Monday, March 17, 2008

Here comes more TSA invasiveness

Just as surely as sunrise follows sunset, you can bank on the TSA to find more and more "threats" to air travelers. This latest is a doozy.

It seems that TSA now fears that terrorists may try to build a bomb in midair using parts smuggled onto the plane in small, hard-to-distinguish pieces.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who wants to call BS on this one. Let's go through the checklist, shall we?

  • A bomb sufficient to drop an airplane must be of a size large enough to cause a destabilizing hole in the plane or must be placed in a strategic location (like, for example, near hydraulic lines or fuel storage)
  • For placement in a strategic location, the terrorists would almost certainly have to have inside help
  • Inside help, at least in theory, should be nearly impossible due to the background checks that are performed on airline personnel
  • It would take a large number of terrorists to bring the parts and core explosive material onto a plane in carry on-sized pieces undetectable by TSA, even for a small bomb
  • Alternately, major portions of the bomb might be held in checked luggage; however, we're back to the need for an insider to smuggle the terrorists down to cargo, and it could take a very long time just to find the luggage
  • Constructing the bomb, assuming that it is broken down into pieces small enough to evade TSA detection, could take hours for a complex bomb, but certainly would take 20-30 minutes for even the most primitive improvised explosive (again, we're talking about SMALL parts here)
  • Getting the pieces of the bomb to the bomb maker (unless construction is to be an "assembly line" process) would certainly raise suspicion among the passengers and crew
  • If construction IS an "assembly line" process, the partially assembled bomb must be hidden between assembly steps or passed from one terrorist to another; passing the pieces would most certainly raise suspicions, but unless there's an insider assisting, hiding the partially assembled bomb would be extremely difficult
  • Given the time needed to construct the bomb, where exactly are the terrorists going to go to do it? Unless there's an insider who can smuggle them down to baggage or into a crew-only area (now we're talking about the big, transcontinental jets, not your common 737), there is only one option - the commode, and if you think someone can hole up in the can for 30 minutes or more without raising a fuss, you haven't flown lately
  • What about the tools needed to assemble the bomb? You're certainly not going to walk through security with a screw driver in your pocket; again, we're back to the need for an insider
Can you see where I'm going with this? Unless someone comes up with the Perfect Bomb, one comprising no more than a dozen easily concealed pieces that are pretty much snap-togethers, this is a straw-man scenario.

So, if that's the case...why even bring up the possibility? That's easy. TSA needs to keep us in a perpetual state of anxiety to justify their existence, their budget (which will CERTAINLY have to be increased to combat this faux threat), and whatever invasive procedures they dream up for harassing and humiliating the American public.

Let the colon exams begin!