The Terrorists Have Won

If you still need proof that the terrorists have won, you need look no further than the way the latest threat has been handled. It’s an utter fiasco. Apparently there’s a plot to blow up a plane, probably involving liquid explosives, probably going from the UK to the US. Lots of people have been arrested; 24 at last count. The authorities aren’t sure if they’ve caught all of the people involved, but say they’ve foiled the plot. Armed with this information, let’s look at the response to the problem:

  • First, alert the media with alarmist propaganda. Nothing will help the situation more than articles headed Days From ‘Untold Destruction’. The point of terrorism is to make people afraid. Do people feel safer today than they did yesterday?
  • The plot was foiled, right? So why are the farcical security alert levels being raised after this event? Surely they should have been raised prior to the event? Or maybe that would tip off the terrorists, so things were kept quiet until most of the suspects were caught. If this is the case, what are these alert levels for? A cynical person might suspect they’re pure propaganda, designed to give the appearance that Something is Being Done.
  • The plot apparently involved liquid explosives; explosives that are powerful enough to destroy or severely damage an aircraft full of people; explosives that can be carried onto a plane as hand luggage. The safest way to dispose of liquids that may form a powerful explosive when mixed or exposed to air is to tip them all into a vat in the middle of a crowded airport! This point alone should have whoever ordered this utterly insane response to be called to account for their incompetant, negligent and grossly dangerous order.
  • The resultant chaos from the increased ‘security’ measures has disrupted the ability of people to travel to the UK, and US. Because of the nature of airport checkin, security and customs clearances, this affects the entire airport. Even better, it affects all international airports with flights to the US and UK. Remember, this plot was apparently foiled.

So now a terrorist doesn’t even have to follow through with their plans; now they just have to get caught plotting something suitably bizarre that all the people in charge of security go completely nuts trying to look like they’re doing something about it. Here’s another movie plot threat:

A group of Evil Doers plot to blow up some planes. They get a whole bunch of nitroglycerin and put it in shampoo bottles. One of them gets careless and the Good Guys find out about the plot. The Good Guys do a suitably action packed raid on the Evil Doers’ den and arrest whoever survives the melee. They alert the media, and all the airport security goons freak out and ban hand luggage. Passengers with liquids have to tip them out into big vats in the middle of the checkin area, which is now heaving with people due to the increased delays. A second group of Evil Doers who weren’t caught in the raid wander into the airport, ostensibly to catch a plane home to Terrorististan. They have to poor their shampoo into the vats. For some reason, the shampoo explodes, killing the Evil Doers and a dozen or so people who happen to be standing nearby at the time. The crowd, already tense from the media alerts and increased security presence, tries to run away from the explosion. 84 people are trampled to death, many of them children.

I may be accused of being overly critical, and not helping out by offering alternative solutions. Aside from that not being my job, since that is what the people in charge are being paid to do, I will suggest a few ways that this might have been better handled:

  • If a plot is foiled, don’t raise the security level. Lower it. This tells the people that you’ve got the situation well in hand. The Evil Doers have been caught. You can sleep soundly knowing that your government is in control.
  • Issue a media release reinforcing the strength of your position. You have foiled a plot. You’ve caught the bad guys. Aren’t you wonderful people, protecting us from the Evil Doers who hate our freedom?
  • Let the airport security people know some specifics about what they should be screening for, so that their people can apply specifically increased scrutiny without causing general alarm. Mascara, no problem, it’s not enough to be a threat. Most hand luggage, scan as per normal. Bottle of Gatorade, only if you drink some, Miss.
  • Don’t mix a bunch of potentially explosive reagents in a big vat in the middle of the concourse surrounded by hundreds of people. Duh.

Measured, calm, in control.

But this isn’t really about making people feel safer, is it?

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