Friday, August 11, 2006

Foiled Again

My company (a big US outfit) issued a High Alert Security Advisory travel guideline today, restricting business travel to the bare minimum. Until I read the email outlining it I hadn't taken this UK bomb plot very seriously. After a while it all starts to feel like Snidely Whiplash with the babe tied to the railway tracks... it looks like endsville for the babe but somehow the story always ends with Snidely saying, "Foiled again!"

(Although, as the IRA used to say, The authorities have to be lucky every single time; we only need to get lucky once.)

I'm more concerned about personal inconvenience than bombs, but the stories that are coming out about the vulnerability of air travel are a bit unnerving, even to me. The talking heads are making a convincing case that airport security is bogus and designed to make us feel safe, rather than make us be safe. For example, it's nice that they check laptops, but terrorists could use any battery to detonate a bomb - even a watch battery. And restricting people from carrying water bottles or shampoo is not solving the problem... in a previous plot, liquid explosives were put in contact lens containers. And some explosives, like Sentex, are virtually undetectable. In fact, unless the authorities do complete body searches of every passenger there isn't much they can do to keep the bad guys from blowing us up. If then.

So it all seems to come down to figuring out what they're up to in the plotting stage, and that requires the cooperation of the communities where the terrorists live. Canada seems to have made some good moves in that regard, and it's heartening that Pakistan helped the UK government to uncover this latest plot. But the US isn't helping by pissing off our friends and allies in the Muslim world. I don't mean that we should appease our enemies, but that we should forge stronger ties with the majority of Muslims that aren't the enemy. As a start, this means avoiding racist discriminatory unfair treatment of Middle Easterners. A recent example: if a bunch of WASP exchange students went AWOL for a few days before showing up for university, would the FBI issue a statement that they would be deported - even before figuring out what they were up to?


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