Friday, August 18, 2006

Keystone Anti-terrorism Cops

Great article in the Register (h/t: Slashdot Science) throwing doubt on the plausibility of blowing up an airplane with liquid explosives:

Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?
by Thomas C Greene

The "chemistry" our security experts rely on is more characteristic of Hollywood than of real science. Next thing they'll be whipping up a scare about Islamic radicals bringing down planes with the evil eye!

And even if you want to credit the official hysterics on the technical possibility of the plan, the conclusions to draw from the foiled plot are embarrassing to our Homeland Security efforts. Ann Coulter's conclusions (Terrorists Win: Deodorant Banned From Airplanes) run contrary to the word from the Big Screen:

  • Nothing being done by airport security since 9/11 would prevent a bomb from being brought onto an airplane; and
  • This terrorist plot -- like all other terrorist plots -- was stopped by ethnic profiling.

Coulter's conclusions are this count are somewhat confirmed by James Fallows's recent Atlantic Monthly article1:

The DHS now spends $42 billion a year on its vast range of activities, which include FEMA and other disaster-relief efforts, the Coast Guard, immigration, and border and customs operations. Of this, about $5 billion goes toward screening passengers at airports. The widely held view among security experts is that this airport spending is largely for show. Strengthened cockpit doors and a flying public that knows what happened on 9/11 mean that commercial airliners are highly unlikely to be used again as targeted flying bombs. “The inspection process is mostly security theater, to make people feel safe about flying,” says John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State and the author of a forthcoming book about the security-industrial complex. He adds that because fears “are not purely rational, if it makes people feel better, the effort may be worth it.”

To make us feel better? Is our society that far gone?

No really: why would our government distort the truth? To preserve its power. History shows that no government ever voluntarily cedes authority; unopposed power always gravitates toward a unified center, silently choking off the freedom of the people. Our blind thrashing against our evil opponents only tightens the leash around our necks.


1. Fallows presents a good argument for abandoning the "war" rhetoric.

Thomas C Greene, "Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?," The Register (UK) (August 17, 2006).

Ann Coulter, "Terrorists Win: Deodorant Banned From Airplanes," Human Events Online (August 16, 2006).

James Fallows, "Declaring Victory," The Atlantic Monthly (September 2006). Subscription required for full-text access.