in Pebble Beach, Calif., and retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent involved in the arrest of terrorist Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind on the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

“And he waited until the final approach, trying to make sure the plane crashed in a heavily populated area.”

This could bring new meaning to the already popular Darwin Awards for the silliest lawsuits of the year with our litigious society filing lawsuits because they couldn’t relieve themselves during the last leg of their trip because the FAA and Homeland SEcurity’s new rules about staying seated during the last hour of your trip, can’t wait!

Sit10 says:

*I* think if someone stripped to her brassiere and jiggled, we could fly that plane all the way to Australia.

[…] think the main reason we should care about this wasted program is because it is another example of security theater, which I’ve written about before.  It does nothing to make us actually safer but is instead […]

[…] you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m interested in (and amazed by) the security theater that pervades our airport experiences.  I’m in Washington, DC as I write this, ready to […]

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