British Foil Airline Terror Plot

From CNN

While I'm glad that the government stopped the plot--yay for catching real terrorist threats!--I sure hope none of our British Goodjers have to go to the airport today! Or, for that matter, the American ones either. Sounds like it's going to be crazy there today.

I have been unable to ascertain at what stage this plot is suspected to be in. Were these 21 suspects stopped on their way to the airport, or was this still a plot in the making?

They're saying it was in the "advanced planning stages."

From the USAToday article:

Overnight, police arrested 21 people throughout the London area and Birmingham on suspicion of plotting a terrorist act. Police searches were continuing into the day Thursday at several locations in Great Britain.

So it sounds like they were getting pretty close to swinging their plans into action, but it's kind of hard to say.

Between this, and foiling the plot last month to blow up the Holland Tunnel, it has been a great 30 days for law enforcement.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to wake up to news of a foiled plot to bring down 10 planes, as opposed to "10 planes were brought down over the Atlantic".

Acording to the new flight restrictions ( no carryon) the next time this happens everyone would fly in their underwear and then all nude flights with blindfolds handcufed to the chairs. Instead of stewards and stewardesses there would be soldiers with bomb sniffing dogs waking up and down the isles.

Niseg wrote:

Acording to the new flight restrictions ( no carryon) the next time this happens everyone would fly in their underwear and then all nude flights with blindfolds handcufed to the chairs. Instead of stewards and stewardesses there would be soldiers with bomb sniffing dogs waking up and down the isles.

But we are all mandated to enjoy our flights.

I'm certainly happy to see this, especially because it fits within the general outlines Al Quaeda has used since the 90's for it's attacks. There have been several major airline attacks plotted, all of which have failed, thanks to good intelligence work and law enforcement follow-through.

Al Quaeda is of course interested in mass casualty attacks, and they seem to have settled into a few commonalities. They look for targets that will cause not just fear and symbolic damage, but also potentially do economic and political harm. Hence, large buildings with economic or political meaning; multiple airplane takedowns; crowded entertainment venues; and mass transportation systems. They seem to use fairly simple devices replicated as widely as possible, and they investigate countermeasures and tailor the attacks to fit the current security measures. They seem to rely on readily available ingredients that yield reliable devices simple enough for anyone to use. They recruit in the target countries or their allies.

I've always maintained that the bulk of the GWOT should be executed as a covert war involving intelligence agencies, the military and law enforcement, rather than regime change and state-oriented military activity (the exception being Afghanistan, which was a state run by terrorists and set up by a terrorist-supporting nation). I think the past few years have shown that our biggest successes have come from regular intel work and law enforcement, as well as military raids and small, targetted actions such as the attacks on terrorist cells in East Africa in 2002 and 2003.

In contrast, our ill-advised Iraq invasion has not only made the threat worse by training up thousands in insurgent skills, but it has given the enemy an ideological bonanza. Our successes routinely come from intel and law enforcement work, not from trying to change the governments forcibly in states that were unconnected to the terror operations we see launched against us.

For those who worry about whether Iran will give WMD's to terrorists, or whether Iraq would have, or before that whether Pakistan would have added terror groups to it's nuke tech distro list, here's food for thought. Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, North Korea and other states have had the tech to make luggage bombs, liquid bombs, cell-phone bombs and shoe-bombs since well before Al Quaeda and it's affiliates existed. And yet - they did not use those simple techniques against us. I've not seen any reasonable reason why they would decide to hand over nuke or WMD technology to terrorists to use against us. Even Saddam Hussein was held in check, when he had plenty of time to set up sleeper networks, and all the reasons to do it. And the Iranians, for all their bluster, have deliberately held Hezbollah back from American interests, reportedly due to talks with the US. We need to look at prior behavior as a rough indicator of intentions and capabilities.

We need to pay attention to the actual threat. That does not mean we should give up monitoring for WMD threats, by any means. But it does mean that the crossover of reasoning that because Al Quaeda can target planes with bombs, Iran will give them nukes, is not supported by the evidence. It's a low probability threat, and basing our foreign policy on that threat rather than the high probability one - as we did with Iraq and the expanding fireball justfication - is wrong and is likely to get us into further trouble in the future, if we continue to mistake the small threat for the big one.

If we correctly use our intel resources, our military's SF capabilities and law enforcement, we will be have a good chance of stopping both high and low probability threats against our country. That's what the last few years have shown. What we need to do now is to tamp down on the ideology generator that we have going in Iraq. Put another way, I think the covert war is going well, it's the overt one that's giving us fits. Counter-terrorist activity is not something that can be handled by conventional military action at the scale of countries, unless the country is itself an active state sponsor. But even then, there are two problems - taking down the state, and taking down the terror groups, and doing either one does not disable the other. In Iraq, we drew the mistaken conclusion that taking down the state would lessen the threat. We should not continue to make that mistake.

We are fighting two wars, but at least we are winning one.

Paleocon wrote:
Niseg wrote:

Acording to the new flight restrictions ( no carryon) the next time this happens everyone would fly in their underwear and then all nude flights with blindfolds handcufed to the chairs. Instead of stewards and stewardesses there would be soldiers with bomb sniffing dogs waking up and down the isles.

But we are all mandated to enjoy our flights.

Ok, naked without the blindfolds and handcuffs -optional.

Homeland Security wrote:

Consistent with these higher threat levels, the Transportation Security Administration is coordinating with federal partners, airport authorities and commercial airlines on expanding the intensity of existing security requirements. Due to the nature of the threat revealed by this investigation, we are prohibiting any liquids, including beverages, hair gels, and lotions from being carried on the airplane.

Link to the statment.

I understand the threat, but c'mon. Are they going to install restrooms at the ends of the jetways so that we can empty our bladders of all liquids before boarding? Are pens now forbidden? Ink is a liquid after all! Security measures are important, of course. However, it is very easy to take them too far. There are very few objects that could not be used to harm or kill people around us at all times, including on airplanes. Forbidding the simple things that people need, like contact solution, is a simple matter of overkill. Perhaps requiring all passengers to fly nude with a mandatory body cavity search might be necessary. Sheesh!

So the TSA raises the terror alert levels at all US airports because of something the British found out about flights from the UK to the US? Does the hysteria surrounding this remind you guys of anything we've talked about before? *cough*

oldmanscene24 wrote:

I understand the threat, but c'mon. Are they going to install restrooms at the ends of the jetways so that we can empty our bladders of all liquids before boarding? Are pens now forbidden? Ink is a liquid after all! Security measures are important, of course. However, it is very easy to take them too far. There are very few objects that could not be used to harm or kill people around us at all times, including on airplanes. Forbidding the simple things that people need, like contact solution, is a simple matter of overkill. Perhaps requiring all passengers to fly nude with a mandatory body cavity search might be necessary. Sheesh!

Since we're still having our shoes screened nearly five years after Richard Reid, I predict the hysteria around liquids will last just as long or until someone realizes just how ridiculous these knee-jerk reactions to foiled terror plots is getting.

Niseg wrote:
Paleocon wrote:
Niseg wrote:

Acording to the new flight restrictions ( no carryon) the next time this happens everyone would fly in their underwear and then all nude flights with blindfolds handcufed to the chairs. Instead of stewards and stewardesses there would be soldiers with bomb sniffing dogs waking up and down the isles.

But we are all mandated to enjoy our flights.

Ok, naked without the blindfolds and handcuffs -optional.

Are the soldiers all female and leather-clad?

Until we have a reasonable assurance that we have procedures in place to identify binary or trinary liquid explosives, and given that they seem to have found actual devices in a variety of containers, I'd say a few days or weeks of this is justified. TSA is not so proficient that we can just trust them to figure it out immediately.

Like I said, I understand the threat. I also understand the need to step up airline security. I just think that outlawing liquids, even temporarily, is a bit much. These are the same folks that banned nail clippers after 9/11, but still allow a sharpened pencil on a plane. Which one could you do more damage with? Remember, this plot was not foiled at the airport. It was stopped by the diligence and hard work of law enforcement officials. I apologize for ranting, it just seems excessive. Not overly surprising, just excessive.

I wonder if anyone else but me found this whole thing very reminiscent of the Monty Python song "I"m so worried" off the Contractual Obligations album:

"I'm so Worried" from Monty Python's Contractual Obligations Album

I'm so worried about what's hapenin' today, in the middle east, you know.
And I'm worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.
I'm so worried about the fashions today, I don't think they're good for your
feet.
And I'm so worried about the shows on TV that sometimes they want to repeat.

I'm so worried about what's happenin' today, you know.
And I'm worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.
I'm so worried about my hair falling out and the state of the world today.
And I'm so worried about bein' so full of doubt about everything, anyway.

I'm so worried about modern technology.
I'm so worried about all the things that they dump in the sea.
I'm so worried about it, worried about it, worried, worried, worried.

I'm so worried about everything that can go wrong.
I'm so worried about whether people like this song.
I'm so worried about this very next verse, it isn't the best that I've got.
And I'm so worried about whether I should go on, or whether I should just stop.

(pause)

I'm worried about whether I ought to have stopped.
And I'm worried about, it's the sort of thing I ought to know.
And I'm worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.

(longer pause)

I'm so worried about whether I should have stopped then.
I'm so worried that I'm driving everyone 'round the bend.
I'm worried about the baggage retrieval system they've got at Heathrow.

Arseholes.

I'm supposed to be going on holiday on Saturday.

Why must terrorists be so bloody inconvenient with their overly-elaborate evil doomsday schemes.

Bastards.

Even if this terror plot succeeded, I am still more likely to die driving than while in a plane.

Since we're still having our shoes screened nearly five years after Richard Reid, I predict the hysteria around liquids will last just as long or until someone realizes just how ridiculous these knee-jerk reactions to foiled terror plots is getting.

Safety is not the true goal of airport screening. The goal is the *illusion* of safety so you will feel safe enough to keep flying. How many terrorist plots are foiled by airport screeners?

Those who trade their bottles of Aquafina for temporary safety deserve neither.

Time to buy up Sodexo.

Even if this terror plot succeeded, I am still more likely to die driving than while in a plane.

Only because you drive more than you fly.

I was happy to read the news until I saw the part about 'no liquids'. I guess diabetics won't be flying any time soon... or just regular old people like me who bring along a bottle of water for the flight because the in-flight service stinks.

As others have said, I feel safer because of the law enforcement actions, not because of new airline restrictions.

And Paleo, didn't you notice that the plot seems to have originated in Pakistan, our 'allies'? I expected another (deserved) anti-Pakistan speech!

Acording to the new flight restrictions ( no carryon) the next time this happens everyone would fly in their underwear and then all nude flights with blindfolds handcufed to the chairs. Instead of stewards and stewardesses there would be soldiers with bomb sniffing dogs waking up and down the isles.

Agreed. Why are we even screwing around here? Lets just follow this progression to its logical end. We should just require everyone to show up at the airport 6 hours before their flight and submit each and every passenger to a body cavity search prior to boarding. It's the only way to be sure.

/sarcasm

For all who say that the liquid ban is ridiculous...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14280416/page/2/

One aviation security expert, Douglas Laird, said the foiled plot eerily resembled a 1994-1995 plan code-named "Bojinka" that Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had overseen to blow up 11 airliners simultaneously.

In that plot, al-Qaida sympathizers had planned to mix liquid explosives undetectable by most security equipment, smuggle them aboard planes in a contact lens solution bottle and then set them off using a Casio watch as a trigger, FBI documents show.

"I'm surprised they've waited that long to try this, 10 or 11 years, when the current system still has no way to detect such liquid explosives," said Laird.

I agree it incredibly inconvenient, and certainly shouldn't be continued for more than a few days, but in the case where they actually have good information that a plot is taking place, I think a few hours of people lives and a couple dollars to replace some solution is well worth the cost of keeping people alive.

buzzvang wrote:

Agreed. Why are we even screwing around here? Lets just follow this progression to its logical end. We should just require everyone to show up at the airport 6 hours before their flight and submit each and every passenger to a body cavity search prior to boarding. It's the only way to be sure. /sarcasm

That's not actually too far from what they're doing even with domestic flights in U.S. airports right now. My sister was supposed to fly from Sea-Tac to New York this morning, and even though she was there almost 3 hours early there was no way she was going to make her flight. Lines everywhere are out the doors. She waited three hours and couldn't even get a boarding pass.

I stand by my assertion that banning liquids is excessive. The plot has been around for at least 11 years. In that time, there have been no security measures of any kind (let alone a ban of liquids) in place to stop a "liquid attack," but, to the best of our knowledge, none has ever occurred. Secondly, it offers no real security. From what I understand, the ban does not include prescription medicine as long as the name on the medicine matches the name on the ID of the carrier. Surely, any terrorist determined to launch a liquid attack would be capable of obtaining a medicine bottle and altering it to pass inspection.

JohnnyMoJo wrote:
Even if this terror plot succeeded, I am still more likely to die driving than while in a plane.

Only because you drive more than you fly.

Actually the statistics show that you are 2.5 times more likely to die/mile in a car than an airplane. But those are a bit scewed since most of the deaths in airplanes occur in takeoff or landing. Take a look:

http://hazmat.dot.gov/riskmgmt/riskc...

0.7 deaths per 100 million aircraft miles
0.19 deaths per million aircraft departures

1.7 deaths per 100 million veh. miles

So if each automotive trip averages to be ~11 miles then the death rates are the same.

So if each automotive trip averages to be ~11 miles then the death rates are the same.

Well, except most automotive fatalities occur within a mile of the home - either when leaving, or returning. So a similar skew is in place there.

I was supposed to start a 4-day vacation today, but I only left myself 30 minutes to get through security at Dulles this morning. I think on a normal day that would've been okay, but today it was more like 90 minutes. Missed my flight, and I tried to standby for the next one, but it was full. Arrggh!!

oldmanscene24 wrote:

I stand by my assertion that banning liquids is excessive. The plot has been around for at least 11 years. In that time, there have been no security measures of any kind (let alone a ban of liquids) in place to stop a "liquid attack," but, to the best of our knowledge, none has ever occurred. Secondly, it offers no real security. From what I understand, the ban does not include prescription medicine as long as the name on the medicine matches the name on the ID of the carrier. Surely, any terrorist determined to launch a liquid attack would be capable of obtaining a medicine bottle and altering it to pass inspection.

Spoke to someone who was flying today, and in the case of liquid medicine, you are required to prove you are willing to taste the medicine in order to take it on the plane. My first response was "Woh, what if it's medicine that needs to be taken in specific doses?" But i guess in the case of most liquid medications, just a dab in the mouth won't hurt you.

edit: I can spell Medicine right three times and misspell "most". Woohoo

editx2: WEEEEEEE!!!!

Some people have wicked fast photoshop skills:

IMAGE(http://craphound.com/images/liquidsonaplanethumb.jpg)

Jolly Bill wrote:

Spoke to someone who was flying today, and in the case of liquid medicine, you are required to prove you are willing to taste the medicine in order to take it on the plane. My first response was "Woh, what if it's medicine that needs to be taken in specific doses?" But i guess in the case of most liquid medications, just a dab in the mouth won't hurt you.

edit: I can spell Medicine right three times and mispell "most". Woohoo

If you plan to blow up a plane in mid-flight, are you worried about tasting explosives?

Ironic note: you misspelled "misspell".

Staats wrote:

If you plan to blow up a plane in mid-flight, are you worried about tasting explosives?

I have the feeling that explosives would generally be toxic in some way... perhaps causing vomitting?

Ironic note: you misspelled "misspell".

It's not ironic, it's just coincidental!