Flying back from England after Christmas, I got to enjoy the fruits of the US state’s insane institutional paranoia, as the airport staff opened everyone’s bag and patted everyone down before letting us on the plane (flying from the US, I of course had no such problem, as the TSA is blissfully unconcerned about what someone might do on a plane flying over Canada). It’s an interesting illustration of the irrationality of security policy, as this supposed need for greater security measures is the exact opposite of what the TSA should have concluded from the failure of the Christmas Day pants-bombing attempt. The key point here is that the attempt failed: the evidence we have shows that it’s really hard to smuggle a usable bomb onto a plane in your pants. The same is true of the failed shoe-bombing and the failed small-bottles-of-liquid bombing. What these show is that there’s no need to get everyone to take off their shoes, or throw away their bottles of water: the security measures that were in place before these attempts were evidently sufficient to foil such attempts, because the attempts were actually foiled. Every failed terrorist plot is evidence that we have plenty of security, and should be taken as an opportunity to consider whether we can’t actually get by with a bit less.
The response to the failed pants bomb has at least provoked a bit of a backlash, although the focus on the privacy violations of the pants-scanning machines strikes me as misconceived. Read more↴