Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Flight Risk?

So. Last week there was a bit of news over in England. Some blokes got nicked for a terrorist plot. Thankfully, no one was hurt. But once again it’s going to change the way we travel.

From now on, no liquids (save baby formula, medicine and, I believe, our precious bodily fluids) will be allowed on board passenger airplanes. Which sucks for Jet Blue – apparently they had allowed passengers to bring cases of beer on board. And hey, it could be worse – for a while, at least, the Brits were allowing no carry-ons at all.

Of course, this is portrayed as the government leaping into action to prevent a terrorist threat. Except that this is hardly a new threat. The government knew about this particular plot for quite a while, all the while we were blissfully sipping the Snapples we toted into coach. And hell – mixing liquids on an airplane to generate a bomb? I came up with that idea myself, still gripped with fear, sometime around September 13, 2001. I remember seeing someone make napalm out of gasoline and detergent (or something) on a made-for-TV-movie in high school, and it stuck with me. And if I could think of it. I didn’t see any reason why bad guys couldn’t. And any reason (besides the guy at the top) why the government couldn’t either.

But aside from a swift action to make the TSA look busy, what will the ban accomplish? It’s tough to say. But it’s certainly gotten everyone acting jumpy. Which is the point of terrorism, by the way. They’re not called terrorists because they want to give us all ponies.*

What’s good is that knowledgeable people who are willing to voice a possibly unpopular opinion (and certainly one that could draw the patently unfair knee-jerk question “whose side are you on, ours or the terrorist’s?”) will speak up. It usually takes a few days for them to be heard, but they do get heard.

They say, “Hold on a minute. Don’t be scared, let’s think this through.” I hope, more often than not, I’m on the side of these people.

So, in that spirit, here’s a link to a conversation with Michael Boyd, who spoke with Paul Harris at KMOX about how the new TSA regulations are doing precious little to make us safer.


*Ponies and terror are almost mutually exclusive, with the exception of that scene in The Godfather.


Greg! said...

Whenever some nattering dittohead tries to tell me that because of George W. Bush we are -- somehow -- safer than we were on September 10, 2001, I reply that I sure has hell don't feel safer. I then go on to point out that this feeling has less to do with terrorists than with George II himself. I feel far more threatened by the Patriot Act than by any misguided and mentally unhinged Muslims.

No, I don't think George II will blow me up. (At least not personally.) But I do believe that he and his ilk would have no qualms about stepping all over my personal freedoms in the name of keeping me safe from terrorists. Or to keep their ilk safe from the threat of my anti-family liberal values.

Our buying in to this psychology of fear not only gives power to the terrorists abroad, it also gives more power to the terrifying guys here at home. I don't know which is scarier.

Jeri said...

How about equally scary? And equally on the receiving end of my middle finger as I book another flight, pissed that I'll have to leave my laptop at home so it doesn't get bludgeoned and fried in the baggage compartment.

Rob S. said...

Yeah. It's important to remember that although its often proven liars saying that people are trying to kill us, it doesn't mean people aren't trying to kill us.

The Reugs think its in their best interest to keep us scared (i.e. doing the terrorists job for them), but that doesn't mean there isn't any danger.

Jeri said...

Of course there's danger. But we don't have to let fear cloud our judgment and force us into silence or paralysis.

The problem is that our security systems are reactive instead of proactive. How do we know that this scheme wasn't a decoy for some other attack still to come, one that our government hasn't yet conceived because it's always preventing the previous attack?

Rob S. said...

Still, there's a limit to how proactive security systems can be. Yes, we should look at all the possible contingencies, but they all have to be evaluated for likelihood -- otherwise the measures are simply a loss of liberty without any increase in safety.

What has to be proactive is our intelligence -- who should communicate with the TSA in some fashion. That way, security can ramp up to react to actual plans in various states or readiness rather than to thwart the attacks we've already stopped.