The Onion on Security

CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years“:

A report released Tuesday by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that the CIA has mistakenly obscured hundreds of thousands of pages of critical intelligence information with black highlighters.

According to the report, sections of the documents—”almost invariably the most crucial passages”—are marred by an indelible black ink that renders the lines impossible to read, due to a top-secret highlighting policy that began at the agency’s inception in 1947.

Terrorist Has No Idea What To Do With All This Plutonium“:

Yaquub Akhtar, the leader of an eight-man cell linked to a terrorist organization known as the Army Of Martyrs, admitted Tuesday that he “doesn’t have the slightest clue” what to do with the quarter-kilogram of plutonium he recently acquired.

And “RIAA Bans Telling Friends About Songs.”

Posted on December 3, 2005 at 9:26 AM28 Comments


Milan Ilnyckyj December 3, 2005 9:45 AM

The terrorist shouldn’t feel too badly about being unable to find a use for the plutonium: he doesn’t have enough to do anything but scatter it about in cancer and radiation sickness inducing fashion.

Depending on the grade of the plutonium and the bomb configuration, it seems you would need between 7 and 18kg to actually make a fission device:

“Without a neutron reflecting shield, pure Pu-239 metal has a critical mass of 10 kg, and I have calculated that for a “reactor grade” isotopic mixture this would be 18 kg. Using a 15 cm U-238 shield, the Pu-239 critical mass is only slightly over 4 kg, while for LWR-produced plutonium (65% thermal fissile isotopes, fuel burnup around 40 MWd/kg HM) this is some 7 kg.”

A quarter-pound wouldn’t cut it.

Rich December 3, 2005 10:22 AM

“The third one seems the most plausible.”

I overhreard the broadcast copyright notice of a World Series game this year (“sole property of major league baseball…”) and it sure sounded to me like they tried to prohibit describing the game without permission.

I wonder if all those guy at the office who spent 30 minutes every day disecting the games knew that.

jammit December 3, 2005 11:25 AM

@CIA black highlighters
Give the documents to me. I’ll recycle the paper for you at no cost. Don’t worry, I won’t dissolve the marker ink and save the documents and sell it to the highest bidder.

@terrorist with plutonium
One word: Paperwieghts

I’ve already stopped telling people about artists who are with Sony. In the near future I will probably drop all major label names.

You do realize the Onion is a joke news site, just like FAUX tv news?

BonziSamuri December 3, 2005 1:41 PM

I love the Onion. And to all those that are worried: this is a joke newspaper. It is actually worse than the Daily Show. At the Daily Show they actually base their news off of really events. At the Onion everything is 100% made up.

greg December 3, 2005 6:24 PM

The RIAA may not be verbatim real. But what they are trying to do is pretty close, and just as futile.

Davi Ottenheimer December 3, 2005 8:06 PM

Wasn’t someone just commenting on how they smuggled rocks past the TSA? The crack Onion reporters say that other countries have already taken action on this serious gap in security:

“Israeli troops patrolling the border of the Gaza Strip breathed a sigh of relief Monday as state-of-the-art Israeli customs-searching equipment intercepted a large shipment of rocks bound for Palestinian youth demonstrators.”

Davi Ottenheimer December 3, 2005 8:40 PM

@ Nicholas

Brilliant! So funny and sad at the same time.

“‘We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two,’ Bush said. ‘Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there’s much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation’s hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it.'”

That reminds me of Al Gore’s speech to the Commonwealth Club in 2002:

“I believe this proposed foreshortening of deliberation in the Congress robs the country of the time it needs for careful analysis of exactly what may lie before us. Such consideration is all the more important because the administration has failed thus far to lay out an assessment of how it thinks the course of a war will run – even while it has given free run to persons both within and close to the administration to suggest at every opportunity that this will be a pretty easy matter. And it may well be, but the administration has not said much of anything to clarify its idea of what would follow regime change or the degree of engagement that it is prepared to accept for the United States in Iraq in the months and years after a regime change has taken place.”

James Curbo December 4, 2005 6:04 AM

Speaking of the TSA, has anyone seen anything about Travel Sentry locks? I saw some on sale (from Master Lock) the other day and had never heard of them. According to their site ( they can be opened by TSA personnel with ‘special tools’ and then relocked. I wonder how? I feel like it’s a false sense of security, what keeps criminals from using the same information to get into your luggage?

Nicholas Weaver December 4, 2005 10:17 AM

I believe the TSA locks also reveal that they have BEEN opened, at least until you relock it with the real key.

Personally, I just use Zip-ties instead.

Ed Truitt December 4, 2005 8:20 PM

I actually have TSA-openable locks for my luggage. Basically, I think they have a special key that will open the things, without requiring the services of boltcutters.

Locks on luggage aren’t meant to keep out baddies who really want in. I use them to ensure that walk-by openings don’t occur (including possibly stuffing the luggage with drugs — how’s THAT for a movie-plot threat?) or that the bag doesn’t fall open when it falls (don’t laugh — I saw a suitcase come through the ceiling 10 feet from me at the airport, and it spilt its contents all over when it burst.


Pat Cahalan December 4, 2005 11:13 PM

If the Pope makes sarcastic remarks about Dubya while serving up wine and
bread, is this a critical mass ?

Okay, that’s three threads in a week that have had ‘oribble puns.

Now I don’t know if I should start drinking the kool-aid or withstand the temptation…

Zwack December 5, 2005 1:41 PM

TSA Approved locks have a code on them telling the TSA which of several keys that they have will open the lock. Usually using a second key hole for the purpose. It’s like having a trusted third party.

Some, but not all, of them also have a telltale that will show when your bags were opened with the TSA key, you can then check that there is a TSA screening notice inside and raise hell if there isn’t.

If you use a regular padlock you risk having the lock cut off by TSA.

If you’re worried about security on these locks then use your carry-on. Most bags are soft sided, if someone really wanted to raid your bags they’d just cut them open. What these locks do is reduce the temptation for someone else to raid your luggage, and instead move them on to another target.

A determined thief will steal your stuff anyway, you might cause an opportunist to go for someone else’s stuff.

Are you trying to stop crime, or protect your belongings? If the former then these are useless, if the latter then these moght help.

My mother came to visit earlier this year from the UK. Here locks were cut off by the TSA on the way in and her bags were searched. Some things went missing (some arthritis medication for a start)… but that may have been an opportunist after the TSA had already removed the locks. She went home with four new TSA approved padlocks on her bags that while not perfect are better than nothing.


radiantmatrix December 5, 2005 5:01 PM

@TSA-approved luggage locks:

No luggage lock will stop a criminal.

Luggage locks simply reduce opportunistic crimes. Not bad for something that costs under $10. TSA luggage locks just allow you to keep that advantage while allowing the TSA access (in some cases, with evidence of such access), instead of getting your lock cut off.

Anyone who you’d worry about having access to your bags has far easier methods than unlocking a TSA lock using the “master” key once they’ve targeted your bag. The point of the lock is to reduce the chances that your bag will be targeted in the first place.

Filias Cupio December 6, 2005 8:58 PM

I’d have thought that if they wanted to go this route, the TSA guys would very soon be able to pick a $10 lock faster than they could bolt-cut it anyhow.

Rather than using a TSA lock, you could leave a second lock inside the bag with a polite note to the TSA to please use this to relock the bag. Then you smear the mind-control drug on the lock and… Oops, forget that bit – you never saw it.

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