Richard E. Wackrow / Empiricist

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Airport Security

The TSA: Airport Security on the Fly
This piece is excerpted from my cover story
in the March 2015
Skeptic magazine

In February 2007, the Transportation Security Administration unveiled the first of what was planned to be at least1,800 advanced imaging technology devices (full-body scanners) at all 450 commercial airports in the United States, thus heralding the first of two new eras in airport security. The machines were designed to replace metal detectors at airports because they could supposedly detect non-metallic objects, such as explosives, and presentedan alternative to patting down airline passengers.
     A thorough cost-benefit analysis of full-body scanners published in January2011 by Mark G. Stewart of the University of Newcastle, Australia, and John Mueller of Ohio State University notes that:

The TSA will use AITs [full-body scanners] as a primary screening measure, and to this end plans to procure and deploy 1,800 AITs by 2014 to reach full operating capacity. ... The DHS [Fiscal Year 2011] budget request for 500 new AITs includes $214.7 million for their purchase and installation ($430,000 each), $218.9 million for 5,355 new Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) and screen managers to operate the AITs at the checkpoints, and $95.7 million for 255 positions to fund the support and airport management costs associated with the 5,355 new TSOs and screener managers. … We can then infer that 1,800 units will cost approximately $1.2 billion per year and will give 100% coverage at all airports in the U.S.

     Comparing this cost data with the actual threat of a successful suicide bombing on a U.S. passenger plane, Stewart and Mueller concluded that in order for AITs to be cost-effective they would have to preempt one attack involving body-borne explosives every two years that otherwise would not have been prevented by other security measures. Since 9/11, there have been two such attempts (the shoe bomber of 2001 and the underwear bomber of 2009), both of which were unsuccessful. Both would-be suicide bombers boarded airplanes in Europe.
continued right column...

Also on this page:
     “Five Myths About Airport Security”
     “Can Carry-on Explosives Bring Down an Airliner?”
     “Steaming Heaps of Airport Security”

Five Myths About Airport Security
Skeptical Briefs, Summer 2014
Published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

An estimated $57 billion has been spent on airport security since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet, since its inception in November 2001, the Transportation Security Administration hes neither prevented nor failed to prevent a terrorist from hijacking or taking down a passenger plane.
     Here I will assess the effectiveness of the TSA’s “risk-based, intelligence-driven, common-sense, layered approach” to aviation security ... and offer my conclusions about the effectiveness of some of those layers and the system as a whole. ...
      Full article here.


Can Carry-on Explosives
Bring Down an Airliner?

Cover story, Summer 2012 Skeptical Briefs,
published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Four events following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States have changed air travel forever: Two attempted suicide bombings on U.S. passenger planes, explosives found on cargo planes bound for the United States, and reports that would-be suicide bombers in London had planned to mix liquid explosives aboard airliners. These plots raise three salient scientific questions: Had the explosive devices been successfully detonated, would they have taken down the airplanes in question? Is it feasible to mix a “binary liquid explosive” using ingredients smuggled onto an aircraft? Are the airport-security measures inspired by these plots capable of preventing such attempts in the future?
     In December 2001, convert to Islam Richard Reid smuggled explosives hidden in the heels of his shoes onto an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight. Passengers and flight crew, smelling smoke, intervened in his attempt to detonate them. In December 2009, Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, tried to do the same with explosives sewn into his underwear. Again, passengers and crew foiled the attempt. And in October 2010, on a tip from Saudi intelligence officials, explosive-packed printer cartridges were found on U.S.-bound cargo planes in Dubai and Britain.
     In these three cases, the explosive employed was pentaerythritol tetranitrate. PETN was invented in Germany in 1891, and was used extensively by the Germans in World War I. A cousin of nitroglycerine, it is one of the most common and most powerful explosives in use today. It is 70 percent more powerful than TNT. In its raw form, PETN is crystalline. It is widely acknowledged as the preferred explosive of terrorists worldwide because it is stable when mixed with a plasticizer (such as in the plastic explosive Semtex), it is difficult to detect, and it is fairly easy to acquire (Chang 2010). For example, says retired FBI explosives expert David Williams, PETN can be stripped out of commercial products, such as detonating cords. It can also be made from scratch through a process involving distillation, the addition of chemicals, and chilling. If you can make moonshine, you can make PETN (Finn & Sheridan 2010).
     However, PETN requires the strong shock wave from a blasting cap or a wire detonator to explode. It cannot be detonated by setting it on fire. Reid, for example, clumsily attempted to detonate his shoe bombs with a match and a fuse. Abdulmutallab reportedly attempted to use a syringe for detonation. According to an FBI press release, “[Abdulmutallab’s] bomb components included Pentaerythritol (also known as PETN, a high explosive), as well as Triacetone Triperoxide (also known as TATP, a high explosive), and other ingredients. … Shortly prior to landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab detonated the bomb, causing a fire on board flight 253” (FBI 2010). The “detonation” caused a small fire, not an explosion.

How Much PETN Would it Take?
Using information largely supplied by the FBI, it was widely reported that Reid was carrying about 50 grams of PETN, and Abdulmutallab had about 80 grams of the explosive — the latter amount sufficient to blow a hole in the side of the aircraft, “according to sources” (Johnson 2009). However, a test was conducted by Dr. John Wyatt, an international terrorism and explosives adviser to the United Nations. Using a mothballed Boeing 747, Wyatt and company exploded 80 grams of PETN in the same seat position as Abdulmutallab’s had been (BBC 2010):

The plane’s fuselage did not break in the controlled blast, which used the same explosives that were on Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. … Captain J Joseph, an air accident investigator, and Dr Wyatt both concluded that the quantity of explosive used was nowhere near enough needed to rupture the skin of a passenger plane [emphasis added]. Dr Wyatt said: “If it was a more rigid material then we might have seen a crack or breakthrough but this is actually quite a flexible material. I was extremely impressed by the aircraft structure. It can sustain quite a hefty thump.”

     The two printer-cartridge bombs found in October 2010 each contained 300-400 grams (11 to 14 ounces) of an explosive concoction including PETN, lead azide (an explosive to detonate the PETN), and a cell-phone circuit presumed to be a remote detonation device (Chang 2010). Again, there are questions about whether such a package could have brought down an airplane. Although 300 grams of PETN might blow a hole in a fuselage if it were placed next to the skin, designers of the plot (hatched in Yemen) would have no control over where the packages would have been placed in cargo compartments. Also, there is a question whether the cell-phone “detonation device” was actually functional.
     PETN cannot be detected reliably by current airport screening methods. The old “puffer” machines can detect PETN crystals, but the puffers were mothballed because they proved impractical for airport use (Schneier 2010). A report published by the Journal of Transportation Security in November 2010 (Kaufman & Carlson 2010) concluded that “normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect” by an X-ray backscatter machine (full-body scanner).
     Most recently, videos circulating on the Internet in 2010 and 2012 purportedly demonstrate how bomb components and metal objects, including guns, can be smuggled through airport scanners simply by concealing them on the side of the body, where the black image will not appear against the scanner’s black background (Americablog 2010; TSA 2012; Schneier 2012). Security experts seem to agree that the only reliable methods for keeping PETN off passenger planes would be to pat down or hand-swab each passenger, or to use sniffer dogs (Schneier 2010; USA Today 2009).
     Compounding these concerns about the efficacy of airport screening was a May 2012 plot to conceal explosives in the underwear of another suicide bomber — this time using a “new-generation” device incorporating a “high-grade military explosive” and two methods of detonation. According to FBI sources, the bomb “undoubtedly would have brought down an aircraft” (CNN 2012). The plot failed to get off the ground because the would-be suicide bomber who volunteered for the job was in reality a mole working for the CIA, and British and Saudi intelligence. The device was sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis. Further details about the bomb are scanty — because they are classified

Liquids on a Plane!
Our fourth case, the liquid-explosive plot, provides a lesson in how fanciful science can linger in the minds of the both the public and airport-security officials long after it has been discredited. In August 2006, twenty-four Muslim men were arrested in London on charges of plotting to personally detonate liquid explosives on seven transatlantic flights from London to the United States and Canada. The widely reported explosive involved was the peroxide-based TATP (triacetone triperoxide), although early reports also mentioned DADP (diacetone diperoxide) or HMTD (hexamethylene triperoxide diamine). Initially, it was reported that the explosives were to be made aboard the planes, then detonated using an electronic device.
     Shortly after preliminary details of the plot were made public, the feasibility of mixing a liquid explosive in an airliner privy came into question. For example, a widely circulated article by Thomas C. Greene in The Register practically lampooned the notion (Greene 2006):

Now we have news of the recent, supposedly real-world, terrorist plot to destroy commercial airplanes by smuggling onboard the benign precursors to a deadly explosive, and mixing up a batch of liquid death in the lavatories. So, The Register has got to ask, were these guys for real, or have they, and the counterterrorist officials supposedly protecting us, been watching too many action movies? … Making a quantity of TATP sufficient to bring down an airplane is not quite as simple as ducking into the toilet and mixing two harmless liquids together.

     Greene goes on to describe the difficulties involved in mixing TATP on an airliner: acquiring or making concentrated hydrogen peroxide; keeping it and a mixture of other ingredients cool as it is smuggled onboard; controlling the temperature of the concoction while it is being mixed in the airliner’s “lavvy” (lest it explode prematurely and perfunctorily). Then, Greene writes, “After a few hours — assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven’t overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities — you’ll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two” before detonation.
     The source of Greene’s information was University of Rhode Island Chemis
try Professor Jimmie C. Oxley. The difficult chemistry of mixing liquid explosives on a passenger jet was confirmed by other sources we checked: Lt. Col. (retired) Nigel Wylde, a former senior British Army intelligence officer (Ahmed 2006), and Dan Keenan, a certified hazardous materials instructor for the California Specialized Training Institute (Emergency Film Group). Further, Transportation Security Administration head Kip Hawley, in a September 2007 interview with The New York Times, acknowledged the near impossibility of deftly mixing a liquid explosive on an airliner (Sharkey 2007).
     As it turned out, there was no such plot to mix “binary liquid explosives” on passenger planes. During the 2008 trial of the suspects, it came to light that the would-be suicide bombers had planned to smuggle a finished explosive (a mix containing concentrated hydrogen peroxide) onto the seven jets concealed in 17-ounce sports-drink bottles. AA batteries containing HMTD and disposable cameras would comprise the detonators (Sciolino 2008).
     While some of the defendants claimed sufficient expertise in chemistry to mix TATP, DATP or HMTD from scratch, news reports about the plot questioned the likelihood and imminence of its execution. The would-be suicide bombers “lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives,” reported Pico Iyer of The New York Times (Iyer 2010).
     Despite the science of this case being sorted out as the story progressed, the initial junk science has left us with two institutionalized legacies: the addition of the “binary liquid explosive” to the litany of contemporary terrorism folklore, and the airport-security measure it inspires. Today, liquids in quantities in excess of 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) are confiscated and tossed into a drum next to the security line — where, by the grace of God, they have yet to accidentally mix and explode.

What makes these events memorable to air travelers are the airport-security measures that have been employed to thwart such attempts in the future — shoe removal in security lines, full-body scanners and pat-down searches, and restrictions on the size of printer cartridges and on the amount of liquids and gels that may be carried aboard aircraft. In sufficient quantity, any explosive can take down an airplane. And as far as we can see, it is impossible to prevent a resourceful, determined, competent terrorist or group of terrorists from smuggling these materials aboard a passenger aircraft.
     But despite the weaknesses of airport security, a passenger airplane has not been taken down by a terrorist since September 11, 2001. If the goal of the terrorist is actually to commit mass murder in the skies, it is unlikely he will employ methods that have failed and against which airport-security measures have been deployed. It is the ingenuity of the terrorist — not the devices and materials he uses — that is the real threat. And if his goal is to keep America terrified of the possibility of another murderous attack, the attempt is sufficient. Terrorism works by turning the power of a stronger enemy against itself.

Ahmed, Nafeez. Sources: August terror plot is a ‘fiction’
     underscoring police failures, The Raw,
     September 18, 2006.

Americablog. German TV highlights failings of body scanners
     youTube video,, January 18, 2010.
BC News. Boeing 747 survives simulated ‘Flight 253’ bomb
    blast, BBC News Web page, March 5, 2010.
Chang, Kenneth. Explosive on Planes Was Used in Past
     Plots, The New York Times, October 30, 2010.
CNN Wire Staff. News report: Would-be bomber was a
     double-agent, CNN Web site May 8, 2012.
Emergency Film Group. Liquid Chemical Explosives —
     What You Never Wanted to Know, Emergency Film Group,
     undated Web page.
FBI press release. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab Indicted
     for Attempted Bombing of Flight 253 on Christmas Day,
     U.S.Department of Justice, January 6, 2010.
Finn, Peter, and Mary Beth Sheridan. Package bombs linked
     to al-Qaeda, The Washington Post, October 31, 2010.
Greene, Thomas C. Mass murder in the skies: was the plot
     feasible? The Register, August 17, 2006.
Iyer, Pico. The Airport Security Follies, The New York Times
     “Jet Lagged” column, December 28, 2007.
Johnson, Carrie. Explosive in Detroit terror case could
     have blown hole in airplane, sources say,
     The Washington Post,December 29, 2009.
Kaufman, Leon, and Joseph W. Carlson. An evaluation of
     airport X-ray backscatter units based on image
     characteristics, Journal of Transportation Security,
     November 26, 2010.
Schneier, Bruce. Full Body Scanners: What’s Next?
     Schneier on Security blog, December 3, 2010.
Schneier, Bruce. Video Shows TSA Full-Body Scanner
     Failure, Schneier on Security blog, March 12, 2012.
Sciolino, Elaine. In ’06 Bomb Plot Trial, a Question of
     Imminence, The New York Times, July 15, 2008.
Sharkey, Joe. Some Volatile Opinions About Volatile
     Liquids, The New York Times, September 18, 2007.
TSA Out of Our Pants. $1B of TSA Nude Body Scanners
     Made Worthless By Blog — How Anyone Can Get
     Anything Past The Scanners, video and text, TSA
     Out of Our Pants Web site, March 6, 2012.
USA Today. Chemical has history of use by terrorists, USA
“In the Sky,” December 28, 2009.

Airport Security on the Fly continued ...
     Initially there were two types of body scanners — or “porno scanners,” as they came to be called: The X-ray backscatter machine and the millimeter-wave machine, both of which produced an explicit image of the human body. Largely because of public outcry over these images, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required that they be fitted with “automated target recognition” software — that is, privacy software that produces a stylized image of the passenger. The millimeter-wave machines in use at airports today have been so modified. However, the manufacturer of the X-ray backscatter scanners, Rapiscan, was unable to do so. In January 2013 the TSA announced that its contract with Rapiscan had been terminated. By June 2013, the Rapiscan machines, which cost taxpayers about $150,000 apiece, had been moved to other locations, such as federal prisons, or warehoused by the TSA. At last check, the TSA Web site listed some 160 airports at which about 740 body scanners were in use.
     There were and are other problems with the machines: The underwear bomber’s success in passing through a body scanner in Amsterdam raised questions about the ability of the scanners to detect cleverly concealed explosives—such as one strapped to the stomach. And in tests, passengers have been able to carry metallic objects through the scanners. In August 2014, a team of scientists from the University of California-San Diego, the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University tested a Rapiscan body scanner and found it as ineffective as other researchers had found in earlier tests. Further, reports Steve Friess in Business Week: “The researchers … purchased a Rapiscan Secure 1000 on eBay for $49,500 in 2012 while the machines were still being used in airports around the nation.”
     The current millimeter-wave machines use low-level electromagnetic waves to detect objects. Because these waves bounce off folds in clothing or even perspiration, they have a much higher false-positive rate than the X-ray backscatter machines had — as high as 54 percent — a problem that is exacerbated by the privacy software. As a result, more passengers are subjected to additional screening, such as pat-downs.
     This brings us to the second new era in airport security, TSA Pre✓™. A chronic complaint among airline passengers is long security lines. Ostensibly, the TSA instituted PreCheck to solve this problem. The program uses information volunteered by passengers and participating airlines to weed out potential terrorists. In exchange for an $85 membership fee, filling out a form and being fingerprinted, participants are not required to remove their shoes or open their laptop cases, or follow other familiar screening procedures, and they pass through metal detectors rather than body scanners. Flyers may sign up at an ever-increasing number of airports and other locations. Also, they are eligible through their participation in other trusted-traveler program, such as the Border Patrol’s Global Entry system.
     So far, so good—assuming that it is possible to identify terrorists through the PreCheck process. However, in its efforts to further streamline screening, the TSA instituted a process called “managed inclusion,” through which non-participants are shuffled through the PreCheck lines. As the TSA Web site explains it:

After the initial risk assessment by Passenger Screening Canines and Behavior Detection Officers as passengers move through the standard security checkpoint area, a TSA Officer will verify the traveler’s boarding pass and identification while the passenger steps onto an electronic mat with directional arrows. The mat randomly designates whether the passenger will experience standard or expedited screening through TSA Pre✓™.
     This initiative will operate at designated checkpoints at different times, depending on passenger volume and other variables.
     Passengers who go through the TSA Pre✓™ process are able to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, and are able to keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in their carry-on.
     TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.

     The use of behavior detection officers (BDOs) was initiated in 2007 under the S.P.O.T. (screening of passengers by observations techniques) program. As of this writing, there were some 3,000 BDOs at about 160 U.S. airports. And since its inception, the S.P.O.T. program has cost taxpayers more than $900 million — and has failed to spot one single terrorist.
     In November 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on the effectiveness of the S.P.O.T. program in identifying persons who pose a risk to aviation security. GAO reviewed four meta-analyses that included over 400 studies over 60 years and found that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance (emphasis added).” The report also stated:

GAO analyzed data from fiscal years 2011 and 2012 on the rates at which BDOs referred passengers for additional screening based on behavioral indicators and found that BDOs’ referral rates varied significantly across airports, raising questions about the use of behavioral indicators by BDOs. To help ensure consistency, TSA officials said they deployed teams nationally to verify compliance with SPOT procedures in August 2013. However, these teams are not designed to help ensure BDOs consistently interpret SPOT indicators.

     Further, a May 2010 GAO report says that at least sixteen known terrorists traveled through U.S. airports in the S.P.O.T. program on at least 23 occasions without being detected. On November 1, 2013, lone gunman Paul Anthony Ciancia made his way into a TSA checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport, killing Transportation Security Officer Gerardo Hernandez and wounding two other agents and a civilian. Hernandez was one of 100 BDOs  at LAX.
     According to June 2014 written testimony for the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security, the TSA had 985 funded National Explosives Detection Canine teams stationed at more than 100 of the nation’s airports, mass-transit and maritime systems. While tales about sniffer dogs detecting explosives and other prohibited substances are legion and legendary, the dogs’ performance is not. According to a story by Amanda Schaffer in Slate magazine:

[Dogs] work best in quiet places that have been cleared of people other than their handlers. In airports, they are best at sniffing luggage in secluded baggage areas. Canine performance has also been shown to “fall off exponentially,” [a] bomb expert said, because of distractions like gusts of air, noise, food, and people. ... Bomb-sniffing is also exhausting work — a kind of sensory sprint — that dogs can’t sustain for more than 20 or 30 minutes out of every couple of hours. And as they move through an area, dogs need constant reassurance and reward; if they aren’t talked to, given an explosive to find now and then, and allowed to run back and forth, they may lose interest in the game. ...
     One danger is that tired, cranky dogs will sound false alarms in crowded places. Canines are often trained to signal that they’ve found explosives by sitting down. But a dog that’s been pushed too hard and needs a break is apt to sit as well. ...
     In addition, dogs probably can’t be trained to detect the kind of [volatile, unstable explosives, such as those used by the shoe bomber and underwear bomber]. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to train dogs to recognize their scent, because to do so requires repeated reinforcement and practice, and that would be dangerous for the canines and their handlers.
     If dogs are so fallible in loud, crowded places, why was the new TSA program conceived at all?

     Indeed. The TSA seems to be replacing its unreliable, false-positive-generating millimeter-wave body scanners with systems that don’t work (behavior detection) or that generate false positives (sniffer dogs) themselves. Nevertheless, a flying public that has been conditioned to think that the occurrence of a hijacking or suicide bombing on an airliner is “not a matter or whether, but when” has discerned these deficiencies in airport security. A Harris poll conducted in March 2014 found that a majority of people surveyed in all categories of flying frequency agreed that PreCheck’s relaxed screening procedures were compromising security (71 percent among those who took no airline trips in the past year; percent among those who took one to five trips in the last year; 54 percent among frequent flyers).
     The TSA’s effort to sign up PreCheck members has been assiduous. In December 2013 the TSA announced that the 2.6 million members of the U.S. military could sign up simply by providing the TSA with their Department of Defense identification number. Then in August 2014, TSA head John Pistole announced that about 440,000 passengers had paid to join PreCheck, that about 45 percent of all airline passengers were enrolled in PreCheck, and that the managed inclusion program would be phased out. This leaves us with a question regarding the extent to which BDOs will continue to be used in security screening. Pistole has robustly defended the S.P.O.T. program, so it is unlikely that it will be eliminated from the security regimen.
     As consolation to those who worry that the airliner they are on will be hijacked or blown out of the skies by a suicide bomber, each Friday I receive an e-mail from TSA Blogger Bob Burns itemizing firearms and other proscribed “weapons” (such as credit-card knives) and fake weapons that have been confiscated from passengers’ carry-on baggage. 69 It averages about 40 guns confiscated from some 12 million airline passengers per week. I have yet to see any of these items connected to a terrorism plot.

Footnotes were omitted from this abridged excerpt


Steaming Heaps of Airport Security
Adapted from my talk
"Five Myths (and More) About Airport Security”

A myth: “Layered security” is keeping the flying public safe.

Apparently taking to heart former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s mantra that “terrorists’ methods are continuously evolving,” Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole has developed a “common sense,” “risk-based,” “layered” approach to airport security. The flip side of the DHS’s old color-coded threat-level system, Pistole’s self-proclaimed “gold standard of aviation security” comprises not just five, not just 10, but a full 20 layers of screening and security.
     Take, for example, the layers of intelligence and identification. These measures are based on the dangerous delusion that it is possible to identify terrorists by various means, and prevent them from accomplishing their missions. But consider:

Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber. Because of suspicions he raised among authorities — such as not having any luggage —Reid was prevented from boarding a flight from Paris to Miami on December 21, 2001. However, after additional screening by the French National Police, he was allowed to board the next day. And on December 22, Reid was attempting to detonate 50 grams of the explosive PETN (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) he had concealed in his shoe heel with a match when he was stopped by alert passengers and flight crew.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Underwear Bomber. In November 2009 British intelligence officials and Abdulmutallab’s own father warned various U.S. officials, including two CIA officers in Nigeria, that Umar had been consulting with Islamic cleric and rabble rouser Anwar al-Awlaki, and that he had murderous  intentions. Yet Abdulmutallab’s name never made it onto a no-fly list managed by the FBI. And on Christmas Day 2009 he boarded Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, where he tried to detonate 80 grams of PETN concealed in his underwear — only to set himself on fire.

Deceased Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. According to an April 19, 2013, press release issued by the FBI itself, in 2011, “at the request of a foreign government,” Tsarnaev was investigated. He and his family were even interviewed by the Bureau, and he was determined not to be a threat.

The 19 September 11 hijackers. All were foreigners who had entered the United States on legal visas, and all had real or fake photo IDs. In fact, among them they had 63 driver’s licenses, real and phony, for identification.

     On top of this we now have the new, highly touted, widely lauded conundrum called TSA PreCheck — a security layer that supposedly identifies low-risk passengers while at the same time rushing to sign on as many participants as possible.
     The program cross-checks information provided by nine participating airlines and passengers against intelligence databases in order to assemble a list of trusted travelers who are eligible for expedited screening at some 100 airports. Program participants pass through metal detectors, rather than full-body scanners. They are not required to remove their shoes, take laptops out of their cases or suffer other such inconveniences in exchange for $85, being fingerprinted, and submitting sensitive personal information to a government contractor that administers the program.
     Downsides of TSA PreCheck are that personal information may be stolen or misused (remember that the credit-card information of some 40 million Target customers was recently hacked); there is no guarantee of expedited screening every time anyway; and PreCheck creates two classes of airline passengers.
      In its zeal to sign up as many PreCheck members as possible, the TSA announced in December that members of the military may join simply by giving the TSA their Department of Defense identification number. Now please recall that on November 5, 2009, American-born Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan — a major in the U.S. Army — went berserk and fatally shot 13 people and injured 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas.
     Enough said about ID and intelligence measures.






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