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August 17, 2006 8:32 AM   Subscribe

[ConspiracyFilter] Was the alleged "binary liquid explosives" plot actually plausible, in the sense of being capable of producing "mass murder on an unimaginable scale?"
posted by ijoshua (138 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
10-15 airplanes, with 80-120 passengers each? Horrible? Yes. Unimaginable? No.
posted by Hypnic jerk at 8:42 AM on August 17, 2006


I don't mean to snark, but presumably your question is based on the assumption that law enforcement lies as a matter of course? I worry about this reflex neo-scepticism.
posted by A189Nut at 8:43 AM on August 17, 2006


Ijoshua, why do you hate our freedoms so much?
posted by c13 at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2006


Also synopsized nicely by eriko here.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2006


This very much reminded me of eriko's post amongst others in that original thread. On preview what mr_crash_davis says, but he links to a different post so I'll still stick this comment in.
posted by edd at 8:47 AM on August 17, 2006


Echoing, hypnic jerk, I don't see how the death toll could have been unimaginable, but it could have killed a few dozen people. Hell, put bleach in one bottle and ammonia in another....

Can you even keep some of these volatile organic chemicals in drink bottles? In particular, won't paint thinner dissolve the plastic?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2006


Didn't think so.

What common military munition comes in a "binary shell" one of whose components is a heavy yellow liquid (perfume was a particular item of worry, according to news reports)?

Hmmm.
posted by jet_silver at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2006


jet_silver - I don't know. How about enlightening us (and can you keep it in plastic)?

Why couldn't you just bring gasoline on board in a bottle? Or get 8 guys to do the same thing? I don't understand why it's impossible to imagine something like this.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:52 AM on August 17, 2006


The Register addresses the process for a binary liquid explosive fairly well. Alternatvely, you can make some in your bathtub at home with common household items. However, that 24 hour cooling period to get the TATP to crystalize just isn't going to cut it in a cramped airplane bathroom.

For more binary liquid explosive goodness: see here

Besides, I belive the last "sucessful" attempt to bring down an airliner with liquid explosives resulted in killing one person and not doing any damage to the airplane itself.
posted by rand at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2006


What common military munition comes in a "binary shell"

Nerve agents? Other chemical weapon? That would cause a plane crash unless the cockpit has its own, sealed ventilation system.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:54 AM on August 17, 2006


Has anyone posted this article yet?

Craig Murray: Be Skeptical of Terror Plot
posted by empath at 8:58 AM on August 17, 2006


Who cares if the plot was actually plausible? Was WMD in Iraq plausible? Doesn't matter, the Bush Administration got what it wanted. Mission Accomplished.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on August 17, 2006


"mass murder on an unimaginable scale?" is such a bullshit phrase.

A189Nut, I think when you have demonstrable deception by those who wield power everything becomes suspect. This may lead to over sensitivity and some irresponsible theories, but hell we're fighting a war on false pretense, a couple of dark skins get arrested for having too many cell phones, a bunch of people in Fla get arrested even though they are a bunch of Milquetoasts...

We are living in a time where it is hard to shift what is accurate from what is fallacious, the lines are so blurred it is hard for a population to come to any consensus. In addition it is hard to get a copy of the rules where are playing by, the TSA in particular does not like public oversight, I don't know about the British equivalent. So who knows? Perhaps the authorities had the best intentions but got over zealous? I've certainly heard a number of non flaky sources questioning wether this could have worked.
posted by edgeways at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2006


"presumably your question is based on the assumption that law enforcement lies as a matter of course?"

Neither of these links make accusations of law enforcement's lying. The Register's point, rather, is that law enforcement is as clueless and deluded as the rest of the movie-going, alarmist-news-believing public. Nor is there any indication that ijoshua is making such an accusation.

However, I'd go on record as saying, yeah, law enforcement spokespeople do lie, with some frequency, for a lot of different reasons.

And ijoshua,very interesting, both of these links. Thanks for this post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2006


More reasons for doubt from a political, not technical, perspective.

I find it disturbing that the media coverage of this plot is big on politically-convenient vague associations ("...has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda operation...") and sweeping generalizations ("U.S. intelligence provided London authorities with intercepts of the group's communications") but nearly devoid of hard specifics.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2006


There is a disturbing trend to have the terror alert raised just about the time that the current administration needs some political cover, but don't take my word for it... Here's the Main-Stream-Media's version: MSNBC Clip.

(Just because I wear a tinfoil hat doesn't mean that it isn't stylish.)
posted by trigby at 9:03 AM on August 17, 2006


"mass murder on an unimaginable scale?"

It bothers me that we're turning into a bunch of nervous pussies. Our parents had to deal with this..


posted by c13 at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


The fact that this isn't a post about how crappy things are in Iraq, or how terrible the polls are looking for Republicans, or how people have stopped believing neocon Lieberman's crap, means that the "terror plot" is working as planned.

These "terrorists", who didn't have passports, or plane tickets, or any chemistry knowledge, or any bomb-making materials, and who have not been charged with any crime to date, are very far indeed from being a threat to anyone's life.
posted by jellicle at 9:10 AM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Not only the ambiguity, but it is being reported that the detained suspects were not arrested from hard evidence... merely circumstantial, and that the case to detain them is pretty weak...

It just seems like all the sensationalism was pretty forced...
posted by LoopSouth at 9:12 AM on August 17, 2006


Insofar as it's considered safe to simply dump the liquids in open containers at airports everywhere, I think it's safe to say that it's either it's fairly improbable, or that airport security doesn't know its ass from its elbow.

Or both, of course.
posted by clevershark at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2006


NO AUTHOR FOUND posted "Was the alleged 'binary liquid explosives' plot actually plausible, in the sense of being capable of producing 'mass murder on an unimaginable scale?'"

No: I have a good imagination. Next question.
posted by Bugbread at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2006


Whoops. [ConspiracyFilter] Did MetaFilthy fail to recognize ijoshua's name for unimaginably nefarious reasons?
posted by Bugbread at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2006


hey c13,

"Our parents had to deal with this..."

Uh, let's don't forget, there's still way plenty of those "parents" nukes just waiting for the buttons to be pressed. We're not exactly out of the woods on that one...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:18 AM on August 17, 2006


bugbread writes "Whoops. [ConspiracyFilter]"

Nah, it's a known bug. My bad.

posted by orthogonality at 9:20 AM on August 17, 2006


A189Nut: ...presumably your question is based on the assumption that law enforcement lies as a matter of course?

If law enforcement lied as a matter of course, the plausibility of the bomb plot wouldn't be a very interesting question.

It's because we generally trust law enforcement, and because they seem so economical with the truth in this case, that this is an issue at all.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:22 AM on August 17, 2006


Yah, Blazecock, that's where I was going. What would have been especially creepy about such a scenario is a bunch of aircraft simply disappearing without trouble calls or anything like that.
posted by jet_silver at 9:23 AM on August 17, 2006


Hmm.
posted by vanadium at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2006


Seriously, this is some bullshit. If you don't believe this isn't hyped in all aspects for the utmost political dividends, you are the one with the fantastic imagination.
posted by prostyle at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2006


meanwhile the general tenor has been elevated to panic at the slightest provocation. Yesterday there was slight evidence of a bomb in Seattle (currently 444 Google news stories) based on a dog alert and xrays. It turned out to be nothing but some people sure like to panic based on preliminary "facts".
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2006


mass murder on an unimaginable scale

Where did this phrase come from? Does somebody have a source?

posted by antifuse at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2006


"We think this was an extraordinarily serious plot and we are confident that we've prevented an attempt to commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson said.
posted by prostyle at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2006


"mass murder on an unimaginable scale?"

It bothers me that we're turning into a bunch of nervous pussies.


officials like the idiot responsible for that quote are hyperbole-spewing self-aggrandizing turdballs. unfortunately, the majority of the citizenry, particularly the aged, eat that vomit up. there is no perspective when it comes to 'terra!'.
posted by quonsar at 9:38 AM on August 17, 2006


It's because we generally trust law enforcement,

Who's this "we" you're speaking of?
posted by doctor_negative at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2006


Hey, Zeus! Didn't anyone see Die Hard with a Vengeance?
posted by deadfather at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2006


With all this skepticism, they're going to have to active a Plan B.
posted by MikeKD at 9:52 AM on August 17, 2006


On the upside, it seems to take a lot less longer these days to suitably debunk this sort of bullshit scaremongering. Used to be you'd get some little blurb a year later to the tune of "the suspects were later released" and that was that.
posted by briank at 9:53 AM on August 17, 2006


Good post.
Quonsar, remove "particularly the aged" and your post will make sense.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2006


batman got it wrong. it's not that criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot; criminals rely on their victims being cowardly and superstitious to get away with their bullshit.

shortly after katrina, i allowed myself to hope that the general public and the u.s. media had finally reached a point where the scales had fallen from their eyes. ha ha! that was a short period in american history. back to the same old, same old: "the terra! the terra! believe everything government agencies tell you, live your life in mortal fear that you will die a horrible death unless you absolutely trust everything we do and say to you!!!!"
posted by lord_wolf at 10:04 AM on August 17, 2006


I will presume that jet_silver is talking about a binary nerve agent, such as sarin. Checking the MSDS, it isn't Sarin, which is colorless and (apparently) odorless. Impure Sarin may well be colored.

Several nerve agents are binary compositions, for two reasons. First, they're way too fucking dangerous to get near mixed. Two, they tend to decompose.

One of the binary components of Sarin is trivial to handle -- isopropyl alcohol, with isopropyle aminee. A different alcohol and amine gets you GD, Soman, but Sarin is lethal enough, and isopropyl is trivial to find.

What I don't know.

1) How hard is the other precursor, methylphosphonyl difluoride, to make? Buying it is right out -- the one use for this stuff is making nerve gas agents, and everyone watches for this stuff moving around. Heck, they watch for this stuff's precursors as well.

2) How hard it is it to store and transport methylphosphonyl difluoride?

3) How much mixing and time is required? Binary artillery shells have a disk that ruptures at launch, the rapidly rotating shell mixes the components in flight. Is this a dump and run, mix and shake once, or mix and stir vigourously for thirty seconds or so?

A little research came up with nothing about the precursors, and I don't have the chops to figure out methylphosphonyl difluoride. If the bad guys have the ability to generate binary nerve agents, though, then we're really fucked. Screw airplanes. Dump 55 gallons of pure sarin into a tube station at rush hour, and you'll kill thousands.

Tokyo was lucky -- the homebrewed Sarin was very impure, and the delivery systems were bad. So, they only killed 12 and seriously injured 24.

But for terror, the thousands of lightly injured and the chaos was incredible.

Personally, I don't think this is the attack -- because if you can generate pure Sarin precursors, why try to sneak them through an airport security line? Just carry a backpackfull with a small bursting charge, and fire it off in a busy terminal -- or a tube train, or shopping mall.

Then again, personally, I think the closest this was to an attack was "LOL I'M GONNA GAK THE MERICANS!" on a message board somewhere, so I may be biased a bit.

Fact: It is possible for a motivated chemist to make Sarin and VX -- the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan has proved this.

I don't think so, but unlike TATP or Nitro, I can't say these VX or Sarin or some cousin of them isn't a practical attack based on mixing chemicals in an airplane.

However, we have developed ways of rapidly detecting these agents, and most of thier precursors, and the military has many of these systems. Deploying them to airports is trival, and hell, should have been done long ago. Indeed, it may have been done long ago, and we haven't heard about it because nobody's tried hauling Sarin or whatnot through the line.

Why couldn't you just bring gasoline on board in a bottle? Or get 8 guys to do the same thing?

Another factor -- simpler attacks are more likely to work. Gasoline is okay -- put it into wine bottles, have four guys bring a couple of bottles aboard, on a signal, break open and light. Problem -- gas isn't that easy to light, that smell is instantly recognizable, so everyone is going to jump on you fast, and lighting liquid gasoline isn't as easy as you think, esp when the partial pressure of oxygen is lowered, as it is on an airplane at altitude.

There's a liquid that would be far better for this attack, and you have almost certainly heard of it. I'll let you guys figure it out. I'm not sure if this liquid is a fully workable attack, but back-of-the-envelope says I could get, at worst, the entire cabin on fire in very short order. It's possible that the explosion would be strong enough to basically blow the skin off the airliner (and drag would then destroy the jet) but I haven't found any details on vapor explosive strength. Better yet, I probably wouldn't feel a thing....

On preview, yeah. Screw the bit about the aged, there's plenty of cowards of all ages. Otherwise, right on, quonsar.
posted by eriko at 10:08 AM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


I love the Register's URL for this. It's a song.

Flying Toilet Terror Bombs, do dah do dah
Flying Toliet Terror Bombs, all the do da day.
Bomber in the sky, annoying those who fly
Flying Toilet Terror Bombs, all the do dah day.
posted by eriko at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


briank: On the upside, it seems to take a lot less longer these days to suitably debunk this sort of bullshit scaremongering.

Yeah, but what coverage does the debunking get. The general public gets hit with "new threat" "new panic" and never receives any of the "old, well known, no need to panic, just hype" messages.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:11 AM on August 17, 2006


A usenet post and a register article? Great sourcing.

Look, The type of explosive mentioned is only one kind. I've also heard of them using liquid nitro glycerin stabilized with cotton, and there could be other types of explosives as well.

That said, it does appear that the British were rushed into this by the US, and they still haven't made any formal charges or named anyone in particular. So it's possible that they

I don't mean to snark, but presumably your question is based on the assumption that law enforcement lies as a matter of course? I worry about this reflex neo-scepticism.

I worry about the fact that law enforcement lies as a matter of course. Anyone paying attention would see that they obviously do, since so many of their proclamations turn out to be false in the end. I mean police make public statements that are later proven wrong constantly. I think it has more to do with incompetence then malice, really, but trusting their public statements is absurd.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 AM on August 17, 2006


I so totally believe the police have a rock solid case:
USA TODAY.com
1 suspect in foiled airliner plot released, London police say
Updated 8/16/2006 7:53 PM ET

LONDON (AP) — A district judge ruled Wednesday that British investigators have until next week to investigate the suspects arrested in an alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 trans-Atlantic jetliners, saying they could be kept in custody without charge.

Scotland Yard later said a person arrested on Tuesday as part of its investigation into the foiled plot was released without charge. Another detainee was released without charge Friday.

The judicial order was the first major test of a new terrorism law that lets suspects be held for as long as 28 days without charge so investigators can solidify their cases.

The hearing, which addressed the cases of 23 suspects arrested in Britain's initial sweep last week, was held behind closed doors and attended only by the suspects' lawyers, investigators and government officials...
Oh, and..
Terrorism & Security
posted August 17, 2006 at 11:50 a.m.
Terrorist plots everywhere ... and nowhere
After London arrests, false alarms ring loudly in US.
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

In the week since British police conducted a major counterterrorism operation against an alleged plot to blow up airline flights between Britain and the US, a series of false alarms has shown how tense people have become about the threat of a terrorist attack in America. While all of the events were originally described, or considered, possible terrorist activities, none of them has been shown to have any connection with terrorism...
posted by taosbat at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2006


Oh hey guys, don't worry the US government is now going to deploy face screeners who are going to analyze your face for signs of stress and "anger" while in line, and then pull suspicious people out of line for further questioning.

They use a points system based on the standard scientific principle of "just making it up" and face analyzers get a whole four days of training, plus three days of field work!
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2006


Quonsar, remove "particularly the aged" and your post will make sense.

well. we can't have that, can we?
posted by quonsar at 10:49 AM on August 17, 2006


...face screeners...

Oh, well, so much for flying, because my natural expression is commonly mistaken for scowling.
posted by pax digita at 10:55 AM on August 17, 2006


dont you just hate george bush for making this happen.
posted by obeygiant at 10:58 AM on August 17, 2006


Don't worry though tsa will not touch your monkey.
posted by delmoi at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2006


but back-of-the-envelope says I could get, at worst, the entire cabin on fire in very short order.

Like any terrorist has the balls to deliberately burn to death. There's a reason they use explosives - they don't have to think about the consequences.
posted by cillit bang at 11:10 AM on August 17, 2006


Note: Cotton does not stablize nitroglycerine much, and if there's excess nitric acid in the nitroglycerine, the cotton becomes guncotton. Adding explosives to explosives doesn't usually make them more stable.

If the cotton isn't incredibly clean, the result of mixing nitroglycerin with it is likely to be instant detonation.

It is, however, possible -- properly washed nitroglycerine and cotton mixed will be more stable than nitrocglycerine alone. It is also a bad answer, since we have a much better one. If you want to stabilize nitroglycerine, you'll find that nitroglycerine and diatomaceous earth makes a dynamite combination.
posted by eriko at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2006


But don't the little swabbies they're always running over my hand luggage pick up the traces of nitrogen and flag it? I always thought that anything nitrogen-based was going to get caught, liquid, solid, whatever.

What the hell are those little swabs for then, if not for nitrogen traces?
posted by GuyZero at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2006


Hatch says Demo win could help terrorists
posted by Floydd at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2006


I worry about the fact that law enforcement lies as a matter of course. Anyone paying attention would see that they obviously do, since so many of their proclamations turn out to be false in the end. I mean police make public statements that are later proven wrong constantly. I think it has more to do with incompetence then malice, really, but trusting their public statements is absurd.
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM EST on August 17 [+] [!]


Law enforcement has always lied. It's just that now we can fact check immediately. They exagerrate their successes and conceal their defeats. What's the word on the anthrax letters again? Oh, yeah.

The reason we have hypersensitivity at airports is because if there's another attack involving airplanes, the airline industry is dead. Recall that one of the government's first actions after 9-11 was to bail out the airline industry to the tune of several billion dollars.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:22 AM on August 17, 2006


The industry is soon to be much closer to dead anyway. It's just not all that profitable to run an airline these days.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:25 AM on August 17, 2006


Oh hey guys, don't worry the US government is now going to deploy face screeners who are going to analyze your face for signs of stress and "anger" while in line, and then pull suspicious people out of line for further questioning.

Well, all that's going to do is relocate the line a little.

Oh, and Pastabagel, a few more security measures, and the airlines are just as dead.
posted by c13 at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2006


It is, however, possible -- properly washed nitroglycerine and cotton mixed will be more stable than nitrocglycerine alone. It is also a bad answer, since we have a much better one. If you want to stabilize nitroglycerine, you'll find that nitroglycerine and diatomaceous earth makes a dynamite combination.
posted by eriko at 2:14 PM EST on August 17 [+] [!]


When the Mad Max times come, I want this guy in my desert fortress.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:28 AM on August 17, 2006


The future of air transportation will involve mandatory tranquilization. No one will need to eat, drink, pee, watch movies, have carry-ons, or look out the windows. Comfort won't matter, they can just place you in a sack and hang you from the ceiling, allowing more people to fit on a plane. There will be no security problems because everyone will be asleep. If the plane happens to crash, there will be no passenger horror because everyone is sleeping.
posted by JJ86 at 11:31 AM on August 17, 2006


Oh, and Pastabagel, a few more security measures, and the airlines are just as dead.
posted by c13 at 2:28 PM EST on August 17 [+] [!]


Nah, business travellers/sales forces will still fly. Most of there problems are related to fuel costs, pricewars, etc. But if there's a terrorist attack, the industry will shut down virtually overnight.

On reflection, maybe this really is the way to travel.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:32 AM on August 17, 2006


Re: meanwhile the general tenor has been elevated to panic at the slightest provocation.

The administration wants to keep us in constant fear, where the slightest thing will trigger mass hysteria.

Cases in point: A woman having a panic attack causes a flight to be diverted; the guys who bought 1000 prepaid cell phones, which in normal circumstances would be either stupid criminals or shady business dealings, trigger a terror panic.
posted by mike3k at 11:38 AM on August 17, 2006


When a public figure exaggerates the likelihood of a terrorist act, would this be treason or sedition?

I assert it's treason, because it's knowingly aiding the enemy in their goal. The goal of terrorists isn't to kill everyone they can. The goal of terrorists is to make the populace believe they have a high risk of being killed, and through this widespread fear they attempt to shape policy and subvert democracy. In the United States the terrorists have done this with the assistance of the government. Go back and watch the 2004 Republican National Convention if you need a reminder.

When public figures exploit terrorist acts for political gain, they do it by convincing the population that they are at grave risk from terrorism. In this action their goals and the goals of terrorists are the same. For this they should be held accountable.

Any public figure who uses the threat of terrorism as a political tool at any time should be required cite the statistical likelihood of a terrorist act killing the average person, and compare it to other threats such as disease, crime, and accidents. Even in Israel, you're more likely to die of a heart attack than from a terrorist act. Widespread knowlegde of the actual severity of the risk is the only way to "win" a "war on terrorism."
posted by mullingitover at 11:50 AM on August 17, 2006 [2 favorites]


A usenet post and a register article? Great sourcing.
posted by delmoi at 10:11 AM PST


VS the quality of information from government sources? Are you wanting better information form government sources before something goes up on the blue?

There were people saying 'caution' and 'wait a few days' in the "rah, rah Scotland Yard" thread back there abit on the neverending blue highway.

This is the 1st of many posts that will bring out corrections and questions as to what was reported on "the day we all worried about liquids on planes"
posted by rough ashlar at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2006


Suppose that there had been an attack. Then the complaint would either be:

"They're incompetent; they should have stopped it."

or

"They knew it was coming and let it happen."

Now suppose there was a substantial plot and it was broken up. Then the complaint is

"It's all bullshit; there isn't really any threat. They're just making it up in order to scare us."
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven, that's really annoying, because I have the expectation that you should know better.

If the government does indeed fluff up insubstantial plots (and it provably has, I can't see how anyone could think otherwise), then complaining about it is valid and any conjectured complaints re: a hypothetical situation do nothing to invalidate it. That's strawman bs.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:58 PM on August 17, 2006


Now suppose there was a substantial plot and it was broken up. Then the complaint is

"It's all bullshit; there isn't really any threat. They're just making it up in order to scare us."


I'm wondering if you're just unable to articulate your thoughts, or they are really that muddied. IF there was a substantial plot, good on them for breaking it up. But if they're just making it up, then it IS bullshit. From what we know so far, it looks like the latter.
posted by c13 at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2006


It bothers me that we're turning into a bunch of nervous pussies.

In 73 years we've gone from "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" to "Be afraid!" In 43 years we've gone from "ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country" to "Keep shopping, America!"

I belive the last 'sucessful' attempt to bring down an airliner with liquid explosives resulted in killing one person and not doing any damage to the airplane itself.

That was a test run for Operation Bojinka. Ramzi Yousef used a scaled-down bomb that was one-tenth the power of the planned bombs. (The bombs were different, though.)
posted by kirkaracha at 1:07 PM on August 17, 2006


Why don't they just use LSD? A little LSD goes a long way and nothing is going to create terror more than a plane full of people tripping balls for 12 hours. Can you imagine the bad trip they would induce when a plane load of people have no idea what is going on and don't realize it's LSD but some super-secret-terrorist-chemical.

Besides if they wanted to create terror planes have to be the worst way to do it. Hit 5-10 major shopping districts the day after Thanksgiving, especially in mid-America. The death toll and injuries will not be great but the terror factor would be through the roof. I don't understand why that, which would seem to be much more simple effective and easier to execute, is given away to maybe small damage on a commercial airline.
posted by geoff. at 1:08 PM on August 17, 2006


Heh.. I'd get on that flight in a second!
posted by c13 at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2006


I think you'd get farther on the road to terror by selling the LSD and buying weapons than by secretly dosing people. I bet the profit margins are still better on heroin, though.

Also, note that there are several chemical weapons which are much easier to manufacture than LSD.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2006


IF there was a substantial plot, good on them for breaking it up. But if they're just making it up, then it IS bullshit. From what we know so far, it looks like the latter.

How do they prove to you that it was a substantial plot if they break it up before it happens? "From what we know so far..." -- but they can't tell you everything they know, because to do so would compromise the methods by which they learned of the plot.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2006


By the way... (Maybe it's something and maybe it isn't.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2006


See taosbat's comments from 01:17.
posted by c13 at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste writes "Now suppose there was a substantial plot and it was broken up..."

Now suppose that Steven C. Den Beste is a terrorist and we're missing out on this big plot by not torturing him half to death!
posted by clevershark at 1:21 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yep. I bet that lady lives in Seattle and works at the port terminal. I wonder how many cell phones she bought recently.
posted by c13 at 1:22 PM on August 17, 2006


How do they prove to you that it was a substantial plot if they break it up before it happens?

A good way to prove it was not substantial is to release suspects without filing charges, within a week of their arrest? You should have stuck with running Clueless, it fit so well.
posted by prostyle at 1:23 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste : Suppose that there had been an attack. Then the complaint would either be: ...

The problem with constantly crying wolf is that eventually no one will believe you when the wolf is real.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 1:23 PM on August 17, 2006


I think someone at the whitehouse has been watching Die Hard: With a Vengeance one too many times...
posted by stenseng at 1:30 PM on August 17, 2006


A good way to prove it was not substantial is to release suspects without filing charges, within a week of their arrest?

They were not released. It was legally required that a court consider it, and the court decided not to.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:37 PM on August 17, 2006


I for one am glad there are people who are skeptical of the government and I want to hear from them.

I'm also glad that that there are people trained to break up terrorist plots, and happy for the work they are doing.

Does that make me a terrorist? Unamerican? It seems that in Steven Den Beste's America, I am! To which I say, Bullshit.
posted by cell divide at 1:42 PM on August 17, 2006


They were not released. It was legally required that a court consider it, and the court decided not to.

What. The. Fuck?

Scotland Yard later said a person arrested on Tuesday as part of its investigation into the foiled plot was released without charge. Another detainee was released without charge Friday.
The judicial order was the first major test of a new terrorism law that lets suspects be held for as long as 28 days without charge so investigators can solidify their cases.
posted by c13 at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


I don't doubt that the overwhelming media attention to this story is terrorizing more Americans than the accused terrorists could have hoped for. But here's another take on the volatility of the liquid components from rocketman/FPS developer John Carmack (Carmack's comments are a good scroll down the page).
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2006


And I'm sorry, but FUCK TERRORISM, I'm not scared, and I'm not swayed.


Holding people without charge (to "solidify" their cases or no) is a big damned step backward from Democracy toward the bad old days of tyranny and fascist statism.
posted by stenseng at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2006


Does that make me a terrorist? Unamerican? It seems that in Steven Den Beste's America, I am! To which I say, Bullshit.

Oh, baloney. I never said anything of the kind.

The point I'm trying to make is this: suppose that this actually was a substantive plot which was broken up before it could be carried out. How would you and I tell the difference between that and a case of government exaggeration?

And if we can't tell the difference, why are you so sure that this actually is a case of exaggeration?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2006



I start questioning the authenticity of these reports when law enforcement starts using phrases like "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".

I see no real need for that kind of hyperbole.
posted by SSinVan at 2:29 PM on August 17, 2006


if only the attack HAD happened. the news would be so cool.
posted by obeygiant at 2:29 PM on August 17, 2006


mass murder on any scale is unimaginable.
posted by obeygiant at 2:30 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven C. Den Beste: "How do they prove to you that it was a substantial plot if they break it up before it happens? "From what we know so far..." -- but they can't tell you everything they know, because to do so would compromise the methods by which they learned of the plot."

You know, I broke up three terrorist plots just this morning. But of course I can't tell you anything more about it.
There's also this rock that keeps tigers away, but I'm not liberty to discuss the details...
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2006


Mass cannot be murdered, but it can be extradited to other states.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:36 PM on August 17, 2006


PontifexPrimus, I would like to buy your rock.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:42 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven, at least I got you to reply directly :)

The truth of the matter is that I don't see many people here who say: certainly, there is no plot. I see people deconstructing what they know, and trying to see if there's anything to it, and being skeptical. I think skepticism of the government, be it in regard to taxes, laws, or terrorism, is a good thing. We will see if anything comes from this alleged plot, it may, and I will applaud the police for protecting me (I fly a lot internationally). Or, it may turn out to be a bit trumped up, in which case I will be annoyed and dismayed. That is my right, and categorically denying the right of skepticism of the government, and/or mischaracterizing the nature of the debate, is wrong.
posted by cell divide at 2:52 PM on August 17, 2006


Oh, and in response to this:

How would you and I tell the difference between that and a case of government exaggeration?

It is hard for me to imagine any plot, which given enough time, could not be proven to the public to be real and legitimate. That doesn't mean compromising sources, etc., but it does mean providing the public with the means to understand the severity and authenticity of the threat, which so far it does not seem as if the authorities have done. But I will await more information.
posted by cell divide at 2:54 PM on August 17, 2006


They were not released. It was legally required that a court consider it, and the court decided not to.

Oooh, what's that, SDB? The sound of you getting crushed by the facts of life? USS Clueless sails again!
posted by prostyle at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2006


Don't know what to make of Carmack's opinion. He says, "I can't say for sure about acetone peroxides" then he says, "Peroxide-acetone was reported as touchier than any of the other mixtures, but you could certainly pour the two chemicals together with the expectation of mixing them before blowing yourself up."

Which amounts to: I don't know, but here's my unqualified opinion on something that I have never tried based on 50 year old research to which I cannot properly reference.

His rocketman experience is with methanol and peroxides. I think anybody that has made it through the first semester of organic chemistry can tell you there is a big difference between alcohols and something with a carbonyl group. It sounds to me like he's referencing a mixture between two chemicals, and not the product of a reaction between two chemicals.

Here's my broader question, why do events like this foster so many "experts" so quickly?
posted by peeedro at 3:18 PM on August 17, 2006


“How do they prove to you that it was a substantial plot if they break it up before it happens?....How would you and I tell the difference between that and a case of government exaggeration?”

How does the government prove any sort of activity that threatens citizens? Prosecution and conviction. Seriously - how can you miss that? All you need to convict is to prove motive and opportunity. For that you have evidence. Enough evidence to convict someone would convince me any given plot was real. You can even convict on conspiracy to commit an act of terror. If they don’t have the means than they’re just idiots sounding off. We’re not talking about some doofo with a 2-liter bottle and some dry ice. If someone has some actual explosives, plans, airline tickets - whatever, then that’s opportunity. Motive would be generally a hop skip and a jump from there.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:39 PM on August 17, 2006


Explosive Liquids Scare In W. Virginia
Air Terminal Evacuated, But 2 Bottles Thought To Be Explosives Were Cosmetics


HUNTINGTON, W. Va., Aug. 17, 2006

(CBS/AP) A terminal at the Tri-State Airport was evacuated Thursday morning after two containers in a female passenger's bag tested positive for liquid explosives, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said.

"The bomb squad is on site and the woman is being interviewed by the FBI," the TSA's Amy von Walter said. "It looks like there were four items containing liquids ... two of those containers tested positive."

But law enforcement sources say the substances that tested positive were cosmetic-based products and not a threat CBS News reports...
posted by taosbat at 3:42 PM on August 17, 2006


/of course, that would require outlandish methods such as investigation and intelligence work instead of say bombing villages flat to beat the terrorism out of them. Or randomly arresting innocent muslims. Or equating political viability, publicity and hierarchial stability with y’know, actual work to fix the problem.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:43 PM on August 17, 2006


Steven: could interest in this Elephant repelling device?
posted by signal at 4:29 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe they should offer two types of flights.

One type for people that are afraid of airplane terrorism with totally strict security, (i.e., everyone has to change into paper clothing like you see in hospitals, and cannot bring anything on board at all) and one type that lets you board a plane as long as you don't have a weapon you can hijack it with so that people can travel at their own risk without endangering anyone on the ground.
posted by moonbiter at 4:30 PM on August 17, 2006


Don't know what to make of Carmack's opinion. He says, "I can't say for sure about acetone peroxides" then he says, "Peroxide-acetone was reported as touchier than any of the other mixtures, but you could certainly pour the two chemicals together with the expectation of mixing them before blowing yourself up."

That much is indisputable. Mixing them is not too difficult. Extracting significant quantities of explosive product from them, not so easy. The idea of trying to produce something explosive this way on an airplane is just plausible enough that it's entirely likely that some half-wit would-be terrorist might try it. Not that they'd be likely to succeed, but to judge from this example, intelligence is not a prerequisite for trying to be a terrorist, and good judgement is anyway going to be an impediment in that career.

However, that 24 hour cooling period to get the TATP to crystalize just isn't going to cut it in a cramped airplane bathroom.

Hmm, I don't remember it taking 24 hours, but then I made only a tiny little bit of the stuff, back in the days of my youthful enthusiasm for blowing things up. My memory of those days is a bit hazy though, I guess I probably did leave it overnight to dry. It is most certainly not the method anyone not completely insane would choose to use to try and attack an airplane, but if they weren't completely insane, they most likely wouldn't be suicide bombers. There must be millions, if not billions of people on this earth who could work out how to get a working bomb onto an airplane and blow themselves up, if they really wanted to. It's a fortunate coincidence that the great marjority of the few who actually do want to seem to be incapable of it.

Suppose that this actually was a substantive plot which was broken up before it could be carried out. How would you and I tell the difference between that and a case of government exaggeration?

By far the most likely case is that it's both.
posted by sfenders at 4:31 PM on August 17, 2006


How does the government prove any sort of activity that threatens citizens? Prosecution and conviction. Seriously - how can you miss that? All you need to convict is to prove motive and opportunity. For that you have evidence. Enough evidence to convict someone would convince me any given plot was real.

But to reveal that kind of evidence would compromise the means by which much of the evidence was gathered. For instance, how do you prove "motive"? You have to introduce evidence of what the plotters were saying to each other.

How do you do that without revealing the means by which you snooped on their communications with each other?

It is actually quite common in cases having to do with national security for the government to decide not to prosecute, or to prosecute on lesser charges, because they cannot reveal evidence sufficient to convict on greater charges without compromising the means by which that evidence was gathered.

So let me present you with a stark choice: You may:

1. Believe the government stopped a serious plot this time, and not demand evidence, and thus leave in place the means by which the government discovered the plot, thus maximizing the chance that the government will find and foil the next plot as well.

2. Disbelieve the government, demand evidence, compromise the source of that evidence, and substantially increase the chance that the next plot won't be discovered and foiled.

Those are your only choices. Which do you prefer?

This is not a choice:

3. Demand evidence that does not compromise sources which is still sufficient to convict.

Not possible. That's the problem. That's what you're demanding, but you can't have that.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2006


#2.
posted by c13 at 6:00 PM on August 17, 2006


Let me put out a #4 (let's call it a "reality based choice"): Disbelieve the government, demand evidence, and have no effect whatsoever on the actions of an increasingly autocratic administration.
posted by signal at 6:22 PM on August 17, 2006


3. Demand evidence that does not compromise sources which is still sufficient to convict.

How can you possibly know enough about the case to say that this is impossible? It seems to me highly likely that such basic facts about the case as exactly what kind of explosive they were planning to use could be released without compromising anything. There may be no real benefit in doing that, but until some specifics are given, we have no reason to choose to believe anything in particular about what was planned. No problem; we don't particularly need to know. Or, there would be no problem if it weren't for the fact that the more credulous among us will, despite the lack of evidence, encouraged by ridiculous media coverage, go ahead and believe whatever worst case they can imagine.
posted by sfenders at 6:24 PM on August 17, 2006


The Pakistani secret police tortured a guy in Pakistan who screamed out enough stuff to roll up the dudes they'd been watching in England. We've seen this movie before.

No airline tickets purchased by these guys at all. Some didn't even have passports. Given all the information we know now, there's a good chance there was no real live plot at all - just a guy with alligator clips on his scrotum who would say anything at all to make it stop.

Like you wouldn't?

"Were you going to smuggle liquid explosives on the plane?"

"YESSSSSSSSSSS ..."

Oh hey, but as long as it isn't a couple Miami crackheads who nod when an FBI guy suggests the Sears Tower, we're all a bit safer.

Aren't we?
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:27 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Maybe. Or maybe not. Threats such as these are meant to keep you in a perpetual state of fear while your politicians continue whittling away the civil liberties you claim you love.
posted by Osama bin Laden at 7:35 PM on August 17, 2006


Sullivan is skeptical (and that makes him a bad person.)
posted by homunculus at 7:48 PM on August 17, 2006


I mean, forget about evidence "sufficient to convict" anyone, it just would've been nice if before they started talking about this in public they came up with enough reportable evidence to allow reporters to make some kind of meaningful story out of it.

All the talk about what kind of liquids can be used to make explosives is an interesting curiosity for those with some interest in chemistry, but it really does nothing for airport security. One property of liquids is that they can be carried in containers of any shape, easily hidden inside otherwise innocuous objects, so what we really need to watch out for is anything with significant internal volume, no matter its apparent solidity. Or perhaps the property of matter we should be concerned about is mass. Anything weighing more than 100 grams should be treated with extreme caution.

Suicide bombers aren't strictly limited to airplanes. They could strike anywhere. If the reason for alerting the public was that some of the suspected bad guys could still be out there with bombs and the intention to use them, they could well take them elsewhere now they know they'd be expected at the airport. There's no story here deserving of public interest beyond "an alleged terrorist plot was thwarted. Targets are said to have included airplanes."

The immense energy devoted to fearing, reacting to, and speculating about what might really have been going on was a sorry spectacle. My respect for the BBC was diminished greatly by their coverage of it, and I do think the public officials that led them on with provocative non-information about liquid binary explosives were partly to blame. Perhaps the new temporary security measures for airline passengers really were justified by some specific continuing threat that's yet to be revealed. The rest of the reaction would still have been a waste, but that would at least justify some small part of it all. Whether that is eventually revealed as the truth seems to be a remaining question of interest, but not one anyone seems to be paying much attention to.
posted by sfenders at 7:56 PM on August 17, 2006


"dont you just hate george bush for making this happen."

Yes.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:56 PM on August 17, 2006


By the way, S C D B, the WVa airport bottles just came back negative.

Pshew! Another Narrow Escape For Our Fragile Country!
posted by hackly_fracture at 8:06 PM on August 17, 2006


So let me present you with a stark choice:

Mu.

I reject your choices because I reject the assumptions they are based on.

I would much rather die in a terror attack than lose all of my freedoms in a vain attempt to protect them. See, that's the whole fucking point of this country. You have freedom. Freedom sometimes bites. Remember WWII? "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself?" That was the good side of the coin. The bad side was "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears." That's freedom. Sometimes, freedom fucking sucks, but it's worth keeping.

Terrorist aren't a fucking threat. Terrorists are a goddamn *annoyance* compared to the real threats that face us -- like His Shrubness driving Iran and North Korea right into the Nuke Club, or deciding that something someone said makes them an enemy combatant, and they just dissappear, or a major economic collapse brought on by an economy built on cheap debt and cheap energy suddenly finding both very expensive. Those are threats.

The only real threat terrorists have against me is that cowards like you will rip away all the freedoms we have, since, naturally, the various autocracies in the world today don't have any problems with terrorists. They might kill me. Lightning might strike me. Given where I live, Lightning has a far better chance. Pehaps I should ban the sky?

So, you want to trade, well, nothing, for the freedoms this nation was built on.

The WHOLE FUCKING REASON this country exists is that we decided that things like "He said something that offended the king, so throw him into a secret court and torture him until he confesses, then pass a law stripping him and his family of all of their lands and wealth" was a bad idea.

Do you you think they just made up "..cruel and unusual punishments...?" Do you think they made up "...secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures...?" Do you think they made up :"...the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial..." and "he right of trial by jury shall be preserved..."

Do you think they made up".... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

The WHOLE FUCKING POINT is right there. This country was built on Due Process Of Law, because we were sick of the Whims Of The King. The WHOLE FUCKING POINT of the bill of rights was that the government they rebelled from would...

1) Inflict cruel and unusual punishements.

2) Search and seize private property at their whim.

3) Lock up people for years, without trail or even accusation of a crime.

4) Try them in a secret court, out of the public eye, and compelled to testify against themselves.

5) Be declared criminal and judged guilty by fiat.

and of course, the crown liked to take private houses and put soliders in them. That one, we don't worry about much anymore, but the same reasoning went behind Amendment III as the rest of them -- this was shit that was being done to the in His Majesty's name, to the people who would rebel to make this nation and they fought, and bled, and died, to make sure that the government they were building would not have that power over the people.

So. Because you're shitting your pants over a bomb threat, you want to go right back to the Star Chamber, detention at His Majesties' Pleasure, the rack, the pillory, the tower, bills of attainder, and, I guess, 3ID camping out in your backyard.

If you're so fucking afraid of Joe Terrorist -- who is *much* more likely to kill you than Abdul Terrorist, mind you, but both are sitting several zeros away from a car killing you -- go to some country where you have no check on the government, and see just how safe you really are.
posted by eriko at 8:07 PM on August 17, 2006 [10 favorites]


To those who say that the evidence of their guilt can't be given because it will compromise intelligence methods:

Almost all police surveillance involves waiting until the cops can catch somebody red-handed - the cops bust into a place and find physical evidence.

So far this current case seems to be big-talking incompetent people (no bomb supplies, no passports, no plane tickets, etc) who were under observation for over 1 year because they were big talking (lets blow up stuff) but the observers had no real reason to take them out (no immanent plans or supplies).

Then Bush pressured Blair for premature action and the big talkers were rounded up and they harvested no physical evidence.

This impresses me as persecution of "thought crime" - people fantasizing about physical violence but with no smoking guns to indicate that they intended to act on their fantasies.

If wishing harm to the USA is criminal then many people in the Mid East if asked would agree that GWB should be dumped into an active volcano for his crimes and might offer helpful suggestions. And under “thought crime” they could be persecuted.

To: all people who fantasize about death for others – establish a writing club: claim that you are just working on plots for novels. This mostly works but even true writers have been reported to DHS for their writings.

The US right wing regularly calls out for death, calling opponents traitors (which carries a death penalty) or advocating lynching of Judges and others. For some reason this “thought crime” is just seen as exciting humorous banter.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:03 PM on August 17, 2006


MetaFilter: Mu.
posted by homunculus at 9:28 PM on August 17, 2006


Last time I checked, threatening the president was still a crime.
posted by Osama bin Laden at 9:28 PM on August 17, 2006


Stephen C. Den Beste, why should anyone, anywhere, give your analysis of anything related to foreign policy any credence at all? You've been proved catastrophically wrong, in every way, about the unprovoked and entirely voluntary invasion of Iraq and its effect on the War on Terrorism. (WoT, patent pending.)

The infinitely expanding ratfuck in Iraq? That's your baby. You wanted it and you got it. "Either you're with us, or you're against us." Yep, anyone who wasn't totally and blindly onboard with your 101st Keyboarders, Cool Ranch Division, was a cheese-eating Saddam-fellating dead-ender. (I'm more than willing to quote you from the USS Clueless*, if you're feeling wobbly about your previous declarations.)

And now here you are, poot-poot-pooting away, as if it were all about badminton.

Fuck you.


*Could Dickens do any better?
posted by vetiver at 9:35 PM on August 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


Whoa. I thought it was the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism.

Whoops! My bad.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:14 PM on August 17, 2006


It's likely the only terrorists currently in America are those employed as police forces and telenews executitives. Between the degrading experience of that sham known as "airport security" and the "fear! Fear! FEAR!" headlines of the news networks, there's no need for any actual foreign terrorists.

Nope, terrorists are a domestic natural resource in this New America.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:49 PM on August 17, 2006


five fresh fish : "It's likely the only terrorists currently in America are those employed as police forces and telenews executitives."

I don't think the word "terrorism" means what you want it to mean.
posted by Bugbread at 12:40 AM on August 18, 2006


First it was Pirate Bay. Then, it was the Liquibombers. When are other governments going to realize that surrendering to US Gummint pressure always turns out badly.

Maybe they should offer two types of flights.

Real Conservatives would welcome this plan and let the market decide. {Snicker}
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:34 AM on August 18, 2006


So let me present you with a stark choice:



Go back to the playground, SDB.
posted by prostyle at 6:13 AM on August 18, 2006


So let me present you with a stark choice: You may:

I don't think I've ever seen a false dichotomoy so explicitly laid out! You go so far as to lump all other possibilities into a categorically rejected point 3!
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:49 AM on August 18, 2006


Let me present you with this thing I'm pulling out of my ass. Hold on, here it comes..
You may..
posted by c13 at 7:24 AM on August 18, 2006


bugbread: Oh? So, pray tell, what is causing terror in America?

It's not the multitude of successful terrorist attacks on America. Other than one exceptionally lucky break a few years back, there's been fuck-all in the way of non-domestic terrorism in the USA.

It's not even the multitude of narrowly avoided terrorist attempts on America. Out of the half-dozen or so arrests made on North American territory these past few years, none appear to actually have evidence that the plot was more than dimwits bullshitting one another.

But goddamn, have Fox, CNN, and a shedload of network morning shows done themselves a mighty fine job of keeping the American public scared of the bogeyman.

Please, tell me the source of terror in America.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 AM on August 18, 2006


five fresh fish writes "bugbread: Oh? So, pray tell, what is causing terror in America?"

First point of clarification: terrorism is not defined as "causing terror".

Regarding the source of terror, I basically agree with you. TV news, person-to-person panic, newspapers, and radio have done the most in causing terror. That doesn't make them terrorists, that makes them fearmongers.
posted by Bugbread at 9:19 AM on August 18, 2006


First point of clarification: it is prudent to actually look up the definition before talking about it.

define: terrorism

is defined by the US Department of Defense as "the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."

emphasis mine.
posted by c13 at 9:41 AM on August 18, 2006


terrorism is not defined as "causing terror".

I seem to remember that one widely-accepted definition is approximately "intentionally terrifying people in order to achieve some sort of political goal." So it's not very far beyond that to suggest that terrorizing people with these so-called "network morning shows" in order to sell advertising should also count as terrorism.

But it's a notoriously difficult word to come up with any really precise definition for. I know it when I see it!
posted by sfenders at 9:42 AM on August 18, 2006


MetaFilter: dimwits bullshitting one another.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:50 AM on August 18, 2006


"define: terrorism

"is defined by the US Department of Defense as 'the unlawful use of -- or threatened use of -- force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.'"


emphasis mine.

sfenders writes "I seem to remember that one widely-accepted definition is approximately 'intentionally terrifying people in order to achieve some sort of political goal.' So it's not very far beyond that to suggest that terrorizing people with these so-called 'network morning shows' in order to sell advertising should also count as terrorism."

Only if you accept the current belief that everything, be it advertising, sex, life, death, smurfs, or paper, is part of "politics". I don't, and I don't see how "getting advertising money" can be considered as a political goal.

As far as "far beyond"; well, sure, if you're willing to use "far beyond" to define words, then news is terrorism. Punching someone is murder. Raping an adult is statutory rape. Having sex with another human is bestiality. Words are defined as they are defined. Word definitions are hazy and transitory enough without accepting things that are excluded from definitions as being included by those definitions because they are somewhat related.
posted by Bugbread at 10:08 AM on August 18, 2006


I don't see how "getting advertising money" can be considered as a political goal.

Ah, but it's easy. If politics is the struggle for power to control and influence our fellow men, surely the television networks are doing quite well. The proper analogy is not to "punching someone is murder", but to "killing a dog is murder". Much of the essential character of murder is still there, depending perhaps on the character and breeding of the dog, and ordinary people with the habit to exaggerate things might use the word that way in their hyperbole without being misunderstood. Perhaps the word usage in question is closer still in meaning while more distant from concrete reality, as in "war is murder". Anyway, I see no reason to complain about this abuse of "terrorism", a word already beaten half to death, when you could instead go after the intended meaning it was used to convey as the same kind of deliberate exaggeration of reality for emotional effect as used by the terrorists, whoever they are.

The most fundamental "source of terror in America" is in the lack of perspective shared by those of its citizens who are terrified without good reason. They have none but themselves to turn to for hope of rescue.
posted by sfenders at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2006


Maybe they should offer two types of flights.
posted by moonbiter

Please see:
CNN
Private jets seen as short-term fix
Friday, August 18, 2006; Posted: 11:44 a.m.

CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Tighter airport security in the wake of a foiled bomb plot in Britain last week sent big-spending business travelers rushing to private jets in hopes of avoiding long delays and luggage restrictions...

NBTA's Tiller said airport operations are already returning to normal and that business travelers that avoided commercial airlines are returning.

He noted, however, that travelers who used private jets to circumvent airport security may develop a liking for the convenience and make greater use of them in the future.

"In times when standard commercial aviation becomes more challenging, corporations look to potential alternatives," Tiller said. "Those alternatives provide added value during the challenging time, but they may provide added value even as things return to normal."

NBTA surveys show a growing use of private jets and charters since the 2001 terror attacks on the United States. A 2002 survey of corporate travel managers showed that 26 percent of U.S. companies used private jets. By 2004, 33 percent of the companies said they used them. Informal research from the NBTA show the trend continues.

Tiller added that business travel has increased across the board and airlines have not seen a decline in business travel customers.
posted by taosbat at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2006


There is also the fact of the indispensible part that media coverage plays in making "terrorism" effective, to any extent that it may be effective on a large scale. Neither one of the idiots blowing up airplanes nor the media reporting on them could do what terrorism does without the assitance of the other. They form a symbiotic relationship, they feed each other. It is therefore not impossible to conceive of them as essential parts of the same system which might reasonably be called terrorism. Obviously their roles are entirely different in character, but they're both playing in the same drama. I wouldn't suggest any nefarious motives on the part of television news producers, but if they were to tone things down a bit, it might dampen the positive feedback loop. For this way of thinking about "terrorism" to be useful, it needs to be persistent and extensive enough to form a coherent structure of its own that has lasting influence over the way society is ordered. When terrorism reaches the point where it has become a routine factor in ordinary social life, the whole of the system that sustains it can be described as terrorist, in that it depends on terror to keep it going. I don't think the current situation is at that point, but some days it does seem close enough that it's worth thinking about.
posted by sfenders at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2006



“How do you do that without revealing the means by which you snooped on their communications with each other?”

You know who else revealed the means by which you snooped on their communications with each other? Hitler.

In terms of compromising the operation of intelligence investigations I got two words for you: Valerie Plame.

Counterterrorism is not a new field. (neither is problems with airline security and liquid explosives btw ) Neither is prosecution under it’s auspices. There are tried and true methods to prosecute and convict these people. I’m not arguing of course that the Justice Department should not share information about the prosecution with the State Department and such. But that evidence can be presented and convictions have and can continue to be made. Abdul Basit Karim - Ramzi Yousef -(world trade center bombing? 1993? Hello? Plot to bomb U.S. airplanes in 1995? Hello? Philippine Airlines Flight 434? ...say did we have to dump liquids and take off our shoes back then too? huh...) and his confederates - are in custody. Why? Well because the shithead left his computer in Manila when he had to get the hell out of his apartment because he improperly mixed the liquid explosives he planned to smuggle through the airports to bomb the planes. Which is how we know about that plot. He was picked up in Pakistan and we extradited him. His fingerprints turned up on bomb manuals and storage lockers used in the world trade center bombing and there was evidence he bought the chemicals.
Even apart from this - your argument boils down to what if we don’t have enough evidence? Well, then we don’t have enough evidence and we should be getting off our 4th point of contact and out getting some.
Retribution is a nearly insignificant factor.
The mob did nothing but kill it’s own after the federal government and the FBI sources settled their hash.
Joe Pistone is out writing books (ok, well, he’s former ONI so he’s got balls)
And the movie ( “Donnie Brasco”) makes it look like Lefty Ruggiero was killed, but in fact he was taken into custody and died of a heart attack after he got out. Granted a few others in the Bonnano crime family were murdered, but Pistone is writing books. The LCN was easily as dangerous, and certainly far more effective than any given terrorist organization. Granted it’s a shadow of what it was today...but what do you think happened to it to make that so?
Solid investigation, infiltration, intelligence and prosecution. There are no secret men, only secret operations. This cult of secrecy - the mystique around wannabe SEALs, Delta Force, Rangers, CIA, DIA, etc, etc, is bullshit. Someone tells you they were part of something and it’s not on record because they were just SOOOO secret is crap. I’m “Smedleyman,” but I’m also “Joe Blow.” Joe Pistone was “Donnie Brasco” but he wasn’t going to be that forever and once the operation is over, it’s over. The methods and means remain but the people don’t. You’re not compromising anything. People know the CIA exists. People know the NSA can pick up the sound of a fart in a windstorm.
Ever think about why so many people took up sign language a bit ago? Or does the scene from “Casino” with Pesci covering his mouth to stop the lip readers make more sense? Of course the pinsized cameras make even sign language moot now. But that surveillance technology and those methods are rarely even necessary or available to use given the mobility of your average terrorist.
So what’s the clampdown point?
....uhh......
Mobility. Yeah. They tried outlawing cryptography and it got little but a good laugh all around. You’re not going to prevent terrorists from using it anyway. But the little fish don’t practice good opsec and they leave clues. You put the bag on them and get them to reveal where the big fish are.
Unfortunately this administration thinks this requires having menstruating prostitutes urinate on them instead of cutting deals, communicating, infiltrating, and slowly grinding the organization out of significance as a threat (as was done with the LCN).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:57 AM on August 18, 2006


/most of that’s just hard and fast off the cuff -so the details might be sketchy, but the gist is accurate. And even if it was less effective than it is, I’d still take the rule of law and due process and the risk of losing life and limb over not demanding evidence and accountability from my government. And indeed I have actualized that kind of choice already when I swore an oath to uphold and defend the constitution at the possible expense of my life.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2006


A quick note to say that the one of the few things that gives me hope sitting in this country is Metafilter. Please start fund-raising and running for elected positions. The present let's vote in the lowest-common-denominator approach will be the death-knell of democracy, evidenced by the fact that this Congress fails to stand-up to an Executive bent on expanding the power of the Executive at Congress' expense through crass invocations to 'terror' and Islamo-fascism and endorses his every action. Ironically and perversely, it is the least democractic branch--the Judiciary--in this country that is liberty's only protector nowadays. May Stevens live long.
posted by Azaadistani at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2006


Maybe they should offer two types of flights.

Yes. One for Muslims, the other for non-Muslims. Air Infidel, we'll call it.
posted by Osama bin Laden at 1:15 PM on August 18, 2006


Craig Murray interview.
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on August 18, 2006


New Clues in the Hunt for bin Laden?
posted by homunculus at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2006


New Clues in the Hunt for bin Laden?
posted by taosbat at 6:08 PM on August 18, 2006


Feh. We gave up on the liquids-on-a-plane plot back in 1998 because it was too damn problematic. People couldn't mix the ingredients properly, they drank or forgot critical liquids, leaky bottlecaps--it was an Allah-sized headache and it had Infidel written all over it.

With regards to my whereabouts, Bush, the Carlyle Group, and my dad are still negotiating the price for me to "be located" at which point I'll be "killed in a firefight". Then it's a shave and a haircut and I'm off to enjoy my retirement with a new identity. Aloha!
posted by Osama bin Laden at 7:03 PM on August 18, 2006


Ryanair threatens government over airport security
Ryanair today threatened to sue the government for compensation unless airport security measures are returned to normal within seven days.

Michael O'Leary, the outspoken chief executive of Ryanair, described the new restrictions as "farcical Keystone Cops security measures that don't add anything except to block up airports",
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2006


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