My hunch is that this is simply a ruse to start more enhanced searches. After the outrage over the full body search of a 95 year old grandmother with leukemia and incontinence, what better way to get the public to submit to more and more of these enhanced pat downs than to scary them with stories of idiots with bombs in their bellies?
First, a little background. When the controversial full body scanners, or backscatter machines, started being used at TSA checkpoints, I told you to ask why these machines aren’t used in prisons to stop contraband from being smuggled into prisons. The answer was simple, I said. These machines do not detect explosives or weapons hidden in the anus, vagina or in the stomach if swallowed. These machines do not add to security, but simply add to the screening process, making people feel more secure without adding anything – other than radiation which some claim is causing more cancer among TSA workers. Even though I can go through the magnetometer with certain things in my pockets, like a wallet, those are shown as unknowns on the screen of the TSA officer looking at the scans, resulting in further screening of a wallet that does not, could not, contain a weapon.
Second, recall the incident where Ibrahim Asiri, a young Saudi native, known for innovative, ruthless bomb plots, packed explosives into the rectal cavity of his 23-year-old brother Abdullah for a suicide mission targeting the head of Saudi intelligence, Prince bin Nayef. That bomb exploded prematurely and the only casualty was Asiri’s brother. Asiri had planted the explosive in his brother’s rectum in order to circumvent the full body scanner everyone went through before meeting with the Saudi intelligence chief. Had the bomb not exploded prematurely, he would have carried it through the body scanner and detonated it in the meeting room with the head of Saudi Arabian intelligence. Asiri is also credited with two other failed plots involving the bomb hidden in the underwear of a passenger on a Detroit-bound flight, and the bombs hidden in printers being shipped from Yemen to Chicago. I know you’ve heard of the last two incidents.
But this is not new news. It is old news. We’ve known this for several years, if not longer.
The Department of Homeland Security issued a new bulletin recently, claiming there was “renewed” interest in the belly bomb tactic. While they were quick to announce there was no “actionable intelligence” indicating a “specific threat” against an airline, nonetheless TSA is preparing a “strong defense” against that possibility, TSA Administrator John Pistole said:
We are treating the information seriously and sharing the information as a precautionary matter with our foreign counterparts and also, of course, with U.S. carriers.
If this isn’t a reaction to the public outcry to the body search of the 95 year old grandmother, then TSA and DHS should be forthcoming about what is new about this threat. Otherwise, we can only conclude that it is designed to take our eyes off that grandmother and tremble in fear, waiting for TSA to protect us from the belly bombers.
I once joked, as I’m certain others did, too, that first it was x-ray machines, then Richard Reid tried to blow up his tennis shoes, so we all take off our shoes. Then Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up his underwear, so we get full body scanners. How long before we get rectal examines when someone shoves some C4 up their butts? Well, that day has now arrived.
The only solution is to recognize there is some risk in flying, just as there is in driving (or, for that matter, living) and enhance the intelligence activities before the terrorists try to ignite an explosive on an airplane. Profile, intelligence, and keeping them out of our country should be our priorities.