Would a bomb going off in a TSA line put an end to the ridiculous security theater?

At the time, we were surprised, but they were also surprised about people fighting back. Today their plans would include that. In any case, even if we did fight back no doubt innocent people would be killed. How many lives is not standing in line worth to you anyway?

Can I share my favorite “stupid security theater” story? It doesn’t involve airplanes, but the Space Shuttle instead.

We sometimes bring wildlife tour groups to the Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral National Seashore. In case anyone is not aware, the place is a huge wildlife sanctuary. We typically drive our van down a 2 lane causeway road that comes within a mile and a half of Launch Pad 39B, one of those used for the Shuttle. When the bird is on the pad, it looks so close you’d think a good baseball pitcher could hit it.

Along the causeway are several paved pull-off spots where cars can stop to observe the wildlife without falling into the marshes that surround the roadway. These are just a single lane, added parallel to the roadway, and long enough for maybe 3 or 4 cars at a time. From many of these you can also see the shuttle, when in residence, or at least the pad.

On our first trip to the Seashore after 9/11, we discovered that, while the causeway road was open, the pull-off spaces had been blocked by barriers. We inquired, and were told that it was for “National Security Reasons” (you could hear the capital letters). Apparently, TPTB were afraid that some terrorist with a shoulder mounted missile or something might target the launch pad and/or the shuttle.

I must tell you with complete honesty that the system works perfectly, because there has not been a single terrorist attack on the shuttle from any of the barricaded roadway pull-offs.

I envision the terrorist underling reporting back. “Oh, Osama, it was so frustrating! There we were, missile in hand, all ready to strike the Great Satan’s space vehicle. We drove out the causeway, as planned. And just like Google Earth shows, we were within easy striking distance! But the crafty infidels foiled our attempts! They blocked the pull-off areas! And of course we couldn’t stop our car in the roadway, there are signs against that. And we couldn’t pull onto the grass either, or we’d violate some more signs. So we had to give it up. Damn the Great Satan and his ‘Do Not’ signs and his Portable Highway Barricade devices!! We must go back to the planning board.”

We questioned several different National Park Service staffers about the abundantly hilarious incongruity of this “Security System” but found that they had all had their sense of humor surgically removed as a condition of employment. Not a single one would even question the wisdom, let along crack a smile about it. But we laughed ourselves sick. And repeated, every time we visited, until I think 2008, when the barriers were finally removed. Guess the threat level had dropped off by then, or something.

The video the TSA posted doesn’t have audio but it doesn’t look like any yelling is going on and she certainly doesn’t look like she is cuffed to the chair.

I would be tempted to go in speedo to avoid the hassle but, really, no one needs to see that.

ETA (link to video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trQp6V8dx7A&feature=player_embedded

The point is that since the terrorists know it’s not going to work, they’re not going to try it in the first place. So no one need be killed at all. This falls under the heading, “The best defense is a good offense.”

The fundamental truth of the matter is that you cannot protect an open society from terrorism with security. A modern free society just has too many soft targets and too many ways to wreak havoc. If you start adding more security every time a soft target is exposed, you just diminish the things that make your society worthwhile, and the terrorists just move to the next soft target.

Frankly, I’m surprised there haven’t been more dangerous terrorist attacks. I don’t know if it’s because the terrorists are incredibly stupid, or incredibly incompetent, or what. For years I’ve been expecting them to shift tactics away from airplanes and towards other soft targets. A typical waste treatment plant holds enough chlorine to wipe out tens of thousands of people, for example. A private airplane loaded with homemade napalm and crashed into a football stadium crowd would kill and disfigure thousands of people.

Hell, Timothy McVeigh and his merry band of yokels figured out how to make a fertilizer bomb powerful enough to blow the entire face off a multi-story building. Why haven’t jihadists driven a semi-trailer filled with Amphol into a major tunnel in New York and detonated it? An Amtrack train should be ridiculously easy to derail with a few pounds of explosives.

Hell, just think of the terror John Walker Lindh managed to created with a simple rifle and a hole bored through the trunk of an old beater. I would have thought Jihadists would have replicated that little move a dozen times since then. It would be very hard to defend against, too.

Why aren’t we seeing more of these kinds of attacks? It baffles me.

You mean the Beltway sniper, John Allen Muhammad? Lindh is an American citizen who went to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and is now serving 20 years.

I think you’re confusing John Walker Lindh (the ‘American taliban’) with John Allen Muhammed (the ‘Washington sniper’). You raise a good point though.

Hah! I sniped you!

I’d say the reason it is not going to work today is that they know they can’t get anything interesting on the plane, so they are stuck with nutty stuff like burning shoes. If we open things up again, are you sure they wouldn’t be able to figure out something that would work better for them? It is not like this was unforeseen - there is a George Carlin routine on a CD released in 2000 saying how stupid security was when they let you take knives on a plane. Scarily prescient.

Sure. I’d just as soon not have every street corner monitored they way they do in England. There are better ways of preventing general attacks through intelligence, now that we are actually paying attention to it. I’m not sure how many of the arrests for plots are actually credible, but at least some were. They are also looking for high leverage attacks. Blowing up a mall is not going to get them anywhere, blowing up the Statue of Liberty might, which is why that kind of place is guarded. Shutting down all air traffic for a week is very high leverage.

There was a lot of concern about protection of water plants after 9/11, and I assume DHS has done something about it. There was a lot of money given to local governments to cover exactly this kind of threat. We obviously are not going to hear a lot about it. But releasing gas is not a high a leverage event as poisoning the water supply. Some people die, it blows away, it is over, and no one besides guards at plants gets inconvenienced.

Remember, in Baghdad they were blowing things up left and right and it didn’t make much of a difference. Ditto in Israel.

Trains derail themselves without any help. McVeigh didn’t accomplish anything, did he? You might get the first suicide bomber to do it, but if we shrug it off they are going to have a problem getting a second one.

I’d guess that they are still having a hard time getting enough people to plan something big without getting an FBI plant or random person who will sing also. We are also paying more attention to signal intelligence than we used to. It would also have to be pretty big to get much notice - the gas company blew up a neighborhood near me without any terrorist assistance, after all.

I fear what will happen with security procedures the day a terrorist tries to smuggle through a bomb by shoving it up his ass.

Sorry, I mean John Allen Muhammed. I did get him confused with John Walker Lindh.
joebuck20: This has already happened. A terrorist used an ass-bomb to get close to and attempt to kill the head of Saudi security recently. He succeeded in splattering everyone around him with terrorist bits, but the Saudi official escaped with minor injuries. That’s the problem with cavity bombs - your own body becomes a diffuser/absorber of energy, and the bomb can’t be that big. So the odds of doing a lot of damage to something else are somewhat reduced. It’s not a reliable way of blowing things up.

You don’t get safety. You get the appearance. If enough people feel good about traveling, business will continue. But if a person is willing to give up their life to blow you up, there is not much that can be done.

They’d just move the security check to the front door so any future bombs went off in the carpark.

And risk a carbombing? I think not!

Whatever. I fly all the time and the shiity airline service and delays are far more aggravating than the 20 minutes I spend going through security. And most of the wait is due to idiots who fly once a year to grandma’s birthday going through the scanner with their stainless steel watch, car keys, $3.89 in change and a metal dildo shoved up their ass.

Actually, Newark International is going to station a TSA agent and scanner outside of every house and appartment building in NJ.

There’s already a cursory security check at Narita Airport (at Tokyo) before you even get to the parking lot, way before the terminal buildings. If they wanted to, they could make this a much stricter security check.

Try leaving your car by the door of a terminal and see what happens.

If bombs do go off in the carpark, I’d look to Detroit before I’d look to terrorists. They could use the business.

Quoth Voyager:

The security checkpoint is part of the transportation infrastructure. A lot of airports have only one checkpoint: Blow that, and you’ve shut down the entire airport for a good long time.

Quoth Sam Stone:

You don’t even need half a brain. Every functional laptop already has a bomb built into it. Carry the laptop through security, take the battery out, and short it. Boom. For that matter, it also wouldn’t be all that hard to build a bomb out of things you can buy in the shopping malls inside the secure area. Even with no more background in the subject than having once been a teenage boy, I know of at least two or three methods to do so.

Then the random cavity searches will start, and hopefully people realize that the TSA is useless. I’ll actually be kind of glad when that happens, because then maybe we can get some REAL security. I mean if casinos can do it the airport can too.

As for the laptop bomb, how easy would it be to just pack some C-4 into the hard drive expansion slot, then have half a dozen guys with the laptop bombs get on the same airplane? Hardest part will probably be getting six suckers… I mean martyrs to do it.

The only reason a personal bomb in line would work is the grouping of the people in line. The only safe way to fix it is to separate the people by 3-5 meters, Everyone! Since there isn’t enough room to do this, security would be forced to be moved to where there is enough space. How to separate small children or those needing assistance would be a problem.
I have to believe that since everything is not being done that would actually be effective, the security we have is not about being secure, like someone said upthread it is about appearing to be doing something.
I personally fly with no metal, I check eveything in my bag and have no carry on of any kind. I have a boarding pass, a credit card and a book and I wear slip on shoes and no belt. If eveyone flew the way I do the line would move lickity split. If you feel it necessary you may add one tiny headset.