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I want to keep this as brief as possible: I had a flight from Chicago to D.C. today. None of the draconian regulations being shrieked about were in effect - no pat down, no double x-ray, no being forced to sit for the last hour. Nothing.

As far as I can tell, most or all of those are only for inbound international flights. Perhaps they're just waiting to phase them in? But I kind of doubt it.

As far as the failed attack itself - am I the only person who thinks that everything worked as intended? I mean, because of our security measures, it strikes me that this was basically the only way a person could get a bomb onto an airplane.

Clearly it wasn't a very effective way of getting a bomb onto an airplane.

I've seen commentators complaining that airport security measures haven't done any good / prevented any attacks. My response is that good security is security that is never needed. I'd be the last to advocate for a military state, and I find it a pain in the ass to take off my shoes - but it really doesn't take that long, and clearly it has deterred people from trying to carry out more attacks.

I just finished my first semester of law school, and one thing I came away with is a greater skepticism of the concept of 'deterrence' as a policy, especially if jail time / 3 strikes / etc. is what you hope will deter that crime. But in the case of the TSA, I really think it works - the security is tight enough that people don't even try. And it's also tight enough that when people slip through the cracks, they have to do it in ways that are much less likely to succeed.

I miss being able to take soda through to the gate with me. But if this guy had two nalgenes full of explosives in his backpack, would things have ended differently?

Just some food for thought.

Originally posted to coelomate on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:02 PM PST.


The TSA / airline security

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Politics, once in the blood, can only ever be removed by embalming fluid

    by coelomate on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:02:30 PM PST

  •  tips for air traveled..... (4+ / 0-)

    In fact, most of us don't really fly but are flown.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:04:17 PM PST

  •  ingenious FOX headline,speaking of air travel (17+ / 0-)

    ***USELESS...Airport metal detectors can't pick up powerful explosive***

    well, yes. They're metal detectors.

  •  Here's the full TSA directive (5+ / 0-)

    It's only for international arrivals.  Here's the main part of the directive:

    1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.
    1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso.
    1. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids.
    1. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.
    1. IN FLIGHT
    1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:
    1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
    1. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.
    1. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight.
    1. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.
    1. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.


    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. --Ansel Adams

    by TexMex Junkie on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:08:07 PM PST

    •  This makes no sense (10+ / 0-)

      So this guy waited till they were starting to land to try and blow the plane up.  OK, I guess its a tactic.  But...would there be any less concern now if he had tried to blow up the plane 2 hours before landing?

      Seriously, all I can see in this policy is a tactic meant to keep people from blowing up planes in the last hour, but blowing up the plane at any other time is just hunky-dory.

      "Empty vessels make the loudest sound, they have the least wit and are the greatest blabbers" Plato

      by Empty Vessel on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:13:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And, as well, how are the pilots, barricaded (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NYFM, Jyrinx

        in the cockpit supposed to really know what is going on out there in the rest of the Tube? I know, flight attendants would tell them. Or something. No sense.

        Just let every passenger fly knowing that This Could Be Way Worse Than a Video Game, and we are back to hunky-dory.

        I thought Obama did okay today about trying to quell panic, but the fear-mongers are everywhere.

        Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby

        by riverlover on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:40:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think Nate Silver put it best (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

          These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.

          Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

           The bolding is from the original.

          The full article is worth reading.

          It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. --Ansel Adams

          by TexMex Junkie on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 04:42:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Duncan Idaho, JVolvo

        detonating a bomb when flying low over a major metro area is more likely to create damage on the ground than detonating while at a high altitude.  

    •  So when flying over the grand canyon the pilot (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, Jacques, Jyrinx

      will say, "Oh my goodness, that is a big hole down there. No idea what it is."

      And of course terrorists simply know to blow things up before they arrive, which would probably suit many of them just fine.

      I was paid to post this comment by my cat, but he's a deadbeat.

      by decembersue on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:48:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  After reading the details of the attempt (8+ / 0-)

    my first thought was also that "the system worked".  What blows me away, tho, is that this flight originated in Amsterdam and not in the states.  How the hell can you blame OUR TSA for security measures that took place in Amsterdam???

    Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

    by EdgedInBlue on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:19:55 PM PST

  •  God forbid the next guy smuggles a (5+ / 0-)
    bomb up his ass.  Think of the new rules after something like that.  I only say this partially in jest, of course, but nothing surprises me anymore.

    Crap on a cracker...and I mean it.

    by trekguy66 on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:20:34 PM PST

  •  God help us if they try (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JVolvo, coracii

    The dreaded Suppository Bomb 'cause I'm not putting up with them searching for those.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:28:01 PM PST

  •  As Far as You Know (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Duncan Idaho, theran, NYFM, Leo in NJ

    because of our security measures, it strikes me that this was basically the only way a person could get a bomb onto an airplane.

    Clearly it wasn't a very effective way of getting a bomb onto an airplane.


    it really doesn't take that long, and clearly it has deterred people from trying to carry out more attacks.

    What they got onto the airplane was enough to crash it into Detroit. What they were missing was the basic competence to do it without burning their balls off.

    The vast security regime failed to keep either a the bomb materials or someone hellbent on using it off a plane headed into Detroit. Or, for that matter, off a plane flying over NW Europe filled with a transatlantic load of fuel, and over NE America and Canada's cities with much of it still in the tank.

    The vast security regime didn't have anything to do with the bomber's incompetence. Though it might have had something to do with their being hellbent on bombing us.

    What strikes me is that even a screwup like this guy could get a bomb onto that plane. Which tells me that the very few attacks are not credit to our defenses, but rather because there are so very few people attempting them.

    But then, I haven't had a semester of law school. So maybe that's why I wouldn't bother thinking that a purely domestic flight would be any different today, when all the announcements have made clear that only inbound foreign flights have had their security protocols changed.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:38:52 PM PST

  •  My wife is returning Wedneday (0+ / 0-)

    to Phoenix from Calgary. I'm awaiting her take.

    Trust everybody, but always cut the cards. Mr.Dooley

    by DaNang65 on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 03:59:17 PM PST

  •  worthwhile diary, but I have to argue with this: (0+ / 0-)

    but it really doesn't take that long, and clearly it has deterred people from trying to carry out more attacks

    1. It doesn't take that long for one person, but you have to multiply that by many millions of travelers and the result is that a conservative economic estimate is that it's cost many millions of dollars to apply the shoe removal policy--do the benefits outweigh the costs?
    1. "Clearly it has deterred..."?  Not to be too snarky, but the only way you can make that statement is if you were planning to become a "shoe-bomber" and this policy caused you to reconsider.  Other than that, I'm pretty sure there's zero evidence to support your assertion.

    As a commenter remarked someplace today (Ballon Juice I think, sorry no link), sometime soon we can expect to be shuffling around the airport with our pants around our ankles, carrying our shoes by holding the shoelaces in our teeth.  I can hardly wait.

  •  I was an airport screener twenty years ago, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    before the TSA, and we knew then that there was no way we could keep someone from getting whatever they wanted on the plane. What we depended on was people's stupidity. No kidding, an FBI agent didn't pass the metal checkpoint, and when I asked him what the had on him, he handed me his sidearm. I could have plotzed! The cop backing us up nearly shit his pants, before this genius slowly reached for his ID.

    The other thing we looked for was (drug) cash heading to Florida and Texas, there would always be two guys watching the passenger screening area when a mule was going through. We knew to look for the escorts and pay more attention than usual to the x-ray screen (There was a $50 "reward" for finding drug-bucks.) But those guys were also stupid; bundles of US currency shows up under x-ray, so when you see a president or Ben Franklin smiling up at you, you know you have stacks of bills in the bag. If they'd just un-bundle the cash and spread it around, all we would have seen was "noise".

    My point is that I was dealing with people who were basically stupid, and the TSA is dealing with people who will use every scrap of intelligence to get what they want on a plane. It's a losing battle, unless passengers fly naked. Even now, old as I am, set me up with a dozen flights out of a dozen airports, and I could pick an airport and an airline with your best chance to get something unpleasant on board. Better than that, find someone with a clean record in your organization, have them work the minimum wage PSA screener job for six months(really, do we think that job is only worth minimum wage?) and they'll be able to tell you everything you want to know about sneaking a bomb onto a plane.

    All evil needs to succeed is for good people to say "the votes aren't there in the Senate."

    by Jacques on Mon Dec 28, 2009 at 05:45:02 PM PST

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