The punchline for those that don’t read long posts: A plausible, possible, stoppable security issue is conceived. Our government won’t do anything to stop this, even though it has put great effort into stopping an implausible liquid-explosive thread. Details following the “more” link:
Bruce Schneier ran his 2nd annual Movie-Plot Threat contest starting on April 1st of this year. In early June, he posted the nominations for best movie-plot concepts. Now, he has announced the winner of the contest and posted their full concept.
First, some information about the contest:
Your goal: invent a terrorist plot to hijack or blow up an airplane with a commonly carried item as a key component. The component should be so critical to the plot that the TSA will have no choice but to ban the item once the plot is uncovered. I want to see a plot horrific and ridiculous, but just plausible enough to take seriously.
Make the TSA ban wristwatches. Or laptop computers. Or polyester. Or zippers over three inches long. You get the idea.
Your entry will be judged on the common item that the TSA has no choice but to ban, as well as the cleverness of the plot. It has to be realistic; no science fiction, please. And the write-up is critical; last year the best entries were the most entertaining to read.
It must have been a pretty meadow, Wilkes thought, just a day before. He tried to picture how it looked then: without the long, wide wound in the earth, without the charred and broken fuselage of the jet that gouged it out, before the rolling ground was strewn with papers and cushions and random bits of plastic and fabric and all the things inside the plane that lay like the confetti from a brief, fiery parade.
Yes, a nice little spot, just far enough from the airport’s runways to be not too noisy, but close enough to watch the planes going in and out, fortunately just a bit too close to have been developed. When the plane rolled over and angled downward, not even a mile past the end of the runway, at least the only people at risk were the ones on the plane. For them, it was mercifully quick, the impact breaking their necks before the breaking wing tanks ignited in sheets of flame, the charred bodies still in their seats.
. . .
“No,” Wilkes shot back, “we can’t ban everything that could be made of sodium metal. Or all the other water-reactives,” he mused aloud, thinking of all the carbides, anhydrides, and alkali metals that would cover. “Too many ways to hide them, too many types to test for them all. No, it isn’t the metals we’ll have to ban.”
“Naw, you don’t mean,” the NTSB man stared in disbelief, his eyes growing wide. “You couldn’t, I mean, it’s the only other way but it’s ridiculous.”
“No, it’s not so ridiculous, it’s really the only way. We’re going to have to ban water, and anything containing a significant amount of water, from all passenger flights. It’s the only way, otherwise we could have planes dropping out of the sky every time someone is served a beverage.”
And here’s the really, really, exceptionally crazy thing – this threat is easier to pull off and more feasible (thanks to Andrew Kantor for that quick link) than last year’s improbable liquid-explosive-to-bring-down-planes foiled plot in England. To actually prevent this, either ALL liquids or ALL metals have to be kept off the airplanes. As the story notes, the amount of metal in the frames of one person’s eyeglasses is enough to pull of this attack with a reasonable chance of bringing down a plane. That means no more in-flight bathrooms would be available, or that anyone who says they have to go to the bathroom would have to be monitored and use a restroom facility that operates without liquids.
So the question is, will our government ban ALL liquids, ALL metals, or do neither? Will preventative measures be put in place to stop an attack that would probably succeed and could be pulled off by a single person with a few hundred dollars? Of course not. But still we have to suffer through not taking lip balm, water bottles, breast milk, sunscreen, sodas, or practically any other liquids on a plane in order to stop an almost impossible attack that we have known terrorists knew about for over 20 years. I do hope some day we got someone in charge that actually knows something about security and probabilities and who is more interested in trying to achieve safer flights rather than security theater.
[tags]Movie-plot security threats, Schneier’s movie-plot contest, Actual security threats, Ban all metal now![/tags]