Clarity, Quick Hits & A Suggestion
As I alluded to earlier, it is a little hard to accurately assess things if you’re not prepared to use accurate if un-PC language. US and UK media might have an aversion to mentioning the Muslim connection, but the Italian media apparently does not. Ethnic and religious descriptions are hardly immaterial in situations like this, but if you want to pretend that you’re just as likely to get blown out of the sky by someone who looks like Paris Hilton, knock yourself out.
Much is being made about multiple arrests of young Muslim men making bulk purchases of cell phones. This is not news but in fact a fairly well known if odd way to raise funds for illicit activities (drugs as well as terror). “Not every cell-phone buying of-age Muslim man might be a terrorist . . .” and all that.
The FBI successfully launched undercover ops to infiltrate and break up the mob; Aukai Collins and John Walker Lindh had no problems joining up with Mujahideen; the British successfully infiltrated an agent into this most recent terror cell; can we stop with the ‘terrorists can’t be infiltrated’ chant now please? Putting the kibosh on this approach just because it isn’t your particular technique is beyond idiotic. There are volunteers, believe me, let’s use them. If it’s a long war we’ve got the time to make this work.
You can make a bomb out of all sorts of stuff and a music CD broken in half can cut a stewardess’s throat as well (though not as cleanly) as a knife. The cycle of finding a threat from and banning new items isn’t going to stop, nor are knee-jerk reactions. Technology is not that much of a help because we’re not at the point where we can match up which individuals might have discrete bomb components and also happen to be terrorists and are on the same flight. With cockpit doors reinforced, Air Marshals, and a sufficiently motivated set of passengers, an old-school hijacking has a low probability of success, which leaves IEDs and MANPADS as the last best hope for bringing down an airliner. I don’t have a cheap and easy solution for the MANPADS problem but – and color me a radical if you like – I say make the ban on carry-ons permanent (women get one modest-sized purse and “men” who are inclined can carry a man-bag) and divert the resources we now use to screen carry-ons to screening hold baggage (long and still the weak point in aviation security). Security screening gets a lot less onerous, wait times drop precipitously, boarding and disembarking is now a breeze and the only thing holding up on-time take-off and landing is the weather.