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Odd Sort of Security Rule?

American Airlines tells us — and my sense is that this is the general TSA policy — that

All liquid and gel items must be placed in checked baggage only....

Exception: Baby formula or breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket; and insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines.

I must be missing something here: Seems to me that a terrorist who wants to smuggle aboard explosives precursors just needs to fake a prescription label, no? Or if that's somehow too hard (I can't imagine how it can be), he can fake some symptoms, get a prescription for a liquid or gel medicine (granted, that might involve a day's delay), empty it out and refill it with the bad stuff.

Or is it that the prescription-bottles-only rule will diminish the number of bottles to be checked, and TSA will actually check each one to make sure that it's not filled with explosive precursors? That's the one sensible explanation I can see for the "no liquids and gels, but prescription bottles are OK" rule — but is TSA really geared up to perform this sort of checking?

Incidentally, I can see the prescription-bottles-only rule working for a few hours, if it's not announced — that way, if terrorists are then trying to execute a plan, they might be foiled because they hadn't anticipated the need to use a prescription bottle. But once we're talking about plans that are even a few days or perhaps even several hours away, and the prescription-bottles-only policy is announced, the terrorists can easily adapt themselves to that change, it seems to me. What am I missing here?

UPDATE: Some commenters suggest that it would take some pretty large bottles to make enough explosives to bring down a plane. My understanding from press accounts is that it only takes a little of the right kind of explosive, and a prescription bottle or two of cough syrup could fit what's needed. But if that's not so, or if the TSA is actually closely examining all the many prescription bottles that it's likely to run across, then the policy may make more sense than I thought — though I'd still wonder about the breast milk / baby formula exception (necessary as it is), plus also the ability to smuggle liquids and gels in various other ways (not hard in body cavities, I'd guess, though again that depends on how much you need).

FURTHER UPDATE: Perhaps the breast milk / baby formula exception might work because it's limited to people traveling with small children; I expect that even some would-be suicide bombers wouldn't find it easy to find babies whom they could enlist in their suicide squads. As to one commenter's note that mothers are being asked to taste their children's milk, I can say that Thursday morning we flew with a bottle of milk in our carry-on, and no-one said a word; maybe they just didn't notice it, or maybe they didn't have a tasting requirement to enforce.

BGates (mail) (www):
You're assuming that airport security is a method to combat terrorism, rather than an elaborate charade to make people think the government's on top of things.
8.12.2006 4:25pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
A few possibilities.

1) TSA may be trying to make it more difficult, but not impossible, to make a bomb.
2) Most people carry a water bottle or coke, but few people carry prescription drugs (particularly young men). This makes it feasible to run them through security databases for extra scrutiny.
3) One can only fit a few CCs of liquid in a dozen gelcaps. I imagine it would take quite a few prescription bottles to create a homemade bomb large enough to trigger explosive decompression -- let alone such catasrophic failures on several planes simultaneously. The authorities would get suspicious if a dozen healthy-looking young men on the same flight, or even enterring the international terminal at the same time (and then consolidating the drugs for use on a few flights), all had prescription drugs.
8.12.2006 4:30pm
Ray G (mail):
Actually, I think such guidelines greatly narrow what the screeners have to look for, regardless of how easy it may be to replicate a prescription bottle.

So the potential terrorist has to put his devices in one of the allowable containers. Going out on a limb, and assuming that the terrorist would be a young, childless male, that rules out certain things. So he's most likely to have a prescription bottle.

Such bottles tend to be small, though not always, so the larger containers will obviously stand out to the screener through out the day. And when a young male of vague ethnicity comes through with a pint sized bottle of prescription medicine, he will no doubt (and hopefully) receive a bit more attention.
8.12.2006 4:32pm
Tom952 (mail):
There are no thinking people in positions of responsibility at the TSA.
8.12.2006 4:39pm
cirby (mail):
One more example of "planning for the last war."
8.12.2006 4:40pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Gabriel Rossman, RayG: I'd thought of that, but my understanding from news accounts is that the explosives they're worried about can be made with very small amounts of precursors, plenty to fit into a standard prescription bottle of cough syrup, for instance. But indeed if you're right that they're set up to adequately example such bottles, then this might indeed make some sense.

Eugene
8.12.2006 4:48pm
Lively:
EV

I'd thought of that, but my understanding from news accounts is that the explosives they're worried about can be made with very small amounts of precursors, plenty to fit into a standard prescription bottle of cough syrup, for instance. But indeed if you're right that they're set up to adequately example such bottles, then this might indeed make some sense.

Also...could work if there are 5 terrorists on one plane and each terrorist has one prescription bottle and the 5 combine the bottles to make one explosive.

One would have to admit this is getting ridiculous...yet many people still do not perceive we (infidels) have enemies that want us dead.
8.12.2006 4:57pm
Houston Lawyer:
Lively

Thanks to TSA policy, screeners cannot question more than two Arabs on any one flight. Norm Mineta is gone, his PC policies should have gone with him.
8.12.2006 5:11pm
Donald Kahn (mail):
Concerning Mineta: The President has for too long shirked his duty to countermand this idiotic "anti-profiling" policy, and to have given Mineta the choice of going along or resigning.

After six years of defending GW to his detractors and loving him for his enemies, I have concluded that his head is largely made of cement.
8.12.2006 5:40pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
The reports I heard said that mothers were being required to taste the baby formula they brought on board. Likely insulin and similar medication comes in bottles too small to pose a serious danger. Additionally they might be able to do the same thing with insulin (have them put a very small amount in themselves).

In any case I understand that the swabs they use when they pull you aside CAN detect the liquid explosives and other liquid agents would probably be revealed on close examination. The problem is they can't take 5-10 minutes to evaluate every individual passing through security. Therefore they prevent most people from carrying liquids onto the plane to keep the lines moving and spend the extra time to inspect those few people who have a genuine need to take liquids on the plane.

What I don't understand is what the justification is for doing this in the first place. We've known about the liquid explosive threat for years. We even found plans for just such an attack when we arrested some terrorist years ago. Since officials are claiming they arrested every member of this plot there is no more reason to stop people from taking liquids on planes now than there was five days ago.

Either the TSA is being incompetent now and inconveniencing us unnecessarily OR it was being incompetent for the last year or so by not making us dump our liquids. I just don't understand why people think that we need to rush off to implement security measures to protect against the type of attacks that have already happened. What we need to do is use our resources to guard against the NEW kind of attacks terrorists are likely to make.

I'm beginning to think these security measures are just intended to make use feel better not really increase our safety. I mean if you think it through putting air marshals on planes after 9/11 was a stupid waste of anti-terrorist resources. I mean 9/11 guaranteed that passengers would never let terrorists gain control of a plane again alleviating the need for air marshals. Though all the experts have warned of the danger of attacks on chemical plants and the like instead of putting our resources there we throw them away to guard against attacks like the last one even if they will no longer work.
8.12.2006 5:42pm
Antares79:
The human digestive tract still provides an adequate avenue for getting liquid and solid reagents on to planes in fairly sizable amounts. I doubt if any reasonable regulation can close that loophole.
8.12.2006 5:43pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I must be missing something. What's to stop the terrorist from concealing the liquid or solid explosive on his person? The metal detector won't find it. He can use a modified electronic gadget (not prohibited on US airline flights) from his carry-on luggage as the detonator. To stop this, we need to x-ray the people, not just the checked baggage. The federal government seems to equate inconvenience with security.
8.12.2006 6:39pm
AppSocRes (mail):
To the bloggers critiquing the competence of the current administration and TSA: Please explain why terrorists have been so singularly unsuccesful at mounting a terrorist attack against the United States since 9/01. It's not like they haven't been trying, as events in London, Madrid, and Bali, and interrupted operations in this country might suggest. The current freedom from terrorist attacks is also in stark contrast to the sad record of the Clinton administration during which Al Q'aida terrorists succesfully, lethally, and with impunity attacked the United States on more than eight separate occssions.
8.12.2006 6:42pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov. my idea was a fake penis, like the ones used to fool drug tests filled with terrorist bomb liquid. maybe that could get by your X-ray machine idea as well (not sure how much they see). It seems like we are never going to get an airplane secure. Logic Nazi is right on, either this is idiotic now, or not doing it was idiotic. I lean towards its idiotic now.
8.12.2006 6:46pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Eugene as to the tasting, Slate's explainer looked at it. It turns out you can taste most of these terrorist juices and come away with a straight face.

http://www.slate.com/id/2147500/


And on top of that, the latest write up on the plot had the terrorists putting the liquid explosives under a layer of real sports drink. They could do the same thing with momma's milk.
8.12.2006 6:50pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

It seems like we are never going to get an airplane secure. Logic Nazi is right on, either this is idiotic now, or not doing it was idiotic. I lean towards its idiotic now.

I tend to agree. You can't prepare for every contingency. The terrorists have us chasing our tails. We probably can achieve the same results with less money by simply rotating our screening processes...be unpredictable...introduce as many small variables as possible to make planning attacks as difficult as possible.

But there were plots before 9/11 and they'll continue to be. Diligence doesn't have to equal stupidity. All I expect is for NSA et al to do their best and let the chips fall. The politicians, however, are loth to overlook anything that might look like negligence, and a lot of this bizarre crap is merely CYA.
8.12.2006 7:01pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
What you're missing, Eugene, is that this Administration can be and is currently being stupid. The rest of my intended comment has been stated by logicnazi.

As to AppSocRes's question, that there have been no attacks does not mean the current restrictions aren't stupid, or, as logicnazi has said, that if they are necessary, the Administration wasn't stupid for not implementing them before. My understanding is that we've caught people and prevented attacks through intelligence and infiltration. Not through preventing the carrying-on of nail clippers and frisking Al Gore.

I also have a hard time believing they could prevent me from carrying on a liquid if I really wanted to. I guess we'll see in two weeks when I return to the mainland.
8.12.2006 7:29pm
jim:
Two men are running from a tiger and one says to the other, "you think you can outrun that tiger?" The second responds, "I don't have to. I just have to outrun you."

You are never going to be able to make planes perfectly safe from terrorists. You are never even going to make planes perfectly safe from any given method of attack. What you can do is make the probability of failure with that method high enough that the terrorists move on to figuring out some new method. Inevitably they will and then we'll see a new set of regulations designed to make that option undesirable. Rinse and Repeat.
8.12.2006 7:38pm
Pete Freans (mail):
I am not a bomb expert but it does not require a large amount of explosive material to destroy an airplane. The infamous shoe-bomber Richard Reid hid a mere 10 ounces of a C4-type of plastic explosive in his shoes. The FBI opined that the small amount of C4 hidden in Richard Reid's shoes was sufficient enough to puncture the fuselage of an airplane, effectively destroying it.

On a personal note, I am not looking forward to flying next week to Chicago. Will I be required to check-in my laptop, PDA, and Ipod? Aren't those electronic items considered detonators now?
8.12.2006 7:44pm
Dick King:
Although it isn't pretty, a hole in the fuselage doesn't necessarily kill the plane. It matters what components get destroyed.

-dk
8.12.2006 7:58pm
Pete Freans (mail):
dk:

According to government prosecutors, the damage that Reid could have inflicted if he had succeeded would have been devastating. While I agree that a torn fuselage from above, as your photos show, would not cripple an airplane, C4 does not necessarily behave in that manner when detonated.
8.12.2006 8:17pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Dick,

A hole in the skin at 35 thousand feet "may" not cause structure failure, but the explosive decompression is going to make it rather unpleasant for the passengers in the immediate area who may be siucked out without chutes.

as for milk, perhaps if your baby can't be happy with apple juice, (which is available on all but the shortest shuttles) maybe he's too young to fly.

If I were TSA, I'd have 1-800 pharmacy consults available.

Even for those things that check out, I see no reason why liquid prescription drugs can't be carried in the cockpit. If 10 different passengers want to check their cough medicine for the same flight, perhaps they should be asked to sit in the waiting room for a few hours till they feel better and their backgrounds check

As for the Minetta anti-profiling edict, that is the dumbest thing ever mandated by a Fed IMHO. Few planes have been hijacked by 50 year old blond Caucasian females like my wife (who happens to work for TSA BTW) but she seems to get randomly selected for pat downs every trip.
8.12.2006 8:24pm
massachusetts republican (mail) (www):
Give till it hurts...someone else.
Moslems are required by their faith to donate a portion of their yearly wealth to charity.

This is good and noble.
However if an honest, law-abiding American Moslem gives alms they may also be funding terror unwittingly. The issue of Moslem charities either duping the giver or enabling actual terror funding knowingly by the donor appears endemic amongst moslem charities.

Many Christians and Jews ask how could a charity fund terror? Probably because non-Moslems don't understand what is meant by the Koranic injunction to give.

So who DESERVE alms according to Islam?

The requirement to give is called "Zakah" or "Zakat".
One of the five pillars of Islam is the requirement that every Muslims contribute to Zakat. According to the Qur'an, the Zakat funds MUST be used to suport the following.

*The poor who do not beg for support.
*The poor who beg for support.
*Those who administer the collection and distribution of the Zakat funds.
*Those who may be enticed to Islam as well as new converts who need financial support.
*Those Muslim slaves who may have their freedom purchased.
*Muslim travelers who need assistance while on a journey.
*Those who are fighting in the Cause of Allah, i.e. Mujahideen, Holy Warriors, Jihadist. Today they are known as Terrorist by non-moslems.

Huh! It makes sense why you have groups like the following (and so many others):
-----------------------------------------
Benevolence International ….

The rest at my site
8.12.2006 8:28pm
Tom952 (mail):
Houston Lawyer: Thanks to TSA policy, screeners cannot question more than two Arabs on any one flight. Norm Mineta is gone, his PC policies should have gone with him.

Is this real?

And to think I was leaning toward suggesting separate Islamic and Non-Islamic passenger screening lines at the airport, so the screeners could focus more closly on passengers likely to blow up the plane with less inconvenience for the rest of us.
8.12.2006 8:30pm
A. Friend:
"As for the Minetta anti-profiling edict, that is the dumbest thing ever mandated by a Fed IMHO. Few planes have been hijacked by 50 year old blond Caucasian females like my wife (who happens to work for TSA BTW) but she seems to get randomly selected for pat downs every trip."

The point must be that if we start imposing burdens on only a small, discrete portion of the population, while being ourselves immune from those burdens, we are likely not to think very hard about whether those burdens are really necessary and to increase those burdens. The fact that the majority must be subject to the same burdens as are imposed upon a small minority acts as a kind of check on the majority's decisions. This is why it was very troubling when Congress tried to exempt itself from going through the same airport security procedures as it subjected the general population to.
8.12.2006 8:41pm
massachusetts republican (mail) (www):
Excuse me. MR ghost of the future, please shoot me. Thanks. I would like to be back in 1965 when I could ride in a plane and only fret over fish or steak.

As I was being blown up the other day in a terrorist plot funded by our friends the Saudis I couldn't help but think what a Hitlarian man our President is. Just as every part of me was torn from every other part of me I remembered how Bush wanted to spy on the phone calls of some Moslem Americans. What a 1984 type. While my parents cried at my empty casket (no body found) I was moved to anger that that SOB Bush actually wanted to look at the bank transactions of some American moslems. What a fascist. Good thing the democrats and C.A.I.R &the ACLU stopped all that Nixonian stuff.

Oh by the way have you seen my head? I think it's over by the tail section.

-Steve

I have a cool piece on Moslem terror funding…Oops I mean charities at my site. Please come on by...

thanks
8.12.2006 8:57pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
The point must be that if we start imposing burdens on only a small, discrete portion of the population, while being ourselves immune from those burdens, we are likely not to think very hard about whether those burdens are really necessary and to increase those burdens.

Applying limited resources (screening minutes) uniformly without regard to risk/reward in the name of fairness is a gross misuse of resources.

Not all mid Eastern young men are suicide bombers, but nearly all suicide bombers are mid Eastern young men. Ignoring that fact is like believing the earth is flat.

Profiling is only biased if the probability per search of finding a bomber by targeting mid Eastern young men ends up smaller than the probability per search of finding a bomber within the general traveling public. Which do you think is more likely?

And yes, allocating increased resources targeting likely pools of travelers will encourage the recruitment of bombers who are not mid Eastern young men. However, its all a game of resource allocation. If we force groups to recruit outside of fertile pools of mid Eastern young men, it will:
1. increase their recruiting costs
2. increase the likelihood that some 50 YO white female approached to be a suicide bomber will rat them out
3. ease our ability to infiltrate these groups.
8.12.2006 8:57pm
The Mad Pigeon (www):
No matter the level of security, anywhere people gather is a potential target. Want to kill alot of civilians and make the paper? Hose down the crowd backed up at the security checkpoint.
8.12.2006 9:37pm
The Mad Pigeon (www):
"UPDATE: Some commenters suggest that it would take some pretty large bottles to make enough explosives to bring down a plane. My understanding from press accounts is that it only takes a little of the right kind of explosive, and a prescription bottle or two of cough syrup could fit what's needed"

It doesn't have to be an explosive--you could also create a toxic gas...
8.12.2006 9:41pm
Redman:
I propose that Uncle Sam establish an entirely new airline, which solely carries middle eastern men, age 18-50.

The airlines that now exist would be off limits to the above described group.

On both airline systems, you can carry or check whatever you want, except for firearms.

Think of how fast boarding will go . . . on both airlines.
8.12.2006 9:51pm
The Drill SGT (mail):

Redman:
I propose that Uncle Sam establish an entirely new airline, which solely carries middle eastern men, age 18-50.


The only 2 problems with the new airline are:

1 that when their planes fall out of the sky they have land somewhere.
2. unless the airline hires mid eastern pilots, with a new set of issues, they salaries required by your average civil pilot on your new airline are going to have a risk premium :)
8.12.2006 10:22pm
Dad of young ones:
In response to "The Drill SGT," who said, regarding breast milk or formula:


as for milk, perhaps if your baby can't be happy with apple juice, (which is available on all but the shortest shuttles) maybe he's too young to fly.


I must disagree. Some kids don't fly well at 2 years old, or 11 years old. But some babies do just fine at 3 months old. And at that age, juice is NOT recommended by most pediatricians. Should those with three-month olds be asked to forgo visiting grandparents across the country? Or if Grandma dies, the baby can't go? Oh, and because Mom is attached, she can't go to her own mother's funeral, or must drive for four days?

I'd rank the "no-baby" rule as less do-able, and less justified, than the young-Muslims-only flights.

(And lest anyone think this is self-interest, I note that we have not flown any of our kids, and in any case, we've never fed them with formula or bottled breast-milk. So if we did fly a baby, the baby would nurse the old-fashioned way, and avoid the whole bottle problem. That would instead open up the other debate about those who object to public nursing, no matter how discreet.)

Yes, let's profile out Moms and babies. Gheesh.
8.12.2006 10:47pm
The Drill SGT (mail):

Dad of young ones:

Yeah,

I knew it was completely unreasonable, but I was brainstorming :)
8.12.2006 10:53pm
goldsmith (mail):
I have a solution for all of these problems: take trains!
8.12.2006 10:53pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
And let Bechtel and the MTA build the chunnel from Boston to Dublin?

let's see, if it was $8 billion mile for the Big Dig, that would be $24 trillion for the Big Chunnel?
8.12.2006 11:08pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
PA-103 was brought down by an estimated 6 oz. of explosive. The explosion didn't damage any of the 747's systems, except one: surface integrity.

The explosion created a breach about the size of a softball in the lower left portion of the plane; it was located in checked baggage, in a container that happened to be on the outside of the baggage hold.

That softball-sized hole, in a windstream over 400 mph, caused the skin to peel away. One strip, originating at the breach, went all the way over the plane--widening to about 10 feet in width--and ended on the right-size belly of the plane. Other strips, though smaller, peeled away as well.

The skin of a plane does provide a huge amount of structural integrity, though we tend to think of the beams and crossbeams more frequently.

Reid's shoe-bomb, located next to the outside walls of the plane, could have created a similar breach.

As we've seen in various accidents, though (like the Air Hawaii fiasco), tearing away the skin doesn't always lead to a crash. There are vagaries in just how the physics works out in a given incident.

PA-103 was reconstructed at the British equivalent of an NTSB facility at Farnsborough, where I saw it in 1998. Now that the legal cases revolving around it have been settled, the plane may have been removed. But I'm sure you can find photos. NTSB does not have the full report; it may be held by FBI.
8.13.2006 12:43am
Enoch:
I flew last Friday. I was not terribly impressed, and I did not think the "extra" security could have stopped anyone who wanted to get a fluid on the plane. The random search at the gate didn't even involved a pat-down, it was just another bag check, and if you'd had the pouch of fluid taped to your leg or under a loose shirt, I don't see how they would have found it.

The fact that the majority must be subject to the same burdens as are imposed upon a small minority acts as a kind of check on the majority's decisions.

The problem is one of time allocation. Wasting time checking everyone increases the chance that a bad guy will not be checked and will get through.

Should those with three-month olds be asked to forgo visiting grandparents across the country?

Make grandma come to them... easier for all concerned. =)
8.13.2006 1:52am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I'm still praying for the day that they uncover the bra bombing plot.
8.13.2006 10:19am
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Um, I note that the Slate piece wouldn't pass muster as a Wikipedia entry, it's so unsourced (lots of "experts say"..., no names anywhere), and though I'm not a doc (at least in the relevant sense) even my undergrad chem and bio makes it pretty clear to me that (a) it's pretty implausible that anyone could take a "swig" of acetone or hydrogen peroxide (we're talking lab-strength here, not mouth-wash) without it being immediately noted (I'm trying to imagine a screener opening that "prescription medicine" bottle, or sports water bottle, of acetone, and thinking anything other than "Hell, this stuff smells like nail-polish remover!!!" before even asking a suspect to taste it...) and
(b) same with nitroglycerin; while it's used as a vasodialator, it's used in doses measured in single-digit numbers of mg, not in anything like a "swig". A mg, for those who skipped that class, is 0.001 gram (that's ONE ONE-THOUNDSANDTH") by weight. and a gram is 1/26 of an ounce by weight. To paraphrase Neal Stephenson (Zodiac, I think) a miligram is about as big "as the period at the end of this sentence"... Lotta them in even a little "swig"...

Scientific hoogly is scientific hoogly, whether from right or left, and I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

Now the more interesting problem, noted above, is that given the screening chaos, one could now simply make up a bunch of this stuff, put it in a backpack, fire it off WHILE STANDING IN LINE TO BE CHECKED and kill lots of people. It doesn't make for such dramatic video/audio, though.
8.13.2006 1:09pm
Toby:
Sorry, Dad, your desire to take a 3 month old to a funeral (there's an awful image) does not trump the security needs of the nation..if its that important to you, go home and live with your parents.

The baby milk restrictions may or may not be intelligent, but if they are, they trump the funeral arrangements. Hardcases make bad law, but this isn't even a hard case. And as Maybell Carter sang "Give me the flowers while I live..."
8.13.2006 2:20pm
jimbino (mail):
If only the terrorists had hatched a plan using exploding babies instead of liquids! Think of the peace and quiet that might take your mind off the missing iPods, novels and water bottles!
8.13.2006 3:08pm
A. Friend:
Until thorough body cavity searches are performed at the checkpoint, there will always be a way to get liquids on board -- especially by those who are extremely motivated to do so -- and banning bottled water and soda will only harm the non-terrorists
8.13.2006 5:29pm
perryair:
Geez - before you know it they'll be banning Snakes on a plane too..
8.13.2006 11:06pm
Cris:
EV:

I expect that even some would-be suicide bombers wouldn't find it easy to find babies whom they could enlist in their suicide squads.


I suspect that the babies are drafted. (via LGF)
8.14.2006 12:07am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
See my comment at 4:34pm on 8/10 to Orin Kerr's "Foiled Plots".

Noted similar idea about repackaging prescriptions, and also suggested next target might have nothing to do with air travel: schools are particularly soft and emotional targets.
8.14.2006 8:15am
Just curious:
Aside from hiding something in a body cavity with a quick shove, can't the bad guys also put liquids in a balloon and swallow it, drug-courier style? Or would it not pass fast enough for a short flight? Surely a transatlantic would do?

So do we need potty-monitoring?

I'm starting to want armed guards in-flight. Or concealed-carry. Or some good-old profiling. Or cleaning out the caves in Tora Bora or wherever. And some nuclear plants for all of our home electric, so that we don't need the Saudi oil, and can get tough with the Saudis for a change.

I don't know. I'm no expert. But excluding babes in arms, while refusing to check out more than two Arabs, sounds dumb to me.
8.14.2006 2:25pm
Enoch:
Aside from hiding something in a body cavity with a quick shove, can't the bad guys also put liquids in a balloon and swallow it, drug-courier style?

Not gonna work. Liquids needed to make explosives (acetone, peroxide and acid) would leak through the walls of the balloon, and would have a very negative effect on the "mule". Ingestion of any of these is, shall we say, "not recommended"...
8.14.2006 3:03pm
jwilcox1024:
There is no tasting requirement according to the TSA FAQ:


Media reports indicated that passengers may be forced to sample infant formula or milk before being permitted to fly. Is that true?



No. TSA will not ask passengers to sample fluids or beverages during the screening process. This process is being required at foreign airports and is not required at any domestic U.S. airport. Infant formula must be submitted for inspection to a TSA security officer by passengers traveling with a baby.
8.14.2006 3:43pm
dweeb:
Not gonna work. Liquids needed to make explosives (acetone, peroxide and acid) would leak through the walls of the balloon,

First of all, latex isn't the only material available for encapsulation.

and would have a very negative effect on the "mule". Ingestion of any of these is, shall we say, "not recommended"...

Two words: suicide mission. Unlike drugs, this contraband is NOT supposed to get to the destination. One might even exploit a slowly failing encapsulation material and a reaction to gastric juices to eliminate the need for a detonator.

Anyone consider how much liquid explosive component might fit in the average pair of breast implants, or how well an internal defibrillator could be wired to detonate them? Who said explosive vests have to be worn externally?
8.14.2006 4:45pm
Enoch:
latex isn't the only material available for encapsulation

Acetone dissolves / leaks through a lot of plastics, and sulfuric acid is, well, acid.

Two words: suicide mission. Unlike drugs, this contraband is NOT supposed to get to the destination.

If the balloon leaks or breaks open, they will be incapacitated and unable to complete the mission, even with the best will in the world. I hope that the airlines are already profiling such that they do not allow people who are nauseated, vomiting, and obviously in extreme pain to board the aircraft.

One might even exploit a slowly failing encapsulation material and a reaction to gastric juices to eliminate the need for a detonator.

Uh, no, preposterous.
8.14.2006 5:36pm
Dick King:
One problem with swallowing contraband is that these are binary fluids that have to be mixed to make the bomb, and attached to a detonater. It's a bit tough to time the recovery of the packages. It doesn't work if they get their acetone back after the flight landed.

-dk
8.14.2006 6:24pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
And THERE (above) is why the proposed screening, or ban, might be a useful deterrent, as contrasted with a complete preventative.

Even with a flat ban on carry-on liquids, or an item-by-item inspection of carry-on liquids, it would be theoretically possible, with sufficient resources, time, scientific knowledge, and coordination, to get the requisite explosive materials onto planes, mix up the explosives, and detonate them in a coordinated way. I recall a sci-fi novel (Steven Barnes' "Streetlethal") in which a crime boss has remotely detonatable explosive devices surgically implanted into his underlings as a way to assure loyalty. Like the "drug mule" scenario, not impossible; just not very practical to do if you're an amateur...

The present screening will make it however, one hell of a lot harder walk improvised explosives onto a plane than it was before, when, apparently, I could have walked onto a plane un-noticed with my "gift hand lotion" or "gift tequila" sealed odor-proof glass bottles full of e.g., acetone and lab-strength hydrogen peroxide, or nitroglycerin.

If you make something sufficiently complex and difficult for people to do, then, if they have limited resources and time, they'll do something else.
8.14.2006 7:51pm
Jennifer (mail) (www):
dweeb - a lovely thought, exploding boobs. That's actually not a bad idea, though - using breast implants to smuggle explosives.

"Dad of young ones" beat me to it re: the breastmilk - this is just another reason to feed straight wholesome breastmilk right from the cow. No sense pumping when national security is at stake! And no need to worry about the inconvenience of having to check your bottles.
8.14.2006 8:05pm
dweeb:
Acetone dissolves / leaks through a lot of plastics, and sulfuric acid is, well, acid.

Who said anything about plastic? Glass capsules. Peroxide doesn't have an issue with plastic. For that matter, they could swallow balloons full of traditional nitrate based explosives, for defecation in flight, and the timing would be such that it wouldn't be detectable.

If the balloon leaks or breaks open, they will be incapacitated and unable to complete the mission, even with the best will in the world.
Accomplice retrieves it in the restroom, using things available on the plane that, while not effective weapons against a resisting opponent, would suffice to gut a willing subject, which could be done drawing no more attention than a couple trying to join the "mile high club."

Uh, no, preposterous.

Not really. Apparently, as a teenager, you didn't hang out with the MacGuyver-type troublemakers.

One problem with swallowing contraband is that these are binary fluids that have to be mixed to make the bomb, and attached to a detonater. It's a bit tough to time the recovery of the packages.

Not really - it takes a couple weeks to get a good handle on how long something takes to get through a given individual. Most people can hold it several hours, so you time it to be early, and you have a window of opportunity.
8.15.2006 12:37pm
Enoch:
Dweeb, I am sure you could make that method work in a James Bond movie. As a practical method for achieving the desired effect repeatedly and reliably, it is to say the least ludicrous.

Who said anything about plastic? Glass capsules. Peroxide doesn't have an issue with plastic.

I invite you to swallow a glass or plastic item the size of a prescription medicine bottle to prove this is feasible.

Accomplice retrieves it in the restroom, using things available on the plane that, while not effective weapons against a resisting opponent, would suffice to gut a willing subject, which could be done drawing no more attention than a couple trying to join the "mile high club."

If the ballon or capsule breaks, the accomplice is somehow going to get the liquid out of the guy's stomach? And it will still be usable? Absurd.

Not really.

Yes, really. Apparently, as a grown up, you are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.
8.16.2006 1:55am
dweeb:
Dweeb, I am sure you could make that method work in a James Bond movie. As a practical method for achieving the desired effect repeatedly and reliably, it is to say the least ludicrous.

Which method would that be - timing excretion? Child's play, LITERALLY. At the risk of sounding crude, I suggest you go work at a summer camp with pit toilets, and see how many kids go a whole week, eating a normal diet, holding back defecation, and then, the minute they have access to a flush toilet, voila! Through observation and planning, it would be simplicity itself to time excretion of a swallowed object within the window of a transcontinental flight.


I invite you to swallow a glass or plastic item the size of a prescription medicine bottle to prove this is feasible.

Enoch, did it ever occur to you that it could be several glass or plastic items smaller than a prescription bottle? Also, go talk to someone who works in an ER about the things people have swallowed and passed before you make such statements. I think you're in for a shock. Are you saying that a dedicated suicide holy warrior is not capable of something children and fraternity pledges have been doing for years?


If the ballon or capsule breaks, the accomplice is somehow going to get the liquid out of the guy's stomach? And it will still be usable? Absurd.

Who said anything about it breaking? I simply said it could be retrieved mid-flight. Do try to keep up.


Yes, really. Apparently, as a grown up, you are unable to distinguish fantasy from reality.

No, not really. Apparently, you lack both creativity and adequate understanding of the science involved. You think peroxide eats through plastic, and can't conceive of an explosive component that doesn't do so.
Where there is a will, there is a way, and, ultimately, all the security measures in the world just make it more difficult, not impossible.
8.17.2006 3:49pm