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20-year old college student calls the TSA and tells them security is below-par. Then he proves it.
October 17, 2003 8:30 PM   Subscribe

20-year old college student calls the TSA and tells them security is below-par. Then he proves it. Taking the hacker's ethic of "exposing weakness for the greater good, law be damned" this guy did just that by planting knives and other objects with little notes admonishing the TSA. Feeling safe yet? The TSA thinks we should be.
posted by skallas (52 comments total)

 
How Not To Get Your Message Across To Humorless Homeland Security Personnel-- Take the hacker's ethic of "exposing weakness for the greater good, law be damned".

One hopes his parents mark off their social calendars for 10 to 15 years hence when they might get the opportunity to see their son accept his diploma.
posted by MAYORBOB at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2003


he should be given a medal, or a job exposing all the security flaws--as we wait on line to take off our shoes for no reason.
posted by amberglow at 8:51 PM on October 17, 2003


Congratulations to this fine young man for the willful ignorance that this has been done on every single prime-time investigative television news program for the last two years, and for screwing himself over at the same time.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:54 PM on October 17, 2003


Word amberglow. As if it isn't enough of a hastle getting on a plane already!
posted by LouReedsSon at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2003


Playing devil's advocate here, what if changes made directly related to his actions lead to saved lives? Should they let him out of prison (assuming he gets a sentence?).

It'll be interesting to see what and how they try him for. He obviously had inside information that was being ignored and decided that the best way to be heard is to plant these objects. Well it got him the attention he wanted. Should we just laugh as they put him away while TSA beaurcrats quietly rewrite policies to close the security hole he exposed?

I mean, this isn't exactly a security exploit on some software running on someone's server somewhere. This is airline security and if it was able to do its job on the day of 9/11 we would be living in a very different America.

Its common knowledge that really bright hackers land handsome security jobs or work off their sentences/pleas doing security work (I know of one in the latter case, so its not all urban legend). If anything this guy deserves a firm handshake from our "tough on terror" President.
posted by skallas at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2003


American martyr.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2003


Feeling safe yet?

Sort of.

I have to fly to Cleveland Sunday - the first time I've been on an airplane since I flew home from England on December 19, 1988. I am not even remotely worried about another Sept 11 type hijack attempt .... I think its been fairly soundly proven that the passengers won't sit still for such a thing.

I am, however, more worried about a Pan Am 103 - type incident, where the plane just detonates in mid-air with no warning. Logan is testing a cargo screening program, but its just a test, and there's still an awful lot of poorly-controled cargo going on airplanes. This is a much bigger risk, in my opinion, than granny's with knitting needles, or even college students with box cutters and bleach.

Of course, I'm also worried about unexplained sudden cabin depresurization, parts falling off, bad weather, fire in the engines, human error, unspecified technical difficulties and just plain weird-ass failure, so its possible that I'm not the best person to answer this question.
planecrashinfo.com is an interesting site, in an awful sort of way.

However, I hope-against-hope they don't prosecute this guy. He's a hero, not a terrorist. One thing in his favor - If he really did find huge holes in the system, and he's as media savvy as he is security savvy, they might have a bad PR fight on their hands.
posted by anastasiav at 9:04 PM on October 17, 2003


I feel just as safe as I did on 9/10/01. I was flying home from LAX this morning and the line at security was horrible. Every time I go through an airport I see the TSA patting down 80 year old grandmothers and think how silly things have gotten. My 'airport' outfit consists of wearing clothes with no metal at all. But still I am singled out because they think I might have a bomb in my Tevas.

What amazes me is we put up with the inconvenience in the name of security and many of us realize these stupid security measures won't do a bit of good to a determined bad guy.

This guy proved a person that sets his or her mind to it can get contraband onto a plane. I've often thought of ways I could have done the same thing. Except I would have sent an email from a fresh hotmail account at a kinkos or something. [not that I've spent a lot of time thinking of it]
posted by birdherder at 9:37 PM on October 17, 2003


Wow. This kid rocks. I'm very impressed. This is the sort of thing that I'd talk about doing, but never do. Where do I send my $10 contribution to his defense?
posted by waldo at 9:51 PM on October 17, 2003


Martyr, Hero, etc. BUT - if there is an honest-to-evil true terrorist/criminal who is somehow caught on board a plane with similar devices (boxcutters, etc), he/she can merely plead a similar "defense" as this kid - plausibly, too, if he/she plans it in advance to look as if it were merely a security "test." For that reason, the kid needs to be prosecuted.
posted by davidmsc at 10:08 PM on October 17, 2003


The kid needs to go through trial so that his intent can be proven and the flaws he exploited can become not just public record, but federal record. He shouldn't be punished for exposing the problems in this manner if he made an effort to report them through the proper channels. Him, and others like him, should be hired on as security consultants. The people who ignored his reports should be fired and if they're government employees barred from working in the government again.

davidmsc, anybody can plead anything. It's like self defense. I can use a firearm to shoot a pre-schooler at point blank range and claim self defense. This doesn't mean that anybody who ever uses a weapon and claims self defense should be charged with murder 1 and executed. There's this thing called the legal system whose job is to weigh the veracity of the defendants and prosecutions claims. It's worked for a long time. There's no need to start polishing your jack-boots yet.
posted by substrate at 10:28 PM on October 17, 2003


Don't feed the trolls...
posted by notsnot at 10:30 PM on October 17, 2003


Uh, guys, you're missing something.

A bag full of boxcutters, a box of play-dough, and a bottle of bleach aren't going to take an aircraft anymore. That worked because the old rule was "cooperate with hijackers, and you'll probably live."

Yeah, you can sneak knives into the cabin. Big Deal. Good luck getting control of the now locked and armored cockpit door, with the passengers fighting you tooth and nail.

So, now, because of this stunt, the TSA is going to spend millions more trying to keep Sharp Pointy Objects out of the passenger cabin....

... while the bad guys find some other weak point to attack. Like the baggage compartment. Like the airport terminal.

Or, more likely, something not even concerned with avaition.

His actions haven't improved security one bit -- but they'll certainly make flying that much harder. The whole "Must Keep Boxcutters Off Planes" was a bad idea -- and now, the TSA is going to work three times harder to keep "sharps" off the planes.

This isn't going to help one bit. It'll make flying that much more annoying, and not one bit more secure. I'm sorry, but I don't find a single thing to thank this guy for.
posted by eriko at 10:44 PM on October 17, 2003


That guy is going to jail.
posted by ph00dz at 11:29 PM on October 17, 2003


I'm calling bullshit on this.

Funny how in the last few weeks, Cheney, et al, have been slobbering all over themselves about the possibility of a new terrorist attack. The timing is just too perfect.
posted by damnitkage at 11:31 PM on October 17, 2003


eriko:A bag full of boxcutters, a box of play-dough, and a bottle of bleach aren't going to take an aircraft anymore.

What proof do you have of this? I mean, I'd like to believe it, but I've seen what kind of incredible damage one small knife can do and depending on the plane and circumstances chances are one demonstration of might will put all the potential heroes down. Not to mention taking of hostages with a knife at their throat, etc. The "crowd will swarm" argument is far from bulletproof, so to speak.

Also, the play-dough was supposed to represent plastic explosives, so any potential heroes would have to deal with the fact that their attack will trigger a bomb thus killing everyone. Its not like the terrorists aren't paying attention, they can adapt as well. Not to mention promises of landing safely, etc.
posted by skallas at 11:38 PM on October 17, 2003


Please remember that there is no reliable evidence that boxcutters or knives were all that were used to hijack the planes on 9/11. Those who called in from the planes said people were sprayed, shot, stabbed, and threatened with bombs.

I'm just saying.
posted by nicwolff at 11:45 PM on October 17, 2003


What proof do you have of this?

What proof do you have that you could take over a plane with any/all of those three seemingly innocuous objects?

I'd side with eriko, lightning won't strike twice. Heck, if someone stood up with a bowie knife on my flight and said they were taking over the plane I would beat the living shit out of them while being stabbed half to death, and I'm a non-violent person that's never been in a fistfight in my life.

I'm a total wuss, but I wouldn't think twice about at least trying to take a hijacker out.
posted by mathowie at 11:47 PM on October 17, 2003


"the person poses no further threat to airline security"

Wow, that's pretty pejorative wording from the FBI. As if he posed any threat to begin with. I also particularly liked this statement:

"Officials say it's unclear whether the items placed on the Southwest planes ever went through security."

So in conclusion, the problem isn't with airport security, it's with this guy. And he probably didn't even test the actual security -- he cheated and got around it somehow. But even if he did circumvent security checkpoints, doesn't this still prove that there are severe breach possibilities outside the normal check-in areas? I'm glad they suggest screening airport personnel, but isn't that kind of a no-brainer?

As for those who think there's no threat of an air takeover from terrorists armed with box cutters, I ask you: when was the last time you took combat lessons? It's not like an airplane is a wide-open space where everyone can bum-rush an opponent. Narrow aisles mean one-on-one combat against people who are not only willing to give their lives for their "cause", but have also most likely recieved months of training. You think you can take 'em on?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:55 PM on October 17, 2003


mathowie:What proof do you have that you could take over a plane with any/all of those three seemingly innocuous objects?

Lets not be anal here. Someone managed to put items that were not checked by security onto multiple planes undetected. Maybe the "lets roll" stuff helps you sleep better at night, but that doesnt make it true. Framing it in terms of "just a bowie knife" or whatever is shortsighted and is ultimately teleological. Arguably, he could have put anything in those bathrooms. Are you really going to tackle a guy with a few lbs of plastic explosives on his body and his sweaty thumb on a detonator?

Also, following nicwolf's link: we know jack-shit about 9/11. Bush's "investigation" was a show for the public, hell he tried to get master bullshitter Henry Kissinger to head it at one time. There are big black lines covering multuple pages.

My proof? I say we know less than nothing about what happened on those planes, the psychology is quite complex, and last but not least *anything* could have been put on those planes. Things you and your fellow cabin-mates may not have the ability to stop.
posted by skallas at 12:01 AM on October 18, 2003


Wouldn't the solution to these problems be to just seal the pilots in a piloting area, and make it physically imposible for a passenger to get into the pilot area when the plane is off the ground.

Then it wouldnt matter how many knives the terrorists had, they could start stabbing passengers, but I think their arms would probably get tired after 10 - 20 people.
posted by Iax at 2:03 AM on October 18, 2003


So in conclusion, the problem isn't with airport security, it's with this guy. And he probably didn't even test the actual security -- he cheated and got around it somehow.

isn't that precisely the test? to see whether or not it can be cheated or got around?
posted by juv3nal at 3:14 AM on October 18, 2003


Uhm okay let's see if I can add something meaningful

Here we have a journalistic "story" about one El Al Pilot who, in my opinion, have massive balls without being your usual delusional Rambo, and a good working brain as well. And a -sealed cabin- combined with the will to resist and fight back , as Matt pointed out.

It appears that the pilot may have not give up the fight even if the terrorist threatened to blow the airplane in pieces, which is good in my opinion.

While this approach (marshal, sealed cabin, determination) isn't a solution to the problem of hijacking/blowing in pieces/sabotaging , it seems to me that -simple- screening (even with advanced techniques and personnel) is of little use IF it used alone.

And the guy who sent that boxcutters did prove once again with FACTS that it is relatively easy to bypass security checks. As davidmsc says, he should be prosecuted ; let me add he should be prosecuted so that there is a record and one investigation on what the f*ck happened and who teh f*uck miserably failed his/her duty (if anyone did, which is likely I think)

BUT I don't think he should be punished ; first because he didn't do any actual harm, he left clues about what he was going to do , he just couldn't simply call 911 and say "hey there's a boxcutter in that plane" because that would have spoiled the test (terrorist don't warn you in advance). Neither could one organize , imho, a "planned test" because such tests may end up with some "mole" informing the "superiors in charge" of what is going to happen, in order to let the superior/responsible impress your political dude of choice with the "excellent security response of the whole staff yadda yadda". Plain old corruption and who's going to bear the cost of that corruption ? Plane user , I think.

/myrantover

tangential-wide-rant: DMCA law is somehow preventing some very concerned guy from investigating the technical aspects of the dreaded automatic/electronic/paperless/younameit voting system, In my opinion and from a quick superificial review of what he's saying , he's got a lot of good points. The very same principles of technical disclosure (and public disclosure, I think but I'm not so sure) apply to Airplane Traveling Security.
posted by elpapacito at 4:15 AM on October 18, 2003


Isn't the obvious solution not to avoid getting sharp objects etc on to the plane, but make sure everyone has them, so if anyone stands up with a knife, gun, bomb, etc, the rest of the passengers can take him out?
posted by Freaky at 4:26 AM on October 18, 2003


My money is on a hand slap. This is embarrassing for everyone. Smithers hire that man.
posted by stbalbach at 5:23 AM on October 18, 2003


Damn, I think have to agree with Freaky! And I'll add that in light of 9/11 we now are forever stuck with the idea that it may be more than possible a terrorist takeover could also mean plowing a plane into something that would cause the deaths of everyone on board anyway, so who's not going to fight like it means their life? There's a whole new mentality today regarding this. So yeah, let's all be armed! :)
posted by LouReedsSon at 5:33 AM on October 18, 2003


People would rather foster the illusion of safety, however illogical or preposterous, than openly acknowledge that risk can never be completely eliminated in the world. The more honest ones lie to themselves; the more cynical and manipulative lie to everyone else, distorting reality to gain their own ends, political and otherwise. It is the responsibility of every citizen to refuse the blinders and demand the truth, however uncomfortable it may make us.
posted by rushmc at 5:42 AM on October 18, 2003


Well, my money is on the idea that The TerroristsĀ® have given up on airliners altogether now, instead focussing on so many other known vulnerable areas: container shipping, utilities, chemical plants, etc.

I think we obsess on airline security for the same reason that so many people are afraid to fly in the first place: lack of control. Whenever someone expresses to me their fear of flying, I point out that they're overwhelmingly more likely to bite it in a car accident on the way to the airport. But these same people don't worry about that, since they (falsely) believe they're in control in the car.
posted by tippiedog at 6:14 AM on October 18, 2003


"What amazes me is we put up with the inconvenience in the name of security and many of us realize these stupid security measures won't do a bit of good to a determined bad guy."

Exactly.

No........ Actually we *all* realize this.

I am so tired of homeland security. We aren't more secure, because all we've dne is make it harder. Every expert admits this - We can never make things 100% safe. Why would religious fanatics and suicide bombers care if things are harder? Why would that stop any of them?

Again we throw money at the effect rather than dealing with the cause.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:52 AM on October 18, 2003


Freaky,

That works untill the terrorists decide to all go on "vacation" together!

Then you have 50 terrorists with knives!

I think if I was on a plane like that, "OK! There are 50 of us and 20 of you! We have you out numbered!"

At that point, I would yell "KNIFE FIGHT!"

It would be "like a movie," except this one would end badly. (Any MeFi Hollywood agents out there? I have more where this came from! Contact me!)
posted by Quartermass at 7:11 AM on October 18, 2003


I'd agree with having armed passengers if there weren't so many people that have poor control of their temper already. The risk of an airplane being hijacked is less than the risk of Joe Citizen getting annoyed at somebody and stabbing them in the chest, especially if they've had a few to calm their nerves in the airport bar. I'm also not all that confident of other peoples bravery. I've personally seen too many cases of cowardice that didn't even involve big scary hijackers. When I was a teenager I was downtown at the International Freedom Festival in Windsor. I heard a voice coming from the bushes in Dieppe Park and found a little old lady. She'd just sort of tripped and fallen into the bushes. According to her she'd been there an hour. That's probably just what it felt like too her, but as dense as the foot traffic is during the freedom festival she'd have been passed by dozens of people in just five minutes. Nobody helped her. Maybe going in alone is too scary for most people, but somebody could've taken the initiative and tapped a few nearby people to take a look.

My guesses on actual airline safety is that they are fairly safe right now, September 11th is too fresh in peoples mind. Give it a few years with a government less willing to wind up the populace about false fears and society will relax. That's why it's important to put in place good security measures that we can live with now. It's when we get complacent that they'll use an airline as a guided missile again. That doesn't mean you'll make airlines 100% safe, you can't do that unless you just don't fly them or build them. I don't see how you'll ever be able to screen adequately against, for instance, somebody carrying a thermos of bleach and somebody else carrying a thermos of ammonia (or a thermos of a nasty biological soup). I could be wrong, maybe there will be something that can detect this, I just don't see it now.

I also fully believe that the airlines might try to take advantage of this. "Sorry, no outside food or beverages. We don't serve meals or snacks but we'll be happy to sell you a coke and a sandwich for 15 bucks."

So I think the government has a responsibility to listen to the public and if their observations are wrong, or there's no solution then they've got a responsibility to make sure that it's understood. If that happens then people won't feel that they've got to go 007 to prove that airline security is unsafe. The kid was dumb and should get a slap on the wrist. The more worrying thing is that somebody charged with our safety was negligent. That's call for dismissal.
posted by substrate at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2003


This whole thing reminds me of the Adrian Lamo affair... "Hey cops! Your stuff is insecure!"
posted by ph00dz at 7:43 AM on October 18, 2003


The reason you aren't taking airplanes anymore is simple.

Until 11-Sep-2003, the rule about hijackings was simple. Crews were ordered to follow it. Passengers were encouraged to.
Cooperate with the hijackers, and you will almost certainly live. Resist, and you will probably be hurt or killed.
That's what made the 9/11 attacks work. The hijackers knew that the standing order was to cooperate, do what the hijackers said. Nobody knew, at the moment the planes were taken, that the hijackers were exploiting a loophole.

The Towers are hit. The Pentagon is hit. A fourth plane is in the air. The rule changes. 40 minutes after the introduction of the attack, the rule has changed.
Cooperate with the hijackers, and you will almost certainly die, and you may be abetting in the deaths of thousands of other. Resist, and you might live, and you will prevent the hijackers from committing even worse acts. The aircraft is a weapon, it cannot be surrendered.
That's why boxcutters aren't hijacking aircraft anymore. That's why UA91 was brought down in PA, not DC. We all know what can happen if the hijacker gains control of the aircraft. If they do, everyone on the plane is dead, and who knows how many more So, there's no reason not to fight. Indeed, you could consider it your duty to fight. I certainly do.

The trouble with the bad guys getting 50-60 people on one aircraft is that it stands out, and the more people involved in preparations, the more likely it is to leak out before the attack. The 19 that were part of the Sep. 11 attack were almost rumbled a couple of times, and three times as many attackers trying to get onto one aircraft will make it much more likely that the attack will be rumbled before the plane leaves the ground.

Now, I'm no fan of a cabin full of pistols. (Mainly because most people are incredibly lousy shots, and in a bouncing aircraft, they'll even be worse.) But this attempt to keep things like pocketknives, corkscrews and the like is just silly. It reduces a defense against hijacking -- if half the passengers had thier leathermen, the screwdriver in the kit, those really evil knitting needles, and the like, then five guys jumping up and saying "We're taking control of this plane" is going to find everyone else pulling out sharp objects and saying "Wanna Bet?"

BTW, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. -- and a shield. It even has straps for your arms.

This is what I mean about wasting time and money. The defense against hijackers now is already on the plane. That money should be spent plugging holes, not trying to plug the holes that are mostly closed. Trying to keep sharps off the plane is merely making one part of the fence higher. What is the bad guy going to do? Try to climb the taller part of the fence? Or go around the corner and climb the shorter wall there?
posted by eriko at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2003


It's sweet how simple some seem to think that the situation would be if terrorists took over a plane. What if it was bunch of english speaking white people who insisted that they wanted to bring attention to their particular cause (pro-life, environmental, ...) and that they just wanted to fly the plane to Detroit. So, no one would want to die just to stop some eco-demonstrators from flying to Detroit to complain about pollution levels and ... next thing you know you're crashing into an airport terminal and killing a couple thousand people !

By the way - half a dozen of the millitary guys I trained with could almost certainly take a passenger aircraft and hold it against civilians (even armed with 'sharps') with no weapons at all. The protection against all of these things is that the intersection of the set of people who have heavy duty miltary training with the set of potential suicide bombers is rather small.
posted by daveg at 8:58 AM on October 18, 2003


There's this apartment complex near DFW airport where the third floor units in the very back building have a terrific view of the planes taking off. (Some people like that. Go figure.) By this point, the planes don't have much in the way of altitude. In fact from the plane, you can just almost see what is on people's patios.

My point is that you don't have to be on the aircraft to bring it down. Furthermore, there are airports all over the country with similar, uncontrollable security hazards.

They also have a clear shot at Airport Freeway, for what it's worth. Airport security has given us myopia concerning national security.
posted by ilsa at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2003


And Reuters reports that undercover agents at Logan airport also got weapons aboard.

There are more holes in American airline security than in a block of swiss cheese.

It's all just a puppet-show, put on to make dimwitted peons feel that they're safer.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 AM on October 18, 2003


half a dozen of the millitary guys I trained with could almost certainly take a passenger aircraft and hold it against civilians (even armed with 'sharps') with no weapons at all.

Pretty much the point I was going to make. You don't need much more that what God/Evolution gave you if you know how to use it. I've never seen anyone get their neck snapped, but I've see more than a few martial arts instructors stop just short of the snapping and talk about what would happen with just a tad more pressure as part of their lesson.
posted by Cyrano at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2003


... in the last few weeks, Cheney, et al, have been slobbering all over themselves about the possibility of a new terrorist attack.

You've noticed how they like to scare the sheep when the sheep start getting restless? Just wait until we're suddenly, mysteriously at Code Red for the last month before the 04 election.

The TerroristsĀ® have given up on airliners ... focusing on so many other known vulnerable areas: container shipping, utilities, chemical plants ..... we obsess on airline security for the same reason so many people are afraid to fly in the first place: lack of control.

Well, thanks. You're right about me and the fear-of-flying/control issue. But now you've just made me feel I have no control when I turn on my tapwater or drive near a heavy industrial area. :P

Why would religious fanatics and suicide bombers care if things are harder? Why would that stop any of them?
Again we throw money at the effect rather than dealing with the cause.


I agree. But I'm sometimes pessimistic as to how we can ever really deal with "the cause." People fight against the U.S. for many reasons, many causes, some symbolic, some concrete. Nothing would ever stop the hatred of some against the U.S.

Even if, for instance, the U.S. stopped being a nation of short-sighted, insular, materialistic greed; even if the Nikes and Nordstroms and Ford Navigator dealerships all disappeard, and every American citizen became an ascetic monk or nun who donated all profits to aiding the impoverished of the world - would that stop the hatred, the desire to destroy? Probably not.

At the root of the hatred for many is the U.S.'s basic philosophy of democratic or republican form of government. (And despite best efforts of conservative Christians to turn the U.S. into a wacko Christian fundamentalist state, we're still a secular democracy.)

As long as that still exists, there will be those who despise it. The fact that we are a land that stands for equality and accessibility for all races, genders, religions, orientations (even if we are very imperfect in our execution of the philosophy) - that's what gnaws at the craw of the most radical "Islamics."
posted by NorthernLite at 9:53 AM on October 18, 2003


1. I love to fly and I fly frequently. I bring extra books and lend my GBA to undacovabrovas. Like the 'Cos scairt after the horror double feature with Ol Weird Harold on the bridge in reverse, I will run up mathowie's back and down his front to have the first chance to tear the throat [with my quick bare hands] out of anyone who threatens the lives of my fellow souls. Hear me now and I will tell you later; I will end your life ignobly with a shattered fold down tray. Though most don't advertise, Vets are among you in greater numbers than you realize.
2. Don't believe the hype. Look at the stats. Even with modern terrorism, you are MUCH more likely to die in an auto wreck or by self inflicted lung/heart failure. You will choke on a marshmallow peep, that frisbee sized Fatburger, or even pancakes! before you get lucky enough to cower before or kill a terrorist on an airplane. Yeah I know, boring and not newsworthy. [But true!]
3. Airport and airline staff, just like bartenders and CEOs, get caranky with a growing workload and a falling buget. To speed your journey and make it more enjoyable, let me recommend a modicum of patience, civility, and common ? courtesy. The fly truck business, each with a dagger in both hands to it's competitors, certainly can't fund the needed security in the present regulatory environment. Shit, they can't even get together with the FAA to bring the antiquated air traffic control systems out of the 70s. You can check the web to see if that storm is headed for your county, but controllers drop planes frequently with equipment that can barely discern a modern composite filled jet with any 'ol gaggle of geese. Ditto for the ocean container business and the strapped continental trucking business. Congress cut funding, using the only lever they have, wisely directing the TSA to spend less money on bodies and more on systems and screening tech. But the TSA, with or without executive directions, ignored the mandate to cut the porky staff and training expenses. I'm not down with swine on the dole, but if we can spend 100 Bs [of your grankids' future skrilla] in Iraq, why can't we secure our own borders?
4. The failures of our current airport security are widely documented, more so in the foreign media. This kid made a difference by pointing out the obvious. It is a shame he had to put himself on the block to get US media exposure and I hope his gesture finally wakes our legislators into real action. I am no longer accepting shrugging shoulders as an answer. Prepare yourself with your answer because you will be asked. The curve on this test is not in your favor so study up.
5. If the history of flying and building planes could compare to the computer/software biz and our wizard hackers, we might all have flying cars [want!], but more likely we would have a bunch of dead dreamers and an industry cut off at the knees before it ever got off the ground. Our early aeronauts, minding the danger of Icarus dreams and the need for planning, affected themselves as scientists and indeed developed methods for testing, certification, and regular reinspection of aircraft. Instead now we have legislators who want to appear to be working a problem on the cheap [unless it provides jobs for his district, natch] battling pilots who don't want to give up the option of stretching their legs on the way to the bathroom and playing CaptStubin to the svelte young air travelers, with plastic wings pinned on the more buxom. [I guess maybe I envy the job of pilot a bit]
6. As much as Reagan is publicly venerated and supposedly emulated these days, I can't quite choke out the word irony when one juxtaposes his classic Evil Empire speech with this modern world. 41 Yea 43 Nay! 2 7 5 4 8=channel ZERO
7. Don't take my word for it. All the cool kids hold up your library cards!
"They that would give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." good 'ol Ben Franklin
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our country men." -Sam Adams.
And for Nlite: "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." -Alex my homie de Tocqueville. Often the most simple and direct words are most prescient, no?
posted by roboto at 10:29 AM on October 18, 2003


It's all just a puppet-show, put on to make dimwitted peons feel that they're safer.

That's only half of it. It's also to elevate the climate of fear (even to the point of creating a culture of fear) and to promote the belief in the necessity for authority to act (with less attention to how they should reasonably and responsibly act), so that those in power can pursue their agenda unimpeded.
posted by rushmc at 10:32 AM on October 18, 2003


At the root of the hatred for many is the U.S.'s basic philosophy of democratic or republican form of government.

Oh bullshit. Why would Joe Arab give a flying fuck about America's system of government? If being democratic were the qualifier for being a target of terrorism, nearly every other nation would be a helluva lot more at-risk than the USA for the simple fact of being more democratic (we don't win elections via Supreme Court hanging-chad decisions).

The reason other nationalities get riled up at America specifically is that America is extremely aggressive in exporting its culture, and its government is extremely aggressive in kicking the shit out of others.

If the USA were to STFU and quit acting like a bully, most of its international problems could be resolved.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:20 PM on October 18, 2003


See, this is why I'm not flying in the future unless Uma Thurman's on the flight: they let her bring her katana as carry-on, and she damn well knows how to use it.
posted by trondant at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2003


You wouldn't believe the way local news was handling this. I had to read it on Metafilter to actually get any "relevant" information. Not to mention the fact that you see this huge War On Terror(r) load up as channel 6 news began its nightly run, then swings to a picture of a Boeing 747 with the words "Terror in the skies".
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:51 PM on October 18, 2003


Erico, perfect post. You took the words right out of my mouth.

My new wife and I were repetedly frustrated with the hoops we had to jump through while traveling during our honeymoon.

Plastic knives and carbon-fiber shives can get through secutiry w/o a problem, and in the mean time we stand in our bare feet while our nail clippers and TINY swiss army knives are taken.

The hijacking policies have changed, it's different now.

The shoe thing is all about making us feel safe. Who cares, if someone wants to kill people, they'll find some way to do it - whether it be via plane or by bomb.
posted by tomplus2 at 6:12 PM on October 18, 2003


The shoe thing is all about making us feel safe.

Yeah. Here's the scary thing. If that dumb-ass Ried was smart enough to *bring a lighter* and *go to the lavatory*, he would have almost certainly downed that aircraft -- provided there was enough explosives to actually penetrate the wing roots and start a fire. That's another question, I've never seen how much and what type of explosive was in those shoes. I digress.

Instead, he brings a book of matches and tries to light a fuse at his seat.

Thank Ghugle for Stupid Terrorists. Otherwise, there wouldn't be air travel anymore.
posted by eriko at 6:43 PM on October 18, 2003


Easy route to martyrdom: pack about ten pounds of C4 explosive up your ass and get on board the plane. Security will never detect it, and it'll rip the plane to shreds.

Which is why all the current security precautions are just a bullshit sideshow.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:37 PM on October 18, 2003


Well, my money is on the idea that The TerroristsĀ® have given up on airliners altogether now, instead focussing on so many other known vulnerable areas: container shipping, utilities, chemical plants, etc.

Or as we saw in Indonesia, nice soft cushy targets like hotels with underground parking lots or covered unloading areas.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:18 PM on October 18, 2003


If the USA were to STFU and quit acting like a bully, most of its international problems could be resolved.

5fresh, I agree completely.

But I think in the near future you're going to see a lot more domestic terrorism as our disgruntled citizenry realize they have less stake in the democratic process at home. Think of how much harder it will be when you can't just perform a simple "SELECT * FROM citizens WHERE skin_color LIKE brown OR WHERE religion LIKE muslim".
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 AM on October 19, 2003


I'm glad when people check my bag to make sure I'm not carrying anything really bad (a gun, for instance) but this hardly guarantees security. There are people out there trained to kill with their bare hands. A box cutter might only slow them down. The problem isn't keeping terrorists from bringing things on board, it's minimizing what they could accomplish once on board themselves (not to mention trying to inspire a little less hatred and less will to terrorize us).
posted by Songdog at 9:43 AM on October 20, 2003


How do these so-called "security" checks decrease hatred?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2003


the guy was charged and released without bail. He's not allowed to go near an airplane in the meanwhile
Although Heatwole sent an e-mail to federal authorities saying he had placed the items aboard two specific Southwest Airlines (LUV) flights, it took authorities nearly five weeks to locate them on the planes.
The judge set a number of conditions for Heatwole's release, including that he not enter any airport or board any airplane.

posted by amberglow at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2003


five fresh fish - I didn't meen to assert that they did! That's a problem that can only be solved over the very long term.
posted by Songdog at 5:46 AM on October 21, 2003


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