Column by Paul Hein.
Exclusive to STR
Do terrorists have a sense of humor? If not, perhaps that’s what makes them so terrible. But if they do, how they must be laughing!
Their use of box-cutters on 9/11 resulted in heightened security for anything sharp--even such things as nail clippers and nail files. Not surprising, of course, although slightly ridiculous. It did serve to remind us, however, that we must be prepared to make some sacrifices in the name of security! After all, there are few things more frightening than the thought of a band of desperados armed with nail clippers.
But then some poor airborne wretch in the fall of 2002 sought to ignite his shoe, which contained explosives. He failed, but never mind: since then millions of flyers have had to remove their shoes before entering the airplane. The theory is evidently that if a shoe-bomber fails, thousands of others will take his place with explosive footwear. How many shoe bombs have been detected by the X-raying of shoes? I haven’t seen any statistics, but I think it’s probably none. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if the TSA credited its shoe examinations for the lack of any more attempted shoe bombings. That’s a bit like my attributing the lack of elephants in our back yard to my use of the elephant repellant I concocted out of simple household ingredients. It works! No elephants!
In the summer of 2006, it is claimed that a passenger aboard an airliner sought to concoct a bomb by mixing two liquids together. He failed, also. Based on the theory mentioned above--namely that one failure will trigger hundreds of similar attempts--the TSA banned liquids, in more than very small amounts, aboard airliners. Again: success! No more threats from bombs concocted in airplane toilets.
What was a poor terrorists to do? No more sharp instruments on the plane. No more bombs in shoes. No more infernal liquids. The only solution to getting explosives aboard the plane was obvious: in your underwear! And so we are treated to the spectacle of a traveler with explosive shorts, but--he failed! Not to worry, however. Wisely anticipating that this failure, like the preceding failures, would result in hordes of imitators, the TSA made widespread the use of the now infamous body scanning machines, which, entirely incidentally, are the products of a company in which some prior-administration officials have a financial interest.
Secure at last! Now the only terror we must face is that of the pre-flight security check itself. It seems a little incongruous, when you stop to think about it, that we require such extreme measures to protect us from such inept adversaries. True, the 911 terrorists killed many people, but probably a majority of the 3,000 deaths resulted from the collapse of the Twin Towers. Various experts have questioned whether the impact of the airliners was enough to accomplish that. But all further attempts at airplane sabotage have been flops. For that matter, the attempted car-bombing in Times Square was a flop, too.
So I imagine the terrorists are getting a good chuckle out of this. Some nut on a plane tries to detonate a shoe (although in the absence of a detonator, the explosives in the shoe wouldn’t explode) and millions of people in ensuing years must remove their shoes. Someone in an airplane bathroom mixes some liquids together in what some chemistry experts claim is an impossible way to produce an explosive, and no one can take more than three ounces of liquids aboard an airplane. Another would-be terrorist stuffs PETN in his briefs, and now we’ve all got to be groped or viewed naked, because although the underwear bomber failed (surprise, surprise!), the tactics will surely be used again!
What next? Maybe some swarthy individual will announce to his seat-mate that he has to go to the bathroom and insert a suppository, and when alert fellow passengers seize him and the suppository, it is found to be a deadly explosive! So, following the TSA’s predictable reaction, you can imagine the next procedure to be inaugurated as part of boarding security--assuming, of course, that by that time people will still be flying.
Do you think the terrorists have a sort of contest, to see who can come up with the next preposterous scheme to blow up an airliner? Whatever it is, the TSA, like Pavlov’s dogs, will react reflexively with a means to thwart it. At some point, the check-in process could become so lengthy and unpleasant that those few people willing to endure it could drive to their destinations in less time than it takes to check in and clear security.
What makes it especially laughable is that it’s all a game--a crude psychological game, intended to make us think we’re safer, thanks to the government. This was brought home to me at Charles de Gaulle airport (avoid it at all costs!) when a solemn security person confiscated my tube of toothpaste (although it has already passed through security several times before) while doing little more than glancing at my camera bag next to her, which contained a lead-lined bag to protect film, but which, as far as she knew, could have contained enough Semtex to blow a hole in a plane. Commercial airliners also often carry cargo, which is seldom given the sort of inspection accorded passengers’ luggage. And baggage handlers may not get the strict security checks that passengers and air crew undergo.
So why bother? For that matter, why bother torturing terror “suspects,” when there is good evidence that torture seldom produces valuable information? The answer is simple: the torturers LIKE to do it! The TSA goons LIKE to do it! And there is an additional reason: The process is humiliating and debasing, thus reminding you that you are nothing, and the state is everything. Interrogators realize that stripping a suspect places him at a grave psychological disadvantage. Odd, isn’t it, that airline passengers, being virtually stripped by the scanner, have become suspects! In the absence of any evidence whatever, and thus totally unreasonably, anyone seeking to board an airliner is regarded with such suspicion that he must submit to a naked screening, or an intimate and highly offensive groping. How the terrorists must be laughing!
Big brother himself isn’t actually a pervert, or voyeur. He is a scientist, determining just how far the public can be pushed before it shows signs of resistance. The TSA is his tool, and he’s using it for all it’s worth! If it doesn’t trigger rebellion, God knows what’s next!