Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Small Containers

The grave existential threat posed by airline passengers laden with small bottles of strong oxidizers, industrial solvents, and assorted shock-sensitive explosives seems to have evaporated as quickly as a puddle of ethyl ether:

The new rules reflect TSA's confidence that small containers do not pose a threat to passengers, Melendez said. "We have been saying all along that when we believe we can apply some common sense and change the procedures for passengers. We will do that," Melendez said. "We talked with scientists in our national labs and the FBI, and we think we can allow these small amounts (of liquids)."
”When we believe we can apply some common sense…we will do that.” Very reassuring indeed. I also like how the TSA talked to people in their national labs and the FBI after inconveniencing and frightening airline travelers from Madawaska to Nome.

This is either security theater at its most cynical, or these people are complete fucking morons. (Or both, I suppose.) Here’s what I think: First, it’s possible to do serious damage aboard an airplane with three ounces of certain compounds, without having to mix up bombs in the lavatory. Second, if terrorists ever decide it’s worthwhile to attempt this (which I tend to doubt, frankly), they’ll eventually succeed despite TSA’s screening procedures. At which point, I guess we'll stop believing that we can “apply some common sense.” We'll go back to banning liquids (and powders, and crystals) from airplanes, while the terrorists go on to explore and exploit other vulnerabilities, secure in the knowledge that a relatively modest attack will have huge psychological and economic consequences.

This is why sensible people tend to see anti-terrorism as a matter of quiet intelligence-gathering and diplomacy, rather than as an endless, hyperactive game of Whack-a-Mole.


Anonymous said...

Good one, Phila.


juniper pearl said...

airports went from insisting that passengers give up their corked, foil-sealed bottles of california wine at the baggage check to saying that, while liquids are still the enemy, tiny containers are our friends? can i bring shampoo or not?