Paul's Here

Criminalizing airflight passengers

64 posts in this topic

OK. First it was we had to take our shoes off because they might contain a bomb. Now it's we will be patted down because we might have a bomb strapped to our leg. What's next? Internal cavity searches? Wouldn't it be just as easy to let only those people fly who were willing to board the plane nude and hand out bathrobes on the plane? That would definitely speed up the boarding process. And, please, don't spend too much time in the airplane restroom.

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Well said, Paul.

I'd like to add to that. Suppose just now I had had several strong drinks. What I would then say in that state would be indicative of my true feelings on the matter: "If we had simply blown all those terrorist nations off the map we wouldn't have to put up with all this s---!" But I am sober, so I will only say: "If we had simply blown all those terrorist nations off the map we wouldn't have to put up with all this s---!" (I'm sorry, did I repeat myself? Yes, I guess I did!)

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OK. First it was we had to take our shoes off because they might contain a bomb. Now ...

Paul, there are few easy answers. Believe me, I give this a lot of thought and I have never published anything on it.

First of all, an airliner travels through an environment more like outer space than like the surface of Earth. You cannot just pull over, open the door, and let someone out, or bring the police onboard.

Anything can be a weapon. Over 20 years ago, Loompanics carried an article by Brad Steiner, "How to Use this Catalog as a Weapon." (Steiner wrote Subway Survival.) We would all be much safer if we all assumed responsibility for our outcomes, rather than being herded into flying cattlecars. Howeever, economics -- and consumer tolerance, if not consumer preference -- packs us all in like eggs with no room to manoever. We are all pretty much helpless while on board.

I have no problem being naked, especially if everyone else is. I think that we ought to crank up the thermostats a few more degrees and go about mostly, if not entirely, unclothed indoors. (You would carry your own towel to sit on. Eventually park benches, restaurants, etc., would all be automatically self-facilitating, one step more complex than the busser putting down a new tablecloth. But, I digress...) That would certainly make concealed weapons a different problem, entirely.

Electro-magnetic scanning only works so well. Baggage handlers have missed many items and many more can be hidden in plain sight as something else. Therefore, we could not bring containers of liquid for a while, causing grief for mothers, et al., until that was worked out.

Technically, given the absolute range of choices to a business, roads really do not need speed limits. (Look at the Autobahn.) Similarly, as long as a driver does not cause a collision, DUI DWI are really subject to question. Who cares if you drive drunk as long as you don't hurt anyone? Why slow down for a school zone? An interesting experiment in Belgium and the Netherlands removed traffic lights at some intersections and found that accidents declined. Why have driving laws at all?

Obviously, the answer is that public safety overrides individual choice. So, too, here. Any breech of the airliner's hull can be considered catastrophic, even if it does not result in total integrity failure. So, the bullets of the weapons of sky marshalls disintegrate on impact. On the ground, how many people can be killed by a stray bullet? One? Two? Airliners carry hundreds of people. They are soft targets for hardhearted aggressors.

As Objectivists, we believe that the proper roll of government is to provide police and armed forces to protect us. I personally believe that I have sound empirical evidence and rational theory for a better outcome than that, but the fact remains that you are dependent on the government to figure this out. So, you must allow that process to work. It may be slow and may seem silly or stupid, but it is the system that (nearly) everyone agreed to and agrees on. If it bothers you that much, don't fly. Or learn to fly and fly yourself. Or hire your own flight, either directly or by contract ("charter") with a group. Many options are open to you.

Personally, I would like to see a return to oceanliners and passenger rail. Dirigibles have great potential. We did not exploit any of those well before governments got into the jetliner business (or subsidized it). Of course, the 2004 Madrid train station bombing (and the continous aggression by ETA) speaks to the dangers there.

In the long run, it may be that governments simply cannot protect their citizens any more than the castles of the barons could withstand cannonfire. We may be living on the verge of a new way of life.

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OK. First it was we had to take our shoes off because they might contain a bomb. Now ...

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Obviously, the answer is that public safety overrides individual choice.

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This is a slippery slope since, today, there is no objective definition of what constitutes "public safety." The entire regulatory state is supposedly established in its name. One answer, in my opinion, is to let the public decide, based upon contract (purchase tickets) with the airlines, or with the airlines asking for police protection. Another answer would be to have reasonable searches by the government to protect public safety. Airliners may be soft targets, but they are not so easy to penetrate, else there's be a lot more attacks. What is soft is intelligence gathering and the ability to integrate the information and use it to implement a strategy. Note that the current Nigerian bomber's father reportedly when to the US embassy to tell them about his son's radicalization, but the son was not put on the no-fly list.

  • Any one car can be a car bomb and has the potential to bring down a bridge, yet we don't inspect every car going over the bridges in this country.
  • Any individual entering an opera house can have explosives tied to his body, yet we don't frisk everyone entering
  • Any one individual can bring a machine gun to a mall yet we don't search everyone's bags

But passively reacting to every threat that comes along - inspecting shoes, no liquids, pat-downs, etc. - after every type of incident is ridiculously ineffective, a waste of time, and a violation of rights. I can't carry a bottle of water on a plane but I can put it in my checked luggage! What's the difference if I were a bomb maker? Pretty soon, no action will be possible because the nature of a terrorist is to come up with ways that get around security measures.

It needs to be recognized that a determined terrorist will not let security stop him any more than laws stop criminals from committing crimes. The way to stop terrorists is to destroy them in their home base.

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I think Daniel Pipes gets it right:

http://www.danielpipes.org/7840/detroit-no...st-near-tragedy

Umar Farouk's father, Umaru Abdulmutallab, former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria and one of his country's most prominent businessmen, recently went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja to warn about his son's "radicalization and associations," prompting American officialdom to place the son on a terror watch list of about 550,000 names, the Terrorist Screening Data Base.

Abdulmutallab being taken off Northwest flight 253 on Dec. 25.

But they did not place him on the list of about 15,000 individuals who must go through additional screening, much less the list of about 4,000 people on the "no-fly" list, who are not allowed to fly to or in the United States. Nor did they revoke Abdulmutallab's two-year, multi-entry tourist visa. Nor did an air marshal accompany his flight.

[snip]

. . . ecause U.S. security agencies refuse to take the sensible precaution of concentrating their resources on the small target pool of suspects, namely Muslims, about 1 percent of the population, hundreds of millions of passengers must bear the burden of extra cost, inconvenience, and loss of privacy.

[snip]

The Northwest incident takes me back to 9/11 itself, when I wrote a bitter analysis how the U.S. government had "grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm." That failure continues.

What size disaster must occur to inspire a serious approach to counterterrorism?

It is easier to render the entire American flying population to ever more stringent surveillance and inconvenience than to acknowledge who the hell our enemy is.

But beyond this Multiculturalism gone to its insane limits, I think such intervention suits the current administration just fine: They can accustom Americans to a police state citing the best of intentions.

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They can accustom Americans to a police state citing the best of intentions.

:D

Now there's an excellent point I hadn't grasped!! Thanks for bringing that up, Alan.

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It is easier to render the entire American flying population to ever more stringent surveillance and inconvenience than to acknowledge who the hell our enemy is.

But beyond this Multiculturalism gone to its insane limits, I think such intervention suits the current administration just fine: They can accustom Americans to a police state citing the best of intentions.

2-sided sword intelligence-wise: if you obviously target a certain group, the terrorists adapt by changing their appearance. E.g. send a white radical instead, shaven and dressed with a small four-in-hand knot on his Hermes tie and a white shirt and dark suit. Investment is worth it for a plane.

STRATFOR's opinion is that intelligence focuses too much on "who did it" as opposed to "how does it happen", i.e. law enforcement should focus on prevention based on known patterns but are puzzled when asked about this kind of thing (since their mode of operation always has been "bring the criminal to justice"). More here: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20091104_co...hifting_who_how

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2-sided sword intelligence-wise: if you obviously target a certain group, the terrorists adapt by changing their appearance. E.g. send a white radical instead, shaven and dressed with a small four-in-hand knot on his Hermes tie and a white shirt and dark suit. Investment is worth it for a plane.

STRATFOR's opinion is that intelligence focuses too much on "who did it" as opposed to "how does it happen", i.e. law enforcement should focus on prevention based on known patterns but are puzzled when asked about this kind of thing (since their mode of operation always has been "bring the criminal to justice"). More here: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20091104_co...hifting_who_how

But this is just the flip side and "the who" is not what we're seeing now in airline policy. We're seeing more "the how." As the article admits, methods can also be changed, and relativelly often and easily. Note that no attempted attack has been conducted using a liquid explosive, or a shoe bomb, yet another attempt was narrowly averted by malfunction, using a different IED in a different article of clothing.

Of course the jihadists will attempt to recruit blond-haired, blue-eyed to do their dirty work to throw law enforcement off the scent. There are enough crazies of all shades to do the job. But what Pipes pointed out up front and the details of the attempted attack show that the person involved had a pattern of behavior that had flagged him and the flagging went nowhere useful.

That is what I mean by Multiculturalism, actually, I should have said political correctness. Why was he not put on those lists? Maybe it was bureaucracy. But that behavioral tracking, along with watching out for members of groups known to foment attacks (not just "Muslims" but Islamists or those coming from known Islamist strongholds), would do more good than just depriving us of drinks, shoes, underwear, etc etc, until we're all naked and body scanned, as has been pointed out above.

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Why was he not put on those lists? Maybe it was bureaucracy.

-------------

Reportedly, the Brits denied him a visa renewal but the US didn't. Probably because they didn't want to single out a Muslim.

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Why was he not put on those lists? Maybe it was bureaucracy.

-------------

Reportedly, the Brits denied him a visa renewal but the US didn't. Probably because they didn't want to single out a Muslim.

If only that were the only danger signal. This man booked a one way to Detroit. Paid for it in cash. Had no luggage. And his father, a high-ranking bank official, I believe, who also advises the Nigerian government on economic matters, actually approached a US embassy, and let them know that his son had been radicalized and was a potential terrorist threat. (All this from ABC Radio's John Batchelor.)

Yeah, DC's on it!

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I have often wondered what will happen when terrorists, knowing their lives are expendable for Allah, will board flights with IEDs SURGICALLY implanted in their guts. How will they screen all of the passengers when this type of thing occurs? Will everyone have to undergo a colonoscopy before boarding?

A weak point in security that's been pointed out to me in the recent past is airline staffers.. the people who load food and supplies onto the planes. These people could easily be working as 'insiders' in cooperation with terrorists. Some 'sleepers' are patient and can wait up to 20 years to gain trust and make it to high places. Look at Barack Obama, for example. :D

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The other thing is, considering the very low success rate (thanks to a certain degree of competence from our intelligence community, recent Nigerians notwithstanding) and the very rarity of terrorist attacks, we are far too scared. Kinda like people being terrified of flying commercially when Western flights are the safest form of transport available ever.

It's just one of the costs we as a civilization bear for, well, having a civilization.

Obviously I'd speak differently if I had lost family members (as opposed to just friends) in 9/11, and if my family had been in King's Cross 10 minutes earlier on 7 July 2005.

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The problem is that the one thing security should be doing, but both the Bush and Obama administrations have been opposed to, is criminal profiling. I don't mean racial profiling and I don't mean religious profiling. But even either of those would be less invasive and more effective than the totally random, everyone-is-a-possible-killer security strategy used now. Teach security to identify suspicious behavior based on what we know of the behavior of jihadists, and focus on identifying, searching and questioning those on any watch list. Don't complain about resources when you're patting down 80 year old ladies. We're all familiar with what the acronym TSA stands for, so how bout they stop standing around and go to work?

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Incidentally, by "criminal profiling" I was referring simply to the techniques, and not implying that jihadists should be processed through the criminal justice system.

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The problem is that the one thing security should be doing, but both the Bush and Obama administrations have been opposed to, is criminal profiling. I don't mean racial profiling and I don't mean religious profiling. But even either of those would be less invasive and more effective than the totally random, everyone-is-a-possible-killer security strategy used now. Teach security to identify suspicious behavior based on what we know of the behavior of jihadists, and focus on identifying, searching and questioning those on any watch list. Don't complain about resources when you're patting down 80 year old ladies. We're all familiar with what the acronym TSA stands for, so how bout they stop standing around and go to work?
Thank you, bb, for putting the right words to what I was trying to say. It's the behavioral profiling that we need, together with the follow-through to watch lists and enforcement. As mweiss points out, cavity implantation of these devices is just a surgery away and then we'll be receiving terminal doses of X-rays on every screening. This administration and its politically-correct/brainwashed cohorts absolutely refuses to acknowledge the obvious and potentially obvious. As long as that's true, we're both at-risk and continually harrassed and inconvenienced every time we take public transportation. Again, I think this invasiveness serves the agenda of the current administration so they are not only philosophically opposed to recognizing jihadists, but they are enjoying the encroachment as a stage of their consolidation of power over the individual.

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To be fair, I have never personally felt harrassed by TSA personnel, and think many of them are probably fine people who believe they've been trained to keep us safe while we're in the air. There are exceptions, and I've read about abuses, but my problem chiefly is with TSA policies and the federal government's refusal to put the rights of their own ciizens above the alleged rights of self-avowed enemies. When someone joins an organization with the goal of killing as many Americans as possible, or knowingly gives aid to such an organization, they should lose their right to come into this country; and if we get our hands on them, it would be nothing short of criminal irresponsibility to let them go.

I realize this is just preaching to the choir, but it is so frustrating how few people today understand what self-defense entails and how many actively prohibit it.

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To be fair, I have never personally felt harrassed by TSA personnel,. . . my problem chiefly is with TSA policies and the federal government's refusal to put the rights of their own ciizens above the alleged rights of self-avowed enemies. . . .

I realize this is just preaching to the choir, but it is so frustrating how few people today understand what self-defense entails and how many actively prohibit it.

I think this is why Obama supports cloning: Not for any life-extending discoveries, but so that he can create additional butt cheeks, so he increases his options while turning the other cheek and kissing those of foreign potentates. That is our current defense strategy.

And I agree with your distinction: My problem is also with the often crazy and/or intrusive rules that force you to completely disassemble your luggage, remove shoes and place them in a container, along with every coat and sweater, separately packaging all liquids in a quart baggie and checking through anything over 3.3 ounces, or tossing, it along with any bottled water or coffee, obtaining and carrying a doctor's note for any medicinal liquids, removing your computer from its bag, removing all metal from pockets, removing metal-banded watches, removing your belt (I now travel with a plastic-buckled belt), remove all pocket knives, scissors, Leatherman tools, etc. And -- oh, yeah -- having your your driver's license out for security and your boarding pass (or did I leave that in the jacket pocket -- Hey WAIT!!!! -- "I'm sorry sir, you can't go through without your boarding pass." "But it's in my jacket, can I just --" "Please back up, sir"). Depending on the airport, you may need to show your license and boarding pass 2 times, then boarding pass at the metal detector, or license and boarding pass once, boarding pass at the metal detector, or license first, tattoos and war wounds second...

I really noticed the extent to which this list had grown, ironically, when relocating to Portland, Oregon from Los Angeles, where the security lines are much shorter. I used to start my mental checklist and the deconstruction process while snaking through the long lines to the scanner. By the time I arrived, I had all my arms in one bin, legs in another, head in a bowl, etc. The first time, in Portland, I got to the scanner - and the much smaller countertop - and had to juggle and rush through all this while the guards were watching and waiting on me. Nowadays, I have a procedure that involves putting everything on me and in my pockets into my backpack and taking everything electronic out, having nothing metal anywhere on me by the time I hit the airport.

It's the little things, though, that are frustrating, though, like the aforementioned pocket knife or leatherman tool, or my favorite type of ultra-thin wallet with a built-in [metal] clip, which now means that I have to dump my wallet in a tray and pass it through, leaving it exposed, on the other side of a metal-detector and scanner wall, while others ahead of me have a shot at it. Removing the paper money and credit cards is an option, but this brings us back to the level of deconstruction required just to get from the street to your plane.

It is the enemy that should find their lives getting ever more difficult, finding themselves hounded by police, military, and security, not those who are allegedly being protected.

Your prescription is correct. So when will you be graduating and taking over the setting of American security policy? Please let me know so I can schedule my flights accordingly. :D

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I shove everything in my bag (inc. wallet) keeping only what is necessary. I've found that when travelling, all I need is cash, one card in case I run out of cash, and my keys (and berry/E71/cheap local phone) anyway. Efficient. Esp. in the US where I never carry coins, I always dump them at the next occasion to buy something (because tips are mandatory).

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Flying is out of the question for me.. I carry a $10K HD video camera, a high powered editing laptop, lots of external drives, spare batteries, spare solid state memory cards, cables, microphones... no way I'm going to risk having that stuff damaged by these power lusting bozos.

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To be fair, I have never personally felt harrassed by TSA personnel,. . . my problem chiefly is with TSA policies and the federal government's refusal to put the rights of their own ciizens above the alleged rights of self-avowed enemies. . . .

I realize this is just preaching to the choir, but it is so frustrating how few people today understand what self-defense entails and how many actively prohibit it.

I think this is why Obama supports cloning: Not for any life-extending discoveries, but so that he can create additional butt cheeks, so he increases his options while turning the other cheek and kissing those of foreign potentates. That is our current defense strategy.

And I agree with your distinction: My problem is also with the often crazy and/or intrusive rules that force you to completely disassemble your luggage, remove shoes and place them in a container, along with every coat and sweater, separately packaging all liquids in a quart baggie and checking through anything over 3.3 ounces, or tossing, it along with any bottled water or coffee, obtaining and carrying a doctor's note for any medicinal liquids, removing your computer from its bag, removing all metal from pockets, removing metal-banded watches, removing your belt (I now travel with a plastic-buckled belt), remove all pocket knives, scissors, Leatherman tools, etc. And -- oh, yeah -- having your your driver's license out for security and your boarding pass (or did I leave that in the jacket pocket -- Hey WAIT!!!! -- "I'm sorry sir, you can't go through without your boarding pass." "But it's in my jacket, can I just --" "Please back up, sir"). Depending on the airport, you may need to show your license and boarding pass 2 times, then boarding pass at the metal detector, or license and boarding pass once, boarding pass at the metal detector, or license first, tattoos and war wounds second...

I really noticed the extent to which this list had grown, ironically, when relocating to Portland, Oregon from Los Angeles, where the security lines are much shorter. I used to start my mental checklist and the deconstruction process while snaking through the long lines to the scanner. By the time I arrived, I had all my arms in one bin, legs in another, head in a bowl, etc. The first time, in Portland, I got to the scanner - and the much smaller countertop - and had to juggle and rush through all this while the guards were watching and waiting on me. Nowadays, I have a procedure that involves putting everything on me and in my pockets into my backpack and taking everything electronic out, having nothing metal anywhere on me by the time I hit the airport.

It's the little things, though, that are frustrating, though, like the aforementioned pocket knife or leatherman tool, or my favorite type of ultra-thin wallet with a built-in [metal] clip, which now means that I have to dump my wallet in a tray and pass it through, leaving it exposed, on the other side of a metal-detector and scanner wall, while others ahead of me have a shot at it. Removing the paper money and credit cards is an option, but this brings us back to the level of deconstruction required just to get from the street to your plane.

It is the enemy that should find their lives getting ever more difficult, finding themselves hounded by police, military, and security, not those who are allegedly being protected.

Your prescription is correct. So when will you be graduating and taking over the setting of American security policy? Please let me know so I can schedule my flights accordingly. :)

All this security hassle, and for what? The net result is incidents like the latest happening. Wasting time on obvious non threats is welcomed by genuine threats, and is done only in the name of political correctness. I have no intention of ever flying again if I can avoid it, because of the anger I feel at the indignations of screening. Coming from a retired airline pilot such as myself, this only indicates how the aviation world I knew, has disintegrated from open skies, to skies imprisoned. The knee-jerk reactions to every incident, shows how little proactive thinking is going on. I feel sorry for those who can't avoid travel in their work. Dealing with symtomes rather than causes, has always seemed more beneficial, politically.

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I heard this morning on TV, although I have not seen a confirmation of this, that the two leaders in Yemen who planned this attack were Gitmo detainees who were released to the Saudi government a couple of years ago. They were rehabilitated and released.

Imagine what will happen with all those guys in NYC when they get acquitted.

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I'll note that in little ol' Australia, domestic security consists of very little indeed. I can get on a flight to Melbourne or anywhere else in the country without ever showing an ID. I can even meet someone AT THE GATE even if I'm not travelling myself. Americans may recall this is how it once was in America before insanity set in. Will Australia succumb to the same nonsense? I hope not.

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That's nice, but Australians can't own guns since the government confiscated them all in the latter part of the 20th century. I was considering AUS as a possible flight destination when TSHTF here in the US, but now it looks more like Hong Kong is a better option.

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I heard this morning on TV, although I have not seen a confirmation of this, that the two leaders in Yemen who planned this attack were Gitmo detainees who were released to the Saudi government a couple of years ago. They were rehabilitated and released.

Charles Krauthammer on Fox said that 2 terrorist leaders in Saudia Arabia were released from Guantanamo, and Karl Rove on Fox said that the second-in-command in Yemen was and may have been involved in the Dec. 25 attack on the commercial airliner.

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That's nice, but Australians can't own guns since the government confiscated them all in the latter part of the 20th century. I was considering AUS as a possible flight destination when TSHTF here in the US, but now it looks more like Hong Kong is a better option.

Geez, I know that, but let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.

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