Son of a Nigerian banker caught with pants on fire leads to suspicion of Nigerians with trouser related problems
December 28, 2009 6:29 PM   Subscribe

This last Christmas Day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23 year old son of a prominent Nigerian banker attempted to bring down a trans-Atlantic Northwest Airlines flight with an explosive mixture containing PETN, a popular addition to amateur explosives. Then this Sunday a young Nigerian gentleman in intestinal distress caused caused the crew of his flight to alert authorities who detained and quickly released him.
posted by Blasdelb (312 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by notyou at 6:31 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I figured the recent revelations in the last two links might be worth discussing.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:34 PM on December 28, 2009


Wow, that didn't take long at all. Scant days after the American war machine took the cloaking device off its direct military involvement in Yemen, we have an alleged attempted terrorist attack by an alleged attempted terrorist who, just scant hours after his capture, has allegedly confessed to getting his alleged attempted terrorist material from ... wait for it ... Yemen! - Chris Floyd
posted by Joe Beese at 6:35 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You might think this was just a freak occurrence, but I did some research and at least 60% of the population of Nigeria has pooped at one point or another.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


"You might think this was just a freak occurrence, but I did some research and at least 60% of the population of Nigeria has pooped at one point or another."

Could you provide a citation for that?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:42 PM on December 28, 2009


It's been a bad few days to be a Nigerian national flying Northwest into Detroit, I tell you what. It's also been a weird few days to be a Detroiter. It's hard enough getting the ex-pats to come home for the holidays, now there's crotch-bombs in the "con" list, too?
posted by joe lisboa at 6:43 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did I not just read a MeTa post about how this post doesn't exist?

Odd.
posted by pompomtom at 6:45 PM on December 28, 2009


Hello, clothes-erasing x-rays; goodbye, lead "modesty panel."
posted by Sys Rq at 6:46 PM on December 28, 2009


Wow, that didn't take long at all. Scant days after the American war machine took the cloaking device off its direct military involvement in Yemen, we have an alleged attempted terrorist attack by an alleged attempted terrorist who, just scant hours after his capture, has allegedly confessed to getting his alleged attempted terrorist material from ... wait for it ... Yemen!

You know, one of the articles linked in that article says that the Yemeni government is still denying US involvement despite the US admitting they're involved. So maybe the initial denial was at the behest of the Yemenis.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:46 PM on December 28, 2009


That's a strange way to describe PETN. It could be more accurately described as "making up 85% of Semtex plastic explosive."
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:49 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


thanks for the update. My tv broken

Is this something you would need a broken TV to understand?
posted by joe lisboa at 6:50 PM on December 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe we should not let Nigerians on the freakin' plane!

Joke or not, not a great response.

From the freep link: "Eventually, the man, described as a Nigerian national in his 20s, and fitting the same profile as that of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who's charged with trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Dec. 25, was cleared.

Love it. The profile being: young, black, went to bathroom on plane. That's some good profiling. Poor bastard. Imagine having diarrhea and then some air marshall jumps in with a gun to your head. Hope he packed a second pair of trousers in his carry-on.
posted by smoke at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2009


Security technologist Bruce Schneier offers his thoughts.
posted by netbros at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


You know, one of the articles linked in that article says that the Yemeni government is still denying US involvement despite the US admitting they're involved. So maybe the initial denial was at the behest of the Yemenis.

Eh... It's not as if US involvement in an arab state peripheral to a war zone has come back to bite anyone OH WAIT
posted by Sys Rq at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2009


Yeah, I'm not saying it's good or anything. I just think the link they're stetching for in the antiwar article is pretty thin and kinda nutty.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:55 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"That's a strange way to describe PETN. It could be more accurately described as "making up 85% of Semtex plastic explosive.""

The fact that he set his pants on fire instead of the plane would indicate to me that he was packing something other than Semtex. PETN is easy to make and powerful when set off by other explosives.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:57 PM on December 28, 2009


So, this guy had his bomb in his underwear, right? And he set fire to his junk while he was seated, right?

So how in the holy mother of fuck does not letting anyone stand up or hold anything in their laps for an hour before landing stop this kind of attack?
posted by dirigibleman at 6:58 PM on December 28, 2009 [19 favorites]


Do they still allow lighters on the plane? Mother of fuck?
posted by dirigibleman at 6:58 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, one of the articles linked in that article says that the Yemeni government is still denying US involvement despite the US admitting they're involved. So maybe the initial denial was at the behest of the Yemenis.

Oh hi, I'm new to reading. The US is fighting Yemen. This wouldn't be at their behest. Durr.

All the same, it's not so unbelievable that explosives were obtained from Yemen, and the breathless "COINCIDENCE?!?!?!" tone isn't really convincing. But who knows.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:01 PM on December 28, 2009


Oh hey, now we can racially profile black people in the air as well
posted by autoclavicle at 7:03 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


To those noting that fire is hot: Turn off your 24/7 cable for a few minutes and join the rest humanity.

I had heard that this happened, but didn't know names, nationalities or chemical details so I'm glad of the post.
posted by DU at 7:05 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


A weird detail of this story is the Detroit man who claims that he witnessed Mutallab's accomplice talking Schipol staff into letting Mutallab board without a passport. Seems unlikely to me, but what do I know?
posted by Monsters at 7:06 PM on December 28, 2009


I also knew little of this story. I caught glimpses of the words "attempted terrorist plane attack Christmas" here and there, but didn't know the Farkish level of absurdity behind this story.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:08 PM on December 28, 2009


Who says the aim was to blow up the plane? If the aim was to make America (in the form of the TSA and media) lose their shit it appears to have succeeded.
posted by unSane at 7:09 PM on December 28, 2009 [17 favorites]


Love it. The profile being: young, black, went to bathroom on plane. That's some good profiling. Poor bastard. Imagine having diarrhea and then some air marshall jumps in with a gun to your head. Hope he packed a second pair of trousers in his carry-on.

This featured highly in my annual snippet of tv at the folks' home for Christmas. Favourite part: woman noting that airport security had let her go through with a bottle of water and... wait for it... that this terrified her. Can we call this a win, yet?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:10 PM on December 28, 2009


A weird detail of this story is the Detroit man who claims that he witnessed Mutallab's accomplice talking Schipol staff into letting Mutallab board without a passport. Seems unlikely to me, but what do I know?

Until this is confirmed by Schipol staff, yeah. I would assume a staff member that let him board without a passport would remember it more clearly than some random traveler.
posted by ymgve at 7:12 PM on December 28, 2009


You might think this was just a freak occurrence, but I did some research and at least 60% of the population of Nigeria has pooped at one point or another.

Could you provide a citation for that?


Sure.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:14 PM on December 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


Just ask Joe Liberman the solution is Bomb Yemen. Apparently if we don't start a war there it will be "tommorow's war" Of course, if we do go to war there it will also be tommorow's war, but Ole Joementum isn't much for logic.

So just bomb yemen and... On, wait turns out we already did that all the way back on December 17th. Apparently it didn't stop this attack!

Obviously we'll need more cruse missiles.
posted by delmoi at 7:17 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who says the aim was to blow up the plane? If the aim was to make America (in the form of the TSA and media) lose their shit it appears to have succeeded.

The guy was wearing explosive underwear. It's like that joke about terrorist coming up with new plots that just make air travel more annoying. He apparently had less then 3 Oz of explosives in his pants too.
posted by delmoi at 7:20 PM on December 28, 2009


most metafilter post ≠ best of the web

Nate Silver's take.

Forgive me if terrorism isn't my biggest concern.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:21 PM on December 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, everyone...carry-on bags are now banned on flights from Canada to the U.S.

Problem...SOLVED.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:21 PM on December 28, 2009


Don't worry, everyone...carry-on bags are now banned on flights from Canada to the U.S.

Funny that this would be Canada's move, and not the US. Also:

U.S.-bound fliers will only be able to bring aboard the following: medical devices, small purses, cameras, laptop computers, canes, walkers, diaper bags, musical instruments and bags containing "life-sustaining items."

This is, until next month's Yemeni Cane Bomber makes headlines.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:26 PM on December 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh, this is going to be good. The airlines whining about loss of business vs. the TSA dutifully shutting every stable door after the horse has bolted. Who will prevail?
posted by unSane at 7:28 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


i'm with AS; this kind of pales in comparison with what's going on in iran right now! like if you're looking for newsfilter stuff to post about that you don't believe is getting enough attn :P
posted by kliuless at 7:28 PM on December 28, 2009


After consulting the MeTa thread that preceded this one, I see that Flying with Fish has pretty handily debunked the "sharp dressed" accomplice claim I linked above.

Nonetheless, I just did a Google news search for "Mutallab accomplice Haskell" and got 57 separate results. This is what I find interesting, weird, and a more than a little disturbing.
posted by Monsters at 7:28 PM on December 28, 2009


Do they still allow lighters on the plane? Mother of fuck?

I don't recall exactly, but I'm pretty sure I had to put my lighter in a checked bag the last time I flew, in 2006. That was RIGHT after the toothpaste bomber thing (literally, it happened while I was away), though, so there were probably extra restrictions in place.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2009


Yes, that's a fantastic way of ensuring the next devices are concealed in medical devices, small purses, cameras, laptop computers, canes, walkers, diaper bags, musical instruments and bags containing "life-sustaining items.
posted by unSane at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


> Nate Silver's take: Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade.

Yeah, but one in ten million is about the same odds as the lottery and some guy totally won that last week!
posted by you just lost the game at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What irritates me about this story is that every time it comes up they say, "...the some of a respected Nigerian banker."

Now, last time I checked bankers aren't exactly dripping in respect and admiration lately. Add in the Nigerian angle and anyone that's had email for more than a month has gotten the "Dear Sir, I am writing to your about my poor dead wealthy relative...." I'm just saying, a week ago no one would have put those three words together with a straight face. Respected Nigerian banker.

This said, the dad does sound like a stand up guy. I feel horrible for him and his family.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:29 PM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


. PETN is easy to make and powerful when set off by other explosives.

And burns really pretty when you just set it on fire. PETN is popular as an explosive because of its very useful quality of *not* going off unless you hit it with a *VERY* sharp shock.

It's the most common explosive in det cord, because of this.

So, I have *no problem* sitting next to 50kg of PETN if, and ONLY if, I know there's no detonators. The problem for the bad guy? Detonators are *obvious*.

Note: Richard Reid had PETN. He failed.

This guy had PETN. He failed.

Maybe the should go back to the sugar water.
posted by eriko at 7:31 PM on December 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The answer to the dilemma is obvious: ban the passengers!
posted by briank at 7:34 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I figured the recent revelations in the last two links might be worth discussing.

That people look for patterns and sometimes are mistaken, or that Nigerians can feel intestinal distress, just like other real people?
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:35 PM on December 28, 2009


Consumerist linked this story earlier this afternoon:

In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said Monday. At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.
posted by mediareport at 7:35 PM on December 28, 2009


Oh hi, I'm new to reading. The US is fighting Yemen. This wouldn't be at their behest. Durr

The US is not fighting Yemen, it's fighting radicals & training the Yemen Army in counterterrorism. Snark works a lot better when you get your facts right.
posted by scalefree at 7:37 PM on December 28, 2009


Heh heh, from the Bruce Schneier page linked above:

I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.
posted by marxchivist at 7:38 PM on December 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


The US is not fighting Yemen, it's fighting radicals & training the Yemen Army in counterterrorism. Snark works a lot better when you get your facts right.

Do notice I was snarking myself.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:38 PM on December 28, 2009


At least Bush kept us safe.
posted by scalefree at 7:40 PM on December 28, 2009


The US is not fighting Yemen, it's fighting radicals & training the Yemen Army in counterterrorism.

...by kicking the hornet's nest. Good luck with that.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:41 PM on December 28, 2009


What irritates me about this story is that every time it comes up they say, "...the some of a respected Nigerian banker."

Now, last time I checked bankers aren't exactly dripping in respect and admiration lately. Add in the Nigerian angle and anyone that's had email for more than a month has gotten the "Dear Sir, I am writing to your about my poor dead wealthy relative...." I'm just saying, a week ago no one would have put those three words together with a straight face. Respected Nigerian banker.

This said, the dad does sound like a stand up guy. I feel horrible for him and his family.


Thats why I actually linked to his bio, seems like a decent guy.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:42 PM on December 28, 2009


Definitely a little wary about the "fighting just a few guys in your country" and "fighting your country" distinction. Old habits die hard, I guess.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:42 PM on December 28, 2009


... Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war. That's the danger we face. - Senator Joseph Lieberman, (I-Conn)
posted by Joe Beese at 7:48 PM on December 28, 2009


Well gosh, if you can trust the prescience of someone like Joe Lieberman when it comes to where we should extend our military, who can you trust?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:53 PM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


... if you can't ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2009


They're not even being consistent with these new draconian airline restrictions - they're leaving it to discretion of airline crews. What a farce - this has gone beyond fustercluck into utter embarrassment.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2009


Thanks to Republicans, we are now a nation of complete and total pussies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:54 PM on December 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


B-b-b-but the Crusades!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:55 PM on December 28, 2009


Definitely a little wary about the "fighting just a few guys in your country" and "fighting your country" distinction.

Don't worry. I'm sure we wouldn't mind if the Russians lobbed a few missiles into northern Idaho to blow up some Nazis. I'm sure we wouldn't take that as an act of aggression or anything.
posted by Avenger at 8:00 PM on December 28, 2009 [18 favorites]


Thanks to Republicans, we are now a nation of complete and total pussies.

I'd "thank" the Republicans for a lot of things, but I'm not sure that is one of them, BP. I think the mentality of "We must stop anything from happening to anyone at any time, whatever the cost" is a bit bigger than them.
posted by rollbiz at 8:01 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


smoke: The profile being: young, black, went to bathroom on plane. That's some good profiling.

If you had to ride the same flight a dude tried to blow up a few days afterward, you'd be nervous too.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:03 PM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


At least the system worked.

Wait, the system did not work.

Never mind.
posted by Slap Factory at 8:04 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


For your safety, all passengers must remain unconscious and in the upright position for the duration of the flight.
posted by Mick at 8:13 PM on December 28, 2009


Dammit, Janet.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:13 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


9/11/01: Saudi terrorists attack US. We invade Iraq.

12/25/09: Nigerian terrorist attacks US. We invade ... Zimbabwe?
posted by neuron at 8:14 PM on December 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Don't worry. I'm sure we wouldn't mind if the Russians lobbed a few missiles into northern Idaho to blow up some Nazis. I'm sure we wouldn't take that as an act of aggression or anything.

Well, even if the Yemeni government is totally down with US forces launching cruise missiles into their territory to fight extremists, I do wish Liebermann would sit down and be quiet. Precision attacks against dangerous people with the consent of the country where those dangerous people live is probably a better way to go than unilateral action, but we still don't need elected officials getting on TV and talking about bringing a "war" to that country.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:14 PM on December 28, 2009


Did he go to the shitter for an inordinate amount of time? Should the previous incident be taken into account? I've clicked on a lot of articles and discussions and I ain't getting anywhere.

A Nigerian "went to the bathroom" and that's all there is to it? That's what I'm getting from this discussion, so I guess you guys know more than me.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:15 PM on December 28, 2009


Joe and Avigdor are competing to see who can be the crazier Lieberman.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:15 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gird yourselves for the TSA's reaction to next month's successful "cavity bomber."
posted by killdevil at 8:15 PM on December 28, 2009


[Some comments removed. Folks, please take the metacommentary to the metatalk thread itself and quit arguing about it in here.]
posted by cortex at 8:16 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Matt Yglesias: "The United States could not, of course, be “devastated” by anything resembling this scheme."
posted by neuron at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you had to ride the same flight a dude tried to blow up a few days afterward, you'd be nervous too.

I had a friend get robbed by a black guy, and now I'm totally nervous, so whatever the cops do to any black guy is probably justified.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:17 PM on December 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Did he go to the shitter for an inordinate amount of time?

Apparently, yes. Sounds like it was a case of food poisoning.
posted by rollbiz at 8:20 PM on December 28, 2009


Matt Yglesias: "The United States could not, of course, be “devastated” by anything resembling this scheme."

I have to agree; this barely registers as terrorism. If terrorism were heavy metal, this attack would be Warrant.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:22 PM on December 28, 2009 [28 favorites]


I had a friend get robbed by a black guy, and now I'm totally nervous, so whatever the cops do to any black guy is probably justified.

I was walking down X St. at Y o'clock and right when I got to the intersection of Z Ave., a guy in a purple clown suit jumped out at me. I remembered that a guy in a purple clown suit had just robbed my friend right at this same intersection 2 days before, so I was scared and punched him.
posted by rollbiz at 8:24 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do they hate our freedom?

Following a military operation in Yemen targeting suspected al Qa'eda militants, a local official said on Sunday that 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed in air strikes which he said were carried out "indiscriminately," Agence France Presse reported. ... The National said that thousands of people took to the streets of southern Yemen on Saturday to denounce the military action and ensuing deaths of innocent civilians.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:24 PM on December 28, 2009


As predicted by some guy in Ohio more than three years ago.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:24 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "If terrorism were heavy metal, this attack would be Warrant."

Setting his genitals on fire? That's Spinal Tap.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:25 PM on December 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Turns out it was just a student at the local clown college, waiting to practice his balloon giraffe making skills
posted by rollbiz at 8:25 PM on December 28, 2009


So much for "precision strikes" then.

Also, I recant my previous comparison. If terrorism were heavy metal, this attempt would be Dangerous Toys - comical in its absurdity if it weren't so pathetic.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:27 PM on December 28, 2009


Oh hey, now we can racially profile black people in the air as well

Yep.

I was watching early TV coverage of this when the details were still fairly sketchy. A bystander in the airport was being interviewed and she said she saw "an African-American man" being escorted off the plane. I thought to myself, "African-American? O rly?" Sure enough, it came to light that the foiled terrorist was a dark-skinned Nigerian; Black, not African-American.

Given that the population of Detroit is predominantly Black, one might argue that hers was an easy and innocent assumption to make. However, I prefer to view it as another example of the folly of blindly using the term "African-American" when "Black" is generally more accurate.

Politically correctness be damned, airline passengers in the U.S. who at least appear to be Black men can now look forward to experiencing both DWB (perhaps on the way to the airport) and "FWB" (but they might have to find another acronym since FWB is pretty much taken).

The answer to the dilemma is obvious: ban the passengers!
Or ban underwear.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:31 PM on December 28, 2009


OK, so the Taliban is Ratt, The Baath party is WASP, Hezbollah is Cinderella, and who gets to be Poison?
posted by fleetmouse at 8:33 PM on December 28, 2009


Andrew Sullivan is calling for Janet Napolitano's resignation. E.D. Kain responds at True/Slant.
posted by pecknpah at 8:34 PM on December 28, 2009


Jeez, as if Richard Reid didn't fuck things up enough for air travel already... now this damned failed underwear bomber is going to make it so we all have to remove our Stadium Pals every time we go through airport security.
posted by hincandenza at 8:44 PM on December 28, 2009


its the engineering degree bit I don't like
posted by infini at 8:45 PM on December 28, 2009


Sullivan's reason for firing Napolitano is silly. We should fire her for the absurd, embarrassing "We better do something for the press!" restrictions after the episode. Adding to the mess with completely worthless sudden rule changes that do nothing to help is beyond stupid.

And neuron's right; Yglesias nailed it.
posted by mediareport at 8:50 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you had to ride the same flight a dude tried to blow up a few days afterward, you'd be nervous too.

Believe it or not, I actually wouldn't be. But I accept that my reaction could be an outlier. However, anxiety doesn't make arresting some dude with the runs the right thing to do. Black people make my nana nervous, period. But I would suggest her reaction is the problem, not the black person.

To be honest, in this situation my two biggest concerns would be:

1. Christ that guy's been in there for hours. I hope I'm not sitting at that end of the plane.

2. Can I hold everything in till touchdown rather than use the stanked-up toilet he just staggered from??

This may make me a patsy. But at least I'm a fresh-scented patsy with horrific abdominal cramps.
posted by smoke at 8:54 PM on December 28, 2009


Setting his genitals on fire? That's Spinal Tap.

If all that's left of his wang is a glob of green goo that's kept in a little jar, maybe. Otherwise, it's more Alice Cooper.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:56 PM on December 28, 2009


Old Chappelle Bit To Be Revised
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Andrew Sullivan is calling for Janet Napolitano's resignation

The Atlantic should be calling for Sullivan's resignation. What a fucking fraud.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:09 PM on December 28, 2009


If there should be resignations, how about Condoleeza Rice after 9/11. I mean, what the flying fuck? Republicans like Sullivan should just shut the fuck up and let adults run the country for a change. Seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:11 PM on December 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Incendiary underwear leads to the same disability that Mr. Peanut, the Planters Peanut mascot, suffers from: Dry roasted nuts.
posted by Tube at 9:37 PM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apparently, there is a Guantanamo/underwear bomber connection, which is almost certainly going to be used as a tool for trying to slow down the shutting down of Gitmo, as half of the remaining prisoners there are from Yemen, and there is also a Yemen connection. To me, this is more evidence of what a catastrophic clusterfuck Gitmo was and is, but I doubt my opinion is going to be voiced much in the next few weeks.

Of course, my opinion is also that the point of terrorism is disruption through terror, and you don't actually have to blow up and airplane to achieve that, you just have to try, or even pretend to try. So even though the likelihood of somebody actually taking down an airplane with an underwear or a shoe bomb is passingly small, it's still worth putting shoe bombers and underwear bombers on airplanes, because the U.S. will predictably overreact. And that viewpoint hasn't gotten much play in the past decade, even though it's been true that entire time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:44 PM on December 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, hey, we're the Internet and we're pretty powerful, right? I mean, we've totally outed people pretending to be dead and gotten camera shops and restaurants to lose business for being dicks. Rumor has it, we were pretty instrumental in getting a president elected a little while ago.

What would it take for us to, you know, make the U.S. government know that its fucking moronic to prevent us from peeing for an hour before and an hour after take-off because one asshole did something stupid?

While we're at it, what would it take for us to convince them that its equally moronic to have us take off our shoes in the security line because of one crazy moron? Or have to toss out our liquids because of a couple of assholes?

I think all of us - Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Sane - can agree that the regulations are stupid and all for show. We even have evidence that this is the case.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:45 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Precision attacks against dangerous people with the consent of the country where those dangerous people live is probably a better way to go than unilateral action

How many other countries' representatives will be joining us in the room, operating the computers which fly the unmanned drones? Oh wait, we're acting alone?

Sounds like "unilateral action" to me.
posted by hippybear at 9:54 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The terrorists must get their training from old Maxwell Smart videos.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 PM on December 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"If terrorism were heavy metal, this attack would be Warrant."

She's my molten thigh / cool-headed Dutchman such a fleet surprise / bad detonator left my nuts in the sky ... Shit, molten thigh!
posted by joe lisboa at 9:58 PM on December 28, 2009 [14 favorites]


Abdulmutallab is currently detained in a federal prison in Michigan. For now! In a few days he’ll use his Muslim heat vision to escape and run amok in Ann Arbor, shortly after America is brought to its knees by the force of his oratory in open federal court.
posted by mulligan at 10:02 PM on December 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Tough crowd.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:09 PM on December 28, 2009


Yes, that's a fantastic way of ensuring the next devices are concealed in medical devices, small purses, cameras, laptop computers, canes, walkers, diaper bags, musical instruments and bags containing "life-sustaining items.

ted nugent's not going to be able to bring his guitar aboard though - he has already publicly admitted that it can "blow the balls off a charging rhino at 60 paces" and that's WAY too dangerous for an airplane
posted by pyramid termite at 10:41 PM on December 28, 2009


Do they still allow lighters on the plane? Mother of fuck?

Little known fact: if it fits up your ass, it's allowed on the plane!
posted by tad at 10:54 PM on December 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


"If you had to ride the same flight a dude tried to blow up a few days afterward, you'd be nervous too."

Why?
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:56 PM on December 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nonetheless, I just did a Google news search for "Mutallab accomplice Haskell" and got 57 separate results. This is what I find interesting, weird, and a more than a little disturbing.

Yeah, if the terrorists ever catch up to modern functional programming techniques we're really going to be in trouble. After all, if this guy had properly encapsulated his explosives in the Underwear monad, he would have been free of the side effect of his dick catching fire.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:41 PM on December 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sometimes I think the terrorists are just yanking the TSA's chain.

Make some half-baked terror attempt in the last hour of flight; knee-jerk reaction: no one gets to pee anymore, even if they really have to.
posted by bwg at 1:12 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


youtube must be demoralizing for terrorists. "What can we do to them that they don't already do to themselves?"
posted by maxwelton at 1:13 AM on December 29, 2009


How many other countries' representatives will be joining us in the room, operating the computers which fly the unmanned drones? Oh wait, we're acting alone?

Actually, we're not. If Yemeni authorities support us being there, then we have the government of the country where we're engaging militarily supporting us being there.

Don't take that as my support of this action, because I don't support it. But I think distinctions of this nature are important.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:13 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


U.S.-bound fliers will only be able to bring aboard the following: (...) diaper bags, (...)

See? Problem solved.
posted by qvantamon at 3:20 AM on December 29, 2009


Gird yourselves for the TSA's reaction to next month's successful "cavity bomber."


And this is why I'm glad the TSA isn't as engaged in the War on Drugs as it is on the War on Terror.

"Arrive 6 hours before flight for check-in. You'll be given Ipecac and Phospho-Soda on arrival. You lose weight, the airline saves on fuel. Everybody wins!*"

* Except the airport janitor.
posted by qvantamon at 3:32 AM on December 29, 2009


most metafilter post ≠ best of the web

Nate Silver's take.

Forgive me if terrorism isn't my biggest concern.


This is totally true, and everyone kind of knew this in the back of their minds even if they hadn't actually done the math. At the same time, as soon as there is another successful terrorist attack the airline industry will go into a nose-dive, several airlines will go under and millions of people will avoid travel or seek alternative means, even if though their risk of dying is objectively miniscule. So it is only natural and to be expected that the powers that be will take extreme measures to prevent such an occurrence.

In other words, as per usual the people have only themselves to blame for their oppression.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:17 AM on December 29, 2009


> So how in the holy mother of fuck does not letting anyone stand up or hold anything in their laps for an hour before landing stop this kind of attack?

The guy apparently finished assembling the explosive in the bathroom, then held it under a blanket on his lap. I'm not saying this new policy will necessarily be effective, but the least you could do is figure out why they're putting it in place.

> The profile being: young, black, went to bathroom on plane...Imagine having diarrhea and then some air marshall jumps in with a gun to your head.

Yes, that's it exactly. From here on in, air marshals are required to jump all black people who use the restroom. Or, you know, maybe it's more like two days after a Nigerian tries to blow up Northwest 253, people are a little jumpy about belligerent Nigerians on Northwest 253.
posted by Garak at 4:54 AM on December 29, 2009


At the same time, as soon as there is another successful terrorist attack the airline industry will go into a nose-dive, several airlines will go under and millions of people will avoid travel or seek alternative means, even if though their risk of dying is objectively miniscule.

Honestly, if I stop flying after another successful terrorist attack, it will be because the TSA assholes at the airport will be treating me like such utter shit that the only way to maintain decent human dignity will be to take the Greyhound.

THE GREYHOUND.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:04 AM on December 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


Obama's lead modesty panels will get us all in the end.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:10 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


>: THE GREYHOUND.

One word: Trains.

Trains Trains Trains.

Except in post-rural bumfuck Maine where I live, they're more interested in tearing up the tracks so tourists can have bike paths. And the train will never, ever come again.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:29 AM on December 29, 2009


NPR had a fairly breathless report on those giant x-ray scanners the other day, about how they would've been effective in stopping this guy. But, y'know, they maybe invade privacy a little and the government has banned mandating them at every airport.

And they might've stopped this guy. Had there been a scanner in Nigeria or Amsterdam. American x-ray scanners wouldn't have done shit, except inconvenience thousands.
posted by graventy at 5:30 AM on December 29, 2009


The guy apparently finished assembling the explosive in the bathroom, then held it under a blanket on his lap. I'm not saying this new policy will necessarily be effective, but the least you could do is figure out why they're putting it in place.

So, now, the guy does that *two* hours before landing.

See, what this policy is? It is *stupid*. It is knee jerk policy designed to look like they're doing something, when it would, in fact, do *nothing* to prevent a terrorist from assembling a bomb in a plane and blowing it up.

1) TheBadGuy could do it, say, an hour after takeoff.
2) TheBadGuy could go into the lav, lock the door, and set off the bomb.

See, if they were *really* trying to prevent people from assembling a bomb in the lav and then carrying back to their seat, they would ban lavs and items in laps the entire flight.

The real, 100%, core question.

WAIT, THIS MOTHERFUCKER BROUGHT PETN ON THE PLANE?

Perhaps, if this bomb-kit-on-a-plane bothers you, you should get your nose out of my lap and take a good strong look at passenger screening in Lagos and Amsterdam.

See, we can't even blame the TSA on this one, as much as I'd like to. They never screened the passengers, because this was an incoming flight.

And, of course, let's all note that, once again, home-brew detonators have this big "FAIL" problem.

Andrew Sullivan is calling for Janet Napolitano's resignation

I agree, but only on this condition -- that she resign and never be replaced, and the entire department be defunded.
posted by eriko at 5:31 AM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


One word: Trains.

The minute they make a train that goes trans-Atlantically is the minute I sign up and buy a ticket. Honestly. Until then, Trans-Atlantic flights, like this one, are necessary evils. And I do mean EVILS.

I hesitate to even think of the ennui of a trans Pacific flight.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:37 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


At the same time, as soon as there is another successful terrorist attack the airline industry will go into a nose-dive, several airlines will go under and millions of people will avoid travel or seek alternative means
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:17 AM on December 29


I have a flight back to New York today; after this, I'm done with flying, not because I'm afraid of dying, but because the TSA is run by reactionary morons and staffed by middle-school dropouts. I'll drive or take a train from here on out.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:45 AM on December 29, 2009


Reading some of the discussion around this from the US, it seems likely that many more people are going to find themselves on the "no-fly" list. Given that this man was on a list of hundreds of thousands and turned out to be a threat, many on the same list may be refused in the future. Any small evidence or suspicion will be turned into a reason to forbid them from flying. Young muslim males may still be able to fly, but only if they've not attended a "radical" mosque or been to Yemen/Afghanistan and so on.
posted by Sova at 5:51 AM on December 29, 2009


The minute they make a train that goes trans-Atlantically is the minute I sign up and buy a ticket. Honestly. Until then, Trans-Atlantic flights, like this one, are necessary evils. And I do mean EVILS.

I hesitate to even think of the ennui of a trans Pacific flight.


Heh, try my schedule for London to New Zealand via the US. A 13 hour trans-Pacific flight, after a 10 hour flight to San Francisco and a five hour wait at SF airport (then there's another 3 hours wait/travel to get from Auckland to Wellington, but that's hardly worth mentioning).

I, too, would love a trans-Atlantic train.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:15 AM on December 29, 2009


Dear Lord. Now we get to lose more freedoms on an airplane just because of some jackass. I swear TSA has to be run by some of the dumbest people in the country. It's like they are learning on the job and are completely under qualified to be in the position they are in. If this is such an important agency then why don't they up their hiring requirements and actually get some people that know what in the hell they are doing. I'm pretty damn sure I could design a model for them where it would both filter out 99.9% of the trash and yet still making flying a somewhat of an enjoyable experience. It's not that flipping hard.

I completely 100% agree with Optimus Chyme here. I don't have any flights currently scheduled and I doubt I will be scheduling any of them, anytime soon. I'll either drive, bus, or take a train from here on out. I do not feel secure flying with 3 stooges security force being in charge of my safety. Only thing that sucks about doing this is my tax dollars will more than likely go to yet another eventual bailout when the airlines start losing more money.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:36 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty damn sure I could design a model for them where it would both filter out 99.9% of the trash and yet still making flying a somewhat of an enjoyable experience. It's not that flipping hard.

So do it.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2009


I'm pretty damn sure I could design a model for them where it would both filter out 99.9% of the trash and yet still making flying a somewhat of an enjoyable experience. It's not that flipping hard.

Please do! My partner whines about how air travel is antiquated and the system really blows since they keep trying to patch holes rather than fix it and I beg him to use every ounce of his intellect and try to come up with a better way and sell it to the airlines/government/whatever.

Please, design these models and try and get them out there and maybe make a bazillion dollars or maybe just make air travel better for those of us who have to make trips that can't be done by car or train.

Or, alternately, get cracking on that Trans-Atlantic train.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:01 AM on December 29, 2009


This wasn't just a security gate failure--this was a serious intelligence failure as well, exposing a serious hole in the Visa Viper program started in response to the FIRST World Trade Center bombing in 1993:

The next day, under a program called Visa Viper, mandated by Congress to ensure all terrorism-related information is promptly reported to Washington, the embassy sent a cable saying the father was "concerned that his son was falling under the influence of religious extremists in Yemen," a State Department official said.

The State Department, under existing procedures, passed the Viper information to the National Counterterrorism Center for entry in its terrorism database. Neither the State Department nor the NCTC, officials said Monday, checked to see if Abdulmutallab had ever entered the United States or had a valid entry visa -- information readily available in separate consular and immigration databases. "It's not for us to review that," the State Department official said.

posted by availablelight at 7:03 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


First it was blowing up feet.
Now its' blowing off balls.
What's next? Bomb suppositories?
posted by stormpooper at 7:30 AM on December 29, 2009


What's next? Bomb suppositories?

I know, eponysterical and all that, but a rather troubled sounding caller on yesterday's Talk of the Nation (NPR) raised precisely this point, and the former Bush admin "expert" who was the guest on said program could only concede that (a) the RED (rectal explosive device, patent pending) tactic has actually been used before, in a recent assassination attempt (Afghanistan? Pakistan?) no less, and (b) that there's little we can do beyond full body-cavity searches of all passengers to prevent this. I think he was not-so-secretly pleased at the prospect but I could be mistaken.

Seeing as both of the recent over-Detroit Nigerians had layovers in Amsterdam, I hereby move to christen this tactic the "Dutch Microwave Oven." No patent pending whatsoever.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:40 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also from FlyingwithFish, apparently TSA has modified the rules again. The final-hour restrictions on getting up or having anything in your lap are no longer mandatory, but "at the discretion of the flight crew". That seems much more reasonable, and I guess if they make it so that you have to ask a flight attendant before you take anything out or get up during that hour, it might be something of a deterrent. Still doesn't do anything for the rest of the flight time though, and who knows how or how long they'll even enforce this.
posted by dnesan at 7:46 AM on December 29, 2009


Checking out all the clever, snarky, sarcast, and sometimes judicious comments, I am left to wonder:
What if I had a job that required me to travel overseas and back a number of times. What suggestions in these comments might perhaps make me more at ease on a flight?
posted by Postroad at 7:53 AM on December 29, 2009


Astro Zombie : so whatever the cops do to any black guy is probably justified.

Yeah, I know, right? Detaining him for whole minutes and then letting him go on his way.

Now, I will agree 100% that they overreacted and had no real reason to detain him in the first place - Not like he asked for more OJ or anything. But we get that as part of the complete package of Security Theater. They have the goal of making people scared, in a self-sustaining feedback loop of fear. Scared people do stupid things (like putting up with the TSA in the first place).


L.P. Hatecraft : the airline industry will go into a nose-dive, several airlines will go under and millions of people will avoid travel or seek alternative means, even if though their risk of dying is objectively miniscule.

True, and I will count myself among them - But not from any imaginary fear of dying in a terrorist attack. The TSA has managed to turn a once vaguely-unpleasant (but better than a 20+ hour drive) experience into a nightmare of absurd and arbitrarily-enforced rules which, as the cause of this very thread illustrates, quite simply do not work. I know quite a few people who will not fly currently, due entirely to the hassle and loss of both our constitutional rights and basic human dignity. It won't take much more (and "no laptops" may well put the nail in the business-travel coffin) to make that 20 hour drive look a whole lot more appealing.
posted by pla at 7:59 AM on December 29, 2009


Out of curiosity --

Now that passengers jumping other passengers is apparently part of our defense against terrorism, are there legal protections for some dude jumping some other dude on a flight? Kind of like a violent Good Samaritan law?

I mean, if I'm having a scratch and somebody else thinks I'm assembling a bomb and starts punching me, I'm pressing charges, right?
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:02 AM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


If the business world could just get its head round teleconferencing, I'd be happy.

My business is with the movie studios. No one ever, ever uses videochat. I know two indie producers who Skype. Drives me insane.
posted by unSane at 8:07 AM on December 29, 2009


Please, design these models and try and get them out there and maybe make a bazillion dollars or maybe just make air travel better for those of us who have to make trips that can't be done by car or train.

We were discussing this on the MeTa thread, but yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
posted by ob at 8:09 AM on December 29, 2009


I'm still not exactly sure how a guy with a bomb on an airplane is any worse than a guy with a bomb on, say, the subway, or in a crowded shopping mall, or at the symphony. I mean, this guy blows up his penis and the airplane around it-- is he hoping to time this act so the debris will smash into a skyscraper and bring it down? You can't use an explosion to hijack a plane. Why do these draconian screening procedures only apply to airplane passengers and not the public writ large, in all public spaces?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:13 AM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Gird yourselves for the TSA's reaction to next month's successful "cavity bomber."

First it was blowing up feet.
Now its' blowing off balls.
What's next? Bomb suppositories?


Cavity bombers already exist. A prominent rebel Saudi nearly killed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, head of the kingdom's counterterrorism operations, with unnatural powerful flatulence.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2009


I get emails from respected Nigerian bankers several times a week. Would you believe someone whose pants are on fire?
posted by mike3k at 8:19 AM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


I, too, would love a trans-Atlantic train.

They have those. They're called boats.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:26 AM on December 29, 2009 [6 favorites]


They have those. They're called boats.

As someone who gets incredibly, incredibly sea-sick but not train-sick, I'm going with false equivalence here. A boat is not a train.

Also: I think that the public-spaces thing has to do with the inability to remove yourself from the situation. You can evacuate a building. You can't evacuate a plane. You can stop and evacuate a train or a bus, you can't STOP the plane. You're pretty much stuck. Seems reasonable to me that you want higher security for a situation where you can't get anybody OUT.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:29 AM on December 29, 2009


You can't evacuate people out of an explosion.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:40 AM on December 29, 2009


The fact that he set his pants on fire

Interrogating this guy isn't going to work... he's obviously a liar.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I travel all the time and I personally haven't found the procedures and restrictions to be particularly harsh or frustrating. Being required to put your laptop away for a whole hour and not being able to pee for a few minutes is really pretty minor. Some people on this thread seem to be bigger whiners than that 13 month old sitting next to me from Sydney to Los Angles, at least he had the excuse of being an actual baby, and there is hope that one day he will grow up. What constitutional rights are you thinking that you are surrendering when you get on an airplane?
posted by humanfont at 9:03 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cavity bombers already exist. A prominent rebel Saudi nearly killed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, head of the kingdom's counterterrorism operations, with unnatural powerful flatulence.

Saudi Arabia! That was it. Thanks for, ah, fleshing out my previous comment.

Farts and minds, people. Farts and minds.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:06 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


What constitutional rights are you thinking that you are surrendering when you get on an airplane?

Here you go.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2009


Please, design these models and try and get them out there and maybe make a bazillion dollars or maybe just make air travel better for those of us who have to make trips that can't be done by car or train.


Australian scientists have been working on a new method of travel. It will probably sound something like this.
posted by Sailormom at 9:11 AM on December 29, 2009


So okay, I'm curious — can you cross the Atlantic on a boat these days as anything other than an expensive luxury waste of time?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:13 AM on December 29, 2009


So okay, I'm curious — can you cross the Atlantic on a boat these days as anything other than an expensive luxury waste of time?

I believe you can travel by cargo ship, but I don't think it's particularly cheap.
posted by electroboy at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


So okay, I'm curious — can you cross the Atlantic on a boat these days as anything other than an expensive luxury waste of time?

Sort of.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oops!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:22 AM on December 29, 2009


humanfont: What constitutional rights are you thinking that you are surrendering when you get on an airplane?

Y'know, after all the ridiculousness got implemented after 9/11/01, I would get very stressed every time I was going to the airport, because there's something extremely dehumanizing about going through those security lines, making sure you don't have too much of this stuff, make sure this stuff is in this kind of container, take off your shoes, your belt, don't say these words, don't make any mistakes, etc., but then I could breathe a lot more easily once I was at the gate and wasn't being scrutinized as a potential criminal. Now I won't be able to breathe easily until my flight is over, because there is still the assumption that I am a criminal who wishes to murder everyone around me, and thus the ability to use the lavatory is transformed into a privilege that can be revoked at any moment, as is the ability to keep myself warm under a blanket.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:23 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The TSA has managed to turn a once vaguely-unpleasant (but better than a 20+ hour drive) experience into a nightmare of absurd and arbitrarily-enforced rules which, as the cause of this very thread illustrates, quite simply do not work.

I'm certainly no fan of the TSA, or security theater, etc, but domestic US air travel is generally not that bad, and it's not actually that much worse than before 9/11 (except for very specific occasions, like when they introduced the liquid ban - I was in line for a flight that day, woohoo!). The only real difference overall, in my own experience as a frequent business traveler, is that (a) I have to take off my shoes, and (b) I have to take some electronics out of my bag. Annoying, yes; nightmare, no.

But yes, you're right about them not working.

If the business world could just get its head round teleconferencing, I'd be happy.

Teleconferencing use is way up, I think - I spend a decent amount of time travelling to teach people how to use teleconferencing systems, and business is good. But there are quite a few things that don't work well that way, so there will still be plenty of business travel.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:27 AM on December 29, 2009


I have a flight back to New York today; after this, I'm done with flying, not because I'm afraid of dying, but because the TSA is run by reactionary morons and staffed by middle-school dropouts. I'll drive or take a train from here on out.

Drive. I tried to quit flying a few years back, and unless you're just bopping over to DC or Philly, trains in this country are awful, hellish places that will drive you back to the airport security lines after your first twenty-odd-hours-in-a-seat-because-a-sleeper-car-makes-first-class-look-cheap-and-hope-you-brought-enough-food-and-drink-in-your-luggage-because-the-dining-car-is-like-the-concession-stand-at-a-high-school-basket-ball-game-with-London-prices-and-by-the-way-all-the-toilets-fill-up-and-start-to-stink-four-hours-in train ride.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:40 AM on December 29, 2009


Now that passengers jumping other passengers is apparently part of our defense against terrorism, are there legal protections for some dude jumping some other dude on a flight? Kind of like a violent Good Samaritan law?

Yes. It's called the jury system.


Also, these annoy me too, but --Metafilter: we're the Internet and we're pretty powerful, right? Right?
posted by msalt at 9:43 AM on December 29, 2009


Who says the aim was to blow up the plane? If the aim was to make America (in the form of the TSA and media) lose their shit it appears to have succeeded.

This is, evidently, our greatest wekaness. Terrorists can save themselves a lot of money and lives, put an extra burden on the justice system, and undermine any real sense of danger that faces us through a campaign of "cry wolf." If they would simply stage more "attacks" using talcum powder or orange Kool Aide crystals or whathaveyou, or cardboard, mock bombs that "malfunction," they can create the same effect without actually having to risk much of anything more than jail time. And a side "benefit" is that any real attack would be hidden among a bunch of false attacks.

Terrorism doesn't have to be about suicide attacks or involve any deaths at all. As long as they make everyone lose their shit (which in our country seems to be very easy to do), practically any tactic would work.
posted by effwerd at 9:47 AM on December 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do they still allow lighters on the plane? Mother of fuck?

They again allow standard butane lighters on planes. TSA removed the restriction on in August of 2007. Of course, they made no effort to inform the flying public.

Matches were never banned... so it's not like TSA was trying to keep fire out of the aircraft.
posted by toxic at 10:00 AM on December 29, 2009


Now I won't be able to breathe easily until my flight is over, because there is still the assumption that I am a criminal who wishes to murder everyone around me, and thus the ability to use the lavatory is transformed into a privilege that can be revoked at any moment, as is the ability to keep myself warm under a blanket.

I'd been wondering about the behaviour of (particularly American) flight attendants for awhile now. I mean, they're glorified waitrons. What's with the attitude?

Now I understand. Welcome to the new Stanford (flying) prison experiment.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2009


You can't evacuate people out of an explosion.

Not to be a total pedant here, but I do believe that things on the ground have exploded in the past and at least some people have gotten out of them. So I've heard. This would not even be possible in an airplane.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2009


Newt Gingrich has an innovative idea:
It is time to go to profiling of dangerous people instead of harassing and retsricting the innocent
I don't know why nobody's thought of that before, it seems so obvious.
posted by scalefree at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


grapefruitmoon: Not to be a total pedant here, but I do believe that things on the ground have exploded in the past and at least some people have gotten out of them. So I've heard. This would not even be possible in an airplane.

Well, yes, you're right, of course. But my point is that all the security theater around airplanes and none at all around buses, trains, or public areas (except schools and gov't buildings) seems to convey the idea that airplanes are very, very, very important things. I mean, the gross disparity in false security can't just be because in non-airplane terror venues there's a chance for survivors, right?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:08 AM on December 29, 2009


I'd been wondering about the behaviour of (particularly American) flight attendants for awhile now. I mean, they're glorified waitrons.
They're flight crew trained to get your ass out of a broken airplane if possible.
posted by ChuqD at 10:21 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Funny that the TSA is freaking out over Nigerians on planes. Meanwhile, 90% of the cabs and shuttles to and from my local airport (RDU), are driven by Nigerians. Not to mention the majority of the terrorists in our state seem to be white guys like Eric Rudolph and Daniel Boyd.
posted by remo at 10:26 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


They could use less toxic substances. Burger King Onion Rings + gumbo = destroying the plane and the atmosphere at the same time! It's worse than WWIII!
posted by stormpooper at 10:30 AM on December 29, 2009


I'm certainly no fan of the TSA, or security theater, etc, but domestic US air travel is generally not that bad, and it's not actually that much worse than before 9/11 (except for very specific occasions, like when they introduced the liquid ban - I was in line for a flight that day, woohoo!). The only real difference overall, in my own experience as a frequent business traveler, is that (a) I have to take off my shoes, and (b) I have to take some electronics out of my bag. Annoying, yes; nightmare, no.
Actually, the liquids thing is pretty darned inconvenient. It means that I have to either pay the extortion fee to check a bag, or I can't bring most of my toiletries along. Even beyond the incredible annoyance of having to buy little containers and transfer stuff into them, I have really long hair and use a lot of conditioner. Having to ration it is just one more pain. Not to mention that I'd like to bring my own beverage, especially now that the airlines often don't provide meals anymore. Is it the most horrible thing ever? No. Is the whole thing annoying enough that I'll often choose to drive 800 miles rather than deal with the TSA? Yes.

I am gratified though, that they've finally fixed the metal detectors to stop going off over my underwire. Getting the individual wavedown every time was getting kind of old.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:31 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny that the TSA is freaking out over Nigerians on planes. Meanwhile, 90% of the cabs and shuttles to and from my local airport (RDU), are driven by Nigerians. Not to mention the majority of the terrorists in our state seem to be white guys like Eric Rudolph and Daniel Boyd.

Very true. Right before 9/11 I got into a cab and man was the driver pissed about rerouting of traffic. Something about some Israeli national coming to speak and there was high security screwing everything up. He said to me "if someone gave me a bomb to put in this cab trunk and drive it up there I would."

I couldn't wait to get out of that cab. But it always make me think about the access they and how easy it would be. A bomb going off in a plane or in a cab near a high populated area would have the same horrific effect.
posted by stormpooper at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2009


I'd been wondering about the behaviour of (particularly American) flight attendants for awhile now. I mean, they're glorified waitrons. What's with the attitude?

Yes, you're so much better than most people for doing whatever it is that you do in your career, the career that validates your feelings. What would the world do without you to point out how much better you are than American flight attendants?
posted by anniecat at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2009


When I think of flight attendants and how they have to pick my snotty kleenex out of the backs of airplane seats and they spend their entire working day on an airplane thousands of miles from home and they have to do that sad safety training thing that no one ever pays attention to and then they have to ask every crabby-ass passenger what they'd like to drink and they don't get tips and they have to come running when you push your call button and they have to fix your air vent and get you a pillow and lift your luggage and serve you peanuts the first word that comes to mind is 'glorified.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:41 AM on December 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


I was at the Central Park Zoo this Sunday, it was pretty warm for December and there were easily two thousand people there, there are basically only two entrances/exits to the place, five guys with assault rifles and some grenades or other explosives could have easily killed 300 plus people in the space of twenty minutes. Walking into the park on the way to the zoo, I saw maybe five cops, none in particularly good shape, armed with semi-auto pistols, they weren't really even looking at the throngs of people walking past them. This scenario, horrible as it sounds, is very likely, it's basically just what happened in Mumbai. I expect this is what is going to happen next, when the serious people - like the people who planned the Mumbai attacks - decide to do it. This airplane security business is a total farce.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


What if I had a job that required me to travel overseas and back a number of times. What suggestions in these comments might perhaps make me more at ease on a flight?

I believe the Ambien suggestion is your best bet.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:51 AM on December 29, 2009


I'd been wondering about the behaviour of (particularly American) flight attendants for awhile now. I mean, they're glorified waitrons. What's with the attitude?

They also get fairly extensive safety & emergency training. Thankfully they don't have to use it all that often; it's enough to me that they're ready when the need arises. I'd hate to be forced to muddle my way through a crash without them.
posted by scalefree at 10:55 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I expect this is what is going to happen next, when the serious people - like the people who planned the Mumbai attacks - decide to do it.

So what? What are we going to do, ban public gatherings? You can say the same thing about any music event anywhere in the country.
posted by empath at 10:56 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


...son of a prominent Nigerian banker...

Prominent Nigerian banker, my ass. He just wants to scam you out of a few thousand dollars.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:58 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This scenario, horrible as it sounds, is very likely, it's basically just what happened in Mumbai. I expect this is what is going to happen next, when the serious people - like the people who planned the Mumbai attacks - decide to do it. This airplane security business is a total farce.
posted by Divine_Wino

When I've played the morbid conversational game of, "What would be a MUCH more effective form of disrupting America with a terrorist act" with friends, this always comes up--the lack (so far...at least with foreign-born terrorists) of attacks on crowded public spaces. Assuming a valid visa to leave the airport, why not just head for the nearest mall/theater/university lecture/packed music venue instead?
posted by availablelight at 11:10 AM on December 29, 2009


So what? What are we going to do, ban public gatherings? You can say the same thing about any music event anywhere in the country.

No, not at all. My point is you can't stop people who are determined to kill others from doing so, the only solution is to deal with the root causes of that determination. I'm not sure if that is really possible, but I'd like to hope that some day a sincere attempt is made, then again I went to Quaker school and I'm a fairly friendly hippie type and my rage is generally directed at specific people and even then my response is to flip them off or mutter under my breath.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:11 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


anniecat - flown much on non-U.S. airlines? The attitude shift is incredible. Perhaps you should be asking what makes U.S. flight attendants so much more special that any interaction with passengers is conducted with scorn? Most other jobs -- including mine -- entail some degree of courtesy to be extended to the people whose presence is the reason you're getting a paycheck. The last time I flew a U.S.-operated airline the difference was utterly shocking.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:11 AM on December 29, 2009


all these rules... yet, still lighters can be brought on.
samrt. does not mean the same as smart.
Security: does not intrinsically mean the same as Security.

The reasons given, as I recall were so people could light up right away when they get off the plane. Wouldn't it make more sense to offer free, branded, ad sponsored lighters and matches... as soon as people get OFF the planes (or a take a lighter leave a lighter tray)? But anyway, it's a good thing they don't let coffee on, because they offer such reasonably priced quality replacement refreshments after people get on their planes. lol, the absurdities that we make to mock these kneejerks... are becoming less absurd than the kneejerks... so where does that leave us? (I suppose strapped into seats, peeing our pants; from fear, or from regulations disallowing pee breaks on planes)

Maybe if EVERYONE who ever opposed our Forever War wasn't on the watch list, there would be more time to investigate the people who are designated persons of interest by the specialists who are trained at finding persons of interest. Naw, it's just like fishing; the mega-nets always only catch the fish that people are trying to catch, and never get filled up with sea life that we highly value and don't want to harm... maybe the people managing the salmon fisheries, or tuna stocks could draw up some computer models that will help here.
The pace of fear-advancement by people imagining scenarios of ultimate terror is stunning, eventually we will have been trained to pee our pants the second we see more than 5 people in a room together. This future we are building.. I cannot see a way that America can profit. There are many people who not only will stop flying(as seen above..)... but people are ready to stop coming to America to do Business. But it's pretty swell how scared we are supposed to get, yet, supposed to not remember, or imagine that we DROP bombs with the defined purpose being to kill humans, very like that man tried to do... ours are from the sky though.

Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor”.

posted by infinite intimation at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not just a crash but flight attendents are expected to deal with basic medical emergencies as well. My step-brother is a flight attendent with emirates and he has ridiculous stories of having to do CPR on someone while the guy in the next row puts in an official complaint about not getting his drink at the same time.

Personally I always try to skip America if I ever go travelling. After a round-the-world trip 6 months ago where I had no trouble in the Hong Kong, Heathrow, Berlin, or Budapest airports, the pain in the ass that was having a 2 hour layover in LA was very aggravating. I had my bag searched twice (plus opening it up at the other end to find a note saying the TSA had searched it a third time) somehow set off every metal detector, and had to fill out a bunch of forms justifying my trip to the US, despite not really wanting to even get off the plane if I'd had a choice.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2009


and had to fill out a bunch of forms justifying my trip to the US, despite not really wanting to even get off the plane if I'd had a choice.

You had to fill out precisely two forms the size of index cards, and it takes about as much time to dig out your passport as it does to fill them in. LAX sucks, though, sorry about that. But I've had unpleasant experiences in Asian and European airports (Frankfurt security checks you three times and makes you wait in big pens). I know it can be frustrating but let's not be hysterical.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:19 AM on December 29, 2009


Divine_Wino: "... five guys with assault rifles and some grenades or other explosives could have easily killed 300 plus people in the space of twenty minutes."

Keep in mind that the corpses are only a means to the end of producing widespread fear. Consider how much fear was produced by just the two Beltway snipers, who were not prepared to die, and who used weapons that I think you can buy over the counter in some states.

This is why I'm convinced that "the terrorist threat" is negligibly small.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:20 AM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not just a crash but flight attendents are expected to deal with basic medical emergencies as well.

I'm with you on this. What it doesn't explain is the hostility. The additional security expectations do, I think. I wonder what U.S. business class is like. I flew business once not long ago on a Canadian carrier and that was a bit of an eye-opener, in terms of completely different application of rules that were ostensibly for every passenger to follow. Infractions were studiously ignored.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:24 AM on December 29, 2009


When I think of flight attendants and how they have to pick my snotty kleenex out of the backs of airplane seats.

Don't do this.

I am not a Flight Attendant, but I had one bitch me out on shoving newspapers there once. IF everyone gave them the garbage when they ask for prior to landing, they wouldn't have to spend precious minutes cleaning the aircraft and the planes would spend less time on the tarmac.
posted by sleslie at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2009


five guys with assault rifles and some grenades or other explosives could have easily killed 300 plus people in the space of twenty minutes

Here's a terrorist plot to kill lots of people AND get meximum visibility. Love the scene with the barn.
posted by msalt at 11:36 AM on December 29, 2009


west jet has done an amazing job with service, and attention to it's customers (their flight attendants are often the funniest people I have met, seeming more like dramaclub graduates worth spending time with, rather than the mythical angry employee's who hate their job)... the company uses profit sharing methods, rather than the *squeeze every drop of blood from employee's and then just fight their unions method (*this method seems likely to lead to less than happy employees).

An complaint with the securitytheatre issue is that the rules are applied ad hoc with all this security(a lot like many complaints about American Military expeditions.)... who can state with certainty, (and no instruction manual handy) just how the rules will be applied (or what they are) on a particular day. This I like with Juries and Judge... but allowing Law Enforcement to depend on what the officer had for breakfast... Not so much. If the laws are solidly defined but their application is fuzzy, people will end up angry, and injustice rampant.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2009


Durn Bronzefist: What it doesn't explain is the hostility.

Okay I'll just go ahead and ask-- what hostility? I've flown on domestic US flights an awful lot, and I've never noticed any hostility.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2009


humanfont : What constitutional rights are you thinking that you are surrendering when you get on an airplane?

1) "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."

Talking carelessly in an airport can get you detained and quite possibly charged with making "terroristic threats", and Zeus help you if you actually have a dark sense of humor - They even say as much on posters throughout the airport.


2) "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

Don't even need to go any further on that one, though I can hardly blame just the TSA for violating the Second.


4) "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Current policies pretty much break every single word and intent of the Fourth. The Founding Fathers had exactly such security checkpoints in mind (though not exclusively) when they came up with that wording, and saw it as an absolutely intolerable abuse of government power.


5) "No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"

Sorry ma'am, you have to throw that yoghurt away. No you can't just eat it - In the can, now!


10) "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

...Unless of course you want to fly, in which case, you'd damned well better hope your state has implemented RealID-compliant drivers' licenses.
posted by pla at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay I'll just go ahead and ask-- what hostility? I've flown on domestic US flights an awful lot, and I've never noticed any hostility.

I, too, have never experienced hostility from American flight attendants. You want scorn? Fly Icelandair. I once witnessed a flight attendant say to a passenger trying to pass her a piece of trash during the great trash sweep before landing snap "I only have two hands! I can't take that!" which... yeah, doesn't really fly (so to speak) in my experience of working customer-service positions (though not while also airborne) in the US.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2009


Okay I'll just go ahead and ask-- what hostility? I've flown on domestic US flights an awful lot, and I've never noticed any hostility.

Attitude assuming unquestioned authority -- not just in matters of safety but minutiae -- everything. An "I'm busy" vibe is a different matter. I've worked enough customer service jobs to know how that goes. This was kind of crazy, iron fist stuff. I would have assumed it indicated something about this airline particularly except for the way most of the passengers seemed entirely accustomed to it. Dialogue were not had; orders were barked.

Westjet is indeed wonderful, infinite intimation. I fly a lot and I'd rank it up there with Singapore and Air New Zealand as far as service goes.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:53 AM on December 29, 2009


was, not were. Damn half-edit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:54 AM on December 29, 2009


Durn Bronzefist:
Attitude assuming unquestioned authority -- not just in matters of safety but minutiae -- everything. An "I'm busy" vibe is a different matter. I've worked enough customer service jobs to know how that goes. This was kind of crazy, iron fist stuff. I would have assumed it indicated something about this airline particularly except for the way most of the passengers seemed entirely accustomed to it. Dialogue were not had; orders were barked.


I'm not sure I'd say I fly 'a lot,' but I've flown a decent amount, almost exclusively in the US, and none of this description is accurate to my experience.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:01 PM on December 29, 2009


The final-hour restrictions on getting up or having anything in your lap are no longer mandatory, but "at the discretion of the flight crew".

Making all passengers sit down for the entire flight is at the discretion of the flight crew. It was identically at the discretion of the flight crew last week, and also ten years ago.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:03 PM on December 29, 2009


I have not flown in most of a decade because of the Moron Rules. I'd like to get to the UK in the next couple of years, but probably will fly out of Vancouver (if that's possible) to do so.
posted by maxwelton at 12:04 PM on December 29, 2009


Perhaps it was the airline, then, and attendant (no pun intended) expectations. This was in and out of an Atlanta hub so that would have been... Delta, I guess?
My bad for the generalization.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:12 PM on December 29, 2009


I was at the Central Park Zoo this Sunday, it was pretty warm for December and there were easily two thousand people there, there are basically only two entrances/exits to the place, five guys with assault rifles and some grenades or other explosives could have easily killed 300 plus people in the space of twenty minutes.

Um, I'm going to self-censor the details here, but the old Loompanics books had at least one way where a determined, intelligent, suicidal individual with a couple of hundred thousand dollars or less could kill hundreds of thousands of people in Manhattan on a nice day - a variation of that could kill tens of thousands in, say, the Superbowl - with basically off-the-shelf, mid-20th century technology.

The lucky fact is that there are actually very few people who really are capable of these atrocities and most of them are pretty dumb. Thank God.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neither the State Department nor the NCTC, officials said Monday, checked to see if Abdulmutallab had ever entered the United States or had a valid entry visa -- information readily available in separate consular and immigration databases. "It's not for us to review that," the State Department official said.

It's not. State's role in CT is strictly intelligence. It is important that your diplomatic corps remain diplomats. There's a reason that Military Attaches are so carefully handled.

The consular office got the report, and they submitted it, and it made it into the NCTC database. Now, one must ask, why would you query it out? Why would the State Department even know he was flying to the US to make the query? And if you think State has the time, I advise you to go to an overseas consulate in a third world country and see how much free time they have for random security checks.

Indeed, it's not State's job to issue or revoke Visas -- and he *had* a valid US visa. That's CBP, which is part of DHS. State's only job here is, once the visa or passport is issued, is to hand it to the correct person, which they did.

And, you know, if you want to flag rich kids who are educated in London as potential terrorists, you go right ahead. Because, guess what -- that's *exactly* what this guy was. For 21.5 years, he's doing everything you expect a not-terrorist to do, and one report from a dad thinking his kid isn't acting right is supposed to land you on the no-fly list?
posted by eriko at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty damn sure I could design a model for them where it would both filter out 99.9% of the trash and yet still making flying a somewhat of an enjoyable experience. It's not that flipping hard.
So do it.


Do you really - really - believe that if someone had a rational model that was based on strong statistics and good science, that no matter how brilliant it was it would make the slightest headway?

Bruce Schneier has the mondo reputation and the good suggestions already - you don't see his ideas getting taken up!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Delta, I guess?

There's your problem.

I can't avoid flying, but I can choose which airlines I go on. My criteria are usually seat size (those extra 1/2" make a huge difference) and food quality, but customer service certainly enters into it. I won't go on Delta. No sir. No way. No how. I always, always choose a different airline even if it's slightly more expensive. Delta's staff have been consistently awful in the customer service department every time I've flown.

USAirways is my go-to in the US. And internationally, I am going to marry Air France. Just call me Mrs. Grapefruitmoon Airfrance.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:25 PM on December 29, 2009


Do you really - really - believe that if someone had a rational model that was based on strong statistics and good science, that no matter how brilliant it was it would make the slightest headway?

If it could also be shown to either make or save money (which I imagine it would), then I would go with "yes." But y'know, I'm naïve and choose to believe that the world is not personally run by Voldemort.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2009


one report from a dad thinking his kid isn't acting right is supposed to land you on the no-fly list?

Let's get this straight. A prominent banker and ex-minister (think Congressman/Senator) comes to the US embassy and tells them that his son has become a militant Muslim and might be planning terrorist attacks. The embassy take his message seriously and "share it across the interagency". As a result, the son is banned from entering the UK. (sources)

And you claim this should not be enough to put you on the million-plus "don't fly list"? I suggest you think again.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Every flight requires two aircraft. One to carry the nude passengers and the other to carry their luggage.
posted by bz at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I won't go on Delta. No sir. No way. No how. I always, always choose a different airline even if it's slightly more expensive. Delta's staff have been consistently awful in the customer service department every time I've flown.

Ah, there we go, then. Wasn't my choice, though. I wasn't paying for the ticket.

And your rationale should be applied to anyone headed out east-Asia way to spend the extra $ on Singapore (for seat size and service). Though, you know, I like knowing that Delta is out there, those days I have no choice but to fly Air Canada.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:37 PM on December 29, 2009


the million-plus "don't fly list"

Try four thousand.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:42 PM on December 29, 2009


I do not feel secure flying with 3 stooges security force being in charge of my safety.

I don't feel "secure" on planes; I feel "safe". This has little to do with the TSA and nearly everything to do with statistics.

The TSA is an annoyance and an insult. If you don't feel safe on planes, buy a math book, turn off 24-hour cable news, and ignore all the scary TSA warnings.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:51 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


the million-plus "don't fly list"

Try four thousand.


Where did you get that number from?

Here's my source. I found estimates as low as 400,000 - still 100 times your figure. I await breathlessly your sources...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2009


weird. confusing. seems that in 2007 it had 700 000 people, but now fox reports it has 4 000... which is used at the top of the wikipedia entry.

As of April 2007, the terrorist watch list, which consolidated more than a dozen federal agency terror lists, contained 700,000 records, and the database continues to increase by an average of more than 20,000 records each month, the report states.

So if a mass purge of this list went on; how now are we more safe?
posted by infinite intimation at 12:54 PM on December 29, 2009


Here's my source. I found estimates as low as 400,000 - still 100 times your figure. I await breathlessly your sources...

Your source is talking about the watch list, not the no-fly list. Abdulmutallab was on the former, but not on the latter.

I can't find anything to indicate that the no-fly list has ever topped 50,000 names (and it does appear to have been purged way down, or maybe some of the names have been moved to the selectee list). The watch list, which is a different list, is larger, and the latest estimate I've seen is 550,000 names.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:02 PM on December 29, 2009


Yeah, it's my amateurish understanding that the actual "no fly" list is rather abbreviated compared to one or more "watch lists". The former means that that person is not allowed on board a plane under any circumstances, and probably will be detained or arrested. People in the latter category will probably be subject to quite a bit of scrutiny and may or may not be allowed to board a plane. Broadly speaking, of course.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:05 PM on December 29, 2009


Also, here is an amusing fake out.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:09 PM on December 29, 2009


Let's get this straight. A prominent banker and ex-minister (think Congressman/Senator) comes to the US embassy and tells them that his son has become a militant Muslim and might be planning terrorist attacks. The embassy take his message seriously and "share it across the interagency". As a result, the son is banned from entering the UK. (sources)

Not quite. You're adding a bunch of connections not supported by any evidence. Your "sources" (just 1 - "The American Muslim") quotes a bunch of other websites ("The Pittsburgh Tribune", mostly) and doesn't say what you say.

Dad never said the son might be planning terrorist attacks, just that son has renounced the family and may be in Yemen. Son is not barred from UK because of this report, either -- it was because his application listed a school not considered to be a legitimate school. Etc.
posted by msalt at 1:17 PM on December 29, 2009


A strong complaint with the "list(s?)" is that it sucked up all the leads and investigation and real law enforcement work, the verifiable stuff that the FBI had, among other sources, and put that in the same hopper with all the "omg, i dont get that name, must be something hidden, or know somebody" stuff that happened last electoral semester, when fear was honestly seen as political capital... then some institutional sanity returned, and suddenly we had a hopper full of wheat (the actual police work, and investigations.) mixed with a tonne of chaff, the "fearland security department's" super-mega list of evil doers and other people who are humans, lists... now we have a mess (with good leads buried by self induced fear-non-leads, and simple prejudice).

These lists... there are several? So some people are terrrists... but can fly? Curious.(ly dumb)
I think there may be money in starting a 'non-criminals Jail'. for people who are so terrified that they cannot live without restricting their own freedoms and rights... It would be the safest place. Like a gated community. But where even those inside are gated from each other. They could have all meals be chosen for them by the proprietors, never worry about someone hurting them (can't get close enough to hurt my neighbor if they are in a cage, and so am I.)
(interesting thing this rights:security continuum is).
posted by infinite intimation at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2009


The reason Abdulmutallab wasn't on a no-fly list was simple. He was clever enough to stay away from Quakers.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2009


I seem unable to get half the 'net right now. :-( I'm sure you're right about the reason he's not allowed in the UK.

Regardless, from the newspaper pages I still have up, the father reported the son as being a "militant" and "embassy security" felt it was important enough to share across multiple intelligence agencies. That this heavy-handed security state we all live in did not manage to get this information to Schiphol is a failure, spin it any way you like.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:32 PM on December 29, 2009


Bookhouse: "Drive. I tried to quit flying a few years back, and unless you're just bopping over to DC or Philly, trains in this country are awful, hellish places...."

Is it horrible? I was thinking about booking a sleeper car for myself and a couple of kids to go cross-country to visit family. It would be a 2 day+ trip on the train...and about that to drive if you count all the stopping time for potty breaks and "oooh, what's that" roadside attraction stuff. (And surely easier than traveling with children on a plane; a thing which has become hellish with all the delays and security checks and baggage fees and sitting around in uncomfy plastic chairs. It took us almost us much time to fly cross country as it would have to drive if we'd driven through the night.)

In my head, I had this whole romantic cross-country train thing going. The clickety clack of the wheels, the scenery, the kids (who love trains conceptually) wearing little engineers hats and glued to the windows as the great vistas of America go sweeping past.

But then, the only real train travel I've ever done has been on European rail. American service isn't like that?
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2009


Not related to the airline security aspect of this story, but I guess in the internet age everybody's posted something somewhere.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2009


Burhanstan: You had to fill out precisely two forms the size of index cards, and it takes about as much time to dig out your passport as it does to fill them in. LAX sucks, though, sorry about that.

If you're travelling internationally via LA (e.g. from Europe to South Pacific; you have to stop in either LA/SF or Asia), you have to queue up, go through US customs/immigration, get photographed and fingerprinted and stuff, then turn around and go straight back into the transit lounge to sit around and wait for your plane to refuel and the crew to change.

Completely unnecessary (anyone who wanted to attack the plane could do so before it landed, not after it took off). Actually adds to the risk (once you're through immigration, there's not a lot stopping you from keeping walking into LA - so you're in the US without a visa. And your luggage is still on the plane, maybe with a bomb...

Sure, it's not the worst thing in the world but it's a stupid waste of everyone's time, and needless security theatre.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:18 PM on December 29, 2009


I was thinking about booking a sleeper car for myself and a couple of kids to go cross-country to visit family. It would be a 2 day+ trip on the train...and about that to drive if you count all the stopping time for potty breaks and "oooh, what's that" roadside attraction stuff. (And surely easier than traveling with children on a plane; a thing which has become hellish with all the delays and security checks and baggage fees and sitting around in uncomfy plastic chairs.

I've never done sleeper cars, as they're not economical for single travelers, but they might be a better choice for a family. I'd wager on them being uncomfortable. Whatever Amtrak is telling you the travel time is, you'd be smart to add another 25%. America's railways belong to freight, and passenger trains have to give right of way to miles-long coal trains, which can add literally hours to the trip. I'd encourage you to try a solo trip before making a trip of that length with children. It's really not very much like European rail travel.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:30 PM on December 29, 2009


Y'know, after all the ridiculousness got implemented after 9/11/01, I would get very stressed every time I was going to the airport, because there's something extremely dehumanizing about going through those security lines, making sure you don't have too much of this stuff, make sure this stuff is in this kind of container, take off your shoes, your belt, don't say these words, don't make any mistakes, etc., but then I could breathe a lot more easily once I was at the gate and wasn't being scrutinized as a potential criminal. Now I won't be able to breathe easily until my flight is over, because there is still the assumption that I am a criminal who wishes to murder everyone around me, and thus the ability to use the lavatory is transformed into a privilege that can be revoked at any moment, as is the ability to keep myself warm under a blanket.

Oh the humanity, I sarcastically retort. Yes your inability to understand the logistics organizing a simple 1 quart bag with a few toiletries under a specified per ounce limit clearly has degraded you to the point of obliterating your personhood. The fact that you can't go 3 minutes without making a joking comment such as "it's a good thing this stick up my ass isn't a bomb, etc" really must be stressful. The fact that the fasten seatbelt sign might illuminate at any point preventing you from eliminating bodily fluids is clearly a violation that cannot be allowed to stand. The fact that you can sit on your ass for 18 hours and walk off the plane anywhere on earth is clearly so awful that it is hardly worth going.
posted by humanfont at 2:34 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: "it's a good thing this stick up my ass isn't a bomb"
posted by Burhanistan at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


humanfont: Oh the humanity, I sarcastically retort.

You don't say.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2009


Oh the humanity, I sarcastically retort. Yes your inability to understand the logistics organizing a simple 1 quart bag with a few toiletries under a specified per ounce limit clearly has degraded you to the point of obliterating your personhood. The fact that you can't go 3 minutes without making a joking comment such as "it's a good thing this stick up my ass isn't a bomb, etc" really must be stressful. The fact that the fasten seatbelt sign might illuminate at any point preventing you from eliminating bodily fluids is clearly a violation that cannot be allowed to stand. The fact that you can sit on your ass for 18 hours and walk off the plane anywhere on earth is clearly so awful that it is hardly worth going.

I would have said all of this, but I didn't want to be a jackass. I'm glad someone else went first, so now I'll just stand behind humanfont and say "Yeah! What he said!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:40 PM on December 29, 2009


humanfront, is there a reason you ignored all of the responses to your query that cited the Constitution and only responded to the one that would allow you to be sarcastic and thus not actually make an argument?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:48 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


An old friend of mine has a saying: "If everything is a priority, nothing is."

So: You can have as many lists as you like. Put the whole damn country on them if you want -- put us all on lists, carefully graduated by the level of risk we pose.

Under such a regime, surely all the shoe, crotch and colon bombers out there will be properly barred from flying. Right?

Right?
posted by lodurr at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2009


trains in this country are awful, hellish places

I've ridden the Coast Starlight (West Coast, Seattle to San Diego) a number of times, and it was great every time. You get a seat that's as at least big as a business class seat on a plane, it reclines so you can actually sleep in it, you can walk around, there's always a jam session going on in the observation car with good beer for sale downstairs, and the route runs through some of the prettiest scenery I've seen, all for not much more than the price of a Greyhound ticket. (Greyhound...now that is hellish.)

The worst experience I had was when the roadbed had been soaked by a major rainstorm, and they were afraid to run the train over 45 m/h, so it took an extra day to get to Seattle. It was only a big deal because I had a 9 am appointment and got in at 4 am that morning. Big deal...I took a shower and drank a few shots of espresso.

Maybe the East Coast is different.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2009


The fact that you can sit on your ass for 18 hours and walk off the plane anywhere on earth is clearly so awful that it is hardly worth going.

Louis C.K. said it well on Conan, starting about 1:28. "You're sitting in a chair in the sky!"
posted by msalt at 3:25 PM on December 29, 2009


Trains are a spotty proposition here, I'll grant that. I know a lot of people who've had years of pleasant experiences like Jimmy Havok's. Personally, I've ridden the Lakeshore Ltd. a number of times (usually only for a few hours between Albany & Rochester), and it's meh, but far from hellish. (Mind, it's been about 12 years, but my niece rode it a couple of years ago and said it was fine.) No jam sessions, but decent seats, you can walk around and get food if you want, decent beer (Bud and Molson products as I recall). I rode it Rochester to South Bend & back, once, and that was fine, too. (Highlight: A bunch of boy scouts, in uniform, playing poker in the club car at about 2am.)

My sister, her daughter and our parents went from Albany to Seattle by train about 7 years ago. They hated it, but I think that had more to do with being a little stir-crazy and my mother's transmitted anxiety -- they had no specifically railroad-related complaints. If it were just me and I could get access to AC power (so I could work), AND I had the time, I'd do it, based on their description.

So, I think "hellish" may be in the mind of the beholder. It's not like England (clean, quiet, fast, convenient), but this isn't England.

Greyhound, OTOH -- that was bad enough when I was riding it regularly 25+ years ago. But ever since that big strike where they fired all the drivers and started paying the remainder a lot less, it's gotten to be a much less pleasant ride. I think there might be a serious market for a nationwide carrier with better service-levels than Greyhound.
posted by lodurr at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2009


Assuming a worst-case-scenario where this guy had actually used a proper detonator instead of trying to burn something that can't be set off that way, what would have actually happened if 80 grams of PETN had gone off in a plane? I figure the overpressure would have injured people around him, and everyone would have had their hearing seriously fucked, but at best, wouldn't that have broken out the windows and maybe put a small hole in the hull?

Bad, but not something that a plane can't survive I would think.

I'm actually starting to wonder if people suggesting that the goal was to inconvenience subsequent travelers might not be on to something.
posted by quin at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Along those lines, why don't terrorists just blow up their bomb in the bathroom? Is that a reinforced position that's less vulnerable to blast?
posted by msalt at 3:47 PM on December 29, 2009


I'm actually starting to wonder if people suggesting that the goal was to inconvenience subsequent travelers might not be on to something.

It may have been the goal indeed. 9/11 probably took a great deal of time, money and energy to coordinate and execute. And while it certainly had an impact, follow-up acts soon realized that all you need to do to cause further expense and inconvenience is to somehow reference 9/11 in your attack, i.e., do it on a plane.

You can use a shoe, or a tube of toothpaste, or just set your pants on fire. It doesn't matter. Be creative. You can start whipping Chinese yo-yos around as you march up and down the aisle and sing the opening theme to "Carousel". Just do it on a plane, and make sure it somehow freaks people out, and -bam- instant terrorism. You have just ensured that heaps more money will be spent on domestic security, and that thousands of travelers will be inconvenienced at the airports.

The only flaw in this plan, of course, is that Americans traditionally grow bored of an act pretty fast. That "where's the beef" lady was popular for all of one summer. Keep up this nutty-on-plane brand of terrorism, and it'll lose all meaning. Soon, flight attendants will yawn and roll their eyes at someone firing up a gas-powered chainsaw in coach.

Today's terrorists better learn fast that this kind of pathetic 9/11-tribute-band style is going to get played out fast. If not by government officials or airport authorities, then by passengers themselves. "Huh? What? Your hat is made entirely of C4? Hm. Well, I'll give you an A for effort but molding it into the shape of a sombrero is a bit on the nose, don't you think?"

I mean come on. This is getting increasingly silly. The terrorists just might be winning the war for us, by running out of ideas.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, if you stop flying because of all this shit, the terrorists, and those who profit from it, win. Bite the bullet.
posted by mr.marx at 4:21 PM on December 29, 2009


humanfront, is there a reason you ignored all of the responses to your query that cited the Constitution and only responded to the one that would allow you to be sarcastic and thus not actually make an argument?

The citations are just as absurd and demonstrate a level of ignorance about the constitution and precedent usually reserved for debates over income tax collection.
posted by humanfont at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2009


is there a reason you ignored all of the responses to your query that cited the Constitution and only responded to the one that would allow you to be sarcastic and thus not actually make an argument?

I'm not humanfont, but the query that cited the Constitution is bogus and worthy of being ignored. Constitutional rights are not absolute. You do not have the right to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. You do not have the right to carry firearms wherever you like. You do not have a Constitutional right to cheap air travel. But let's address one specifically:
Current policies pretty much break every single word and intent of the Fourth. The Founding Fathers had exactly such security checkpoints in mind (though not exclusively) when they came up with that wording, and saw it as an absolutely intolerable abuse of government power.
My own understanding of the motivation behind the Fourth Amendment is a bit different from this. But in any case, no one is compelled to submit to this search, because no one is compelled to fly. I have to go through a metal detector to go all sorts of places, but it's a ridiculous argument to state that this is a violation of my rights unless I'm compelled to go to those places.

The TSA sucks, and our approach to security sucks, but it doesn't call for these anarcho-libertarian-whatever histrionics.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh, hi, humanfont!
posted by me & my monkey at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2009


JUST STRIP PASSENGERS NAKED IN THEIR OWN SEALED COMPARTMENTS AND DRUG THEM ALREADY

DO YOU WANT SECURITY OR TO ANNOY THE EVERLOVING FUCK OUT OF PEOPLE
posted by tehloki at 4:50 PM on December 29, 2009


I want to know what quin wants to know.

My understanding was that they were well into descent when he tried to light up his crotch, so probably well below an altitude where explosive decompression was a risk. The structural integrity of these kinds of planes is really surprising when they're not under serious stresses (remember that Aloha Airlines 737 that lost the top half of its fuselage for like 50 feet aft of the cockpit?). Combining that with some discussion of PETN & other likely explosives from a Richard Reid-era MeFi thread I can't track down right now, and I'm thinking that the whole point of this attack was to make us do just what we're doing: Over-react like crazy.
posted by lodurr at 4:58 PM on December 29, 2009


once you're through immigration, there's not a lot stopping you from keeping walking into LA - so you're in the US without a visa.

At that point, you've been admitted to the U.S. on a visa waiver, the same as if you were traveling here as an intended destination.

And your luggage is still on the plane, maybe with a bomb...

If you don't get on the plane, your luggage gets removed.

While it may be annoying to have to go through customs here, there's not really any room for argument that it makes anybody less secure.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2009


I'm pretty damn sure I could design a model for them where it would both filter out 99.9% of the trash and yet still making flying a somewhat of an enjoyable experience. It's not that flipping hard.

So do it.


Two lines.

Line A: Just like they have now.

Line B: No security. Giant warning sign with orange writing that says:

Warning: This flight contains passengers who have not been screened by security. The cockpit door is just as secure. Fight hijackers as if your life depended on it.

Problem solved. Line A will disappear out of disuse in four months.
posted by odinsdream at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2009


mr.marx : You know, if you stop flying because of all this shit, the terrorists, and those who profit from it, win.

I hate to break it to you, but the terrorists did win.

They hate our freedom, and we traded quite a bit of it for security theater.
They hate our secularism, and the nation turned to God after 9/11.
They hate our materialism, and 9/11 reminded us that some things matter more than money.

They also hate the fact that we've dicked around with the power structure of the Middle East for the past 60 years, and we embarked on the biggest dick-waving contest in history - Which, considering that we still haven't won against a bunch of theocratic savages, doesn't really make us look all that well-hung in comparison.

And with every new hint of a threat, we concede a bit more to the terrorists (at least, the ones operating out of DC).

I hate to break it to you, but the terrorists did win. America as we knew it died on 9/11/2001.
posted by pla at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2009 [4 favorites]


Assuming a worst-case-scenario where this guy had actually used a proper detonator instead of trying to burn something that can't be set off that way, what would have actually happened if 80 grams of PETN had gone off in a plane? I figure the overpressure would have injured people around him, and everyone would have had their hearing seriously fucked, but at best, wouldn't that have broken out the windows and maybe put a small hole in the hull?

80 grams of PETN if properly started by something properly detonated would do more than enough damage to a plane


Along those lines, why don't terrorists just blow up their bomb in the bathroom? Is that a reinforced position that's less vulnerable to blast?


I read somewhere that he was over the wings were the fuel tanks are, though I can't find the source again.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:54 PM on December 29, 2009


But in any case, no one is compelled to submit to this search, because no one is compelled to fly.

Actually I said I wasn't going to fly anymore because of the ridiculous security theater and I was informed that I'm not allowed that option because it's pansy-ass.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


But in any case, no one is compelled to submit to this search, because no one is compelled to fly.

Actually I said I wasn't going to fly anymore because of the ridiculous security theater and I was informed that I'm not allowed that option because it's pansy-ass.


Both of these arguments are kind of ridiculous. Some people are compelled to fly. And saying "Oh hey! I'm not going to travel by air and thus cut myself off from a lot of potential destinations that aren't accessible by car/train/bus/boat SOLELY and for NO OTHER REASON because I don't like security theatre" - equally ridiculous.

I agree that the security is a pain in the ass. And I hate it. But yes, there are people who do have to fly, whether for business or family reasons. And if you don't have to and don't want to? Awesome. Don't. Some people don't like to travel. But this vibe that I get "Well, I'd like to go to such and such a place, but WAAAAAHHHHHH TSA" - shit or get off the pot. Either accept that you're not going, or accept that you have to get on a damned plane and deal with some nuisance that should, at best, inconvenience you for a few hours. A day, tops. Two days at most if you're flying across the international date line and back again.

I hate flying as much as the next guy. I really, really do. Flying to me equals boredom + joint pain + sleep deprivation. But the way I see it is that the time spent AT my destination is more important than the pain that it is to get there. If you're making the trip all about the *getting there* rather than the *being there,* I think you're approaching travel from the wrong angle.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:25 PM on December 29, 2009


Has there been a terrorist attack on a Western nation that was not a cult attack?

I'm thinking the al Queda might be more accurately categorized as a cult, not a political movement. Like Jonestown, or Aum Shinrikyo; not like Tamil Tigers or Basque rebels.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:45 PM on December 29, 2009



I hate flying as much as the next guy. I really, really do. Flying to me equals boredom + joint pain + sleep deprivation. But the way I see it is that the time spent AT my destination is more important than the pain that it is to get there. If you're making the trip all about the *getting there* rather than the *being there,* I think you're approaching travel from the wrong angle.


grapefruitmoon, the only real destination is only ever death.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:58 PM on December 29, 2009


Has there been a terrorist attack on a Western nation that was not a cult attack?

Northern Ireland springs immediately to mind. As does the Basque, and the politically motivated assasinations of Europe and the Americas.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2009


Has there been a terrorist attack on a Western nation that was not a cult attack? I'm thinking the al Queda might be more accurately categorized as a cult, not a political movement.

Okay, first of all, al Qaeda explicitly seeks the overthrow of Arab regimes and their replacement with an Islamic Caliphate. That's pretty political, even if it's irreconcilable with the political process (as opposed to Sinn Fein and the IRA or Palestinian terror groups, for instance). Calling al Qaeda a cult makes them seem like just a bunch of crazy lunatics; they're not. They're much more dangerous than that.

As for the non-cult attack on the West thing: do you consider the Palestinian liberation/terrorist movement a cult? If not, see: airline hijackings. Is Israel a western country? If so, you don't need to look far. What about Sikh separatists? You're Canadian - does Air India ring a bell? Does the enemy have to be somehow non-Western, or will internal terrorists do? Terrorism is just a tactic; you don't need to be a crazy cultist to find it useful.
posted by Dasein at 9:06 PM on December 29, 2009


seeing as how much disruption, chaos and passenger nervousness, paranoia and stress they've managed to create not mention hogging global news, this was a successful terrorist operation. sustainable too, as there was no loss of life
posted by infini at 9:30 PM on December 29, 2009


wait... did I not update my meemail address, and not get a memo? Wasn't it all supposed to be about the journey?
Life: it's what happens while we are out making plans. (& catching planes).

No one appears to be suggesting here that it's plane companies faults, or that we are so put upon by them, or technology is bad, or that we aren't in awe sometimes that we can sit in a chair, while flying at hundreds of mph, and hundreds of feet in the air, and sleep, and get up and be anywhere in the world... sure. But there seem to be a few different discussions going on together, and needed to be had in relation to the topics (varied, and intricate) raised by the post. there is supposed to be a relationship between customer and provider. Some do it well, others are not so well.
Another issue is that some people (who, as described above, for their livelihood, must fly) are banned irrationally from airplane usage. It is not only being "on" a list that can make people not able to fly... anecdote says, people miss flights all the time for "extra questioning" and it's hard to be a businessperson if you aren't getting on absolutely every flight you need to be on.

Also, but not really apparent, there are discussions to be had of issues about physical appearance based profiling, name profiling, and more... these should CERTAINLY be had as discussions, and not dismissed with sarcasm, maybe this isn't the best set of articles to have those discussions around{(perhaps it is) but these other issues are deeper than simply being about planes and safety...
It's easy to dismiss critics of TSA as being as simple as wanting to get to make dark humour jokes, and bomb jokes and butt jokes in the airport... but what about your fellow Americans Rights to carry a Qur'an... or the Right to keep a full beard, or to have any shade of skin that is POSSIBLE... and to wear that skin proudly, without fear that one is a target based on the actions of their brother. Of course we are getting disenfranchised youth, and people thinking that they are not welcome here... it is a key feature of the unwritten code for how our security theater works. People gave lives to fight for civil rights... people are still doing so. I cannot and will not make light of someone for being impassioned by topics which relate to civil rights and liberties.. we may all read into them differently... but isn't the idea equality?

Then we have white power.
"He told my deputy, 'I saw you behind me. I loaded my clip. When I saw that all of you were white I decided to give up and not fight.' He admitted to my deputy that he shot the store owner."

Am I going to be getting extra scrutiny anywhere I go because of the NATIONALLY active white power movement, an organization with much more hateful venom and violence than 'alquaida' has in it's resevoirs; a member of which murdered a Muslim man on Christmas night? Nope. But I guess it is my patriotic duty to be glad that CNN stopped all other news coverage to get us to pay attention to the urgent and pressing need to keep us in our seats, silent, and without any sudden motion. As if airplanes are the only time we want to be able to be safe. As if we don't care that at that very moment of a failed bomb attack; there were SUCCESSFUL bombings... only in a far away country. And we should be proud that it was OUR awesome modern technology that brought those bombs to their targets; that where others fail to hit us... We are hitting back, harder. Take That. enemy.

Others mentioned this above, but Thrombosis, blood clotting, is in the cards, alongside some nasty lawsuits if the talk of no moving around in-flight keeps building, and it is the companies who are taking the brunt of this... I feel sorry for them (those doing their true best to create a sustainable and consumer focused business). A lot of the things that people here seem to dislike about airlines is much more closely related to how they are legislated.
It is easy to take specific remarks or sarcasm, or dry humour, or any of thousands of other styles (or lack of style as my case may be) of discourse used by people in a discussion and say that someone is being ridiculous or hysterical; but it seems to me to not be how we get BETTER solutions, those only come when we first listen to the myriad of voices raising thoughts, concerns, suggestions, and such, and only then begin to filter out that which is not in the interest of the betterment of society. Or I am a radical. But my papers are in my wallet ready to be checked. Either way this round of hugs is on me.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2009


Ok, so it was a dumb idea.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:42 PM on December 29, 2009


Rachel Maddow explored the link between Republicans talking tough on terrorism and their anti-union stance tonight
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 PM on December 29, 2009


Has there been a terrorist attack on a Western nation that was not a cult attack?

Olympic Village, Oklahoma City. Arguably the DC sniper. If Central/South America counts as Western then we'll have to add in groups like Shining Path & FARC.

I'm thinking the al Queda might be more accurately categorized as a cult, not a political movement.

I'd say the original al Qaeda group, with its isolation, strong hierarchy & coercive training coupled with devotion to bin Laden qualifies it as a cult, as would related groups like Jamaah Islamiya in the Phillipines. Rick Ross & Steve Hassan agree with me on that. But in my opinion, backed by Robert J Lifton, the Iraqi offshoots & larger worldwide movement just don't seem to have that cohesiveness & tight control over every aspect of a follower's life that create the necessary environment for thought reform & replacement of the personality with a group identity that distinguish a true destructive cult, but apparently manages to accomplish it without all that, at least long enough to convince the follower to carry out his attack.
posted by scalefree at 12:11 AM on December 30, 2009


At that point, you've been admitted to the U.S. on a visa waiver, the same as if you were traveling here as an intended destination.


That is a very fair point.

If you don't get on the plane, your luggage gets removed.

Oh, certainly, but it's a delay and inconvenience for everyone else to do so. The whole process has no possible benefit: the only people that you're screening have already flown into US airspace, they could have already done anything they wanted to on the plane. (They've also registered their details with the US govt 3 days before they flew).

It's like the shoes and the fluids and all the other minor inconveniences: I'm used to them, I expect them, I'll breeze through them, because I'm prepared for them. But that doesn't mean I should like them, when they're basically security theatre.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:26 AM on December 30, 2009


Some insight into the motivation behind the attempted attack (via BoingBoing):
Basically, the problem I'm having is that I've been having extreme loneliness...for many years. I don't really know what to do because I'm not the type who likes to go out much, and I'm just shy and quiet. Even on the internet, I don't feel comfortable posting much because it exposes myself. Sometimes people are so mean.

So I'm trying to figure out what to do. I just wish I had someone to give me attention and stuff. I wish I had someone who would be there to listen to me, and always be nice to me. It really hurts to have someone neglect me or be mean. Unfortunately, a weakness of mine is that I'm sensitive, but I think I became more sensitive after something bad happened some years ago.

I wish I had at least one nice person to talk to, maybe over e-mail or Messenger. Of course, if I could find someone to marry, then Insha'Allah I would have someone in real life to give me all the attention and affection I wanted. So far, the families we've met aren't interested in me, though.
Everybody needs a hug sometimes.
posted by scalefree at 12:58 AM on December 30, 2009


As of half an hour ago, the TSA has seen me naked. You're all safe now.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:20 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


grapefruitmoon, the only real destination is only ever death.

Geezie Creezie, even I am not that morbid. And I'm a morbid little ball of sunshine whose favorite Christmas present was a DVD of autopsies.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2009


I think it comes down to this: people who yammer on about how they don't fly because of the TSA probably don't have anything interesting going on anyway so they stay at home kvetching on the internet.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:53 AM on December 30, 2009


I think it comes down to this: people who yammer on about how they don't fly because of the TSA probably don't have anything interesting going on anyway so they stay at home kvetching on the internet.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:53 AM on December 30


Why beholdest thou the single comment that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the 117 FPPs that are in thine own eye?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why beholdest thou the single comment that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the 117 FPPs that are in thine own eye?

That's retarded. Plus, I traveled to Asia twice in 2009 and multiple domestic trips. The point is that people who claim that they don't fly because of security regs probably don't have anywhere to go anyway. What does my "117 FPPs" have to do with anything? I could post those from anywhere.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:13 AM on December 30, 2009


Seriously, OC, that's just dumb.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2009


So it's okay for you to kvetch on the internet and invest a lot of time here, because you went to Asia, but someone who chose or is choosing to drive from here on out is just a loser at home on the internet. Besides, I went plenty of places this year (primarily your mom's house (to have sex with her)).
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yep, and my mom is in a coma, asshole.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:32 AM on December 30, 2009


Wow, could you two like, get a room in a location equally convenient by car, train, boat, and plane so that you can just travel there and settle this like men?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2009


Yes, yes, things escalate quickly. Flagged and such.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 AM on December 30, 2009


I'm done taking your bait, Burhanistan. Anyone who chooses not to fly from now on is clearly just someone with nothing going on. Got it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:40 AM on December 30, 2009


Maybe if you didn't post the 117 FPPs thing it would have gone better.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2009



grapefruitmoon: ...I hate flying as much as the next guy. I really, really do. Flying to me equals boredom + joint pain + sleep deprivation. But the way I see it is that the time spent AT my destination is more important than the pain that it is to get there. If you're making the trip all about the *getting there* rather than the *being there,* I think you're approaching travel from the wrong angle.

Blasdelb: grapefruitmoon, the only real destination is only ever death.

grapefruitmoon: Geezie Creezie, even I am not that morbid. And I'm a morbid little ball of sunshine whose favorite Christmas present was a DVD of autopsies.


I always just thought of it as a strong reminder to always focus on *being there* because we all end up *getting to* the same place and a better way to look at travel, whether its through an airport or just through time on a couch.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:45 AM on December 30, 2009


Fuck's sake, guys. Can it.
posted by cortex at 7:50 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus you two.
posted by jessamyn at 7:52 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


grapefruitmoon: But this vibe that I get "Well, I'd like to go to such and such a place, but WAAAAAHHHHHH TSA" - shit or get off the pot. Either accept that you're not going, or accept that you have to get on a damned plane and deal with some nuisance that should, at best, inconvenience you for a few hours. A day, tops. Two days at most if you're flying across the international date line and back again.

If this is directed toward me, I never said I won't go anywhere anymore because of the TSA, but that I am going to seek alternative methods of travel, because while yes, security theater is only a hassle, so is the additional hours of travel time needed to go by train or bus, and at a certain point I am willing to make that trade-off. I am also strongly against the idea that, because the airport industry has a certain kind of monopoly on long-distance travel, I am required to put up with whatever ridiculous practices exist at airports (I realize the TSA is not the same as airports which is not the same as airlines etc., but there aren't many ways to get to my Southwest flight without going through Midway). A line has to be drawn somewhere regarding what I will reasonably put up with, and simply because I draw the line at a different point than you might doesn't mean that we are in fundamental disagreement.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:16 AM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is directed toward me,

No, it wasn't directed at anyone personally. I don't have time to re-read the whole thread right now, but I've gotten a vibe from some comments like "I'd like to go to the US, but I won't because of TSA!" that just smacks of... well... it's just bitter. If you want to come here from a Foreign Land, then yeah, there's a certain amount of hassle. But it seems disingenuous to say "I would, except that TSA makes me sad in my unhappy place!" Either get over it, or accept that you're just not going to do it.

(This is just me though. I don't do wishy-washy, ambivalence, or fence-sitting very well. If I'm going to do something, it's either with my whole ass or no ass at all.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:45 AM on December 30, 2009


I don't mean to try to take away any opinion, but this is a serious issue and should be cause for concern FOR America (rather than to individual American travelers), in this kind of economy; when you consider how deeply the Business world of America Relies on foreign travelers, and businesspeople.

Yes, family related travel is semi-optional, and if someone doesn't want to deal with stress, or things like that there are other options, including, as mentioned above, just not coming to America. The real worry is that this is something that leaves us shooting ourselves in the foot.
The further we close ourselves off... the closer we get to economic trouble.
There is so little manufacturing left here, the business keeping the economy glued together more and more often comes in from around the world. Also tourism is the lifeblood of a ton of small communities.
The problem here is that like with visiting family, which is an individual burden, is that there are also other options for places to do business... the world is full of places that are ready willing and able to take up the slack when America is no longer the easiest place to go to do business, many places have invested in the infrastructure of doing hightech modern business.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:18 AM on December 30, 2009


gotten a vibe from some comments like "I'd like to go to the US, but I won't because of TSA!"

I don't want to speak for anyone else in the thread, but to my eye there's been a lot of "I won't travel through the U.S. because of the TSA, and because I don't have to." I'm certainly in that boat. Though this can entail some additional trouble/expense, it's a bit of a different proposition than avoiding the U.S. as a destination.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:26 AM on December 30, 2009


Oh the humanity, I sarcastically retort. Yes your inability to understand the logistics organizing a simple 1 quart bag with a few toiletries under a specified per ounce limit clearly has degraded you to the point of obliterating your personhood.

Domestic, non-business flights are way down since all this started. Beating people over the head with ever-increasing but entirely theatrical and nonsensical security might make you feel better, but it's going to kill the airline industry. I won't fly anymore unless I have to. It's a giant pain in the ass. Sorry if that makes you angry, but it's true.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:21 AM on December 30, 2009


Domestic, non-business flights are way down since all this started.

That could be caused by recession belt-tightening every bit as much as any other factor.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on December 30, 2009


don't have time to re-read the whole thread right now, but I've gotten a vibe from some comments like "I'd like to go to the US, but I won't because of TSA!" that just smacks of... well... it's just bitter.

That's called reality. I'm not sure why it's so controversial to say that people hate flying to the US because of TSA. I live here, and I hate flying within the US because of TSA. I avoid flying whenever possible, unless I absolutely have to.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:24 AM on December 30, 2009


That could be caused by recession belt-tightening every bit as much as any other factor.

Since 2001, not since 2008.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:24 AM on December 30, 2009


Well, to be fair*, that could be down to the water-bottle-fearing Average Man (or Woman). It's a dangerous new age, you know.

* for certain values of "fair"
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:27 AM on December 30, 2009


From Bruce Schneir (from netbros)
"I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks."

I like Schneir. The comment on smuggling c4 through airport security is solid. The downside is, y'know, bringing a detonator. Magnetometers et.al. can pick those up.
But there are advanced materials and smuggling one can still be done. I've had some thoughts along these lines (liquefied gases mostly - but then I do think 'Red' well)
That said, people can build an A-bomb as well since the plans are out there. Not exactly easy tho.
On top of that, planning is tough too. I watched Kubrick's "The Killing" a while ago. A bit like that. Everything can go like clockwork, the plan can be executed nearly flawlessly and you can have contingencies and back up plans and one simple malfunctioning lock on some suitcase can still completely screw you.
Which is luck that often looks like proactive competence (because of the security theater) on the part of most security organizations like the TSA when they're really just waiting to catch a foul.

Foreign policy issues with Yemen aside (since when we need an excuse like this to bomb people? Ok, maybe it's one brick in the future wall. But still it's not like you couldn't arbitrarily MOAB Paris flat (the GBU-43/B tritonal explosive, not, uh, Utah) and not get 45% of the public polling positive on it) - and more convoluted theories (although perhaps no less valid for that) aside (e.g.provocation for U.S. overreaction) and the dead fish in a barrel with bright red/yellow spots on them target of the TSA and their security theater aside - Schneir hit on perhaps the one kind thing we can do, generally, to mostly stop this kind of violence.

It's a bit radical but - have less male children.
Martin Walker went into this (also with an eye on China) in Foreign Policy a few years ago.
Gunnar Heinsohn (who, yeah, ok, he's a bit *cough* nutty) has the "youth bulge" theory. It's not a bad theory (as far as I can tell as a layman). In Sohne und Weltmacht he says that 15 to 29 year olds make up more than 30% of the population, violence tends to happen.
He's got a lot of interesting thoughts on genocide and angry young men.

(It's unfortunate that neo-colonialism, third world exploitation and reproductive rights are linked the way they are in some folks' minds, but he doesn't seem to be advocating that. So I don't know how responsible he is for what some asshats do to twist his ideas to their agendas)

And (not to harp on China but) as an example, you had the Nian bandits, 50,000 men with no women that staved off the imperial army (for a while) from Beijing to Shanghai.

The Nizari Ismaili Shia Muslims back in the middle ages had the whole "assassin" thing going on. Mostly men. And easily indoctrinated with drugs and promises of getting laid all the time. Yeah Hassan-i Sabbah was charismatic, but there's a lot more there.

Bride abduction still goes on in Kenya and (in addition to cutting people's heads off in NYC since there can be only one) the Kyrgyz still do it.

A great deal of terrorism seems to occur with gender imbalance as a background. Not always the largest factor, but it seems to be a constant. You have many poor (because a girls not going to marry a guy with more money?), young men who don't have the prospects of having a wife and kids, pretty big urge there, procreation in humans, so violence and crime goes up to either get money or prove one's esteem or merit in other ways.

The U.S. catches a lot of flak for arms trafficking (rightfully) but in Uttar Pradesh you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a $5 firearm (Khashmir, obviously as well, but it's a war zone).

Reza Aslan talks about how part of The Base's success is that they can connect local grievances of Muslim kids in westernized and other countries with Muslim kids in Palestine and Iraq and he quotes Abu Musab al-Suri: "al-Qaida is not an organization - it is a methodology."

What's needed is not this Maginot Line TSA counterterrorism but a methodology to address broad, perhaps demographic, issues like this and other more political issues in a specific and local way.
I have some thoughts on how space and security can be made for that tactically. But there needs to be a political and social engagement, otherwise one is reiterating the same tactics (which people are quite good at adapting to counter) and enforcing security for security's sake.

I'd start with not treating the Middle East like a bumblefuck gas station we have no connection to and think about health issues, economic development, not supporting despots, etc. - as concerted means to an end, not just ends in themselves where we're looking like we're making nice. "Compassion theater" perhaps.

you wouldn't believe where I'm commenting from now
posted by Smedleyman at 1:30 PM on December 30, 2009


security theater is only a hassle

It is for the terrorists too. Think that is the reason why they do it.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:15 PM on December 30, 2009


Domestic, non-business flights are way down since all this started.

You know what's also down? People ramming planes into buildings.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:23 PM on December 30, 2009


You know what's also down? People ramming planes into buildings.

Good Christ, it wasn't exactly a trend. It can only be seen as to be "down" in that it happened again - in which case it was only "up" for sixteen minutes since it hadn't happened before either.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:24 PM on December 30, 2009


Ironmouth: You know what's also down? People ramming planes into buildings.

I attribute that to the huge upswing in Jonas Brothers popularity.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on December 30, 2009


I attribute that to the huge upswing in Jonas Brothers popularity.

I don't know about planes and buildings, but after being in the Boston T after a Jonas Brothers concert, their fans make me want to bang my head into something. An oncoming train comes to mind.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:35 PM on December 30, 2009


I don't want to speak for anyone else in the thread, but to my eye there's been a lot of "I won't travel through the U.S. because of the TSA, and because I don't have to." I'm certainly in that boat. Though this can entail some additional trouble/expense, it's a bit of a different proposition than avoiding the U.S. as a destination.

That reflects my view. The TSA wouldn't stop me visiting the USA again (I've already been four times). But it makes me much less likely to travel through the USA, given the choice.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:53 PM on December 30, 2009


My own understanding of the motivation behind the Fourth Amendment is a bit different from this.

IANAL, and I agree that some of the arguments about non-Constitutionality are bogus, but your citation certainly seems consistent with Pla's assertion.

But in any case, no one is compelled to submit to this search, because no one is compelled to fly.

It depends upon how the law (and to a lesser degree of rigidity, precedence) defines "compelled". I would have to seek a totally different type of employment if I wanted to avoid all air travel, which denies some of my pursuit-of-happiness-related rights, as well as my economic freedom, no?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:57 PM on December 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rove Attacks Obama Response To Failed Terrorist Plot, Despite Bush’s Delayed Response In Addressing the Shoe Bomber Incident in 2001.

Vacationing Bush Waited Six Days To Discuss Shoe Bomber With No GOP Complaints.

Cheney Joins Hypocritical Attacks On Obama’s ‘Low Key Response’ To Failed Terrorist Attack.

Former Romney Spokesman Kevin Madden defends GOP’s hypocritical attacks: Obama’s in Hawaii, which 'seems like a foreign place.'

Obama Takes The Heat Bush Did Not.
Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of Sept. 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called shoe bomber, Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.

That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received from Republicans and some in the press for his reaction to Friday’s incident on a Northwest Airlines flight heading for Detroit.

Democrats have seized on the disparity and are making it a centerpiece of their efforts to counter GOP attacks on the White House. “This hypocrisy demonstrates Republicans are playing politics with issues of national security and terrorism,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said. “That they would use this incident as an opportunity to fan partisan flames … tells you all you need to know about how far the Republican Party has fallen and how out of step with the American people they have become.”
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


But in any case, no one is compelled to submit to this search, because no one is compelled to fly.

It depends upon how the law (and to a lesser degree of rigidity, precedence) defines "compelled". I would have to seek a totally different type of employment if I wanted to avoid all air travel, which denies some of my pursuit-of-happiness-related rights, as well as my economic freedom, no?


IAAL. Flying, like driving, is a privilege, not a right. Travel itself is a right, but the method of travel is not. Fourth Amendment protections have no application here. This is 1L stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:36 PM on December 30, 2009


You know what's also down? People ramming planes into buildings.

Good Christ, it wasn't exactly a trend. It can only be seen as to be "down" in that it happened again - in which case it was only "up" for sixteen minutes since it hadn't happened before either.


Seriously though, security is needed on these flights. Why people complain is beyond me. It is like 25 extra minutes. I don't see what the issue is here. Frankly, they should be using the full-body scanners. Be a lot easier. If you don't want to do it, go into the hand search line, where they will do a good workup. The idea that somehow we shouldn't be using better security procedures since 9/11 just makes no sense to me. We've now seen that people are willing to suicide bomb planes. So we have to have heightened security. Why is that so terrible?
posted by Ironmouth at 3:39 PM on December 30, 2009


Why is that so terrible?

Something something deserve neither.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2009


Why is that so terrible?

Because it doesn't work and inconveniences us for no reason?
posted by desjardins at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seriously though, security is needed on these flights.

This is an assertion the veracity of which cannot be determined until you define "security". The current theatre is not necessary, and is an extreme waste of resources. Each time they steal 25 minutes of my life from me, I so resent every person who believes it's necessary, because they do it for you folks. You wouldn't fly without it, because you believe it makes you measurably safer, but only a bit of reading and reflection reveal that it doesn't. For example, have they ever caught anyone trying to board a plane in the US with anything approaching a viable threat? In spite of all the confiscated scissors and water bottles, I don't believe such an event has been reported, and if one occurred, you can bet it would be trumpeted to the high heavens. If this nonsense didn't placate the fearful, they wouldn't do it, because there would be no purpose.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:02 PM on December 30, 2009


Ironmouth, is there any violation of privacy that is not justified by claims of security?
posted by shakespeherian at 4:09 PM on December 30, 2009


The idea that somehow we shouldn't be using better security procedures since 9/11 just makes no sense to me. We've now seen that people are willing to suicide bomb planes. So we have to have heightened security. Why is that so terrible?

Security isn't terrible. Security theatre is what people are objecting to. I have no problem doing anything that would actually make me safer. What I object to is that we're doing all this crap and look! We are very objectively not safer! And the response is to add more crap!

We've got to stop adding shit and just go back and re-evaluate the whole process. I am sure that there are ways to do this that are #1) effective and #2) less irritating than the ones that we have. Treating every single passenger like a terrorist hasn't actually stopped terrorists. Sure, we've thwarted them, but this "close call" shit is totally unacceptable if we're to believe that this system is doing anything more than giving the illusion of safety.

FFS, the citizen who carried out the events responsible for this post was on a number of lists and had been identified to the US government (whether they took his father's claims seriously is another issue entirely) as a potential threat. And he got on a plane! With, literally, junk in his pants! Clearly, restricting the size of shampoo bottles isn't working in terms of stopping actual threats. The only thing that did - and the one positive change that has come in terms of passenger safety since 9/11 - is that his fellow passengers took charge of the situation.

Maybe the solution is that we all become vigilantes. Fine. But then let us become vigilantes with however much shampoo we want in our carry-on.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:44 PM on December 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Seriously though, security is needed on these flights. Why people complain is beyond me."

Security is indeed needed. Security is not what is being done well. And people should complain because it's a complete waste of resources.
There are far better methods of combating terrorism targeted at aircraft.
The large government/corporate pseudo-security apparatus benefits from the current state of affairs as do certain partisan political positions.
Thus more resources are being applied to less efficient, inadequate if not actually harmful methods instead of countering genuine threats.

Worth complaining about if they're shoveling money to their buddies while shorting the resources to cove actual threats to people.

If the TSA were 100% courteous all the time and completely efficient in getting people to their flights on time, it would still be a half-ass operation with delusions of adequacy. Target hardening (which is the TSA in a nutshell) goes only as far as the cockpit door in terms of effectiveness (and generally speaking as well - put it this way, in WWI the Germans just north of Ypres used just 160 tons of chlorine gas to cause serious casualties, later in the war, at Warsaw they killed over 1,000 soviets with about 9,000 casualties total. Today you can get a 90 ton rail tank car for, say, water purification. Railroads tend to carry many cars. Hardening isn't going to do it alone.)

It would cost real money to train counterterrorist specialists, employ them, pay them adequately (especially when they can start their own firm or get security outsourced and just bill exorbitant rates and cut a deal with Joe Politician), have situation specific security teams, etc. - easier just to buy machines and pretend something is being done.

On the other hand, yeah, how serious a threat is the new hijacking? I mean - yeah, planes aren't exactly falling out of the sky.
So what then is the problem? Well gee, think terrorists are one trick ponies? Or maybe they're going to, say, look at other forms of transportation or some other target?

So the problem with "airport security" is that it's not counterterrorism security in that, in looking for holes one is distracted from thinking about the system as a whole in which one factor can affect another over time.

(I like Bloom's four layers as a rough thumbnail - most critically, threat assessment and determining who out there is targeting aviation, what methods they seek to use, and the where, when, and why of these methods; security measures based on risk, not threat or vulnerability alone. So, looking at what can go wrong with - again situation specific - certain airlines, airports, various flights, look at the impact on U.S. interests; traditional physical security methods and technologies to look for explosive materials and detonators, heavy on investigation but yeah, bomb sniffers would be nice. Most of them have chemical signatures; And yes, better personnel training in dealing with low probability events, and better human resource management, including better pay and respect._

As it is now security politics completely overrides privacy and genuine security.

And it goes without saying the GOP have their heads so far up their ass on things like this it's a wonder they're not choking on their own tonsils.
Feeding hysteria on terrorism is, IMHO, aiding and abetting terrorists in the worst possible way.
As long as the GOP puts out this rhetoric, they compound the likelyhood that airports, et.al. remain terrorist targets.
Terrorists don't attack people - that's just a means - they attack the public who become aware of the bloodshed and become fearful.
And the GOP is just f'ing helping that along god dammit.

Folks shouldn't expect a 100% foolproof system that negates all possible risk. Millions of people die every year from car crashes. We still put up with that system (although, yeah, I'd like more trains, say). So too - the cost of doing business in an airport is a very very small, but non-zero threat of getting blowed up.
Hell, there's no guarantee the damn thing won't crash from some goofy mechanical error in the first place. Can't give everyone on the plane a parachute.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:00 PM on December 30, 2009


mind you, nigeria is the 6th largest oil supplier and Shell just pulled out leaving the arena quite open, even as the locals insist there's no AlQaeda over there.
posted by infini at 7:02 PM on December 30, 2009


Seriously though, security is needed on these flights.

I feel so much safer!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:26 PM on December 30, 2009


I feel so much safer!

Ack. That poor, stupid, nerd. Now she'll be out tens of thousands in legal fees and might not finish at MIT. There's a breakdown point where you don't do anything to rock the boat regardless of how silly some rules are, and clearly she couldn't see that from a mile away. Here's hoping she gets a suspended sentence.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 PM on December 30, 2009


She didn't break a rule, the rule was made retroactively in order to justify her arrest.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:37 PM on December 30, 2009


She didn't break a rule, the rule was made retroactively in order to justify her arrest.

That article just states that she was charged with possessing a hoax device--where is the part about rules being retroactively effected?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:46 PM on December 30, 2009


The "hoax device" was a few LEDs, in the shape of a star, plugged into a breadboard on her t-shirt. "Hoax device" is a catchall term for anything they want to apply it to. You could be charged with carrying a "hoax device" if someone took offense to your iPhone.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:55 PM on December 30, 2009


You could be charged with carrying a "hoax device" if someone took offense to your iPhone.

Yes, but she did have a lump of putty that an untrained eye could easily mistake for Semtex. I realize the "hoax device" statutes can be applied in very obtuse ways, but it's pretty stupid to have one at an airport.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on December 30, 2009


Anyway, here's a breakdown of how suspects graduate from various watch lists to the official No Fly list by Spencer Ackerman. He also spoke about the political efforts to discourage TSA screeners from unionizing. It could probably stand it's own FPP but I have to get on a plane tomorrow morning (and will leave home much earlier than usual in case everyone is getting their underwear scoped) so here you go. Irony for OC--I'm totally dreading going to the airport now.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 PM on December 30, 2009


Ack. That poor, stupid, nerd. Now she'll be out tens of thousands in legal fees and might not finish at MIT. There's a breakdown point where you don't do anything to rock the boat regardless of how silly some rules are, and clearly she couldn't see that from a mile away. Here's hoping she gets a suspended sentence.

Star Simpson's airport incident took place in September 2007.

In June 2008:
"An East Boston District Court judge sentenced Simpson to one year of supervised pretrial probation on a charge of disorderly conduct and ordered her to perform 50 hours of community service, half of which much be completed with veterans, and to publicly announce that she had made a mistake.

“I want to apologize for the results of my conduct on September 21, 2007. Although I never intended to act in a disorderly fashion, I now realize that the shirt I created caused alarm and concern at Logan Airport,” Simpson said in a statement released Monday by her attorney, Thomas E. Dwyer, Jr. “I am appreciative to the Massachusetts State Police for their diligence in protecting our citizens and apologize for the expense that was caused that day.”

...Simpson was originally charged with “possession of a hoax device,” a charge which would require prosecutors to show she meant to scare people with her circuit board, which contained light-emitting diodes in the shape of a star. But they “determined that they could not move forward on that count and dismissed it to the disorderly [conduct] charge,” according to a press release supplied by Wark.

Instead of going to trial, Simpson accepted the pretrial probation offer on Monday, June 2. If Simpson performs the community service and does not re-offend in the next year, the charge of disorderly conduct will be dropped. (Otherwise, the district attorney’s press release says, “the case will be returned to the court docket for trial.”) Simpson said she does not yet know what the community service will be.
She graduates in 2010.

Previous MeFi FPP: Keep the crafts at home, please.
posted by ericb at 7:18 AM on December 31, 2009


Link for June 2008.
posted by ericb at 7:20 AM on December 31, 2009


Yes, but she did have a lump of putty that an untrained eye could easily mistake for Semtex.

Yep. She was carrying Play-Doh in her hands.
"...I am not sure why she had the Play-Doh in her hands. She could not explain that," [State Police Maj. Scott] Pare said."
posted by ericb at 7:28 AM on December 31, 2009


Back to security, one simple change could speed up the process and provide better security.
Just check all luggage. Seriously. Carry-ons limited to a book, an apple, and a laptop. If you have medicine, hand it over at the check in counter and get it from the flight attendant when needed.

(You'd have to allow 1 free checked bag for everyone.)
posted by msalt at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2009


and in what shall you carry your book, apple, and laptop?

(... and I'm just dying to see the tag-team slug-fest between Schumer/Gillibrand and Murray/Cantwell over whether Washington or NY gets to supply the apples.)
posted by lodurr at 10:45 AM on December 31, 2009


I'd love to see a little plastic bag that had a smiley face and "I'm helping fight terrorism!" on the side of it which we could put our apple, laptop and book in.

Part of the whole big mess is that there are a bunch of people working at cross-purposes, even more than the travelgoing public and TSA. The airlines have been losing money and so have been implementing more and more checked bag fees. This means that the average person has a financial incentive to not check bags, or check fewer bags. This leads to a lot of increased time going through security [where people who have always checked their bags are now facing the reality of what can/can't be in carryons] and getting on the plane [where stuff doesn't fit in the overheads or whatever] and getting off the plane. And it also leads to just an increased amount of stuff on the plane and a lot of bad behavior and bad vibes as people who maybe took the $20 hit and checked a bag are now encroached on space-wise and time wise by the person who brought on an extra carryon and needs to put it under their seat etc. This increases agita, which is no good.

So the flight crew basically makes a lot of noise about getting on and off the plane quickly and not blocking the aisles and whatever the new rules are they have to implement, but at the same time their own airlines have policies that are specifically encouraging this behavior. I'm a frequent flyer and mostly just pack nothing because why bother and I only get pissed off really when some TSA guy tells me to "smile" and I can handle the rest of it. But it seems that no matter what your flyer profile is, there's some aspect to the whole travel thing that could be improved with no net loss in security [or "security"] if people were really working together to solve all the travel problems and not just doing a sort of band-aid approach to fix what went wrong last time amd then not changing something else until they realize that what they did last time broke something else they're doing.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2009


Your source is talking about the watch list, not the no-fly list. Abdulmutallab was on the former, but not on the latter.

Actually, he wasn't even on the "watch list," but was in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) database.
The FBI uses the raw information contained in the TIDE databank to determine whether to put the subject onto the government's terror watch list, known as the Terrorism Screening Data Base. That list contains the names and aliases of about 400,000 people, but AbdulMutallab didn't make the cut.

According to Chad Kolton, a spokesman for the FBI's Terror Screening Center, there wasn't enough hard evidence to back up AbdulMutallab's father's fears, and so he wasn't placed on the terror list.

The bureau's own Web site spells out the criteria for inclusion in the screening database, saying that "only individuals who are known or reasonably suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism are included."

The determination not to put AbdulMutallab on the screening list had far-reaching consequences.

In May, the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general issued a report on the watch-list process, including a flow chart describing how anyone suspected of terrorist ties passes through a series of lists, the most serious of which includes the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list. Making it from the TIDE database to the FBI's screening list is the key.

Because AbdulMutallab didn't make the screening database, his name could not then be sent onto the watch lists maintained by the TSA: the "selectee list," which law enforcement sources say includes about 14,000 names, and the "no-fly" list, which those sources say bans some 4,000 people from boarding any commercial flight destined for the United States.
posted by ericb at 11:30 AM on December 31, 2009


she did have a lump of putty that an untrained eye could easily mistake for Semtex

No, it was an unglazed ceramic flower, as shown in the video. Or rather, it was more after-the-fact bs meant to justify the arrest.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:55 PM on December 31, 2009


book, apple, and laptop

but you don't need a bag for just one device
posted by infini at 9:32 PM on December 31, 2009


If you have medicine, hand it over at the check in counter and get it from the flight attendant when needed.

No fucking way.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Airport pat-down searches often ineffective.
posted by ericb at 5:06 PM on January 1, 2010


Newsweek: The Making of a Jihadist -- "How Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab became radicalized despite a wealthy, privileged background."
posted by ericb at 11:36 AM on January 3, 2010


Newsweek: The Making of a Jihadist -- "How Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab became radicalized despite a wealthy, privileged background."

That's maddening. If in the past we have successfully discriminated against HIV+ folks by denying them visas, why can't we keep guys like this from flying to the US? WFT?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:11 AM on January 4, 2010


Just as frustrating: a British sniper did us all the favour of ridding this world of some 30 Taliban fighters.

An al Queda cell in Britain decided to exact revenge by taking out the soldier's family. Fortunately, the threat leaked out and the family was secured.

Why the fuck does Britain have al Queda cells? How the fuck do these loons get to remain in the country?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on January 4, 2010


Some of them are citizens.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:58 AM on January 5, 2010


Man jokes about terrorism at German airport -- "42-year-old won’t be refunded for missed vacation, faces fine of 1,000 euros."
posted by ericb at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2010


Joan Rivers deemed a danger to national security, bumped off Costa Rica flight back to U.S.
posted by ericb at 11:26 AM on January 5, 2010


I wondered about these small quantities of explosives bringing down airplanes until I found that it had already been done (recently: in 2004) twice!

I am amazed that the bombings supposedly pulled off by Chechen women Dzhebirkhanova and Nagayeva and responsibility claimed by the Islambouli Brigades hasn't received more coverage in the US.

If you search for those names and "grams" you find claims that the evidence is faked and also that 400, 200 or perhaps 100 grams is enough to cause explosive decompression (hole the size of a soccer ball) or blow the tail off a plane (causing instability and crash).

More real bombs & results. Explosive decompression in once case sucked some people out and probably deafened the rest, but they did survive. Sometimes 200 grams doesn't "do the job" sometimes is only takes 350-400 grams, but 5 kilos of TNT will finish a plane for sure.

What row was Abdulmutallab in?
posted by morganw at 5:02 PM on January 8, 2010


"After returning to his seat at 19A (near the fuel tanks and wing, and against the skin of the plane), he complained that he had an upset stomach." *
posted by ericb at 8:44 AM on January 9, 2010


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