Thursday, August 10, 2006

Notes on Terror Alert

Britain arrested people suspected of planning (and nearing execution) of a plan to blow up airplaines from Britain to the US. It sounds like this is a legitimate threat, and that the plot included smuggling liquid explosives onto planes. Hence, British Airport Authority has currently banned anything liquid on board, and has pretty much limited carry on luggage to a ziplock baggie with your ID, passport, and wallet. Nothing else. No laptops, electronics, phones, books, etc.

Until they confirm that they have caught everyone (and the suspects arrested are British citizens and are of Pakistani descent -- aren't the Pakistanis on our side? Anyway...) these seem like annoying and invasive security measures, but are probably warranted. Most short-haul flights are cancelled, and the airports are chaotic. But, I trust the British to resolve things and get back to normal fairly quickly.

The US? Not so much. TSA has also banned "liquids" on flights, but so far has not banned other carryon luggate such as laptops or iPods. I wonder how long that will last? I travel often, and I require a laptop when I do, for business (class notes and presentations, etc, or even a work machine when I'm at a remote client site). What I want to know is, if they ban laptops as carryon luggage, how are the airlines going to guarantee that my laptop is a) returned at all and b) not damaged. I suspect they are going ot quote "national security" or "tsa rules" to absolve themselves of all responsiblity for damage or loss to anything in checked luggage. That's not going to go over so well.

Bush immediately starts spouting off about 'Islamic Fascists" -- which leads me to believe that he doesn't have the slightest clue what that means. The word he wants is 'fanatics' or 'zealots' -- and I"d like him to explain how this shows that we are 'safer here because we're fighting them over there'. Yeah, I can see how the War on Terra has made us safer. Yup. Fuckwit.

Can you imagine how much more successful we would be finding and breaking these plots if we weren't squandering money and time in Iraq? We might actually be able to circumvent terror plots instead of settling in as a long-term occupying force in a country that had nothing to do with our actual attackers. Think about it. Putting money into actual intelligence work (and paying attention to the results!) would be far more effective and cost a lot fewer lives.

The tinfoil hat sector has suggested that the hoopla around this incident (not the incident itself, mind you, just the rabid, frothing response) is calculated to play the FEAR FEAR FEAR card just before elections. At some level, somewhere, I'm sure someone thought of that. Over the weekend, there was a report that we were on Yellow Alert level -- I was bemused by this, since yellow is where we've been for the last three years and it's not news. Today, we're at Orange (or is it red now?) and the UK is on critical alert. The British discussed this with the US over the weekend, but did not act until yesterday -- when they were sure they could get the suspects.

Does it say something about me that I have 1000 times more trust in the British to deal with this in a competent and realistic way than anyone in the US government responding to this? The banners on the newschannels are really annoying "Terror in the Air!" crows Fox, and articles that this is a "reminder that we're at war". Oh, yes. Step right up and give up a little more of your freedom so that we can make you safe!
[From TalkingPoints Memo] Also a pretty stark reminder that President Bush's War on Terror, the way he's chosen to fight it, is at best irrelevant to combatting this sort of danger. These are homegrown Brits apparently trying to blow up planes over the Atlantic. Good thing we've got a 150,000 or so troops in Iraq to take the fight to them.
And more here -- a very good, critical view of why this is a condemnation of the War or Terra! and not a sign that we should redouble our efforts and "stay the course".

I'm glad I'm not travelling right now. But will any of this stop me from travelling in the future? Nope. I'll just be more annoyed by the security measures and pissed that I can't bring books on the plane.

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