The Most Successful Failed Terrorist Attack

There was another half-baked terrorist plot over the holidays.
To summarize, some moron went for a kooky religion, got on a US-bound plane in Amsterdam with a not-even-in-theory level nonfunctional bomb, tried to set it off shortly before landing, and failed miserably when it just caught fire and he was disabled by the passengers and crew. This in turn managed to cause panic and increase the expense and indignity in air travel in and out of the US for the foreseeable future. That is pretty damn successful, and the suicide bomber didn’t even have to die to get the job done.

Ordinarily I would say using the same foiled plot (put a suspicious guy on a plane, with a bomb that isn’t likely to work, and have him get caught) over and over is a bad plan… but because of the absolutely retarded responses, it continues to be incredibly effective. Over and over, the bomb gets on the plane, because existing measures that should catch it aren’t applied effectively, and over and over, it makes life harder for everyone else… because the new security measures that get put in place after each one don’t make any gods damn sense.

It was apparently a PETN bomb, again. PETN is one of those explosives that is fairly hard to make correctly, and just burns if not properly detonated… and a proper detonator would most likely be caught by “pre-9/11” security measures.

And on that thought, one of my least favorite things right now is the perception that 9/11 is the start of modern terrorism in the minds of the public. It wasn’t. It was when terrorism started working. There were plenty of previous plots just like the current bunch, some even by the same people. But those plots weren’t terribly effective, because the aggrieved party dusted off, gave the terrorists the finger, and quietly implemented some reasonable measures to keep it from happening again, instead of knee-jerking so hard they’re going to need a ladder and crowbar to get Gale Rossides’ patella out of the ceiling.

This round of measures is rumored to include “Passengers not allowed out of seats for last 45|60|?? Minutes of flight”(the “damp, smelly, screaming chidren” rule), “Nothing in passengers laps during last hour of flight” (Can you imagine flying without a book/handheld game/etc.), and additional restrictions on electronics (people already ignore the “turn off your mp3 player during takeoff and landing routine to avoid hearing the goings on in the plane. This will go well.). It also sounds like there will be some additional ineffective, time consuming indignities during check-in and boarding, to make sure the airline industry is completely eviscerated.

Another front I know is about to come up when people object is that the TSA “Can’t talk about their successes for security reasons” (in various wordings). The options here are bad and worse: Either they are lying, and have been totally useless outside of a few high profile incidents, or they are doing something completely outside the carefully transparent judicial system with the people they catch, which implies they’ve totally given up on the US constitution. I prefer to imagine they’re just inept and trying to hide it, because the idea of these morons shipping people to secret prisons is terrifying. For additional fun, it looks like they’re using this argument for the rules themselves too, in a nice literal catch-22 situation.

Bruce Schnier, my usual favorite security guy, has his reaction here replete with a several-year-old quote describing this attack as likely, and my favorite quote on aircraft security “Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.”

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