Jan 08 2010

Lessons from the case of the man who set his underpants on fire

We’ve been having a hard time keeping up with events over the last few weeks. Every time we think the keystone cops from the Department of Homeland Security can’t come up with anything dumber to do, they prove us wrong. At this point we’re not sure who is most deserving of derision: (1) the would-be terrorist who tried but failed to explode his underpants, and succeeded only in burning his balls, (2) the goons the TSA sent to intimidate bloggers who tried to tell travelers what to expect when they got to the airport, and find out who had “leaked” the TSA’s secrets, but who left their own notebook of “secret” notes about their investigation of this and other cases behind in a public place, or (3) the TSA agents who felt so ill at the smell of honey they found in checked luggage that they checked themselves into a hospital and shut down the airport. It’s a tough call. Leave your votes, or other nominations, in the comments.

What’s most striking about the government’s response to this unsuccessful bombing attempt is the complete lack of any rational relationship between the actions that have been taken and are being proposed, any analysis of which of these and similar tactics did or did not contribute to the success or failure of the Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253, and any likelihood that they would make future attempts at terrorism less likely to succeed.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, perhaps it’s time to survey the security, security theater, surveillance, and travel control techniques at issue: Read More