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I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Airline "Security" Going Overboard Again

Now that a terrorist plot has been uncovered that was attempting to blow up as many as 10 airplanes, the airport security folks are forbidding liquids, gels and pastes on airplanes. This means items such as hair gel, toothpaste and contact lens solution can't be put in your carry-on luggage.

Articles like the one in the title link are also speculating that cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices are potential threats because their batteries could be used to detonate bombs.

This whole travesty of airport security is getting out of hand. If anything, this process just annoys travelers and encourages terrorists to be more resourceful. Liquid and gel explosives have been around for decades, yet suddenly everything that is liquid is banned. Earlier, the bans went after deadly tweezers and lethal toenail clippers. Now they are going crazy over common cosmetic products and bottled water. This is nothing more than security theater and does not really make us safer.

Here are five ways that terrorists could probably defeat this security:

  • Since liquids, pastes and gels are allowed in checked baggage, put the explosives in there. A detonator could probably be hidden in a dummied up hair spray or shaving cream can.

  • Use a plastic type explosive and pack it in a carefully sealed container to prevent the sniffing devices from detecting it. Hide it in a seemingly innocuous item, such as batteries, bars of soap or practically anything

  • Give a female suicide bomber explosive breast implants

  • Get a suicide bomber to swallow a bag full of explosive liquid

I'm not writing this to encourage terrorism. I am not a terrorist and in truth I hate terrorism. I am writing this only to point out to how idiotic it is to cripple our airline industry all in the name of security when this mock-security won't actually stop a determined group if they have any brains. If I can think of five plausible methods in under a minute that could be used to bypass airport security, I’m sure a well funded terrorist organization can think of these ideas and many scarier ones.

I am someone who used to fly quite a bit for business (domestic and internationally). I also usually take a plane somewhere every year for vacations, and occasionally use a plane to visit relatives. I would rather assume the miniscule risk of being blown out of the air by terrorists than spend an extra couple of hours going through bogus security screenings and not be able to transport travel essentials such as water, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. Even with the threat of terrorism, air travel is safer than driving. The chance of being killed by hijackers is very low. (I acknowledge that the threat is real, as proven by 9/11, but it is nevertheless statistically unlikely.) Since the annoying security measures are unlikely to stop a smart terrorist, my odds of dying are not significantly reduced by this security, yet my comfort and ease of travel is greatly diminished by it.

Convenient, comfortable and efficient methods of travel are important to our nation. Businessmen frequently use planes to get to meetings and conventions. Patients fly to visit specialized doctors. Family members fly to visit each other. Couriers often carry donor organs on commercial flights. Tourists, who make huge contributions to our economy, fly to their destinations. Thus, interfering with air travel should not be done lightly. If the government tried to interfere with automobile travel as much as they do with air travel, the people wouldn’t stand for it. Why does America patiently tolerate these extra delays and searches before flying rather than lobby against it?

Our planes already have the hardened doors to protect the cockpit so that hijackers can't get to the flight controls. Thus, the chances of another 9/11 hijacking in which terrorists take over a plane and use it to destroy specific targets is virtually nil. As I see it, these are the three worst things terrorists could do on a plane:

  • Kill the passengers and flight attendants

  • Destroy the plane shortly after takeoff when it has a full fuel load and is over a densely populated area

  • Spray the passengers with a slow acting and highly contagious disease that they will then spread throughout the nation

All of these things would be hindered if you allowed the passengers to be armed in some capacity. Imagine if even 20% of the passengers had something as mild as pepper spray or mace. If a group of terrorists jumped up and started causing trouble, they would have to deal with a cabin full of a gas that would pretty much disable them and everyone else on the plane. If you throw in a few stun guns, a couple of CCW holders with legal firearms and some trained air marshals the terrorists wouldn't stand a chance. Unarmed passengers stopped Richard Reid (the shoe bomber), and unarmed passengers kept flight 93 from hitting its intended target. Armed passengers could do the same thing more easily and with a higher likelihood of success.

Since most people will probably think my "arm the passengers" idea is crazy, here are a few more ideas that would probably work better than the security measures that are currently hindering travelers:

  • Most planes have several bathrooms. Passengers could be forced to use random bathrooms rather than one closest to them so that multiple terrorists can’t easily smuggle bomb parts into the same bathroom and assemble a dangerous device.

  • Assign passengers random seats. Passengers could still request aisle, window and emergency exit row seats when they buy their tickets, but they wouldn’t be told which specific seat they will get until they board. This would ensure that terrorists cannot sit next to each other to coordinate their attacks.

  • Planes have a central air system. Add a tank of nitrous oxide, pepper spray or other knockout agent. If the flight attendants believe an attack is underway, they can hit a panic button and knock out the passengers until the plane can be diverted to the nearest airport

  • Air marshals: put at least one undercover and one uniformed marshal on every flight (if we can send 150,000 soldiers to Iraq, we can figure out how to train enough air marshals)

  • Allow flight attendants to be trained and armed in some capacity. Martial arts, pepper spray, TASERs and/or firearms could all be very effective deterrents if used by those who are sufficiently skilled and trained in their use. Granted many attendants won’t volunteer for ninja-combat training, but I bet a significant number of them would be willing to at least carry pepper spray or something simple.

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