New Airline Security Rules

The foiled UK terrorist plot has wreaked havoc with air travel in the country:

All short-haul inbound flights to Heathrow airport have been cancelled. Some flights in and out of Gatwick have been suspended.

Security has been increased at Channel ports and the Eurotunnel terminal.

German carrier Lufthansa has cancelled flights to Heathrow and the Spanish airline Iberia has stopped UK flights.

British Airways has announced it has cancelled all its short-haul flights to and from Heathrow for the rest of Thursday.

The airline added that it was also cancelling some domestic and short haul services in and out of Gatwick airport during the remainder of the day.

In addition, pretty much no carry-ons are allowed:

These measures will prevent passengers from carrying hand luggage into the cabin of an aircraft with the following exceptions (which must be placed in a plastic bag):

  • Pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags);
  • Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets);
  • Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic;
  • Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases;
  • Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution;
  • For those traveling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger);
  • Sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags);
  • Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (e.g. tampons, pads, towels and wipes) tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs;
  • Keys (but no electrical key fobs)

Across the Atlantic, the TSA has announced new security rules:

Passengers are not allowed to have gels or liquids of any kind at screening points or in the cabin of any airplane.

They said this includes beverages, food, suntan lotion, creams toothpaste, hair gel, or similar items. Those items must be packed into checked luggage. Beverages bought on the secure side of the checkpoint must be disposed of before boarding the plane.

There are several exceptions to the new rule. Baby formula, breast milk, or juice for small children, prescription medications where the name matched the name of a ticked passenger, as well as insulin and other essential health items may be brought onboard the plane.

See the TSA rules for more detail.

Given how little we know of the extent of the plot, these don’t seem like ridiculous short-term measures. I’m sure glad I’m not flying anywhere this week.

EDITED TO ADD (8/10): Interesting analysis by Eric Rescorla.

Posted on August 10, 2006 at 7:40 AM259 Comments


Biscuit August 10, 2006 7:58 AM

briefcases, purses, laptop bags, all are banned (from:

Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:

Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)

Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)

Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic

Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases

Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution

For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)

Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)

Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs

Keys (but no electrical key fobs). All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened.

Pushchairs and walking aids must be X-ray screened, and only airport-provided wheelchairs may pass through the screening point.

not_traveling_today August 10, 2006 7:59 AM

No briefcases or purses allowed. No laptop bags. The definitive list of what is allowed on is:

Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a
single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following
items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:

· Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for
example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)

· Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports
and travel tickets)

· Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential
for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless
verified as authentic

· Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases

· Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution

· For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents
of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and
sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies,
wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)

· Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if
unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)

· Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs

· Keys (but no electrical key fobs). All passengers must be hand
searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must
be X-ray screened.
(forwarded from a travel agent; source is believed to be:

Richard Braakman August 10, 2006 8:09 AM

We’re getting rapidly closer to the “all passengers have to fly naked” rule.

Most interesting quote from the article:

[…] despite the arrests the threat level had been raised “in case there is some other sub-plot, back-up plot around this that the police aren’t aware of”.

This shows how it’s not working. Critical threat level is supposed to mean “an attack is expected imminently”, but apparently it’s been downgraded to “there may be a plot we’re not aware of”.

not_travelling_ever August 10, 2006 8:12 AM

I find the thought of mothers tasting baby formula, or their own breastmilk, in front of uniformed functionaries extremely disturbing.

The results of combining risk-averse Western societies and terrorist threats just get worse and worse.

Andrew Gray August 10, 2006 8:15 AM

No briefcases, nothing. The idea seems to be that they’re looking for concealed liquid explosives (as in 1994) which I guess means that anything you can use as a container is out, and after that the list is pretty short.

Dunno why “no newspapers”, though

Juergen Nieveler August 10, 2006 8:20 AM

Yet another opportunity for a movie-plot: Evil terrorist drinks a large bottle of liquid explosive, then detonates himself by swallowing a small pill hidden inside his watch (or chewing on a detonator hidden in a false tooth…).

Next thing you know, TSA will install vomit stations so that all passengers will enter the aircraft with empty stomachs…

David August 10, 2006 8:23 AM

You are right about some not flying. My wife and I had several trips planned and we just tossed one in the trash. Others we our seriously considering dropping as well but will see how long this lasts. Considering how often we have our baggage lost and quality of plane food going down hill, this just makes flying our last choice for transportation. Unfortunately, most seem willing to give up everything for the belief that is increasing security/safety.

Insulintaker August 10, 2006 8:24 AM

The following is pathetic since it can not be adhered to:
“Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic”
There is no way to verify that insulin is NOT say nitrogylercine, for example, in the context of an airline checkin. Either a biochemical lab is required, or a bioassay (which would take at least 2 hours to perform) with a trained professional.
So what does this mean in practice? BTW, I have no idea how dangerous 10cc (standard insulin vial) of explosive would be; probably not as dangerous as the insulin were it injected into multiple individuals as a poison.

tordr August 10, 2006 8:25 AM

My only question is: If they have just uncovered an attack, has not that made us safer for the moment?
If a criminal gang is busted, then that usually means they have to re-group and start over with planing. So that means that for the moment we can relax, not beef up security. Because the security messures now set in place now are so tight that my guess is they will be relaxed in some weeks time.

Aaron Temin August 10, 2006 8:26 AM

Wouldn’t it be easier to check for detonators rather than liquid explosives? And shouldn’t airport security have been doing that all along?

Frederic August 10, 2006 8:33 AM

“There are several exceptions to the new rule. Baby formula, breast milk, or juice for small children, prescription medications.”

So as long as the terrorist has a prescription, he can bring what ever he wants to?

How difficult could it be for a terrorist to get the required prescription and exchange the liquid in the bottle for explosives?

Bruce has said it before (I think) – exceptions break security.

Anyhow, this was an extremely successfull terrorist attack, that affected thousands of people, that will affect the bottom line for several airline companies, that will continue to inspire fear, and that will be used to further reduce civil rights.

The terrorists must be very satisfied with their accomplishments…

FP August 10, 2006 8:36 AM

I think all passengers should be anesthesized during flight. Would make intercontinental air travel a lot more tolerable, too. Why, airlines could even triple passenger numbers by installing stacked cots instead of seats.

On a more serious note, it will be interesting to find out how these presumed terrorists were found. Was it because of massive surveillance detecting their suspicious behavior, or was it good old police work?

It’s also interesting to listen to all the doomsday scenarios in the news — the number of presumed casualties just keeps getting upped by networks trying to beat each other — when we still have very little information about the plot, and whether this magical explosive liquid could ever be effective, and whether it could be brought on board.

vwm August 10, 2006 8:38 AM

@Juergen Nieveler: That plot is already part of book “Days of Wrath” by Patrick Dunne…

tordr August 10, 2006 8:39 AM

More thoughts on the matter: This will lead to criminal luggage handlers having a great time, because now all the valuables are in the bags.
The rules will return soon to normal:
1. People will get fed up with the new stringent rules.
2. The airports have turned the boarding zone into a shopping haven, now nobody will buy because they cannot bring the stuff along with them. This will cause economic pressure to put things back the way they where.

elwing August 10, 2006 8:43 AM

I have an upcoming 15+ hr transcontinental trip in the next week. If it wasn’t for a friend’s wedding, I’d be cancelling it. Let’s think about things a bit here:
1) 6+ hr flight from UK to US
2) NO books, laptops, newspapers, etc for entertainment
3) Really crappy food and drinks
= Very pissed off, hungry, and bored people.

I think I’d rather take my chances with the explosives than have to sit through a 6+ hr flight without a book.

Sig August 10, 2006 8:44 AM

I’m going on R&R from Operation Enduring Freedom in a few weeks. After seven months in country, going anywhere without full body armor, helmet, M-249 machine gun, and M9 pistol will be a difficult enough adjustment as it is…

Cassandra August 10, 2006 8:46 AM

Well, doesn’t this demonstrate that up ’til now, regular airport security has been ‘security theatre’? If Operation Bojinka ( ) showed that liquid explosives were difficult to detect back in 1995, then shouldn’t all containers of liquid have been banned since then?


jeews August 10, 2006 8:46 AM

This is just an example of how misguided and poorly reasoned your argument against the terror war is.

Since you only count terrorism that succeeds in your formula you get a distorted number for the actual toll taken by terrorism if the war on terror did not exist!


Anonymous August 10, 2006 8:49 AM

@Insulintaker: “There is no way to verify that insulin is NOT say nitrogylercine”

And what about travellers with prescribed nitroglycerine for heart trouble?

csrster August 10, 2006 8:50 AM

Sig, yes I think your chances of getting any of that lot onto a commercial airline in the next few weeks are fairly slim.

Tim August 10, 2006 8:54 AM

Whatever happened to the possibility of them just changing the plan, and detonating in the midst of the sea of people waiting to be screened…?

That would accomplish the 2nd half of the “disruption of air traffic and massive lost of life”.

Mike Stanczyk August 10, 2006 8:56 AM

“Passengers are not allowed to have gels or liquids of any kind at screening points or in the cabin of any airplane.

They said this includes beverages…”

Think you can survive this flight without liquids of any kind?

I heard about but don’t have a url for the FAA’s response: No regulations were broken.

Chris August 10, 2006 9:01 AM

This terror has achieved its goal. Even without blowing planes. People are scared, authorities act as panicked chicken. Congratulations.

not_traveling_today August 10, 2006 9:04 AM

So I can’t carry my sanitizing hand gel, which makes me more vulnerable to a biohazard attack.

Lou the troll August 10, 2006 9:06 AM

@Insulintaker “Either a biochemical lab is required, or a bioassay (which would take at least 2 hours to perform) with a trained professional.”

Oh come on, they can just throw your bottle of insulin against the wall to test it…

roland August 10, 2006 9:06 AM

Interesting and not entirely unexpected. Lots of complaining about the new rules, the old rules, the rule makers … but not one comment against the group that is responsible (across the world) for this mess.

Curt August 10, 2006 9:07 AM

Nice! The airlines have finally come around to good security that the computer industry has known for years: default deny rules at the gate.

Jeff Hotchkiss August 10, 2006 9:08 AM

I can see the need to increase measures when intelligence has knowledge of a plot; to not do so would be stupid.

However, if we trust our intelligence so much that we only have the measures necessary to find explosives when they say so, why do we need such tight security the rest of the time?

One cannot have it both ways. Either intelligence is good enough to know of all plots and therefore we know when to increase measures, or it’s not good enough and measures need to be in place at all times.

The present approach implies that when there is an intelligence failure or the terrorists learn from their mistakes, they may succeed due to more lax security.

It sounds to me like the actual arrests and knowledge of the threat had nothing to do with security at airports and a lot more to do with community leaders tipping police off.

Chris August 10, 2006 9:09 AM

@Roland: What shall I say about these people? We know nothing about them, except the fact, that they are suspected terrorists.

Steve L. August 10, 2006 9:12 AM

As Frederic said ” Anyhow, this was an extremely successfull terrorist attack, that affected thousands of people, that will affect the bottom line for several airline companies, that will continue to inspire fear, and that will be used to further reduce civil rights.

The terrorists must be very satisfied with their accomplishments…”

This is exactly it. All the new measures in place and even more so all the talk and news coverage about this is only bringing about more fear and terror.

Fine implement new security measures. Measures that will actually work. Talk about it for 5 or 10 minutes on every news show. But don’t drop everything else and just talk about it, as all it does is bring about more fear and terror. When people do get more “terrified” well guess what, the terrorists WIN. They win even if they weren’t successful as they scared everyone and consequently disrupted everyone’s lives, from overplay in the media.

I think it should be mentioned, changes should be made, and then just move on and get on with our lives.

Alice August 10, 2006 9:15 AM

“And what about travellers with prescribed nitroglycerine for heart trouble?”

You’re not suggesting that prescribed nitroglycerine is explosive, are you? 😉

Simon August 10, 2006 9:17 AM

All electronic goods such as iPods, keyfobs, etc banished to the hold – but presumably your are still allowed to wear a watch, aren’t (most of) these electronic? Again rules not fully though through.

Lost August 10, 2006 9:23 AM

If all luggage is to be carried as hold, does that imply that the techniques for scanning hold luggage do detect all kinds of explosives? And if yes, why can’t the hand luggage be scanned by the same kind of scanners?

Secondly, bar a full body cavity search before boarding, one cand get at least a pound of explosives on board an airplane. A detonator is so small I doubt there is a sure way of preventing one getting on board. Could an aircraft sustain an explosion of a party of six such “loaded” passengers without breaking up? Doubt it!

I do not have the solution, but if the above scenario is a feaseable, nothing short of full body scanning is other than for-show measure, very similar to banning nail-clippers.

Does El-Al have a no-liquides-on-board policy?

Scott Johnson August 10, 2006 9:23 AM

I always carry a 1.5L bottle of water with me on planes to avoid dehydration. I don’t drink the entire bottle, but I do drink plenty of it. I suppose that if I want to fly in the future, I will not be able to drink as much water. That sucks.

Eponymous August 10, 2006 9:24 AM

It’s so ironic that posters on this site are appalled at the amount of security when boarding a plane. I’m often stunned at the depths paranoia will run (often necessarily, true) in the digital security world, but use the same vigilance to try to prevent a bomber and it’s all eye-rolling and “the terrorists have won”.

Thank you for acknowledging that the new bans are the right short-term plan, Bruce.

rhandir August 10, 2006 9:32 AM

Doesn’t this create problems for people wishing to transport ipods, videocameras, etc. that have LCD screens? I understood that lcd screens can be permanently damaged by exposure to cold (such as is found in cargo holds.)

Could someone confirm/deny this?

Also, did any readers note other significant practical hurdles for passengers?


Moshe Yudkowsky August 10, 2006 9:33 AM

I’ve been in Manhatten the past few days, and as usual I haven’t followed the news. Starting Wednesday, I noticed a much higher police presence in Times Square, and local hotel security was also higher.

I deduce that there was a general alert followed by a more specific alert. Seems to me that the system is working correctly and properly in this instance.

“The terrorists are winning” because we’re taking precautions is an absurd position. The only way that position would be valid would be if the US armed forces were not fighting terrorism; if we accept terrorism as a low-level continuing police enforcement problem, then the terrorists will have won. Or we can surrender, like the Spanish did, and see how little time it buys the US.

Mark J. August 10, 2006 9:37 AM

“these don’t seem like rediculous short-term measures.”

I disagree. If you have to check your keys (electronic fob) and your cell phone and your bag gets lost or stolen, how do you get home from the airport? You can’t even call anyone. This is typical gov’t overreaction.

A colleague naively checked her laptop recently and it got smashed. I wonder how many laptops are in the process of being destroyed or stolen at this very minute. How soon before we hear about critical data loss from a checked laptop? And with thousands more laptops rolling through baggage now, what’s the chance a rigged one will be missed?

Jim August 10, 2006 9:37 AM

This opens a whole new world for terrorists. They don’t actually have to carry out a plot–all they need to do is plan one, and watch the hilarity that ensues. Oh, sure, what they get is more like paranoia, discomfort, and fear than true terror, but in exchange they only get arrested instead of dying.

So the discomfortists have us taking off our shoes, and now they’ve taken away our food and magazines. What will they have us doing next? I can hardly wait to find out!

Savik August 10, 2006 9:37 AM

There should be almost no restrictions on what you can take on a plane except those things that would disturb other passengers or unintentionally endanger them. Like for instance no cans of gasoline, etc.

Instead of all these checks and stupid rules we should just get rid of the terrorists. Easily done by getting rid of restrictions placed on us by International Law and the Geneva convention (which are rules made up by our enemies to make us impotent). Then excercising the nuclear option on Iran, Syria, etc. And then take away their funding by seizing their oil fields and international assets.

Problem would go away overnight and the rest of the civilized world would thank us.

Simon_C August 10, 2006 9:39 AM

It seems to me that although these security checks are over the top, it could be right to do them while the threat level is at critical.

Saying that though, I hate the fact we’ve just given the terrorists 1/2 a victory by having this level of security check.

We accept 10000s of deaths on roads in europe and the US each year, why do we seem to be striving for 0 deaths from terrorists even if it costs us our way of life.

Ted August 10, 2006 9:41 AM

@Scott Johnson: It looks like prescription liquids are still permitted on board. Wouldn’t it be hilaroius to get a doctors prescription for bottled water?

I suggest everyone flying in the next couple weeks to obtain medical prescriptions for bottled water.

Alternatively, freeze the water solid before bringing it on board. It won’t become a liquid until after you’re past the goons and safely on board.

Bitsy August 10, 2006 9:49 AM

I can think of several inconveniences for passengers that would have to be resolved:

1) Non-prescription medications that people nevertheless have a medical need for. This includes such things as saline nasal spray for people who are subject to chronic sinus infections. In some cases, they are not supposed to fly without it because they will get a sinus infection from the dry air.
2) Milk, juice, etc. for diabetic adults, people with bladder infections, etc. If I can carry it because I’m traveling with a child, why can’t I carry it for myself?
3) Dealing with contact lens solutions that invariably leak in checked baggage and which will bleach clothing that they come in contact with. (AoSept, this means you.)
4) Not being permitted eyeglass cases virtually ensures that glasses will be scratched and damaged. What the heck is someone likely to do with an eyeglass case anyway? And many will not wear contact lenses on a plane if they cannot have access to contact lens solution when needed.
5) What happens when someone’s checked baggage is lost with their car keys inside?
6) What happens to fragile carry-ons like musical instruments? If this is to continue long-term, baggage handling is going to have to get much better.

As for the terrorists, way to convince me that your religion is better than mine. Not. Obviously Islam as practiced by these folks is the equivalent of the Thugees. Any religion that practices unwilling human sacrifice is clearly wrong by any sensible calculation.

Alan Porter August 10, 2006 9:49 AM

@ Mike Stanczyk

The FAA said that no regs were broken.

That’s true. The FAA is not responsible for your comfort on commercial flights, just like the Highway Patrol is not responsible for your comfort on a Greyhound bus.

For some reason, people seem to think that the FAA and air traffic controllers run commercial aviation, and that commercial carriers own the airways.

This could not be farther from the truth. It works just like the highways do.

18-wheel transfer trucks do not own and run the highways. Large and small commercial operations share the roads with individuals. Similarly, the big iron commercial airliners have no more right to the skies and runways than I have in my single engine “spam can” airplane.

Just to get this straight: The FAA is the Highway Patrol of the skies. Air Traffic Control are the traffic cops of the skies. You and I are free to fly among the commercial planes just like we’re free to drive among the transfer trucks.


Frequent Flyer August 10, 2006 9:54 AM

Well, the airlines have finally figured out how to get people to buy more beverages and take less bags on the plan to speed up boarding.

My doc told me to not drink from a cup handed to me by unwashed flight attendants. Ever since I stopped doing that I’ve never gotten sick when flying.

And I’m sure that the TSA rules are inconsistent: If you have a combined domestic and international terminal, how is the security gate going to filter out who’s laptops are allowed and who’s aren’t?

Sklivvz August 10, 2006 10:06 AM

What if there was no terrorist threat after all? What if it was there but it’s being blown out of proportion? The only source we have confirming this news is the government.

No one should trust the government to announce a threat and then take measures against our freedom acting upon that non-verifiable threat.
The governments should be reassuring people and taking care of problems, not scaring their citizens and acting upon the fear they induce.

This is government-sponsored manipulation.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale August 10, 2006 10:07 AM

A problem is that officials aren’t asked to treat decisions made in the height of anger or fear any differently than ordinary day-to-day decisions. Every decision they make today will feel right- and then they’ll get emotionally invested in those decisions, so that in one week the decisions will still feel fine.

Of course this is a major incident, a horrible crime. Goes without saying, except that anyone asking for a cost-benefit analysis might be treated as if they aren’t saying so.

Unfortunately, officials and authorities don’t often admit “we know the decisions we make today are more likely than usual to be incorrect. When we review them, we’ll likely find that 20% of them weren’t at all useful. So of course we will review them.”

That passengers can’t even buy landside waters? Dehydration is risky. Airplane water is risky. Trying to sooth children with sugar-fruit-water or soda? I’m not sure that the noise from unusually-hyper chilren isn’t distracting to the staff, and that too can be risky.

While I understand the fear and anger driving decisions today, I hope they’ll remember to review the decisions once they’re somewhat less emotional. And I hope that we can find ways to ask for that review without retriggering the emotions of today.

Carlo Graziani August 10, 2006 10:09 AM

I like that the British cops actually troubled to investigate the plot, letting it proceed under surveillance while they collected evidence, and only broke it up when it looked like it was on the launch pad. Now they have evidence they can take to court.

The contrast with the laziness of FBI terrorist “investigations” is stark. The FBI appears to mostly act on intelligence tips that they are unwilling to discuss in court, and apparently the standard procedure is to arrest alleged plotters as soon as their identity and whereabouts is ascertained. Prosecutors then show up in court with nothing but bombast.

As a result, they’ve had a bunch of failed cases and reversed convictions. In the Padilla case (the alleged aspiring dirty bomber) they didn’t even bother going to court, a Navy brig being so much more convenient than an actual investigation. And there is every reason to believe that those Muslims they busted in Florida — essentially for wild talk about how much they’d like to be terrorists — will never be successfully prosecuted, their perp walk having served the required publicity purpose of illustrating how we’re succeeding in the war on terror.

Erik W August 10, 2006 10:10 AM

There is a paragraph of text between “The foiled UK terrorist has” and “no carry-ons are allowed:” that came through in the RSS feed between some broken HTML….

Israel Torres August 10, 2006 10:14 AM

“Given how little we know of the extent of the plot, these don’t seem like rediculous short-term measures. ”


Israel Torres

Valdis Kletnieks August 10, 2006 10:18 AM

And just a few days ago, Bruce treated us to a nice pointer to a CATO paper that basically said that the way to win against the terrorists is to not be terrorized.

Very prescient, that posting….

Jim August 10, 2006 10:25 AM

The response may or may not be ridiculous. It’s certainly extreme, but what do you do when your security procedures are suddenly shown to be inadequate in a way that’s difficult to fix?

The TSA carry-on screening procedures focus on finding firearms, not explosives (except in your shoes), and certainly not liquid explosives. So a new threat has emerged, and once again we discover that airline security is entirely reactive.

Permit me a dubious analogy. When we build computer security systems, we try to design against as-yet unknown threats. We don’t build something that stops Blaster, we try to stop all kinds of viruses and worms. New threats come out, but a good network design is resistant to worms, no matter what flaws they happen to exploit.

What the TSA has built is a default-permit firewall that’s updated after new threats come out. Guns had been used to hijack planes, so they added a gun-blocking filter. Then boxcutters were used, and they added a boxcutter filter, and just to be sure they expanded it to cover Swiss Army knives and letter openers and nail clippers, too. Someone tried to light his shoe on fire, and they added a shoe filter. But it’s still open to any attack from someone creative enough to try an attack that hasn’t been done before.

In a sense it’s understandable. There’s a basic queueing problem: MSP (for example) handled 36,700,000 passengers in 2004. If we assume that number includes both incoming and outgoing passengers, that’s roughly 50,000 people going through security per day, or one every 1.3 seconds (if you assume most of the traffic is between 5 am and 11pm). That’s average, not accounting for the fact that airline departure and arrival schedules aren’t evenly distributed–they’re bunched together to make connections work more smoothly. But at a minimum, TSA has to churn a passenger through at a rate of one every 1.3 seconds or (probably much) faster. If an explosives test adds two minutes to the time to check someone in, it would take 92 check-in aisles to check everyone in. MSP usually has about 6-8 aisles running (and each aisle has multiple agents).

As usual, it comes down to economics, and its far cheaper to say we can’t bring on liquids than it is to check for explosives. At what point, though, are they telling us we can’t use HTTP because someone once ran Code Red on it and they can’t bear the expense of checking for it?

Kathryn from Sunnyvale August 10, 2006 10:30 AM

“Airline workers tried to speed things along by circulating among the passengers with plastic bags in which bottles, deodorant containers and shampoo could be discarded. A woman with a bottle of medicine was allowed to bring it on board after it was checked to see that her name was on the pharmacy label.” NYTimes describing a line in Newark.

Because all important medicines are prescription, and no bad guy would think to reuse a prescription bottle rather than an ordinary bottle. But I’m sure this felt like an obviously good decision to the officials protecting us from other people’s medicines.

(Do airlines have an easy way to check single items? If you have to leave the security line to check an item, does security at least allow you to rejoin the line where you left it?)

Jeremiah Blatz August 10, 2006 10:37 AM

“Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit)”

And so, when they lose your baggage, what the hell do you do? Die? Go to the hospital? What if you’re not a native speaker? I’m sure your embassy will be happy to take care of you :-/

These security measures may, in fact, be reasonable in the short term, but if they stay, I expect the economic and human toll may be higher than stopping terrorists the hard way.

Also, are they going to ban these?
“If you like, we can get a female TSA agent to squeeze your boobs”

mike August 10, 2006 10:39 AM

my prediction is the airlines will lobby hard to keep the “no liquid” policy in effect forever, even after any reasonable threats disappear. the reason is this gives them a guaranteed monopoly and revenue stream for purchased drinks onboard.

tc August 10, 2006 10:41 AM

I don’t particularly care for the new proposals, since they are knee-jerk and are thorough. For example, how much you want a bet within hours terrorist could place liquids in clear medical containers with fake prescription labels?

The real problem however is for the airlines. At some point air travel will become so “hard” and uncomfortable that it will decline. My guess is you see easing of restrictions not due to any security analysis, but due to airline carrier economics.

To me, airlines (and TSA) have missed the boat in the process. If you don’t want as many carry-on items then you need to (a) improve bagging handling so checked luggage doesn’t get lost or damaged, and (b) improve quality of in-flight food, beverage, and common supplies (like Contact solution and other common medical supplies that may be needed by passengers, such as Benydrl). You need to make the incentive for passengers to check luggage that can be screened and not carry on luggage. Only then will you get at the root of the major security vulnerability. Only then will you be able to speed up checkpoints, etc.

JS August 10, 2006 10:52 AM

The good: No more obnoxious people eating fast food on flights.

The bad: Massive inconvenience. There are still holes in the security, such as people carrying bomb materials inside their body. It’s all still just a show.

The ugly: Fear encouraged by the government. Airport lines make great targets, especially when there is a backup due to new security rules.

The fix: El Al style security, with intimidating people asking questions to fish out nervous people who may be planning something. In other words, thoughtful human security.

Anonymous August 10, 2006 10:54 AM

It’s typical of the “we’re handing terrorists their victory” crowd to have already made the following points:

  • the carry-on exceptions render the security useless (Chertoff must be a moron)
  • long lines at an airport are 50% of the terrorists’ goal (Gonzalez is an idiot)
  • mothers tasting formula or milk is disgusting (Mueller is incompetent)
  • it’s a conspiracy to sell more food and beverage on the plane (it’s all Bush’s fault)

At least Bruce was able to concede that they “don’t seem like rediculous [sic] short-term measures.”

I suggest that even long lines, cancelled flights, and plastic bags full of travel documents are better than an airplane full of dead people in the Atlantic because one of the plotters slipped through. Sorry if that upsets the ACLU-types here.

Cassandra August 10, 2006 10:59 AM


You are quite right, and clearly one of the underlying assumptions made is that people do not need non-prescription medications for the duration of a flight. That is probably an incorrect assumption. The new rules are almost certainly not aimed at achieving perfect security, ‘though – simply a ‘good enough’ risk reduction by application of a simple, clearly understood set of rules. One of the results is to make cheap air travel less convenient for the less than fully healthy. Of course, if you can afford to hire or own your own private plane, the rules will probably affect you less.


another_bruce August 10, 2006 11:03 AM

most flying is elective, discretionary. very few passengers are there because they absolutely have to fly. we are witnessing the death knell of commercial aviation. it won’t be the terrorists who will kill this industry, but the security. six hours on a plane without a book? whoa!

mike s. August 10, 2006 11:12 AM

Well, we can see the rise of “classed” baggage handling. You can have standard baggage handling as today or for an additional fee you can have ‘first class’ handling with special attention to the safety of your bags…

Andy Dingley August 10, 2006 11:14 AM

  1. Check-in baggage is already (somewhat) bomb-proof. An airport the size of Heathrow has some quite effective non-sampling screening for most explosive chemistry. It’s not used on all flights, but it’s available for the high-risk routes or suspects.
  2. Check-in baggage is already (somewhat) bomb-proof. Baggage containers are much more bomb-resistant than they used to be. if you want to down a plane with a checked bag, you either need to have friends loading it, or you need a big bomb.
  3. If you’re taking it into the cabin, why carry bulky explosives when you can have a compact toxin instead? Nitroglycerine isn’t a practical “concealed as insulin” bomb, partly because it’s so easy to detect by any of the current generation explosive screeners. The trouble with poisons is that have much more diverse chemistry than commonplace explosives and non-sampling screening for them is unreasonably difficult.

For once our law enforcement seem to be getting things about right. Sorry if you’re caught in the middle of the mess.

some anonymous person August 10, 2006 11:15 AM


I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. If a person has a reason to travel a long distance, flying is the only practical option. Other transportation methods simply take too long. Who has time to cross the Atlantic by ship these days? Who has time to cross the U.S. by train or bus? (A friend of mine tried to take the train from California to New York a few years back. The train departure was delayed for over 24 hours.) Even driving a personal vehicle would take a long time.

What it would discourage, and has been happening already, is short flights.

mike s. August 10, 2006 11:20 AM

I find interesting is that your beverage has to be consumed before boarding a flight. Now since TSA is screening just at the security checkpoint, how do you enforce this rule? The gate agent making sure you don’t have a water bottle that you bought at a newstand inside the “secure” area is not in your bag?

quincunx August 10, 2006 11:24 AM

@Anonymous Coward

‘It’s typical of the “we’re handing terrorists their victory” crowd to have already made the following points’

I think you have missed the bigger picture of what the ‘terrorists are winning’ crowd suggest.

You have suggested that “plastic bags full of travel documents are better than an airplane full of dead people in the Atlantic because one of the plotters slipped through”

That’s fine, and that is your opinion. But you are wrong to presume that that is the opinion of EVERY SINGLE traveler. You can not know their opinions, you can not make the risk assessment for them.

You can not say that tens-of-billions of dollars diverted from the public directly and indirectly (both in the present and in the future), and all the direct hassle is worth it.

You are making your own utilitarian judgment, and as usual you can not even calculate the ‘cost’ vs. the ‘benefit’ other than to use your own subjective value. An extra plane crash a year, may be worth it to the multi-millions of passangers – but none of them get a choice in the manner.

The actions of the government are direct and visible for anyone to see, the poorly trained mind can not understand the forgone opportunity in its execution.

Economic arguments aside, the ‘terrorist are winning’ crowd simply extrapolate from the definition of terrorism: using force to change government policy. So by the simple definition, the terrorists are winning! Be it both international terrorists, or domestic terrorists (politicians, bureaucrats, close contractors).

Ben H August 10, 2006 11:27 AM

@Moshe Yudkowsky

“surrender like the Spanish did”? The Spanish democratically changed their secular government: exactly what the terrorists are fighting against!

Longwalker August 10, 2006 11:38 AM

It must be just a coincidence that all this happened one day after Lieberman lost his primary and the GOP needed some way to refocus attention on just how weak the Dems are on security….

some anonymous person August 10, 2006 11:39 AM

I want to travel on “spa” airlines for my next vacation trip to Europe.

On the one hand, they’d make me check everything I didn’t have a doctor’s note for, and I’d have to change out of my clothes and into a comfy airline-supplied sweatsuit.

On the other hand, they’d have a way to check my baggage so it wouldn’t get lost and so my checked items wouldn’t be damaged, they’d give me a comfortable place to wait before boarding, and once on board I’d be provided with tasty beverages and snacks, a comfortable seat suitible for napping, and a variety of entertainment options.

My point is that if the airlines provided more amenities and treated people better, people wouldn’t need to carry on as much stuff. e.g. If they gave me a nice clean pillow, I wouldn’t need to bring on an inflatable one. If they gave me free music stations to listen to, I wouldn’t need to bring on a walkman. If they served decent food and beverages at regular intervals, I wouldn’t need to bring on a large sack lunch. If they wouldn’t lose and/or destroy my luggage, I wouldn’t refuse to check it . . .

gabuzo August 10, 2006 11:42 AM

@some anonymous person
In my opinion you’re not telling something different that another_bruce. The key is “If a person as a reason”. Currently plane travel is fast, quite cheap and the carry-on luggage gives you (should I say gave you?) the opportunity to bring sensitive pieces of equipment without having them smashed, stolen or lose in the checked baggage process. Now let’s say I’m planning a holiday travel. I want to take my camera with me. If the safety regulation don’t allow me to safely take my camera with me I’ll try to use an alternative transportation method and none is available I’ll probably plan my trip to a destination where I don’t have to fly.

I’m pretty sure this is valid for business trips. No bringing a laptop with you probably mean, no possible work during the flight or at the hotel, harder access to company email and reduced possibility to bring significant amount of data with you.

piglet August 10, 2006 11:54 AM

Does anybody have a good grasp of how realistic this plot really is? It is maybe true that an explosion can be provoked by mixing several “innocent” liquids but how much liquid would you need in order to provoke an explosion big enough? Several litres? Wouldn’t this be suspicious enough?

Chase Venters August 10, 2006 11:54 AM

I want the airline Bill Maher jokes about – “shit happens airways”. No / little security, no fake feeling of security.

And if it were my airline, all of my pilots and the flight attendants would be armed and trained. And anyone that had a concealed carry permit would be allowed to bring their own as well.

Frequent Flyer August 10, 2006 12:00 PM

I’m hearing too many comments approving of these measures from folks who only fly a few times a year. Having to check a bag adds 30-60 minutes to the end of every flight (in some cases doubling the travel time) – and given that they lose 8% of the bags, it’s a huge issue. Oh, and did I forget to mention that there’s a maximum value the airlines will pay for a lost or damaged bag? Less than $1000 if I remember right. So the traveler who loses his checked laptop is screwed.

Take away my ipod, books, and bose headphones and the flights become miserable. Not a big deal if you’re flying 3 times a year…but a different story if you’re flying 50. So all you vacationers out there who want the ‘if it only saves one life’ approach should simply take the train.

How easy would it be for a terrorist to get a prescription for cough medicine, empty the bottle, and then refill it with something else? Or fill a zip-lock and tape it to their body. Or inject an orange with it (like we did at college football games), or….you get the point.

Object based security is brittle. There’s far to many plausible means to get around it (let alone movie-plots). Intelligent human security is the best – and to hell with the ACLU and their ‘profiling’ complaints.

If they ban carry-on luggage, they effectively ban business travel. The TSA wanted to ban laptops after 9/11, but the airlines understand that that would kill the industry. Laptops don’t survive checked baggage, and most company policies prohibit them from being checked in any case.

Thanks TSA – you’re killing an industry with security theater. And it’s not even a good movie.

anna August 10, 2006 12:02 PM

I somehow don’t see the airline companies issue the travellers written statements that they would cover the damages that could happen to the stuffed in checked in luggage like laptops. Like all the accidental damage and abuse like dropping, cracked screens, broken hinges, hard drives, optical drives…. everything that the manufacturers warranty would not cover.

And I’m so glad I’m not flying today anywhere.

Geoff Lane August 10, 2006 12:03 PM

Calm down 🙂

The airports and airlines had about 2 hours notice and had to make some instant rules that could be enforced and prevent the use of two part liquid explosives and chemicals such as nitroglycerin. No doubt the rules will be changed over the next few days.

Some have questioned the banning of newspapers and magazines. When I was young we used to make fuel for rockets from newspaper, suger and another chemical. When the newspaper dried, it looked wrinkled but unstained. It was hugely flammable. If you then soaked a corner in nitrogen triiodide you have a contact trigger which becomes active as the corner dries out…

It may not crash the plane but makes a good distraction.

some anonymous person August 10, 2006 12:07 PM

Incidentally, I was reading about a similar plot in the NY Times and they mentioned clothing made of nitrocellulose fiber (“guncotton”). If I remember rightly, one of the first synthetic fibers earned the nickname of “mother-in-law silk” because it would go up in flames easily and violently.

So even the traveller’s clothing could be a weapon.

Erik V. Olson August 10, 2006 12:12 PM

Here’s the real kicker. You can’t buy liquids airside and carry them on the plane.

Whoever thought that up is either admitting that screening is useless, or is working for airlines that are about to start charging for all drinks, not just booze.

I have one ticket booked, but about twelve tickets planned. If this nonsense doesn’t stop, I’m cancelling. I’m tired of being treated as a terrorist for daring to get on a fucking airplane.

Newsflash — all of the new procedures have gone into place because the alleged plot failed. They were caught.

How is this proof that we need this extra security? Never mind Scotland Yard’s long and glorious history of lying like dogs when it comes to terrorists.

D V Henkel-Wallace August 10, 2006 12:13 PM makes an excellent point. The next stage then is to plan something nasty and then INTENTIONALLY LEAK IT. Instead of being killed you are throwing yourself on the criminal justice system, but you still achieve the massive disruption without having to finish off all the really complicated small details of pulling your threat off for real.

Chase Venters August 10, 2006 12:19 PM

BTW, here is what fundamentally irritates me about all of these security measures. (Granted, calling them up in the short term to fight a specific threat is probably a reasonably sane idea)

What is the difference between blowing up a plane and blowing up a shopping mall? Answer: blowing up a plane might be harder, because of all this security we have now. But then again it might not anyway; I’m not an explosives or security expert.

Imagine that we enact all the crazy security procedures necessary to stop airline attacks. Do you think terrorists will shrug and say “‘Guess we have to stop what we’re doing now’?” Or perhaps they might say “Hmm, what about these 95,000,000 other ways to inflict terror”.

There is a basic level of security that makes sense. Locking the cockpit during flight, and perhaps even arming the flight attendants, makes sense.

But I definitely fall into the “terrorists are winning” crowd here, because what they’re supposedly trying to do is make us afraid and cause us to take our own freedoms away in the process. Game over guys, you won.

The one thing that really stood out about this incident for me wasn’t the loss of carry-on privileges, it was a quote from a British official:

Mr. Clarke told reporters that the investigation had “already lasted for several months and will undoubtedly last long into the future’’ and said it had involved “an unprecedented level of surveillance.’’

“We have been looking at meetings, movement, travel, spending and the aspirations of a large group of people,’’ Mr. Clarke said.

That is exactly what we have to be worried about — the erosion of civil liberties. 9/11 gave us the USA Patriot act. Look at what has been happening in the UK especially with regards to surveillance and the police.

If every ‘foiled’ plot results in the loss of more privacy and freedoms, we’re not going to have any left at all.

Mike Stanczyk August 10, 2006 12:23 PM

@ Alan Porter

“The FAA is not responsible for your comfort on commercial flights…”

“Just to get this straight: The FAA is the Highway Patrol of the skies. ”

But isn’t the FAA responsible for my safety on a commercial flight? Isn’t being exposed to 100 degree heat for 2-4 hours without water dangerous to my health?

Don’t the airlines have to supply me with a minimum of air pressure and temperature to stay alive? Or do the airlines get to decide to cut a psi off of cabin pressure to save on fuel costs?

Are you allowed to travel on commercial airlines with an IV fluid bag attached to you?

Fred P August 10, 2006 12:27 PM

I think the silliest thing here is focuing exclusively on liquid explosives. There’s no intrinsic reason they can’t be in powder, solid, or gaseous form, particuarly the relatively small amount that you need to take down an airplane.

My opinion is that this is a scorched earth policy, just like the “no knives on planes” after 9/11.

Tim August 10, 2006 12:45 PM

I think our U.S. goverment has wasted too much money concentrating on who is flying rather than what is flying. If we had taken these millions of dollars wasted on getting passenger information and used it to buy bomb-detection machinery and ways to X-ray carryon luggage in two dimensions, today’s reaction would have been subdued. Today would have been like any other day–all carryon and checked bags are screened for bombs, and each passenger is as well. At a glance, they would know that bottle in my toiletries bag is my hair gel, not an explosive.

Or to put it another way, who cares what your fellow passenger’s beliefs are as long as he does not have anything that could blow up the airplane? I do not care much about other weapons (except guns and large knives) since I and everyone else on the plane will not allow another hijacker to succeed.

I would like those in power of aviation security wake up to this, but I doubt they would want their pet projects to go away.

And I can’t imagine how much money other governments have wasted wondering the name of the person who is going to sit in Row 22, Seat A.

mike s. August 10, 2006 12:48 PM

Folks should head over to and check out the “travel security” forum. The gnashing of teeth by frequent flyers is quite educational…

bob August 10, 2006 12:51 PM

Anybody want to fly on my private airline? three seats, no waiting. No security check, no metal detector, I can fly to any of 3,000 airports east of the Mississippi and you can bring drinks, laptops, toenail scissors, knives, samurai swords (in the trunk) anything you like. Only cost you $2,000 per trip (not per seat).

Anonymous August 10, 2006 1:20 PM

A new level of security must immediately be added. All passengers must report/be bussed to an initial security checkpoint AWAY from the airport terminal where baggage must be checked/exrayed, so forth. Only after passing through this level of clearance should passengers be allowed to proceed to the airport to board flights. We must restore order to our vital transportation hubs.

Fraud Guy August 10, 2006 1:22 PM

My expectation is, that with a large number of laptops being checked (probably against company security policies for the travelers) we will shortly hear stories of potential lost consumer data as laptops go missing through various means. This means that security measures that will almost certainly have no productive effect will also more than likely cause security breaches that we will have to hear about down the road. Granted, the business travelers should not be carrying consumer data on their laptops already, but this becomes a likely scenario with the short notice.

Also, regarding the ban on beverages, why do you not request the traveler to drink the beverage in front of the security personnel–I drink clear liquids in clear plastic containers, and any chemical that would be useful for a “liquid explosive” would be unlikely to be palatable or even non-toxic to the drinker (unless someone knows of chemical/beverage combinations that would be otherwise).

Regarding medicines, there are an extremely large number of OTC medicines that people can and should be taking (often verbally recommended by their physicians) without a prescription; some of them are even for travel illnesses. There are likely to be more serious health repercussions from millions of travelers unable to carry such medications than the risk of terrorist action.

nzruss August 10, 2006 1:24 PM

The terrorists have NOT won, and this may actually make some parts of the travelling experience a little bit better:

At security: Less carry-on should speed up the security scanning – now just a pat down and scan of your single clear plastic bag with the minimum of items.

On boarding: Passengers should be able to take their seat more quickly and with less hassle. The new rules eliminate large amounts of carry-on luggage and prevent the owner blocking the isle while they look for an overhead bin.

During the flight: With little reading material and no work to do, a conversation with another passenger might actually take place!

On landing and taxiing to the gate: The number of private mobile phone conversations one is normally subjected to, will be eliminated. People should be able to disembark the aircraft quickly as they have no carry on.

Sure there are some negatives, but there are some positives in all this. Next time your flying, strike up a conversation with the person next to you and make a new friend.

Tyler Larson August 10, 2006 1:36 PM

Sounds like somebody’s been hoodwinked.

Terrorists aim to negatively affect as many people as possible for as long as possible. Death and destruction is a popular mechanism, but also very a difficult operation to pull off. On the other hand, if they can train their target to react in a certain way, all they have to do is sit back and make threats. Law enforcement takes care of spreading the panic and destroying the economy.

Meanwhile, and here’s the absurd part, the governments pat themselves on the back for a job well done. They averted a highly unlikely, outlandishly complex (and arguably physically impossible) terrorist plot, and all they had to do is lower the quality of life within the country.

Cleveland August 10, 2006 1:49 PM

I’m confused by the majority of you. Some of you (I can’t say all) are the typical greedy, instant gratification, gimme, gimme, gimme American’s that make me sick. I’m an American and a Marine. If youu can’t handle a little more security, so that the masses are safe then drive. We all have to understand that times have officially changed. Get used to it! This is just the way it is. TSA and Homeland Security aren’t doing this to “upset” you or pick on you, IT’S TO KEEP YOU ALIVE!! I woke up this morning to a great day, my wife is in Scotland and is coming home tomorrow. I can’t wait to see her and now I’ve been worried sick about all of this going on at this time. If it takes every person being inconvenienced so that my wife and everyone else flying with her, make it home safely. Then so be it. I just want her home. So please stop all of your belly-aching and just realize that this is the new world that we live in. Just because I’m worried, DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE TERRORIST HAVE WON!! I worry when she goes downtown alone, or has to work late.

mike s. August 10, 2006 1:50 PM

“If youu can’t handle a little more security, so that the masses are safe then drive.”

of course 40,000 people/year die on our roads. About measures that are actually commismerate with the threat. Or should we have roadblocks in all our towns to make sure that the driver are competent, insured, and licensed?

Daniel Pawtowski August 10, 2006 1:55 PM

Re: Something to drink on the plane.

Can one bring an empty clear plastic bottle through the checkpoint? You could fill it with water at a drunking fountain or bathroom sink once inside the gate; that would give you something to drink on the plane.
If that fails, I have used small Ziplock sandwitch bags to hold drinking water before, although that can get messy.

AC August 10, 2006 2:00 PM

Backing up what ^Tyler just said, the Terrorists do not need the capability to carry out a plot, they just need the police or intelligence agencies to believe they can. Our reaction accomplishes the majority of their goals – we live in fear and it interrupts our freedom.

jason August 10, 2006 2:01 PM

@Daniel Pawtoski

If only it were that easy, one could just purchase a bottle of water from a concourse newsstand and take it on the plane. However:

“Beverages purchased in the sterile area must be consumed before boarding because they will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”

So you may not bring a bottle of water through security. You may buy a bottle of water once you have passed security. You may not bring that bottle of water onto the plane with you. But, presumably, you can (eventually) get water when/if the flight crew passes out beverages.

Brian August 10, 2006 2:02 PM


Does all of this extra security on the plane make your wife any safer? Really?

Sure, it might keep her safe on her flight tomorrow. But the day after that, any terrorist with an ounce of brains and a pound of motivation is going to realize they can blow themselves up on the bus, or the subway, or in the mall food court. For them, one mass casualty event is as good as another.

Planes are one target out of literally millions. Beefing up security on planes doesn’t make anybody safer. Except maybe the airline industry.

Realist August 10, 2006 2:02 PM

@roland –

“Interesting and not entirely unexpected. Lots of complaining about the new rules, the old rules, the rule makers … but not one comment against the group that is responsible (across the world) for this mess.”

And just what purpose would such a comment make on this or any other forum? Are you so naive as to beleive a terrorist cares what you or anyone else says on an internet forum or in the letters to the editor?

Xyz August 10, 2006 2:03 PM

“That’s right and we all should be ‘good Germans'”

I call Godwin’s Law. How long did it take, 100 posts?

Brian August 10, 2006 2:05 PM

Just to clarify my last comment… it sure does seem like there was a serious plot in progress to do something really evil on planes. As a temporary measure, tougher security at airports is important.

JohnJ August 10, 2006 2:05 PM

I imagine people who rely on dramamine or other OTC meds for calming a nervous stomach aren’t going to like this. Neither will the passengers next to them.

Michael Ash August 10, 2006 2:12 PM

Some people are making the point that if you don’t like these security measures, you can simply take the train, drive, etc.

To that, I say: if you can’t stand the one-in-a-hundred-million chance of being killed by a terrorist bomb, why don’t YOU take the train or drive? Let me take the airplane in peace. It will still be safer than driving even with reasonable screening.

“More security” should never be the default position that we must disprove.

Cleveland August 10, 2006 2:14 PM


It does keep her safer for the moment. That’s all I’m worried about at this time. If the airlines beef up security and it puts even an ounce of doubt into the minds of the warped, then it has done it’s job. That’s the point of the security. If it wasn’t there, people would complain and when it is there, people complain. It’s a lose-lose on the side of the airlines and the agencies that implement these security measures.

I agree that if someone wanted to destroy a mall or bus then they would. It doesn’t matter the place or the method, it is now a very real threat in everyday life. No one is more aware of this than myself. The point that I was trying to make and probably didn’t do a great job of is that no matter what the Government does or doesn’t do, people will complain.

photographer August 10, 2006 2:18 PM

Checked film will be DESTROYED (via powerfull x-rays used on checked luggage) and now I cannot carry it on, what is a photo bug to do now?? Having undeveloped film shipped is no safer as it may travel by air and will again be x-rayed. So now I must purchase my film at my destination (if I can) and have it processed prior to returning (again if I can.) Yes, digital is not effected, and that is why I have gon digital, but now I risk the loss of that equipment in my luggage.

Just a thought to help you think through the implications.

elwing August 10, 2006 2:24 PM


Yeah – let me just get into my car and drive to India – can you point me to a road that goes from the US to India?

Driving isn’t always possible. It would be nice if it were, because I’d be doing a lot more driving.

Anti-Jihadist August 10, 2006 2:32 PM

The palatability/toxicity of a liquid may not be a particularly valid test. A suicide bomber expects to die, soon. Swill down some of the “baby formula” that will cause horrible poisoning effects in three hours or so, and blow up the plane in only two hours.

Admin August 10, 2006 2:34 PM

Notebook computers, mobile printers, scanners, and cameras will not survive in check luggage even if they are not stolen. Our organization prohibits them being transport in checked luggage. Fortunately we generally don’t have to go through Heathrow.

Skate August 10, 2006 2:46 PM

“What is the difference between blowing up a plane and blowing up a shopping mall? ”

Airplanes are prone to catastrophic failure and only require a little explosive to destroy. On “Mythbusters” they destroyed a pressurized plane with what was described as a 100 grain shaped charge that consisted of only a few strips of det cord in a funnel shape (this was all on the tv show, I’m not giving away any secrets here.)

The real winners of this new security regime are the food vendors in the sterile area since we’ll all have to by food there and scarf it down before the plane boards.

@ Bruce, who wrote, “Given how little we know of the extent of the plot, these don’t seem like rediculous short-term measures.”

What a ridiculous statement. There are always plots we don’t know about, so these measures have either always been reasonable or they have never been reasonable.

If terrorists are bringing our interstate and international commerce and travel to a permanent slowdown then there can be no denying that they are winning the so-called “War on Terror”

Anonymous Coward August 10, 2006 2:48 PM

Good thing we have air marshalls to shoot dead any passengers that get too irritated with the absurd security measures.

I vote for sedation. It would make the whole experience more pleasant anyway.

Nick Lancaster August 10, 2006 2:59 PM

Sorry, the keys for the Honda Civic Hybrid now integrate the ‘key fob’ controls – lock/unlock/panic into the head of the key itself. So does Homeland Security get to confiscate my car key, or does my car remain an unattended vehicle in the airport parking lot?

What is in the beverage that makes it flammable or incendiary?

What is the mystery gel-like substance (it’s either a gel or it isn’t) that is inert when passing through explosives screening? Can it be rendered in a powder form, and do we prevent people from using the toilet so they can’t access water?

If anyone is at the airport over the next few days, please let us know if the kiosks are still selling Gatorade, PowerAde, Red Bull, or any other energy drink.

I’m not sure I agree with you on this one, Bruce.

And watch out for the passenger in 14A, he’s drinking Diet Coke and his breath smells like Mentos.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale August 10, 2006 3:00 PM

From what I’m reading on Flyertalk (a high-quality board for all things flight travel), the water-ban may go on for days. And airlines might not be allowed to bring on extra bottled water.

Could they please stop for a moment, and contemplate how very, very, very unlikely it is that random pallets of water will be compromised? And how dangerous dehydration can be?

If airlines can’t have pallets of water delivered to the plane, because the TSA doesn’t see this as safe, then the TSA is living in a world where 99% of passengers are bad guys. Contemplate the probability that a random bottle of water from a random pallet is going to end up in the hands of bad guys on a plane.

Clean drinking water is not a luxury item. Clean drinking water is not an optional item.

FRed F. August 10, 2006 3:01 PM

I see it now. This is the perfect excuse for a new round of government bailout of the airline industry.

I think the terrorists ARE winning. Bin Laden did say that the way to beat the West was through bleeding our economy. He is getting VERY good returns for his investment and he didn’t even have to kill anyone.

Wikinut August 10, 2006 3:10 PM

Frankly, I view the new restrictions as simply a show of force. A way for the TSA to justify their existence. It appears to be working.

derf August 10, 2006 3:10 PM

Ever kicked over an anthill? You’re watching the results on live TV. Wait a few weeks/months and the TSA will be back to just feeling up old ladies and toddlers.

RvnPhnx August 10, 2006 3:14 PM

@ Cleveland
[begin flame here]

“We all have to understand that times have officially changed.”
“So please stop all of your belly-aching and just realize that this is the new world that we live in.”

BULLSHIT. The world is little different than it was 20 years ago. If you think that things “officially” changing (in the imagination of some bureaucrat) is sufficient you need to grow up and learn that the outside world is not the military. We don’t need nor want an “official” to tell us that the world has changed–because we can be damn sure that when said official does so he is using the very same tactics that an artful German civil servant by the name of Göebbels put to use for his own personal advancement.
[end flame here]
The fact of the matter is that you’re own comments betray you to be afraid of exactly what the terrorists want you to fear: the loss of a loved one. (They can’t change the minds of dead people.) Granted you appear to have not needed their convincing, so you at least weren’t coerced. Good for you, but they could care less. You are afraid and that is what matters.
I, for my part, am just annoyed. I don’t need nor want yet another misinformed puritanical nutjob out there deciding “what’s best for me” and everyone else out there based on superstition and FUD.
Granted also that today is just the perfect occasion for yet another military-inspired acronym: SNAFU.
What we, the members of the so-called “free world” need most is both to dissent and to take the right to do so (and the content of most dissent by mostly sane people) seriously. This is how one fights off authoritarian and absolutist movements and regimes. Our own history [in the USA] is a testament to that fact.
Oh, and if all of this just seems all too much like the plotline of 1984 you perhaps need to make note of the fact that Orwell read many of the same things which inspired Göebbels. Said literature’s content is also a part of modern-day PR and Journalism programs. Take everything with a grain of salt, and remember that all real criminals (those whom act with a blatant disreguard for others) are just criminals unless we imagine otherwise.

seamus August 10, 2006 3:19 PM

Dammit, first TSA took away my nail clippers, so I had to threaten pilots with the sharp wood sticks I kept in my sleeves.

Then they made me cancel my shoe-bombing plans, so I had to start taping my explosives to my shin.

Then they made me leave my lighters on the ground — good thing they only look for them when I bring cigarettes.

Now they’re going to make me check my bottle of liquid explosives. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but I guess I’ll get some and tape a Ziploc of it to my belly.

Can’t wait for my virgins in heaven!

NASA buff August 10, 2006 3:35 PM

The fuel NASA used on the service module engine in the Apollo program was hypergolic. Two liquids come together and spontaneously ignite, so a compound explosive isn’t out of the realm of possiblity. Granted the specific ingrediants aren’t nice (rather caustic actually), so a taste test is an effective security measure against those. And no, I’m not talking about Mentos and Diet Coke (although they would a low-impulse fuel – per Mythbusters last night).

I still wonder why the TSA hasn’t banned the big hammer the flight attendants use to bust up the ice.

Bryan W August 10, 2006 3:41 PM

“There are several exceptions to the new rule. Baby formula, breast milk, or juice for small children, prescription medications where the name matched the name of a ticked passenger, …”

I guess it works both ways, ticked or ticketed 🙂

Cleveland August 10, 2006 3:45 PM


You’re damned right I’m worried about my wife, what man wouldn’t be. To be ‘annoyed’ would be doing my wife a great injustice and would not show her how I really feel. I haven’t changed the way that I go about my day, I’m not tucked into a corner of my closet shuddering with fear. I’m concerned, and rightfully so. These are very real threats and shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you want to roam about ‘free’ and not worry about any government telling you what to do, where would you go? Find a system that’s perfect and let everyone know about it. It’s not perfect but it’s the best system out there. Oh, yeah, the grass is ALWAYS greener. Let’s get real, the government and the bureaucrats aren’t sitting back going ‘lets do this to them, then they’ll really hate us’. If your so self centered that you don’t care about the well being of other human beings and you believe that the government is telling you what to do, then aren’t YOU the one we should fear?!?

swiss connection August 10, 2006 3:47 PM

The flight attendants will be very happy. At long last there won’t be any haggling with passengers over too much hand luggage.

Who need books, newspapers, etc., I for would even fly naked if airline operators provided crews like this one:

kathryn from sunnyvale August 10, 2006 4:08 PM

“…Baby formula, breast milk, or juice for small children, prescription medications where the name matched…”

And what are nursing mothers supposed to drink to make up for the water lost in nursing? Airplane tap water- found to often have bacteria? The cups (they are banning giving cans to pax) of juice, when the juice’ll run out after the first hour?

OK, ban people from bringing their own drinks. But also preventing the airlines from bringing on extra clean water? There is no safety benefit, none at all, to that. There is a severe risk to passengers: being stuck on the tarmac for an extra hour or two, without A/C, happens every day.

And this idea that essential medicines are prescription medicines? From CNN:
“Bill Poland, 61, of Ross was headed to Lake George, New York, with his wife and son. He held up a tube of lip balm and shouted to a security officer who told him he couldn’t bring it on the plane with him. He said he recently had a cancerous growth removed from his lip and the anti-bacterial ointment was necessary treatment.

“In an hour or two my lips are going to start burning and turning purple. And I’ve got five to six hours on a plane without this,” he said. “This is not something I’m looking forward to.” ‘

cfh August 10, 2006 4:12 PM

I just hope that these restrictions are temporary.

I always travel with a laptop, and placing it in checked baggage is not an option. It will either not arrive or arrive broken.

Why is it that exactly the things savvy travelers have been doing for years (placing valuables or delicate items in carry-on baggage, bringing their own food and water, bringing reading material) are exactly the things that are being prohibited today? It is senseless to deny us these reasonable precautions.

In particular combine the new UK rules with the US policy of not locking your checked baggage so that TSA can search it. There was a reason the airlines advised us for years to lock our bags. Now that they ask us to do the opposite, has the original reason changed at all? Of course not. Knowledgeable travelers never place valuables or delicate items in checked bags.

So we are now officially required to act stupidly. Per the new UK rules, we must place valuable items such as laptops, cellphones, and iPods in checked bags, and those checked bags (at least by US rules) must be unlocked.

Brian August 10, 2006 4:12 PM


For the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is easier to create a mass-casualty event on an airplane than in a mall or a subway, because airplanes fail catastrophically.

Also for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the new security measures on planes will prevent terrorists from attacking airplanes.

It seems pretty obvious (to me, anyway), that terrorists will go for the smaller mass-casualty event, on the subway, for example.

So instead of killing 300 people, they kill 50.

Massive TSA security measures that will do serious harm to businesses and the airline industry have saved the lives of a grand total of 250 people.

Was it worth it?

Maybe I’m cold-hearted, but I don’t think so. And for what it’s worth, I ride the subway way more often than I fly.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale August 10, 2006 4:28 PM


In the shock of the first hours of hearing about this horrible plot, every decision made by the authorities will feel right.

But when there are real risks- real dangerous effects- from a decision made, we have the right to ask officials to prove that they are calmly reviewing their initial fear-filled decisions. They have the responsibility to prove they are aware of the separate impacts and different relative risks that one lump rule will have. i.e.

Banning passengers from bringing liquids? They’ve shown why this ban is needed. Also banning airlines from bringing on additional safe drinking water? This is dangerous. Dehydration is a real risk, especially to the frail or ill. Or people with kidney stones- constant hydration can be a medical necessity.

Sure, making one overarching decision is easy- we should give them that in the first 12 hours. But it’s been more than 12 hours. Far, far more than 12 hours at the highest levels of the TSA. Clean safe drinking water is a necessity, yet they didn’t seem to know this in their contingency plans.

Plans that miss out on critical infrastructure (‘water’) aren’t safe, and I and everyone else here has the duty to call them out on it.

Matt Palmer August 10, 2006 4:29 PM


so to take a somewhat tenuous biological security analogy, terrorists are to society as allergens are to your body. They don’t kill you directly, but the vast overreaction by your immune system does.

Mike August 10, 2006 4:29 PM

To all those saying “the terrorists haven’t won, if you don’t like this just drive!” Don’t you see that this very statement indicates the terrorists are winning? Their whole goal is to change our policies and the way we live. If we implement ridiculous security procedures which keep people from flying, we have drastically changed our lifestyle due to the “terrorist threat.” That’s the very definition of them “winning.”

What, do you think their sole goal was to kill people? That is clearly not the case. For all the press statements about how horrible this event would have been, blowing up 10 planes would kill about 3000 people. Sure that’s a lot of people, but there are hundreds of ways to kill more people with far less effort. They aren’t just trying to kill people. They are trying to make us so afraid that we change our policies around them. And it is working.

Are these measures reasonable in the short term to catch anyone who may have slipped through this investigation? Quite possibly. Are they reasonable for more than a few days? No.

Grahame August 10, 2006 4:32 PM

No one here has commented on the fact that (some) authorities knew about this for weeks, but it was only after the suspects were arrested that it was deemed to be worth doing anything about, and then most urgently. Sounds like some officials didn’t know what was going on and have overreacted

Michael Ash August 10, 2006 4:32 PM


Does your wife drive? If so, have you sent her to advanced driving courses? I’m guessing not. Sending her to one of those courses, or simply prohibiting her from driving, will have a vastly greater effect on her risk of premature death than anything the TSA has ever done.

In fact, installing a sticky mat in your shower is going to be much more of a life saver if you haven’t already done so.

Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your house?

Do you avoid red meat and oily foods?

All of these things will have a much greater impact on her life expectancy. Until and unless you have done every single thing in your personal life that will have a greater impact on personal safety than TSA security measures, I don’t want you advocating things that destroy my ability to fly usefully.

polypenguin August 10, 2006 4:34 PM

It should be clear that the threat faced of a coordinated attack on a congested airport, is even greater, than that faced by targeting airplanes with explosives. Think back to a 9/11 style attack, I am hesitant to speculate on the devastation possible by flying aircrafts into congested airports.

piglet August 10, 2006 4:46 PM

Does anybody have a good grasp of how realistic this plot really is? It is maybe true that an explosion can be provoked by mixing several “innocent” liquids but how much liquid would you need in order to provoke an explosion big enough? Several litres? Wouldn’t this be suspicious enough?

Jilara August 10, 2006 4:52 PM

Don’t forget that dental floss that could be used as a fuse…

I have this mental picture of explosions coming from checked luggage in the cargo hold. What’s exploding? Oh, all those carbonated drinks everyone put into their checked bags when told they couldn’t carry them on. Remember, when soda is outlawed, only outlaws will have sodas…

therunningman August 10, 2006 4:53 PM

One possibility is that the UK police are being fed misinformation to compel them to take action against people who turn out to be blameless – as in Forest Gate (barring the incidental child porn discovery).

I suspect that if there was bomb-making equipment at the raided addresses we would already have heard about it. How long did it take before we heard there was a ricin factory after the raid in Manchester? I seem to remember we heard the same day.

If you can pesuade people to blow themselves up, surely you can persuade people to allow themselves to be wrongfully implicated. Discrediting the police would put them at a big advantage later on.

Or am I thinking too much?

therunningman August 10, 2006 4:56 PM


There was a demo on the BBC news just now of a film-pot (I guess 50ml) of liquid explosive making a pretty big bang and blowing quite a large hole through some steel plate.

Pedant August 10, 2006 5:01 PM

If one must use the word wreak (which goes together with havoc like protons and neutrons) one could recall that its past tense is wrought.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale August 10, 2006 5:03 PM

Mike – ” only after the suspects were arrested that it was deemed to be worth doing anything about, and then most urgently…”

That’s exactly what I was saying, ahead of you by several minutes. While the press, public and ordinary TSA may have only know about this for 12 hours, at the highest levels of the TSA they’ve known about this since the investigation started.

Any worthwhile security plan will at the minimum account for necessities- air, water, medicine, food- in some reasonable order of importance. Reasonable includes how there is no clear line between ‘medicine’ and water. Reasonable includes knowing that even short flights can start with sit-on-the-tarmac with no A/C for an hour.

Where’s the announcement saying “We knew that water would be banned- of course we couldn’t act ahead of time because that could warn the bad guys. But we certainly planned to replace water sources, and that’s ongoing”? No, instead all they’re saying is “we’re watching the situation and will change the rules when we can.”

They forgot to plan for water. That’s scary.

Jilara August 10, 2006 5:11 PM

I just came up with a new movie plot. It goes like this:

Some secret terrorist lab comes up with something like a powder or a pill that turns into an explosive on application of…okay, we’ll save this for a moment. Mustn’t get ahead of the movie plot.

They put this compound into capsules (powder) or just into a pill bottle (pills), with a fake prescription label. Joe Terrorist gets on the plane with his meds. Then, at some point in the flight, he goes to the latrine to take his medicine, puts it into the sink/toilet, pisses on it, and the plane goes BOOM!

Think it might work? Think someone would buy it for a summer thriller movie?

Bazza August 10, 2006 5:13 PM

These conversations seem to be between those people that believe the security measures that have been put in place are for the greater good and protection of the general public and those people that believe it is just politicians using this ‘event’ as an excuse to control everyone’s lives.

I ask you this, if you don’t want politicians controlling your life, would you rather a terrorists took it away?

If a delay means that not only myself but my fellow human beings can travel in even a slightly safer environment then I would suggest we remember how beautiful and precious life is.

Matt Palmer August 10, 2006 5:17 PM


you seem to think it’s odd that the public security measures weren’t put into place until after the arrests were made. Wouldn’t it tip their hand to do it before arresting them?

Anonymous August 10, 2006 5:20 PM

The problem is, these “security measures” do nothing to establish a “slightly safer environment.”

Chase Venters August 10, 2006 5:24 PM


I don’t that it is fair to classify the majority on one side of the argument as saying that the government is acting maliciously out of manipulation (though some of us always might wonder about that…)

“Think of the terrorists” is about as tired of a rhetoric as “think of the children”. Come on — it’s 2006! Wake up! If we applied the same level of “danger preparedness” to all of our infrastructure that we do to airline travel, we’d all be hiding at home, in clean room bomb shelters with government cameras pointing right at us to make sure we’re not being bad.

What frustrates me personally so much is that I’ve watched my freedoms and the freedoms of my fellow citizens drain away as the masses continue to buy into the rhetoric.

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Benny August 10, 2006 5:26 PM

@ Bazza:

I, for one, don’t think the politicians are doing this primarily for control. My personal take is that they did this to justify their existence. “Look, we’re protecting you from liquid explosives, aren’t we doing a fine job?” As many commenters have pointed out, 1) these new rules have some very dire consequences, not just minor inconveniences; 2) the exceptions to the rules make them easy to bypass. So I’m highly dubious as to whether these measures really make us safer. It’s not a question of choosing between death versus putting up with these rules, it’s whether we should have to put up with these rules for the sake of politicians’ job security.

Matt Palmer August 10, 2006 5:27 PM


“I ask you this, if you don’t want politicians controlling your life, would you rather a terrorists took it away?”

That’s a false dichtomy. I don’t want a terrorist taking my life away, and neither do I want an authoritarian government controlling it.

If you’re asking whether I’d like to be safer, well, yes. We could ban cars for a start. The truth is, I don’t know whether this particular threat was real or not, and so I reserve judgement, but I am cynical after the recent actions of the US and UK governments.

imarsman August 10, 2006 5:27 PM

“Yet another opportunity for a movie-plot: Evil terrorist drinks a large bottle of liquid explosive, then detonates himself by swallowing a small pill hidden inside his watch (or chewing on a detonator hidden in a false tooth…).”

That actually was pretty much in a movie starring Pierce Brosnan about ten years ago. The explosive looked and tasted like water but would explode its victim a while after ingestion.

Pat Cahalan August 10, 2006 5:37 PM

If you have credible evidence of a terrorist plot using method “A”, with N suspects, and you crash the plot and round up N-M suspects, it is not unreasonable to temporarily make method “A” more difficult to execute. You want to discourage the possibility of the remaining M terrorists from successfully executing the attack.

Yes, there are other targets of opportunity, but your goal is to disrupt existing plans, making the remaining “free” terrorists adapt their mission or abandon it entirely. Adapted plans often fail gracelessly, which increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to capture them before they do anything significantly damaging.

However, if this plot is centered in the U.K., it is unreasonable to attempt to block method “A” on a domestic flight in the U.S. from Hoboken to Long Beach, or any other flight that is logistically impossible for the M candidates to access.

In other words, this is a massively overblown response. The motivation is understandable, but the arena of application is absurd.

Data Plumber August 10, 2006 5:38 PM

Seemingly simple solution:

All liquids checked, all electronics carried. It doesn’t matter what your gadgets can communicate with if there’s nothing dangerous to communicate to. (Or, allow no checked bags that have both electronics and liquids, alongside the ban on carried-on liquids.)

Seems better than “nothing carried on”, and a nice balance between a real security benefit and traveller inconvenience.

For those extreme thinkers that think that /every/ proposed security measure is necessary and reasonable: no reasonable person suggests the freeway speed limit be 30mph/50kmh, even though crashes at that speed are much more survivable. Why? It’d be horribly inconvenient to travel that slowly, so the cost of that added personal security doesn’t balance with the inconvenience of doubling travel time.

I wonder how many people that tolerate zero risk of flying, speed to the airport?

Anonymous August 10, 2006 5:41 PM


“…those people that believe the security measures that have been put in place are for the greater good…”

No, I believe quite strongly that the measures are intended for the greater good. But we- all people- must insist on measurements and evidence that they provide for the greater good.

Consider your own decisions made in the heat of emotion- don’t you require yourself to rethink them once calm?

If the government’s plans were made emotionally- and that they forgot to plan for water suggests a very hasty plan- then we have extra reasons to be wary.

And the more dangerous a potential attack, the more likely it is that emotions cloud decisions. And, unfortunately, the more likely it is that decisions will feel extra-right, because it’s for an extra-good cause.

JMM August 10, 2006 5:46 PM

I’m with Bruce on this one. The restrictions he posted about are reasonable short term restrictions. For about 24 hours, perhaps, and not including not allowing planes to stock up on water.
There is a singificant risk that they didn’t manage to get everybody involved, and that the remaining people, quite possibly lacking command and control, will decide to implement their parts of the plan ASAP. The reason for not implementing them earlier is that you don’t want to alert these guys that you know you’re into them before you have the evidence you need to charge them.
That last sentence is what makes me say they’re doing things right. They’re doing what you do to get rid of bad guys in a civilized society: convince a court of law that they are criminals, not convince the press that they are terrorists and that we need to let them win^W^W^Wgive up our liberties.

Michael Ash August 10, 2006 5:52 PM

“I ask you this, if you don’t want politicians controlling your life, would you rather a terrorists took it away?”

Let me rephrase the question slightly without changing any of the meaning:

I ask you this, do you prefer living in chains to dying free?

I know what MY answer is. What’s yours?

dhasenan August 10, 2006 6:34 PM

Bazza, you’re greatly exaggerating the threat and assuming that these measures will eliminate it. Since terrorism is rare to begin with, it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of the measures against it.

As aforementioned, this is a reasonable short-term measure if and only if the police have reason to believe there are more conspirators than they caught. Since they were monitoring them for some time, they should know; and if they hadn’t, they would likely have released descriptions and photographs of those remaining. Since they haven’t, I believe they caught everyone they know about but are deathly afraid of giving the all-clear in case they’re wrong.

That is the largest problem with these regulations–individuals have to take responsibility for deregulating, and for any deaths that occur as a result.

Cleveland, you said that you are afraid to let your wife walk on city streets alone. Have you hired a bodyguard for her? Why do you let her leave the house alone in the first place? Why do you let her out of the house at all? You can secure a house by yourself, but not a city block, after all.

Valec August 10, 2006 6:40 PM

Heh, give me a bottle of ‘medicine’ and a hearing aid and I’ll still be able to make a bomb of sorts. I’m also sure I could do someone soem serious damage with a couple of keys or a pair of glasses.

How rediculous.

Kathryn from sunnyvale August 10, 2006 6:42 PM


They are reasonable short-term restrictions iff we have evidence they reasoned them out ahead of time.

For safety’s sake, we have the responsibility to know that they did, in fact, reason these out ahead of time.

At some time after midnight, the government should have sent a notice to all airlines stating the obvious in minimal planning:

“Due to the emergency rules, your ordinary supply of beverages can be inadequate for health and comfort. If as expected you are unable to increase your supply, we require that you ration beverages today. We require that flight attendants survey the cabin to find people with special needs, including nursing mothers, the elderly, the frail, or people with illnesses. We require that beverages be supplied and served in order of need, not in order of cabin class.”

I hope that over the next day we’ll hear about exactly such a message. I worry that instead they had a half-hour meeting, where water was only mentioned in passing:
“Today people won’t have enough water- they’ll be thirsty, no big deal. Moving on…”

How could they forget about a clean water supply? What kind of safety management let them forget about water?

Michael Ash August 10, 2006 7:12 PM

“What kind of safety management let them forget about water?”

This, I think, is the key question. TSA does not provide safety management. They provide security. This means countering external threats. Internal safety problems are completely beyond anything they care about.

kathryn from sunnyvale August 10, 2006 7:36 PM

@Michael Ash,

I understand, but even within the domain of security ‘effects on health’ cannot be a non-issue. People get an extra carry-on for health equipment and supplies, even though that makes the TSA’s work more difficult.

@nonymou5 August 10, 2006 8:00 PM

@Pat Cahalan

In other words, this is a massively overblown response.

And we will keep on having massively overblown responses as long as politicans fear lawyers and the election media spin more than they fear the terrorists.

Hasan August 10, 2006 8:12 PM

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Do remember that Mr Bush says that Mr bin Laden attacked us because he “hates our freedom”. Ok, sir, we’ve established this is the case. If we are indeed involved in a life-or-death struggle against tyranny, why are we restricting our freedoms?
To the gentleman who says that “we’re in a war”, I grew up in a time period when the IRA would bomb mainland Britain on a near-daily basis. Parliament never passed anything near the anti-terrorism legislation that was passed after 7/7. So, Britain’s been at “war” my whole life, and please tell me what it is about al-Qaeda that warrants such severe anti-terrorism legislation and the IRA didn’t even warrant an examination of this?

DC August 10, 2006 8:19 PM

Assuming the threat was real and not overblown by the media, the response I have observed begs the question: Is it really wise to have passengers throw out potentially explosive materials into regular garbage cans inside crowded airports, as was constantly shown on the news?

directorblue August 10, 2006 8:25 PM

Looks like a binary attack using multiple containers of fluid. ABC is reporting:

“…The suspected terror plotters arrested in Britain had planned to conceal their liquid or gel explosives inside a modified sports beverage drink container and trigger the device with the flash from a disposable camera.

ABC News has learned exclusively that the plotters planned to leave the top of the bottle sealed and filled with the original beverage but add a false bottom, filled with a liquid or gel explosive. The terrorists planned to dye the explosive mixture red to match the sports drink sealed in the top half of the container.

This, they thought, would ensure that they would be able to pass through security — even if they were asked to unseal and drink the beverage.

The flash in a disposable camera has enough electrical power, they apparently believed, to set off the homemade explosive.

There are any number of homemade or modified commercial liquids that would have made effective explosives, with enough energy to damage or destroy a plane…”

Roland August 10, 2006 9:26 PM


You’re absolutely right. The terrorists aren’t following nor care about this forum or thread. But – if I’m not mistaken, there are more than enough Chamberlain’s and Lamont’s to make up for their absence.

Ronald Pottol August 10, 2006 10:58 PM

I used to have a book writen by the head of the scientific division of the OSS (WWII percursor to the CIA), it which he said they had an explosive that not merely looked like flour, you could bake with it, and it would still explode.

Granny C. A. Vitty August 10, 2006 11:23 PM

The threat about explosive liquids is as real as the idea that because
“grannies empty their shampoo bottles before boarding, the skies
will be safe” is ridiculous!

Obviously a group of terrorists looking to commit suicide will not hesitate
in hiding explosive liquids, or solids, in body cavities “where the sun
don´t shine”, and X-rays and neutron beams don´t either.

Since the U.S. does not engage in profiling, then all passengers will
either have to submit to cavity searches or accept being X-rayed or
bombarded by neutrons every time they board an aircraft.

This of course is ridiculous.

This argument should thus serve to end the pretense that the skies
can be made safe by searching, because in practice they can´t.

kwood August 10, 2006 11:36 PM


Do remember that Mr Bush says that Mr bin Laden attacked us because he “hates our freedom”.

President Bush is one of the few leaders that’s taken terrorism seriously.

Ok, sir, we’ve established this is the case. If we are > indeed involved in a life-or-death struggle against > tyranny, why are we restricting our freedoms?

It’s the terrorist that disrupt our daily lives and strip away our freedoms. There’s no balance to be struck between freedom and security as long as terrorism exists. That’s why it’s necessary to stop them now.

I appluad the efforts of the Scotland Yard, but fear this was just a test run before the real attack. Anyone familiar with the date, August 21st?

gollux August 11, 2006 12:08 AM

So, get a load of all the pictures in the news of people in airport terminals dumping all these possibly potentially explosive chemicals into garbage cans and tubs. Umm, if that stuff was supposed to go off when mixed on the plane, what prevents some of it getting mixed and going off on the ground.

TSA and the British equivalent are chemical dummkopfs and should not be allowed near any crowds, unless it’s all a massive experiment in herd psychology and they aren’t really concerned about explosions, but merely getting people to do weird things for inexplicable reasons.

ambrose August 11, 2006 12:47 AM



I’m very surprised that you can’t spell this common word.

David Cowan August 11, 2006 1:21 AM

This morning I flew out to Phoenix for a meeting just a couple of hours after Britain foiled the terrorist plot to destroy several airliners with liquid explosives, and the TSA implemented its new ban on bringing liquids on board US flights.
Now I’m back in Phoenix Airport awaiting my flight home, with time to worry about terrorists. While I wouldn’t expect Al Qaeda cells to attack on a day when security is at level Red, I am not generally comforted by the TSA’s implementation…
— The passenger in front of me was allowed to board with a bottle of alleged cough syrup on board because she had a prescription with her.
— I was joined in Phoenix by my colleague Brian who was allowed to bring his contact lens fluid on board because he “REALLY needed it.”
— a passenger on Brian’s flight smuggled liquid onto the plane in his pocket, undetected by the metal detectors and out of sight of the X-ray.
I hope the terrorists never think of putting explosives in their prescription bottles, or pocketing the bombs, or insisting that they REALLY need their bombs. (I might feel a little better if passengers had to somehow ingest their fluid before allowing it on board, but only if the explosive liquid was sure to kill them before they were airborne.)

Swiss connection August 11, 2006 1:30 AM

I don’t suppose anyone has covered this angle:

Advertising accross international news networks about how easy it is to make a liquid bob, poses a far greater risk thank doing nothing at all.

Anonymous August 11, 2006 1:33 AM

Odds of dying in an automobile accident, per year? About 1 in 7,393

Odds of getting all 6 powerball numbers? 1 in 146,107,962

Odds of dying as a result of a terrorist attack: 0. That’s right: ZERO. It is not a repeatable event.

Christian Kaiser August 11, 2006 1:36 AM

Hmmm, the only thing that comes to my mind is that the timing is sooooo ideal it makes me itch.

Distracts perfectly from the Lebanon subject.

Am I the only one to think that?


Longwalker August 11, 2006 1:41 AM

None of the “security measures” taken so far make any sense from a security perspective precisely because they’re not driven by security objectives. The only objective behind this entire charade–for all parties involved–is to keep Americans scared in preparation for the congressional elections. While AQ and the DHS certainly aren’t conspiring, both groups want to see congress stay GOP after November and they’re both doing their parts to raise their chances. For AQ, this means staging an event. For the DHS, this means grossly overreacting to an event specifically to spread panic.

The only way to keep this kind of overreaction from happening again, again and again is to depoliticise the entire security aparatus, includnig the DHS. It should be staffed by security professionals, not armies of politically appointed whackjobs whose loyalties lie with party first and country never.

moz August 11, 2006 1:47 AM

I agree that Bush is one of the few leaders taking seriously, and that it’s the terrorists taking away your freedoms. But then, I regard Bush as one of the terrorists (based purely on his actions as a US leader), and the US as the single most dangerous rogue state. Again, purely on an empirical basis. Key sign: the US refuses to allow international treaties aimed at stopping terrorism or punishing terrorists to apply to its citizens. Hmm. I wonder why?

distiller August 11, 2006 2:12 AM

I wonder if your baggage allowance is increased to compensate for no cabin bagagge.

The cynic in my thinks that the airlines love these restrictions so that they don’t have to carry as much fuel.

Andrew August 11, 2006 2:39 AM

I can’t wait to fly two weeks from now on business. No bottled water on the flight? No shampoo or toothpaste? I suppose I will have to bring my empty water bottle, hydrate just prior to boarding, survive the flight, and then re-hydrate on arrival. Not to mention enriching the hotel gift shop.

I suppose it’s a small price to pay for not being searched, harassed, yelled at by invulnerable government morons (against whom I have no legal or courts recourse) . . . and last but not least, still not protected against the most likely threat, because airlines are too cheap to armor the g–d-mn cockpit doors!?!!?!

Wait . . .

KMB August 11, 2006 2:44 AM

In the fight of security against terrorists so far terrorists win.
Sure, a lot of their plots are foiled, made public and de-sensitive the population with cry-wolf games (aka threat levels).

What is different with this one, is that apart from loss of life (which is the worst outcome and to be avoided) the terrorists have nearly succeeded with their agenda to spread FUD. Ok, they haven’t succeeded with terror (as in there was loss of life) but it made nearly every air travel passenger a [potential] terrorist.

I fully expect that these “temporary” travel restrictions are made permenant or resurrected during high-volume times (as in Christmas). Which in itself is stupid as it doesn’t increase security. All it does is spreading the terrorist’s agenda to disrupt life and spread FUD.

iparkins August 11, 2006 3:51 AM

A friend flew yesterday morning (London to Ireland) and was forced to put her handbag in the hold. The trip was safe though she did have all the money stolen from her bad. Which begs the question if the baggage handlers can steal things from bags then what is to stop them putting explosives in the plane….

MarkW August 11, 2006 4:12 AM

When travelling to JTF Guantanamo Bay, all “visitors” are stripped, drugged, forced to wear nappies, blindfolded, shackled and chained to their seats. That’s pretty secure.

Regarding the plot, one of those arrested is believed to work in Heathrow, with direct access to aircraft. Cleaners and catering staff also have access and very little vetting.
It would seem that there are much easier ways to defeat security…

Jimc August 11, 2006 5:34 AM

I don’t believe any of it. I think it’s a manufactured story to bolster Tony Blair’s failing poll numbers. Oh, I agree that somebody thought there was an issue of some sort. After all, when you create a massive security apparatus, it will focus massive force on everything that comes to its attention. That’s how people get shot to death on railway stations, and innocent citizens get shot in the middle of the night by invasions of counter-terrorist police. In both cases the information was wrong, and I’ll bet that was true here as well. But the apparatus has a positional interest in responding this way, and the government – which is essentially a proxy for the Bush administration, to the degree that Dick Cheney can fire the Foreign Secretary (see,,1052-2301799,00.html) – has a positional interest in magnifying trivial threats to dampen the political hostility that Blair is facing. Nothing unites people like fear, and Bush and Blair are past-masters at serving it in large quantities. (Another US president once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, but it seems that’s no longer part of our way of thinking.)

gabuzo August 11, 2006 5:38 AM


“if the baggage handlers can steal things from bags then what is to stop them putting explosives in the plane”

Probably nothing in theory but in pratice baggage handlers and passengers are both human, not terrorists and even if some baggage handlers are thieves they still know the difference between stealing (even expensive items) and killing dozens of people.

Trevor August 11, 2006 5:51 AM

When I get back from Iraq, I’ll be informing my civilian employer that I will no longer fly commercial. We have a private fleet of planes or the other option will be rental car.

Ted August 11, 2006 5:54 AM

Quote of the day (pehaps from one of Bruce’s secret identities):

“Standing there looking to make sure no one has a tube of toothpaste is patently ridiculous, because now we’re looking for objects again — we’re not looking for threats” said Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group, an aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Colorado.

Unfortunately it’s not from anyone in DHS/TSA, but it’s promising that a quote like that is starting to show up in mainstream media – leading off an article on CNN (

Zaphod August 11, 2006 7:01 AM

@Brian “…or them, one mass casualty event is as good as another.”

I think you’re dead wrong. Nothing seems to match the Jihadis’ desire to destroy commerical aircraft or, for that matter, for the general public to fear such events in a disproportionate manner.


bob August 11, 2006 7:37 AM

@gabuzo: So a would-be terrorist could not get a job as a baggage handler? Why not? Thats like saying someone who wanted to be a drug dealer could not get a job as a policeman.

bac August 11, 2006 7:58 AM

Terrorist do not take away your freedoms. Terrorist destroy things and kill people that is all. Only governments can take away your freedoms. How a government reacts to terrorist events determines how free the citizens of the government will be. As far as I know, here in the USA, there are no radical muslim extremist in congress making laws and rules on my behalf.

gabuzo August 11, 2006 8:09 AM


That’s not really my point. Of course a baggage handler can be a terrorist as well as a policeman can be a drug dealer. But getting a job as a baggage handler for a terrorist may be harder that it seems because I’m not aware of any terrorist act performed by a baggage handler.

Andrew August 11, 2006 8:10 AM

So, as the number of soft targets is reduced through ever more draconian policies, surely the security forces could become one of the most potent weapons in the terrorist’s arsenal. The aim of terrorists is just that: to create terror, to engender “a false sense of insecurity.??? And Western governments have proved to be very able in this respect, so why not let them take the strain? The barriers to success are considerably lower (I imagine) – one only has to prepare a plot sufficiently to convince the security forces that there is a credible and imminent threat, not actually carry it out.

So here’s a new competition to run: come up with a terrorist plot that causes maximum disruption to our daily lives through the actions of the security forces. The impact of the strike (if it were successful) need not be that dramatic or original; the objective is to force the introduction of new policies and procedures that cause the most inconvenience to the public.

The plot uncovered targeting Heathrow seems pretty good in this respect; the Richard Reid X-ray screening test is another example. Any measures introduced shouldn’t be so stringent that they impact on people’s lives too severely – this sort of policy is likely to be short-lived. Rather, they should gradually eat away at freedoms so that we are reminded (every day, and for years to come) of the terrorist cause.

SpellingNazi August 11, 2006 8:33 AM

Given how little we know of the extent of the plot, these don’t seem like rediculous short-term measures.

It’s spelled ridiculous. For the love of all that’s holy, the word is spelled “ridiculous”.

stubby August 11, 2006 8:45 AM

· For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents

of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger).. .

So suicide terrorists are going to be concerned about their health? How long can you live after one “taste” of an explosive liquid?

Anon August 11, 2006 8:58 AM

A link to a site that explains how several liquid household chemicals can be combined to make an explosive.

Note that it would be almost impossible to “taste test” these and not give a strong negative reaction.

Please note that this is a publicly available thesis from DHS, which also states:

“An informed public can have a powerful impact on defeating IEDs while an uninformed
public can actually empower the terrorist. The concern may be public apathy. First, the
possibility of a terrorist attack within the borders of the Homeland appears remote, and
the longer the period of time that passes since the last attack, the less threatening new
attacks appear. There appears to be a directly proportional relationship between the time
that has passed since the last attack and the public’s perception of the possibility of a new
attack. Secondly, this public perception is supported when federal agencies react to a
terrorist attack in another part of the world. Such was the case when suicide bombers in
London detonated explosives on three trains and a bus in July 2005. The United States
responded by increasing protective procedures on the rail system within the homeland as
though that was the most likely infrastructure to be attacked. However, no information
was provided to the public to indicate that terrorists were more likely to target the US rail
system following the London bombings than prior to the London bombings. Whatever
the purpose of the increased protective procedures, whether to dissuade terrorists from
attacking the rail system (urging terrorists to focus on other infrastructures) or to provide
a “feeling of safety??? for the traveling public to prevent an economic burden on the rail
system through decreased rider ship, it does little to help the public assess true terrorist

bob August 11, 2006 9:09 AM

@gabuzo: stipulated. However it would be dirt-simple for them to do so.

A couple of years ago (post 9/11) a relative of mine who IS a baggage handler took me behind the walls at the class C airport he works at. Just his badge got us all over the tarmac unsupervised, other than the usual security cameras. We went inside the cockpit, cabin and baggage compartment of a B-757 and CRJ. I could have stowed an Uzi, spare clips, hand grenades and instruction manuals for them under every seat in first class and put a 50# bomb [my personal limit for lifting bombs over my head, someone more fit – like a baggage handler – could have brought a bigger one] in the baggage compartment and no one but he would have known.

Suppose a “normal” (ie non-terrorist) baggage handler making $8/hr found a check for $5,000 on his door and a note attached saying “Call in sick today. Leave your badge under the flowerpot. It will be returned unharmed this evening with another check just like this one but with an extra zero at the end”. Think he’d do it?

Alan Porter August 11, 2006 9:17 AM

@ Geoff Lane

“When I was young we used to make fuel for rockets from newspaper, suger and another chemical. …”

I can just hear Bush saying:

SHHHHH! You’re giving the terrorists IDEAS. These are SECRET! Shhh! Shame on the media (Schneier’s blog, ISP’s, everyone else) for publishing SECRETS. Shhh!


NickF August 11, 2006 9:18 AM

“I don’t believe any of it. I think it’s a manufactured story to bolster Tony Blair’s failing poll numbers.”

Actually, I doubt it. Not that he’d have any compunction, about it. It’s just that it would be easier (and less risky) to find some half assed wannabes with a never-going-to-succeed plan and keep tabs on them. Then if have a minor political crisis, you can cash them in by uncovering the plot and staging a media circus.

He doesn’t even need to lie. The news reports even say they’ve been monitoring this lot for months, to make sure they got everyone, presumably. Which is why we’re staying super-mega-critical threat level, to make sure we didn’t miss anyone, apparently…

I know, I know. That’s not a falsifiable scenario, and hence not a particularly useful light in which to consider the situation. It’s just that Tony and his pals have cynically abused the notion of national security so many times now that I’m finding it difficult to muster much in the way of creedence. Which has security implications of its own, I suppose…

Satch August 11, 2006 9:19 AM

“They put this compound into capsules (powder) or just into a pill bottle (pills), with a fake prescription label. Joe Terrorist gets on the plane with his meds. Then, at some point in the flight, he goes to the latrine to take his medicine, puts it into the sink/toilet, pisses on it, and the plane goes BOOM! ”

And Joe, with his joint still in his hand, goes to paradise to meet the 72 virgins.
A good opening for a porn flick.

Brian August 11, 2006 9:22 AM


“Nothing seems to match the Jihadis’ desire to destroy commerical aircraft or, for that matter, for the general public to fear such events in a disproportionate manner.”

Nice theory, but it doesn’t match reality. The Washington Post has a well layed out summary of Al Qaeda linked attacks (successful and unsuccessful) since 1994.

Twenty plots total.
Only five involved planes.

Andrew August 11, 2006 9:23 AM


Suppose a “normal” (ie non-terrorist) baggage handler making $8/hr found a check for $5,000 on his door and a note attached saying “Call in sick today. Leave your badge under the flowerpot. It will be returned unharmed this evening with another check just like this one but with an extra zero at the end”. Think he’d do it?

No, but a crooked one would do it for $500 cash up front and $5000 after the fact.

The system wouldn’t work at all if the bulk of ordinary people weren’t honest. It’s the bad apples that are the problem, both the ones who steal from checked baggage and the ones who could be tempted into far worse.

If I were TSA, I’d go around and do this sort of thing about once a month at every major airport — and prosecute the daylights out of anyone who takes the bait.

Michael August 11, 2006 10:05 AM

I actually agree with the banning of fluids.

In terms of electronics, this should really be a short-term solution. I mean, if security personnel equipped with scanners are incapable of telling a modified iPod with explosives or a detonator or similar contraption in it, what good would checking it into the cargo hold instead of the cabin do?

Books and magazines, that’s just ridiculous – I fail to see how banning these would increase security in any conceivable way. This is a truly laughable knee-jerk reaction.

joey August 11, 2006 10:55 AM

A couple years ago the Wall Street Journal took samples of water from commercial flights to a lab, and found some very nasty bugs. Since reading that I’ve taken bottled water on every flight. Prohibiting people from taking on board bottled water bought inside the terminal is more likely to hurt people than save anyone.

Funny how this massive terrorist plot was discovered right after a prominent pro-war Senator was voted out.

Anonymous August 11, 2006 11:07 AM

Let passengers choose between “high-security” and “standard-security” flights.

If I had that choice, maybe I would fly again – on “standard-security” only, of course.

Alan August 11, 2006 11:33 AM

The part I find terrifying is that some threat is discovered the immediate response is “panic”. Someone tries a shoebomb, check everyone’s shoes. Someone tries something involving liquids, prohibit liquids. I am just waiting for their reaction if someone tries using a C4 suppository to blow up a plane. “Bend over America!”

Anonymous August 11, 2006 12:38 PM

On the radio earlier, a caller complained that, despite having the plot under surveillance, the security measures and threat levels were only upgraded after they arrested the key members.

My assessment is that this actually makes more sense than the other way around. Assuming the authorities were in a reasonable position to determine that the members of the plot were not ready to move forward, there was no reason to prematurely raise either threat level or security. Afterward, with the publicity, there is a threat not only of other conspirators they missed, but also of copycat crimes, against which they are presently defending.

The actual level of the risk and the actual effectiveness of the measures used are of course subject to debate, but I do think the timing is appropriate.

John R Campbell August 11, 2006 1:02 PM

@Mike S

“Well, we can see the rise of “classed” baggage handling. You can have standard baggage handling as today or for an additional fee you can have ‘first class’ handling with special attention to the safety of your bags…”

Let’s hear it for “bag neutrality”!!!

another_bruce August 11, 2006 1:24 PM

i would be willing to sacrifice your wife to enhance my civil liberties. that doesn’t make me any more selfish than you are.

bob August 11, 2006 2:28 PM

@joey: if it was a setup as you seem to be implying it would have been found a couple of days PRIOR to the election. Right after the election is the worst time to play your ace in the hole.

DBH August 11, 2006 2:35 PM

I spent the last two days flying in this mess. @Bruce, seems you missed the opportunity to look at the economic cost: lets assume (in the US) 5M flyers/day delayed on average 2 hours x $10/hr cost (average) and a conservative estimate says the new security measures cost $100M/day. Of course, that’s an externality to the officials who impose the rule…

Kevin McGrath August 11, 2006 3:28 PM

If you have to check everything that is valuable and be at the mercy of criminal baggage handlers, why would you ever fly again?

Is there a way to travel without taking any valuables along?

Is there any way to secure checked luggage so that it’s very difficult to steal things from your bags?

Will the government and/or the airlines compensate you for any losses you might incur?

Yeesh, what a mess! 🙁

bac August 11, 2006 10:16 PM

DBH, I was wondering in the same lines but more towards when the airline companies will ask for a government bail-out because they lost money during these fearful times. Airlines will loose more customers as the annoyance level increases. Transalantic might be the only flights making some money. The rental car business might have a profitable period though.

Brent Dax August 12, 2006 1:30 AM

I am just waiting for their reaction if
someone tries using a C4 suppository to
blow up a plane. “Bend over America!”

On the other hand, I’m rather looking forward to the Bra Bomber’s attack.

Duncan August 12, 2006 11:04 AM

As someone living in England, and having seen how the Government of this country has handled things before, I am in two minds – one is sceptical, one believes – and the sceptical one is winning.

There has been massive press coverage of the event. There have been politicians stating they’ve protected the citizens of the country. There are police stating the same. Where’s the proof? How do we know it wasn’t a psyop, designed to cause economic damage through immediate and long-term fear and actions? Consider that one airport essentially shut down, numerous people were unable to travel, the Government has reacted drastically and that other countries have reacted in a similar matter.

Sure, they say 20-odd people were arrested. Personally, if I was trying to cause this level of chaos, it’s the exact method I’d choose – get some impressionable / hotheaded people involved, and gently leak information to the Intelligence services to give them reason to look into it. The culmination is havoc, and I haven’t had to do a damn thing other than spread rumours.

Kerub August 12, 2006 11:41 AM

the day they will choose more than one country where leaving from (and not the best organized one, for example), we’re doomed.

David August 12, 2006 1:53 PM

The plot was foiled and it was done without increasing airport security, yet the “solution” is to increase airport security.

People are the real threat to security, so they should ban people on planes!

The more locked down a country becomes, the more government treats its citizens as untrustworthy rats, the more that rats will behave badly. Isn’t the cry that those awful Middle East regimes have failed their people because of a lack of democracy and freedom? The more we are treated as criminals, the more people will become criminals. That’s how the terrorists were formed by their own miserable countries.

Athena August 12, 2006 3:54 PM

Even though the recent terror plot was foiled, all innocent people are being treated as suspects. The UK parliament and US government are being reactive instead of proactive. If terrorists choose to combust their own clothes on a plane, then at this rate of reaction, we will all have to travel naked. “Those who give up their civil liberties in the name of security deserve neither” (I believe this came from Benjamin Franklin).

sri August 12, 2006 10:41 PM

I appreciate all the security step up to prevent attacks but my concerns about expensive equipment in check-in. I wouldn’t be to happy for my laptop/cameras that are expensive to be damaged during checkin handling. Airlines aren’t very careful with checkin luggage.

foobar August 13, 2006 12:26 AM

while speculating whether this was a real plot or whether policitcally designed to divert attention for more disturbing issues such as israel-lebanon or the thankless population in england that dont understand the goodness of a mandatory national id card that has to be carried at all time

i find it interesting that :
1, people were arrested (rag head immigrants so why would real people care?) in their homes.
2, these people were planning to in some unknown future to start mix up liquid explosives. lets say nitroglycerin.
3, said people supposedly would build a bomb factory in their home/appartment where said items would be prepared, in a resedential area.
4, when taking action, airports were closed down. however, evacuation of big appartment buildings/blocks of these bomb building factories were located were not deemed nessecary.

Lets face it. evacuating block by block of appartment buildings before trying to secure an appartment complex preferably in the middle of the nigt makes excellent tv. this is the stuff that news editors at all tv stations dream wet dreams about.

so, it makes no sense at all to me. if there was a real plausible reason to think that they had explosives in their home appartment why no evacuations of the area while their appartment was secured?

this smells wrong.

at least for myself and my family, if there is strong suspicion that appartment 10A in my building were to contain a bomb factory, i would prefer that me and my family were to be evacuated from the building. before airports were to be shut down.

unless there were no explosives to start with and it is all for show.

SJ August 13, 2006 12:32 AM

Perhaps the simplest solution to end Islamic and Middle-eastern-based terrorism aimed at the USA, would be for the USA to stop sticking their great arrogant noses into the affairs of other countries; occupying them, killing their leaders, imposing sanctions, torturing, raping and imprisoning their citizens, murdering civilians, and ravaging their land, in almost all cases against the express wishes of the United Nations and in the face of international opinion.

Prot August 13, 2006 6:01 AM

I didn’t have the time to go through all the comments, but I was surprised not to see the following remark in the ones I read.

Ok fine, so let’s do full cavity search and scan every molecule of all contents of luggages.

I’m sure that’s going to stop these people (allegedly) wanting to commit mass-murder. They are going to say: “Well, that’s it, I’m not angry about your foreign policies, demonization of our community and curtailing of everybody’s civil liberties anymore. If I can’t bomb a plane I might as well stay home and watch TV.”

Or wait a second. Maybe they are going to target busy places that do not have such paranoid levels of security. Or are we going towards a society where such places do not exist in the name of a threat which is claiming far fewer people than other more concrete problems that go almost unaddressed by our governments?

HumanBeing August 13, 2006 3:49 PM

Okay, here is the crux of the whole matter.

There is only one good response to this entire mess (and it still applies to ALL issues of liberty vs. security):


That was said by Benjamin Franklin.
For those who don’t get it, he was trying to say that if you let your rights be taken away out of fear, then eventually the security itself will become the very thing that oppresses you!

Someone also once said that real freedom is the freedom to do what is wrong as well as what is right. Unfortunately, some people will choose to abuse their freedom. Freedom has its costs.

Look, we need good laws and good government. We also need GOOD COMMON SENSE!

This is the bottom line: Do we want a world where absolutely everything we do is monitored so that we can feel safe? Or, do we want to live like human beings and just realize that life has risks.
Life is life—we can never be 100% safe. Part of the benefit of freedom is CONVENIENCE.

We can’t live in fear or the bad guys will win.

Arlene August 13, 2006 5:23 PM

If passengers are not allowed to carry a water bottle on a flight, I think the airlines should offer bottled water as you enter the plane, even if they have to charge for it. The thought of sitting on a plane with no water for an undetermined amount of time will keep me from flying!

HumanBeing August 13, 2006 7:06 PM

One more thing:

Because of all of the pilfering of checked baggage I’ve heard about there needs to be security watching the security!

I understand that U.S. Postal Service employees are subject to surveillance by inspectors at any time. Shouldn’t the same happen within the TSA?

I do not know current policy, but shouldn’t TSA policy include searches of personnel before and after work.

Shouldn’t TSA policy also immediately implement constant surrveilance of personnel.

Frog Legs August 13, 2006 11:31 PM

I want to say this whole thing scares me. Can you imagine going through life for the rest of your life flying with no water or food. I am a diabetic and dehydrate frequently just because of diabetes. If I can’t have water or food, I could die on the plane. This who thing is ludicrus because everyone in the whole world is being punished for this lame coward foiled terrist plot, or whatever. I think it could be handled differently. I don’t know how, but there are some smarter ideas for taking care of this problem. Doing without your valuables is dangerous. I read in the paper everyday about valuables being stolen from luggage handlers. What about everyone seeing your meds. I take a lot and it is going to be for everyone to view and when we land, someone knocking me in the head for my meds. Another thing, where are we going to get these clear bags that have handles. This is really hard on our freedom in America, speaking for myself.

Apokrif August 14, 2006 8:23 AM

“What the heck is someone likely to do with an eyeglass case anyway”

Hide a blade in it? Sharpen its edge to use it as a knife?

” there are an extremely large number of OTC medicines that people can and should be taking (often verbally recommended by their physicians) without a prescription”

Is it possible to get a prescription for an OTC drug?

“I have used small Ziplock sandwitch bags to hold drinking water before”

Well, it is unusual to see water in a ziplock bag, flight attendants (or the security at the airport) would find it suspicious.

” Next time your flying, strike up a conversation with the person next to you and make a new friend.”

Problem is, you won’t be able to write down his name: I hope you don’t seriously consider bringing on a plane such a dangerous object as a pen, which you can use to stab somebody or to hide liquid explosives in the cartridge.

“This, they thought, would ensure that they would be able to pass through security — even if they were asked to unseal and drink the beverage.”

So the rule which says that you can bring a liquid for you baby if you taste it, is all the more useless.

Btw, can you bring with you a very small book or pamphlet stored in your wallet?

Jungsonn August 14, 2006 11:17 AM

Oh i think you forgot 1 restriction:

No kerosine for the plane to fly.

i think the terrorist are on the winning part, if we give in.

Roger August 16, 2006 12:50 AM

“The Washington Post has a well layed out summary of Al Qaeda linked attacks (successful and unsuccessful) since 1994….Twenty plots total….Only five involved planes.”

Just thought I’d point out that this is a “chronology of some major attacks and plots” (my emphasis). It does not claim to be complete and I do not think that it is; for example, of attacks that apparently targetted Australians, this list includes the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing which killed 202 people (88 of them Australian), but not the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta (which killed several Indonesians but no Australians, as the embassy was heavily bomb-proofed), nor the 2005 Bali bombings, etc. (All three attacks are believed to have been organised by Jemaah Islamiyah, an Indonesian group with close ties to AQ including financial, training and planning assistance.) However, off the top of my head none of the “missing” attacks involved aircraft so this does not undermine your point.

It is interesting to note the break down, though:
* attacks on/in aircraft: 5
** countries: Philippines, France, US, UK
* suicide bombings on trains: 3
** countries: Spain, UK
* attacks on shipping with small speedboats filled with explosives: 2
** countries: Yemen
* bombings at synagogues: 3
** countries: Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco
* truck/car bombs at embassies or other Western government facilities in a non-Western country: 5
** countries: Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, Morocco
* truck, car or suicide bombs at hotels/clubs/residences associated with Westerner civilians in a non-Western country: 5
** countries: Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Morocco

The count is a little confused because the Washington Post counted the attacks on two US embassies in Africa as one, while I have called it two; and also because of the attack in Morocco targetted a consulate, a synagogue (probably: but it missed), a Jewish community centre, and several restaurants popular with European tourists. But we can see that there are distinct patterns here:
* All these attacks use just 5 basic tactics, namely bombs on aircraft assembled/activated in the passenger compartment during flight, suicide car/truck bombs, suicide speedboat bombs, hijacking aircraft to use as missiles and suicide knapsack bombs.
* AQ introduced these 5 tactics respectively in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2003 — although the 1996 suicide truck bombings and 2003 suicide knapsack bombings are obviously copied from techniques used since the 1980s by other terrorists, and all the rest are “twists” on much older terrorist techniques. Further there is considerable evidence that the plane-as-missile tactic had been discussed amongst terrorist groups since the early 1990s. In short AQ is only moderately innovative and has shown no innovations since 2000.
* Over more than a decade, 100% of attempted or completed attacks inside the territory of Western countries have been on aircraft or trains.
* They are no more innovative in target selection in non-Western countries. While these constitute a slightly broader range of targets, all of them are items that were on counter-terrorism warning lists as far back as the 1970s.
* Saudi Arabia (where all attacks have occurred in foreign compounds) and Yemen (where all attacks have occurred at sea) are the only target countries with Islamic law. All other non-Western target countries are either moderate Islamic countries with secular constitutions, or non-Islamic countries with significant Muslim minorities.

Vicki August 16, 2006 2:38 PM

What about computers? What about watches? What about hidden items in suitcases? Seems to be more dangerous things on planes than water or a diabetic pill!!
ANYWAY- who are these new terrorists? Where are these new terrorists? When are we going to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I have many doubts about the “invisibile” terrorists. I have more fear of what is hiding behind the invisible faces of many high profile politicians whose faces we see each day in the news. I will fly and take my chances!! As for less carry-on baggage – GOOD – I hated the person who carried a BIG bag and stuffed it above my seat and then i couldn’t get a small one in the over head bin!@!

Arthur August 17, 2006 5:24 AM

I guess I’m not the first person to say this, but all this fuss seems a bit silly when you consider that people can still smuggle forbidden liquids in body cavities. Alternatively, what’s to stop a terrorist from having the explosive surgically implanted inside him. Since he or she is going to die anyway, it would not even have to be a particularly skilled “surgeon.” In fact, he would probably be given special treatment as a “disabled” person. From silicon breasts to artificial hips, thousands of people have all sorts of things, from liquids and gels, to plastics and metals, surgically implanted in their bodies.

Jenny2139 August 17, 2006 4:44 PM

I guess the TSA expects everyone who easily dehydrated to get a perscription to “USP Purified Water.” USP Purified Water is ordinary drinking water, no other special properties of ingredients added. However, it is only available via perscription. Since TSA is allowing perscription medicine through and USP Purified Water is perscription medicine, it’s a legit way for those who need water to have access to water without violating TSA guidelines.

Andrei August 17, 2006 10:50 PM

Sad to admit, but even though arrested, the alleged terrorists delivered a huge blow to the civilized world. The air travel has become less convenient. The ban on electronics… Take off the flip-flops to x-ray.. No water in my bottle… What’s next?

It’s just a matter of time when mad men will come up with something else … And then, ‘…Take off ALL clothes and go through an examination room. Sorry for invasion into you ..privacy, but it all for your own safety…’

Let’s face it. We are trying to protect against a SMALL GROUP of DEDICATED individuals, who are willing to kill THEMSELVES, along with many INFIDELS, for a RELIGIOUS REASON.

How many nuts like that are among us the passengers? One in ten thousands? Then why the security should spend all their effort EVENLY? Stripping every single passenger?

Israel airlines security has had the answer for a long time. PROFILE passengers at the door of the terminal, and work most closely with the ‘risk group’.

Illegal discrimination? YES! Then legalize it, specific to the air travel! Let politicians hear it, ‘We call for air travelers discrimination!’

Expensive? Profile passengers in advance, introduce ‘Safety Clearance Certificate’ for trusted flyers, let them through the ‘Green Corridor’, with their orange juice and laptops!

It is not our fault that a small group of religious fanatics believes in suicidal mass-murder for their cause. They have deserved discrimination, to say the least.

Prig August 18, 2006 2:14 AM

” . . . one could [riskily] recall that its past tense is wrought.” –Pedant

wreak (past and past participle wreaked, present participle wreak·ing, 3rd person present singular wreaks)

The Compact OED comments, “USAGE The past tense of wreak is wreaked, as in rainstorms wreaked havoc yesterday, not wrought. When wrought is used in the phrase wrought havoc, it is in fact an archaic past tense of work.”

Radi Beare August 20, 2006 8:45 AM

Don’t forget to check those passengers with colostomy bags, Dolly Parton look alikes with massive silicone breast implants, false fingernails . . .and those passengers suffering from gross flatulance . . . especially after a good heavy Madras curry!!!! Dentures and dental implants . . . exploding tampons and suppositories, swallowed condoms filled with expolsives. . . . the list just goes on and on . . just give it a little lateral thinking!!!

MONKEY!!! September 9, 2006 5:40 AM

do they actually expect us to go without any entertainment
as if
we r gonna be traveling fo r 3 days and me without a cd player i sso not right
i’ll die of boredom
im hungry right now so im gonna eat pizza

Rob Clack April 3, 2016 2:52 AM

Given that this page still comes up in internet searches, perhaps it should be updated. 😉

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.