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If practice makes perfect, we're all screwed.

Last night, I toyed with the idea of wearing a humorous button when I go through airport security in a few hours. There were even jokes about full body cavity searches.

I'm flying out of Baltimore. If I were flying out of Houston, I wouldn't even think twice.

Because if you're flying out of Houston, you can get on the plane wearing shoes with hollowed-out soles. With bomb components. Without declaring a laptop computer. And even with an Arabic name, because nobody will think to stop you.

To sum up:

Last week, a man with a "Middle Eastern name" showed up for a flight to Atlanta. He was asked if he had a laptop computer, and denied it. TSA screeners spotted the laptop, and they along with a Houston cop examined the bag. Inside they found the denied laptop, a clock with a nine-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Koran. They then looked at his shoes, and determined that the soles had been hollowed out.

In short, he had everything he needed to make a bomb short of the actual explosives. And since he lacked that final ingredient, he was allowed on to the plane.

Apparently, neither the TSA screener nor the HPD officer are familiar with the concept of a "dry run."

No word on whether the ACLU is helping the passenger file a civil lawsuit, but I suppose it's only a matter of time.


Comments (33)

Am I the only one who see e... (Below threshold)

Am I the only one who see events like this and think it was clearly a trial run? One thing we need to realize about the terrorists is they (at least the ones affiliated with Al Qaeda) tend to do considerable scouting before putting a plan together. Their biggest need is a full understanding of our capablities and our security habits and lapses. My fear security wise is their recruitment of non-Arabic fanatics. We obviously can't thoroughly search every passenger, but need to do intelligent profiling as well as random selections of passengers who don't match the profile. Beyond that the best protection is very sensitive bomb sniffing machines and dogs.

We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking they have given up on striking back. We have made it more difficult but not impossible for them to do something big.

Houston, WE have a PROBLEM.... (Below threshold)
d_Brit:

Houston, WE have a PROBLEM...


AND ITS NOT AL-QUAIDA!

Proof-positive that "red st... (Below threshold)
Totally Matt:

Proof-positive that "red states" aren't interested in defending America's freedom.

Kidding.

Anyway, we can put dudes on the Moon but we can't scan every passenger? I agree that it makes no sense to have it completely randomized, as it's probably very hard to radicalize three year old children, but I disagree that subjecting the overwhelming majority of brown-skinned Americans who don't want to blow stuff up to profiling is the best idea. Find a way to scan everyone, as quickly and non-invasively as thoroughness allows.

And no, Bill, you aren't the only one who thinks it was a trial run. Jay Tea sort of mentioned it in his original post.

Bomb components? Please. Mo... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Bomb components? Please. Most people who board planes have "bomb components". Also a laptop in itself is a bomb component. It has a one or more batteries and a timer and you can get GPS attachments. Are we going prevent anyone with any of these from boarding a plane? Not likely.

In this particular case, the guy was acting in suspicious manner. He should be allowed to board since he broke no law but should be reported to the F.B.I. for further investigation.

Wayne: "Bomb components?... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Wayne: "Bomb components? Please. Most people who board planes have "bomb components"."

Yup. Why, if I had a nickel for every time I've had a "clock with a nine-volt battery taped to it" in my bag as I boarded an airplane...I would have, uh...ok, I wouldn't have a nickel. Would you, Wayne?

This OBVIOUS trial-running alQueda mule should have been "detained"...and sent on all expenses paid "vacation" to the Carribean. Club-Gitmo would be perfect!!

Sweet Jesus, Matt. You'd ob... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Sweet Jesus, Matt. You'd object to winning the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes.

Bomb components can be more... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Bomb components can be more than a battery tape to a clock. Most clocks today are digital so they have batteries on inside. If you taken a digital clock or laptop or matches or batteries or bottle water or many other things then you have taken bomb components onto a plane. There is so many ways to construct timing devices and initiators that it ridiculous. I could do it with what is already on the plane. Without the charge is useless.

Any activities that look like someone is making a dry run should be investigated but we are not the Soviet Union. We don't arrest someone and throw them in jail just because they look suspicious.

Anyone thought that the hol... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

Anyone thought that the hollowed out shoes were a diversion to explosives hidden within the laptop itself?

This episode is an example of why I no longer fly the "friendly skys". Not when my safety depends on idiots.

Wayne...do the words "Commo... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Wayne...do the words "Common" and "Sense" ever get used together in describing you?

If we cannot prevent THIS moron from flying, then no one is safe!

Remember: "He was asked if he had a laptop computer, and denied it. TSA screeners spotted the laptop, and they along with a Houston cop examined the bag. Inside they found the denied laptop, a clock with a nine-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Koran."

with or without the Koran, LYING about the laptop, in conjunction with all the other nonsense should put this stooge on a PERMANENT no-fly list

permanent!!!

Anyway, we can put dudes... (Below threshold)

Anyway, we can put dudes on the Moon but we can't scan every passenger?

We can't put dudes on the Moon. We can't make the rockets any more.

JohnAnnArbor, I think my po... (Below threshold)
TM:

JohnAnnArbor, I think my point still stands. Universal scanning can't be the greatest engineering challenge the U.S. has been posed with. Get it done, to prevent this stale non-argument that no one here is having from jeopardizing people's security.

I don't understand why I would object to winning a lottery...

A perfect example of how F*... (Below threshold)
Lee:

A perfect example of how F*cked Up our homeland security still is... and you take the time to take a poke at the ACLU -- instead of expressing outrage over the inability of the Republicans adminstration to keep us secure? What an airhead.

"Universal scanning" isn't ... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

"Universal scanning" isn't the problem.

PASSENGERS are the problem!!

We need to get draconian about restrictions on PASSENGERS. If you violate a regulation (including LYING about having a laptop) then you STOP FLYING until and unless YOU can prove you should be allowed!! Period!

Suspicious behavior should ALSO put you on the NO-FLY list...and unless YOU can prove you should be allowed to fly again! Hollowed out shoes and batteries taped to clocks would sure count as "suspicious".

JohnAnnArbor, I think my... (Below threshold)

JohnAnnArbor, I think my point still stands. Universal scanning can't be the greatest engineering challenge the U.S. has been posed with. Get it done, to prevent this stale non-argument that no one here is having from jeopardizing people's security.

Typical response of the non-engineer who's seen too many Hollowood movies where mythical "sensors" pick out a molecule of explosive from miles away.

This is a problem a LOT of people are working on. It is not a simple problem. The solution needs to detect the bad stuff 99.99% of the time, while giving off false alarms much less than 1% of the time or the system is effectively useless (people will ignore it when it alarms).

Lee...agreed!! We need to ... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Lee...agreed!! We need to stop giving a damn what the ACLU might think about something...and just DO IT!

which means we needs judges that will use COMMON SENSE when the ACLU sues (as they would have) if we prevent someone flying who is OBVIOUSLY trial-running a terror op!!

and you take the time to... (Below threshold)

and you take the time to take a poke at the ACLU -- instead of expressing outrage over the inability of the Republicans adminstration to keep us secure?

The politically-correct claptrap from the ACLU leads to idiot policies that not only don't allow "profiling" but encourage anyone who's been offended by a search to sue, taking up resources that could be spent on security. The average TSA officer, having been yelled at by his superiors about mythical "profiling," might start AVOIDING searching passengers that look Arabic or whatever. So much for "random" searches.

More whining-victimization ... (Below threshold)
Lee:

More whining-victimization from the wrong-again-right -- blaming the left for their own ineptitude. When did you guys become such whimps?

Oh - the ACLU has our hands tied so we won't stop terrorists any more - we might get sued!!!

What a pathetic joke. Take some responsibility for the mess you idiots got us into by electing a chimp as president and get on with fixing your mistake. Crying that it isn't your fault is growing very old...

Never mind - keep it up and let the public decide at the polls. You morons couldn't fix this mess if your life depended on it.

Lee, What would yo... (Below threshold)

Lee,

What would you do differently? Seriously.

You have all the constraints of real-world engineering and politically-correct anti-profiling organizations with fill-in-the-blank lawsuits already drawn up.

Now, what's your solution?

Justrand,I just go... (Below threshold)
Candy:

Justrand,

I just got here, and my first thought was, "He lied about having a laptop? Shouldn't he immediately be put on a no-fly list for lying?"

Thanks for making that point. I don't get it - my daughter was pulled out of her car coming back from New Brunswick, Canada to Maine because she was carrying an ORANGE - they called it "contraband" and confiscated it, then emptyied out the entire car and trunk checking for any other contraband that might be in the vehicle. I have NO problem with that - as long as there is consistency.

The Canadians - at least in this area near Maine - are being EXTRA careful since Atta snuck over the border. Ironically, he snuck in toward the US and did the damage here - but they are still being extra careful.

Pre 9/11, I was taking the Scotia Prince to Nova Scotia from Portland Maine. I happened to be very pregnant. I was pulled out of line in both directions and we had drug-sniffing dogs all over us for a good 15-20 minutes before they would let us board the boat.

I shudder to think what would happen if I pulled half the crap that guy pulled in Texas.

I was at Hobby last year an... (Below threshold)
Houston Ranger:

I was at Hobby last year and watched someone put a backpack down on a chair and head for the mens room. What made it disconcerting is that he placed it next to a small kiosk that HPD had. Go figure.

FSAG, I am going to offer a... (Below threshold)

FSAG, I am going to offer an alternate scenario...

Assuming all of the details are true, this person clearly intended to be stopped. It would not seem to be a very effective dry run if the same person violated ALL of the things that were likely to raise a red flag while still violating no law.

OTOH...

This doesn't sound a whole lot different from that Arab at NASCAR stunt that NBC conducted a few weeks back...

Just food for thought.

JustrandWhy don't ... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Justrand

Why don't you use some of that common sense you are so stuck on instead of being a knee jerk reactionary? "A battery and a clock" oh my "the sky is falling". I suppose if the battery wasn't tape to the clock and he didn't lie about the laptop then it would be all right with you. Oh wait he had a bible (Koran) too. Hang him from the nearest tree.

If he draws this much attention to himself he should be investigated. Likely just someone goofing off or a stupid terrorist. If the later, we could gain more intelligence from letting him fly and following him then putting him on a no fly list.

From your frantic writings, it sounds like you would ban all Arabs or brown skin people from flying. Watch what rules you want because it can come back and bite you on the backside. I'm sure you were for the feel good measures like banning toenail clippers and lighters too. I'm sure you are the type that panic time and time again.

Just to clarify one thing,... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Just to clarify one thing, I am for profiling as long as it is done properly. It someone fits a certain profile then they deserve extra scrutiny. This doesn't mean that anyone else should be excluded or that anyone that fits a profile should be arrested and thrown in jail without breaking a law. Also none of this applies to unlawful combatant since that is a whole different issue.

am I the only one who think... (Below threshold)

am I the only one who thinks that the security people did their job and well? So what if he was suspicious, we don't arrest people for being suspicious. Sure, we watch them like a hawk, but we don't arrest them. The Security people found the clock/battery, the laptop, and the holes in the shoes. What more can you ask for? Even if it is a dry run, they'll think twice because they WERE screened, they WERE searched completely. If he DID have explosives or anything with him, then he would have really been caught.

To be honest, it looks to me more like a prank than anything else, why else go to all that trouble without any explosives at all? (I mean hell, that alarm clock with a battery taped to it? what is this, early hollywood?) There is a possibility that it could be a decoy, meant to draw attention to him while someone else who looks more normal gets a free ride.

Henry - don't you think thi... (Below threshold)
Lee:

Henry - don't you think this guy should have been interrogated for... oh... a few months before he was let go?

Quit apologizing for the republican adminstration's continued ineptitude. It's hurricane season, and there will be plenty of apologizing ahead us...

besides which, it would hav... (Below threshold)

besides which, it would have been easy for another passenger on the same flight to be carrying the other pieces for a bomb. if they've got seats next to each other or even somewhere close, it wouldn't be that hard to put the various pieces together.

Wayne: "Likely just some... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

Wayne: "Likely just someone goofing off or a stupid terrorist. "

OK. So they NEVER fly through American airspace again. Folks "goofing off" take notice...we're serious.

Terrorists, stooopid or otherwise, you don't get to fly either.

so p.s., Wayne, I don't want ANYONE of ANY relgion/race/creed/color/??? mucking with MY security. Clear?

Why ask lee lee anything . ... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Why ask lee lee anything . He has got to be the dumbest *&%^$ on the planet. It's people (if you can call him "people") like him that the moose lems just love. They just love to hear his kind down the USA and it's leaders. If they would ever take over the country, lee lee head would be the 1st to roll. Why ? Because they cannot stand someone so dumb as to blast his own country or it's leaders and are nothing more then whinners and crybabies

Ok... did no one think that... (Below threshold)
Inquiring:

Ok... did no one think that maybe they let him board the plane, plane gets in the air, then they call the local FBI dept. and say, "Hello, we found a suspicious individual, here is his ticket info, here is his picture, here is why he was suspicious, maybe you would like to follow him when he lands and see where he goes."

Not saying they did that, but seriously, it is very possible he got to his destination and then had FBI agents who will follow him for the next 3 months and know every move he makes, and every person he meets.

Of course, it is also very possible they figured, "This is way too suspicious; cliche suspicious. Is someone trying to set us up for a lawsuit by improperly detaining him?"

Show at least a little optimism over, "ZOMG WTFO Homeland Security sucks!"

It's fun to argue with peop... (Below threshold)
Totally Matt:

It's fun to argue with people, jhow66. Is it fun to type stuff like what you just did? If so, please explain.

Uh, for once I think a TSA ... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

Uh, for once I think a TSA type did the right thing: authorized to detain, called - as per instructions - for someone with the capacity to detain. The cop is the one who decided that because his computer was down (no background check) and no explosives were found, let the suspect go.

The FBI sort of agrees with the cop, but I don't. Test or not. And the computer was down? Couldn't afford the quarter to call in and ask someone to use another? Or the local FBI office?

Sorry Totally "clueless" Ma... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Sorry Totally "clueless" Matt. I forgot to add your name along with old lee lee's. Stick it up your asskissing, bootlicking appeasing liberal nose.

jhow66, no post I have ever... (Below threshold)
Totally Matt:

jhow66, no post I have ever read of yours contributes in any shape or fashion to

a) furthering your own party's arguments, or

b) diminishing your opponents.

Why? Because you come off like a straight-up idiot. Why? Because for some reason you want people to think you're stupid, or because you are in fact stupid. I really don't care either way.




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