Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Americans Routinely Fly a Double Bind

Thanks to our imperial legislators, the latest (ahem) “routine” warning from the Transportation Security Administration to federal air marshals puts those who must travel by air in a nice quandary:

Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September.


The seizures at airports in San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore included “wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense clay-like substances,” including block cheese, the bulletin said. “The unusual nature and increase in number of these improvised items raise concern.”

Security officers were urged to keep an eye out for “ordinary items that look like improvised explosive device components.”

This routine bulletin was leaked to the press and the bureaucracy has responded energetically, asserting just how ho-hum boringly routine this routine message is:

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke described the TSA advisory as the latest copy of a routine informational bulletin.

A statement posted late Tuesday by the TSA on its Web site confirms that “a routine TSA intelligence bulletin relating to suspicious incidents at U.S. airports” had leaked out to news organizations.

The bulletin says a joint FBI-Homeland Security Department assessment found that terrorists have conducted probes, dry runs and dress rehearsals in advance of previous attacks.

Well, duh…

“There is no credible, specific threat here,” TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said Tuesday. “Don’t panic. We do these things all the time.”

So the ummm…trained professionals of TSA are alerted to be on the lookout for suspicious activity or items, but you’re not. And so what if the nervous, swarthy fellow in a turban sitting next to you is playing with his cell phone and mumbling his prayers rapidly in what appears to be Arabic? Doesn’t count unless a trained professional is there to interpret the situation for you.

Meanwhile, these very same professionals failed bomb detection testing recently:

Imagine an explosion strong enough to blow a car’s trunk apart, caused by a bomb inside a passenger plane. Government sources tell NBC News that federal investigators recently were able to carry materials needed to make a similar homemade bomb through security screening at 21 airports.

In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one discovered the materials.

Fly safeAs I’ve said repeatedly, I’m a non-flyer. Not because I'm afraid of flying; planes are simply cramped buses with wings. But as the sheer stupidity and incompetence of our air security has become inescapably clear, there is only one choice besides driving. The only plane I’d be willing to step on would have to have painted on it, in big letters somewhere: EL AL. They seem to be the sole air carrier that takes terrorism seriously. I wonder why that is?

[Ends here. Just a routine notice.]


unaha-closp said...

Alternatively, fly Emirates and assume they won't blow up their own.

Dymphna said...

But they do so all the time. In fact, they have no compunction about killing other Arabs.

Witness Iraq.