Who is winning?

Andrew already noted that the idea of putting in place travel restrictions based on attempted acts of crime is ridiculous because it seems unlikely to help and definitely likely to harm. But there is potentially an even more sinister consequence of reactive behaviour: it may well be what the terrorists want. Consider your would be terrorist mastermind thinking how best to destroy civilisation. They know that if they attempt the right kinds of acts, then that will lead to restrictions. For example, attempt to put bombs in shoes and everyone is de-shoeing before getting on the plane. The long security lines are really just stage one.

Stage two is to make air travel itself more unbearable. Now, in this endeavour they are competing with the airlines themselves but it is easy to think of more things that can be done. So let me toss out some scenarios that may not impact on all of us but may impact on some people in a big way. First, any sort of device hidden and related to a Blackberry. You might think that wouldn’t mean much as blackberries can’t be used in flight. However, they are used on landing and during long wait times. If you were an imaginative enough terrorist, you could come up with a plan that would not only involve blackberries being banned from any cabin use but also require them to be checked baggage. Think of the costs.

Second, following on from Andrew’s lament, consider anything that would make traveling with children terrible. The whole liquid-bomb thing was a start but didn’t really get at the heart of the problem. The idea of removing electronic devices and also things from laps looks quite imaginative this time. But what else might some evil mastermind come up with? I have some ideas but feel they are sufficiently non-obvious that I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.

The point is that this sort of reactive behavior is an issue more than just for its uselessness, it may be giving away the whole game. What is more, the terrorists win even when attempts fail. That means that they can give this stuff to their less competent members opening up a larger range of skill set that can complete the job. And I know that this post sounds glib and not so serious but I still can’t get away from the feeling that all this is part of the plan.

4 thoughts on “Who is winning?”

  1. If a terrorist figures out how to detonate a fully-charged lithium battery you could see a ban on all devices with rechargeable batteries – mobile phones, laptops, MP3 players, and computer games.
    Let’s hope they don’t also make an exploding book, perhaps by turning the pages into touchpaper. Then you could see a ban on reading material, and the terrorists really would have won.


  2. Actually, terrorists (or, at least, parents who are oblivious to the terror they cause) have already thought up all sorts of ways to make travel unbearable for everyone else on their flight.
    If Al Qaeda wants to send QANTAS bust, it should just book several dozen newborns or tantrumming terrible twos onto every long-haul flight for the next year…


  3. hopefully this will end on wednesday, when they review it.  Schneier has a good analysis of it http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2009/12/separating_expl.html


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