August 10th, 2006

fashionable

This just in -- you're all doomed.

British police have arrested fifteen people, accused of "a major terrorist plot to allegedly blow up aircraft in mid-flight" between the US and Great Britain. Heathrow airport has been closed to all incoming traffic.

What's more, they've banned all carry-on luggage from their flights for the time being, and seem prepared to ban all "electrical or battery powered items" from their planes, including laptops and mobile phones, in addition to "all liquids", including beverages, hair gels and lotions, etc. for who knows how long. (Update: The new regulations for British travellers are available here.)

To which I reply....

"Oh, for &#!$'s sake! Goddamn nanny state!"  

Congrats, Osama Bin Laden. You've won, because our nations are so incredibly whipped, that we'll do anything, just to put off an inevitable backlash to our actions. We thought, being on an island / seperate continent and all, that we were safe, but we were *SOOO* wrong. So, instead of taking our chances on losing a few hundred people a year to terrorist attacks, and, perhaps, learning from them, we're going to destroy our entire way of life instead.

And you know what? We're still going to get it in the end from the silent killer. International flights have now officially become intolerable... and still, we're no safer than we were yesterday from someone boarding a plane with ten pounds of plastique in their colostomy bag. And for those terrorists who don't like to fly, there's always the bus. I hear they're hiring at the local school, too.

Could you imagine spending an eight-hour plane flight next to a thirteen-year-old without access to any electronic devices? Oh, the horror. Let's hope they allow us to bring horse tranquilizers on planes instead. We're all going to need them.

That said, it might be an appropriate time to reflect upon all the good things we gain by engaging in endless incitement of Moslems, having troops in Arab countries, and engaging in open warfare against Islamic terrorists.

I got nothing . How about you?!    
fashionable

you're all doomed - part deux.

Some details are in on the thwarted terrorist attack in the UK.

We now know what the terrorists were going to use to create a bomb to blow up several planes.




The highly unstable liquid explosive TATP, also known as acetone peroxide. 

Despite its extreme instability, it's the explosive of choice for many a terrorist bomber, because:

1 > It's cheap.
2 > It's easy to get ahold of.
3 > It's easy to find detailed instructions on how to make TATP
4 > ... well, if you're a suicide bomber, the risk you take making the bomb isn't really much of a concern, is it?

Of course, you don't even *need* to use an acid-based drain cleaner if you don't want to. Citric acid works too. Got lemons?

So, yeah... liquids are dangerous on planes. So are solids and gases too, I hear. You can either let that fact rule your life, or you can suck it up and move on.

And for those who feel that tightening airport security to the point that it curtails freedoms and commerce is a good thing, I just wanted to point you all towards this article from Wired back in late 2002, which specifically mentioned the following:

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A terrorist carrying a cup of coffee laced with a liquid explosive or a bulky winter jacket or briefcase lined with sheet explosives could just as easily board a plane today as before the attack, critics say. 

And while the items passengers wear and carry onto an airplane represent a glaring airport security hole, the million-dollar bomb-detection machines that scan checked luggage aren't much better.

The government rushed to install the machines in 75 percent of the nation's airports after the attacks, but they perform so poorly that they were publicly criticized by one of Federal Aviation Agency's own security advisers.

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The FAA has a special organization known as the "Red Team". Their goal is to think and act like terrorists, testing out airport security for weaknesses, and finding ways to breech airport security with bombs, weapons, etc.

According to FAA whistleblower and former Red Team leader Bogdan Dzakovic, they breached airport security routinely.

"We were extraordinarily successful in destroying U.S. Flag commercial aircraft and killing large numbers of innocent people in these simulated attacks . . This occurred with such regularity and ease as to present a frightening picture of the sorry state of aviation security on a worldwide basis, including our domestic airports."

"Although we breached security with ridiculous ease up to 90% of the time, the FAA suppressed these warnings. Instead we were ordered not to write up our findings (in some cases) and not to retest airports where we found particularly egregious vulnerabilities to see if the problems had been fixed. Finally, the agency started providing advance notification of when we would be conducting our undercover tests and what we would be checking."

Of course, this is only airport security. It does not address the issue of bus security, train security, mall security, boat security, events security, etc. The basic fact is, you can spend billions on airport security and still not be safe. There is a cost / benefit curve for security, just like anything else, and airport security has already considerably passed that curve, to the point that additional security efforts offer very, very little extra safety, and, in fact, hurt the aeronautics and travel industry, hurt consumers, hurt the economy, and endanger our basic liberties.