Flying Naked

Not a lot of technical details have surfaced yet about the latest alleged terrorist plot to blow up airplanes. However from what little has been revealed, it appears that the explosives were liquid and would be carried in hand luggage. I’m willing to bet that whatever they were using would not have been detected by X-ray machines and metal detectors. In fact, it very possibly could have passed a hand search if it were disguised as some similar but harmless liquid (milk, hand lotion, soda, etc.). Or maybe toothpaste or soap? According to the Guardian,

Reports suggested the plot revolved around liquid-based explosives, and all passengers from the UK and the US were told they could not carry liquid or lotions onto flights.

Officials at Heathrow airport said all milk for babies would have to be tasted by an “accompanying passenger”.

All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all items they are carrying x-ray screened. Laptop computers, mobile phones and iPods are among the items banned from being carried on board.

I really wonder about the efficacy of current airport security measures. They do seem sufficient to stop the occasional lone wacko (or jazz singer) from sneaking a gun onto a plane. However, I’m not sure how effective they are against a determined and intelligent adversary. The current plot seems to have been detected by human intelligence in advance of the attack, not by catching people at the airport.

I’ve long suspected it might be possible to smuggle an explosive onboard inside a laptop computer or other electronic device. It hadn’t occurred to me to consider a liquid explosive. Where else could you hide a bomb? If a terrorist can make the bomb look like something innocuous, essentially anything can get on board. Is anything short of strip-searching all passengers, banning carry-ons, sending checked baggage on a separate flight, and flying in airline-provided disposable paper clothes going to work? And if we did that, would the terrorists just start swallowing the explosives? (Update: According to the New York Times, “In Britain, all carry-on items were barred except objects like wallets and eyeglasses without their cases.”)

I was about to make my plane reservations for Christmas, but now I’m going to wait and see just how intrusive security gets after this latest event. It’s not that I think the airport security is a bad thing or unnecessary. It’s just that it really may reach the point where the hassle is just not worth it to me to make the trip. I’m sure a lot of other people feel the same way.

I have one flight I have to take in September; and damn it. I just realized it’s a one way that I was planning to purchase at the airport ticket counter 30 minutes before the flight. That’ll freak out Homeland Security for sure. I think I need to check and see if the Acela can get me back to New York on time instead.

4 Responses to “Flying Naked”

  1. Bas Says:

    Buddy and I at work debate this type of stuff every now and then. He seems to think that the ends justify the means no matter what the hassle or privacy issue to the individual. I’m not sure.

    No one wants to be on a plane that’s blown up, or hijacked – I know I don’t… but when I’m reminded of incidents like the woman being required to drink her own breast milk because the bottles might contain weapons or explosives… or the woman who had trouble walking being required to stand on her own while searched and was denied help in just standing up. I know this doesn’t happen EVERY day, but it’s just the power, and the paranoia… where does it end?

  2. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    According to the Telegraph, “Hand luggage was confined to money, travel documents, baby milk and food and essential medical items, which had to be carried in transparent plastic bags. All other liquids, including contact lens solution, makeup, toothpaste and sun lotion were banned.” If this is really what air travel is going to be like in the next few years, I’m going to be doing a lot less of it.

  3. Dave C. Says:

    Ultimately, we’ll be stripped, x-rayed, sedated (or perhaps cryogenically frozen), stacked like cordwood onto palettes and the palettes then loaded onto the plane by forklift. Upon arrival at our destination, we’ll be unloaded, revived (or defrosted) and given our clothing back (unless it gets lost along the way).

    Not only will the unconscious passengers pose no security threat, but the airlines will save a fortune on amenities like in-flight movies, flight attendants, seats, carpeting, and possibly heated and pressurized cabins. FedEx will become the nations dominant passenger airline.

  4. Luis Castillo Says:

    No books. Why is that? I can understand if the book were, say, “how to build a liquid bomb,” or something like that.

    So when it gets to “no carry-ons” then we all just file on and sit there like zombies, watching some Adam Sandler movie and wishing we could take the train. And I often make an international flight where I have a four hour layover. If I can’t carry on my computer it’d be a complete waste of time.

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