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08/14/2006 Archived Entry: "LIQUID BOMBS ARE OLD NEWS"


They haven’t had much success. One went off over 12 years ago, on Philippine Airlines Flight 434. It killed an innocent businessman on his way home, and blew a hole through the cabin floor of the airplane, but did not cause the jet to crash. The alleged bomb maker was Ramzi Yousef, who was later convicted of the first bombing of the World Trade Center, carried out 11 months before the airplane attack.

Mr. Yousef was reportedly dissatisfied with the performance of his bomb, which he mixed in the airplane lavatory and hid in the underseat pocket that holds the life jacket. He vowed to make the next bombs “10 times more powerful” but apparently never figured out how to do so. Getting a pint or so of chemicals onto an airplane isn’t hard, and never will be. Pouring two shampoo bottles together in the lavatory can be done discretely. Up the quantity to a gallon or two and things become a bit more obvious.

This threat has been known and discounted for well over a decade. No one can explain why the threat is suddenly more credible, even if those arrested were really planning an attack. Everyone seems to be carefully avoiding the fact that gallons of liquids in hundreds of little bottles are still placed on nearly every airplane before every flight. Food and drink loaded into airplanes isn’t screened in any meaningful way, and the screening of the workers who cater, clean, and load unchecked cargo onto airplanes is spotty at best.

The government/media complex is breathlessly assuring us that some 2 dozen Muslim citizens of the UK would surely have blown up 9 or 10 airplanes. “Thousands of lives” would have been lost. The record of PAL flight 434 suggests otherwise.

The hype is based on pretty slim evidence. We know that the police have arrested some 2 dozen suspects, but already released 2. The apparently innocent people were arrested despite the fact that the groups had been under intensive surveillance, if not fully infiltrated, for months. We are assured that the suspects will be retained the full 28 days without charges, as allowed by British law. US law as written requires speedy charges, but as practiced allows suspects to be imprisoned and tortured for years without charges or access to lawyers.

There have been no reports of finding bomb factories. The presence of “bomb making materials” in one of the searched homes is hardly surprising: a bomb might be made from hair bleach, nail polish remover, and some lemon juice. How many bleached blondes would be jailed if possessing this combination of materials was illegal?

I find it hard to take this seriously. IF the plot is genuine, and not another media circus like the FBI arrest of confused losers in Miami, the most likely outcome would have been several fools blowing their hands off in bathrooms. Even if liquid bombs were assembled and detonated, it is far from certain that the airplanes would have crashed.

As a frequent air traveler, I accepted the risk of some nutcase assembling a bathroom bomb years ago. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever encounter such a person. What is certain is that I face a gamut of snarling, bullying government thugs every time I, or anyone else in this “free” nation, attempts to board a commercial airplane. Now the thugs will confiscate my toothpaste, ban my cell phone, consign my laptop to the mercies of baggage handlers and theft by TSA checked baggage screeners. After enduring all this, I may be subjected to still more harassment at the gate, for any reason or no reason at all.

When faced by risks, the free man has a choice: accept the risk, possibly with some actions to mitigate the hazard, or choose another course of action. What no free man does is live in fear.

The swaggering bullies who rule us are cowards, and they live in fear. What they fear most are their subjects. No matter how implausible the plot, how flimsy the evidence, how small the number of suspects, the response is always to immediately concoct new ways to harass and intimidate millions of peaceful people.

At best, the arrest of alleged bombers shows that real security requires identifying people with bad intentions, rather than innocents with “dangerous” but common materials. At worst, this is a farce with no more substance than the claims about Jose Padilla or the “Miami 7.” (Search for Jon Stewart and Miami to find a hilarious and devastating take on the government’s tissue-paper case. No, I won’t provide links to copyrighted material, even on popular sites like Youtube.)

What’s certain is that government power has expanded, more people are afraid and less free, and we will never hear the full story behind this little bit of public theater.

Posted by Silver @ 07:01 AM CST

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