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Naked lies

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Back in February I wrote a very angry sweary blog post about airport scannersand about how the Australian federal government had decided that they’d be installed at all Australian international airports, and I explained, not for the first time, how that would influence my travelling decisions in the future.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

I think one of the things that particularly infuriated me was the knowledge that my action alone, and that of the relative handful of other people who recognise this kind of security theatre for the useless unnecessary charade it is – well, perhaps not useless if you’re a politician with shares in the companies that make this stuff – also avoid flying if at all possible, is pretty futile if it doesn’t catch on. And sadly I think we can take it as read that as we head into the northern hemisphere’s summer hordes of people will soon be marching meekly through these electronic sheep dips at major airports all over the US and Europe, and in six months or so the same will apply here as people on their way to family holidays at the Gold Coast’s resorts stand tamely in line to have their children’s gonads lightly irradiated in the name of assuring everyone that they and their glowing, ah, I mean growing offspring will not explode en route. Even though any such assurances are questionable at best when they’ve failed to detect a fucking gun down someone’s knickers.

Baaaaa, baaaaa.

I despair, I really do. I mean you do get the occasional reaction, the odd burst of noise, from the herd when the cast and crew of the security theatre do something particularly stupid and/or egregious. You hear complaints when exactly the kind of abuse we were told would never happen does in fact happen. You hear them when kids – even babies barely able to crawl and kids in frigging wheelchairs, for Christ’s sake – get patted down by the security drones. You hear them when cancer survivors are left humiliated thanks to hidebound, unthinking and almost robotic adherence to badly written rules, or just covered in their own piss through pure ham-fistedness. You hear them when they loudly ask septuagenarian women if they’re wearing a sanitary towel. And then the next episode of Your Country’s Masterchef’s Got A Talented Voice Factor appears on the magic fishtank and the complaints fade. A relative handful carry on objecting, either writing about invasive searches afterwards, refusing to fly and encouraging others to do the same, or actually pitching up and the airport and then publicly refusing to be scanned or treated like a recent arrestee. But the majority just grumble before falling silent and accepting their new role as guilty ’til screened sufficient to be presumed innocent again, if not enthusiastically embrace their loss of liberty and presumption of innocence.

Did I mention that I despair? I did? Oh good.

And I will despair even more if Australia doesn’t go completely screaming batshit over the latest development. Because back in February we were told that in the interests of privacy, though not actual fucking liberty, the scanners to be installed in Australian airports would be the ones that display the stick figures on the screen. Not that that cuts any ice with me.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. …I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

But with the Anglo-Saxon nudity taboo that’s relatively strong in western societies I’m sure for most people, and perhaps especially for women, it was indeed the thought of their personal sweater kittens and other bits being up on someone’s screen somewhere in the airport. Yes, we’re assured that staff wouldn’t be able to record images or identify who they were looking at, but the problem there is that as I recall the same assurances were made everywhere that has in fact happened. So the gingerbread man scanner was a sop to keep those folks happy. I can only hope that they find the rage coming back and, for a change, remaining as they realise that this too has turned out to be a false promise. Because the stick man scanners are still going to reveal more than some people would wish.

CONTROVERSIAL full-body scanners due to be introduced into Australian airports next month will identify prosthesis wearers, including breast cancer survivors and transgender passengers.

Earlier this year the federal government announced the new scanners, to be installed in eight international terminals, would be set to show only a generic stick-figure image to protect passengers’ privacy.

But documents released under freedom of information show that, in meetings with stakeholders, Office of Transport Security representatives confirmed the machines would detect passengers wearing a prosthesis.

Like I said, I hope those concerned about privacy will get angry about this, but I can’t help but note the time of year that this news comes out and that the scanners will be installed: the Australian winter, when fewer people are flying. Is it paranoid of me to wonder about this? Would there be anything in the idea that doing it several months ahead of the summer rush would give people time to forget about the scanners until they were at the airport in December, by which time it’s too late to buy your scanner proof undies or really do anything at all unless you’re prepared to write off the cost of your flights?

Stakeholders, including Muslims and civil libertarians, were consulted by the Office of Transport Security and raised numerous concerns.

[…]

The policy to use generic stick-figure images was introduced to placate these privacy concerns.

Internal documents also revealed a proposed privacy quality assurance program to check privacy issues was scrapped late last year.

Scrapped. Got that? Even something to address the bit most people are getting worked up about has been quietly ditched. I wrote more than two years ago that this would continue and even escalate unless everybody began voting against airport security theatre with their wallets, so if you don’t like it cancel your summer holiday plans NOW and go local instead.

This is not about making you safe, it’s about making a quid for companies that can jump on the bandwagon with products that gullible politicians can be persuaded to spend your taxes on to create an illusion of safety. As has been pointed out about a squillion times, even if the scanners were completely effective they’re going to look pretty stupid reduced to a smouldering heap of twisted wreckage the first time someone sets off a bomb while standing in the queue to be scanned. The only way to prevent that will be the next escalation and loss of privacy and dignity.

Flight number QF1984 to an unpleasant future is now boarding at gate 14.
You won’t be fully naked as you’ll be made to wear a taser bracelet – sadly not made up.

And part of me suspects we might have got to this point already if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s money to be made selling security technology in the meantime, though I suppose the taser bracelet might still be an option for the security theatre mob even when we are all expected to fly in the nip.

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Be scanned or be banned

Oh, great.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

In a radical $28 million security overhaul, the scanners will be installed at all international airports from July and follows trials at Sydney and Melbourne in August and September last year.

And this is what I hate about security theatre. We’ve been sold this technology as a solution but really we’re no safer. The bombing at Domodedovo airport in Moscow a year ago demonstrated how much damage and death could be dealt by a suicide bomber in a crowded terminal, and I can’t see how things would be much better if someone did exactly the same thing in an airport with scanners. Hell, they could do it in the queue for the scanner and wreck the bloody thing as well as kill a bunch of people, and what would the scanner’s contribution have been? Apart from to use up several million dollars that could have been spent on something else.

The Government is touting the technology as the most advanced available, with the equipment able to detect metallic and non-metallic items beneath clothing.

Would that include metallic objects such as guns? I ask only because it’s barely a year since we heard that an undercover TSA agent was able to smuggle a gun through the body scanners at Dallas-Fort Worth airport on multiple occasions by the devious technique of – and I’m not making this up – hiding it in her knickers.

Still, they know about it now so they’ll have fixed that problem, eh? Er, no. Because an 65 year old woman boarded a flight with a gun in her carry on bags after going through the screening, and this happened just a few weeks ago. At Dallas-Fort Worth. And it wasn’t the scanners that saved the day either. The gun was spotted when the bag went through the X-Ray machine – you know, that layer of security that’s been around for years and suddenly isn’t up to snuff any more. So how’d she get on board? Because she was able to pick up the bag with the gun in it and wander off “before the TSA could notify police”. Presumably the multi-million dollar scanners just sat there holding their electronic dicks having contributed precisely nothing, and humming with embarrassment over their 51% false positive rate and their inability to tell the difference between explosives and someone’s sweaty pits.

And we’re buying these things? Oh, fucking great. I feel so much safer now.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. In the days when the IRA were blowing up bits of London and other British cities I could have understood if my Irish surname briefly raised an eyebrow if I tried to get in certain places, though I’m sure that as soon as the inevitable computer check came back and said that (a) I was born in England and (b) was about 14 I’d be instantly ruled out as almost certainly not an Irish Republican terrorist and allowed to carry on. Similarly I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

The system has approval from the Privacy Commission.

Well, good for the fucking Privacy Commission, and if it had more than two fifths of fuck all to do with privacy concerns I might even give a shit that they approve.

The proposed Aviation Security Amendment (Screening) Bill 2012 will make it mandatory for any passenger selected to participate in undergoing a body scan.

The “no scan, no fly” amendment closes a loophole in the legislation, which allows passengers to request a pat-down instead of having to pass through a metal detector.

Which won’t be welcomed by those concerned by the potential health risks, such as the EU who are worried about the risk of cancer. I’m not convinced by this myself, but I’d always have gone for the pat down just to take the extra opportunity to register my objection to and contempt for the whole, sorry, pointless exercise. Maybe others already have and this is because too many of the fare paying flying public are failing to behave like the self loading freight and passively march through the scanners. Fine, we understand what’s wanted from us now:

Baaaaaaa!

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said mandatory body scans were necessary to ensure the safety of airports.

No it isn’t necessary, Tony, you abject twat. It’s not fucking necessary at all. Go to Israel and see how they do it. They’re surrounded by people who either hold a cordial dislike for Israel and Jews or who want them wiped off the face of the planet, so of course they inflict this bullshit security theatre on the flying public? Er, apparently not, and they haven’t had an incident for bloody decades.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel’s largest hub, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

“Two benign questions. The questions aren’t important. The way people act when they answer them is,” [Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy] said.

Once you’ve parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion’s half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

“This is to see that you don’t have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious,” said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

“The whole time, they are looking into your eyes – which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds,” said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil’s advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

“I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101′ to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?’ And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, `Oh. My. God.’

“Take (Toronto’s) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.’”

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.’ If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

“This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben Gurion airport shares with Pearson – the body and hand-luggage check.

“But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.

“First, it’s fast – there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

The goal at Ben Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in 25 minutes tops.

Twenty-five minutes? For Christ’s sake, I’ve been at western airports where I’ve spent longer than that in each of several queues, surrounded by people any one of whom could have been about to do a Domedodovo for all anyone else knew.

And then there’s intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

“There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States,” Sela said. “Absolutely none.”

No, but there’s lots of rote working to checklists that will only spot a terrorist who’s too stupid to have spent some time considering ways around the bored staff doing mindlessly repetitive tasks. Jesus, they once confiscated a small blunt butter knife to prevent it being used to hijack the cockpit despite the fact that the guy they took it from was one of the fucking pilots.

Do you see the problem, Albanese? Do you really expect us to believe things will be markedly better here? Do you really expect it not to deteriorate into queues and queues of people doubled up like game snakes waiting to be herded through the scanners? Do you see why a trip to Tel Aviv to learn from a country that’s no more loved by the Islamaloons than us or the UK or the US but has had just one incident in the last decade, which even then was a frigging mistake, could have been so much more effective?

Because if you can’t then I’m inclined to put it down to one of two things: you’re either a fucking incompetent waste of meat or you’re a sucker for a sales pitch (supported by some lobbying, natch) for some expensive piece of kit that promises to make your scary problem go away. I very much hope that it isn’t the third possibility, that like some American politicians you bastards in Canberra have been buying shares in L3 Communications, the company that makes the scanners used at Aussie airports.

Oh, and also the gun-blind ones at Dallas-Fort Worth.

‘Kinell!

Flying looks about to get a whole lot… er, similar

Great news! You can go on holiday and take liquids with you. Medicines, baby milk, drinks bought away from the airport at considerable less than ludicrous prices, all will soon be allowed through the ring-piece of steel at international airports in Australia, and no doubt other nations.

International travellers will no longer have water bottles, perfumes and other liquids confiscated as they board planes under a radical overhaul of airport security.

Radical overhaul. Sounds good, sounds like it could be what’s been needed for a while now.

The easing of restrictions will begin next year as Australia’s international airports begin rolling out new explosive detection equipment.

Ah. Now it just sounds like another machine to queue up for.

The shake-up, to be announced by the federal government today, also promises to cut waiting times for passengers by easing bottlenecks at security gates.

Er, but if we’ve got one more machine to queue up for how’s that going to cut times?

The new technology, which has been trialled at Sydney airport, would enable authorities to detect the smallest trace of explosives in liquids.

Okay, and what happens if someone decides to take a pint of the stuff into the queue for the machine and detonate it before they get there? In the queue. You know, attacking the people in the fucking queue instead of screwing around with the impossible task of getting it on a plane. Well, sort of impossible.

  • January 7th 2011, undercover French journalists are reported to have smuggled a dismantled 9mm pistol through security at two French airports and were able to assemble the gun in the toilets on the plane.
  • February 21st 2011, in the US a female undercover TSA agent is reported to have carried a handgun through Dallas/Fort Worth airport body scanners in multiple tests by hiding it in her knickers.
  • […]

  • June 13th 2011, it is reported that 30 staff at Honolulu International Airport are fired for not having screened luggage properly.

Still, long as somebody has got a nice big market for their feel good bomb sniffing machines and governments can carry on acting as if they’re doing something, eh?

“It will make air travel easier and less stressful for passengers as well as free airport security staff to better focus on their core screening responsibilities without the distraction of having to confiscate items from people’s bags,” [Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese] said.
“While preventing acts of terrorism remains our number one priority, we’re also determined to minimise the disruption and inconvenience experienced by passengers as they transit throughout major airports, including by deploying the latest technologies.”

Sorry, Tony, but if you’re really serious about that I still think you should be looking at how the Israelis do things. In the meantime one more bloody thing to queue up for having already queued for check-in, the X-ray, the metal detector and the bollock baking body scanner and/or professional groper does not tempt me back into flying anywhere except as a last resort.

Situation Vacant

Wanted: Western Security Theatre requires dramatic lunatic for role of Emmanuel Goldstein in our long running farce Oh Fuck, The Fucking Fuckers Are Fucking Everywhere after the recent replacement for our retired long term Goldstein lacked the hoped for durability. Package including times of performance will be largely up to the successful applicant, as will be much of the script. Window licking experience and own wardrobe, including head underpants if desired, is absolutely essential. Apply through usual agencies.

Of course, it could all be bollocks. It wasn’t long ago the media seemed sure he was kipping on the sofa in Hugo Chavez’s pool room.

Intervals at the security theatre

If we have to have security theatre it’d be a nice idea to have intervals, wouldn’t it? Not only could you have a break, stretch your legs a bit, browse the programmes and maybe get a glass of wine or something, but you could also look forward to the second act not being exactly the fucking same as the first. And that’s where the analogy falls apart because with security theatre you actually have to have the first act all over again even if it’s just because someone fluffed a couple of lines.

Flights from Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal have been delayed after a security breach.
Two people reportedly entered a secure area of the Qantas-managed T3 domestic terminal without being properly screened this morning.
Passengers report that planes have been grounded and the terminal closed, with thousands having to be re-screened.
“Two passengers enter secure area in Sydney Airport (domestic) causing all passengers to be rescreened. Will be mass delays,” one passenger tweeted.
Another passenger said on Twitter: “Entire Sydney Airport terminal has been evacuated due to a security breach. Looks like I’m not getting home today.”

And people ask me why I avoid flying if at all possible. You have to queue up to be questioned, then x-rayed and finally scanned and fondled, all of which means passengers are sometimes being told to arrive three hours before departure (I was the last time I flew out of London Heathrow), and then you have to do it all over again if the daft sods lose track and accidentally let someone in without having first questioned, x-rayed, scanned and fondled them.

If the person who wasn’t scanned doesn’t own up then the whole terminal – and I do
mean the whole terminal – will have to do it all over again. I can wait all day.

Not only has this now happened four times that I know of in Aussie airports – once here in Melbourne, once in Brisbane and twice in Sydney – and caused big delays and inconvenience each time, but the media have failed to ask what seems to me to be the big questions. If people have slipped through security and got airside four times that we know of, but were eventually checked along with everyone else’s recheck, then how do we know it hasn’t happened a few more times without it being noticed and there being rechecks? And if so, what the hell’s the point in all the security theatre anyway? Because it doesn’t sound like it’s actually keeping the place all that secure. It’s not like it’s just Aussie airports either, because as I noted a couple of weeks ago undercover journalists managed to smuggle a dismantled gun onto flights from two French airports (and just to prove the point they then took it into the toilet and mantled it) while in the US an undercover federal agent got through security on multiple occasions with her gun in her knickers. So I repeat, what is the point in security theatre that’s intrusive, costly, inconvenient and can’t even guarantee our security anyway? Can’t we just go and see a different play?

If security be the food of air travel, play on;
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Well, it’s worked for me, which is why my appetite for flying is roughly zero. At the risk of repeating myself, when I get treated like a paying customer again I’ll happily fly, but as long as I’m treated like a suspect by security that we can see doesn’t bloody work I won’t unless I really have to.

What did I say?

In the post a few hours back (actually written Friday evening) I mentioned that we in the west seem to get hung up on dates and anniversaries of major events, and if those events are a disaster inflicted deliberately we think that the enemy responsible is likely to do it again on the same date. Quite why he’d want to do that rather than pick another day at random or simply go when he’s ready is rarely addressed, and I can’t help feeling that it might be a western thing anyway. Remember the Alamo! Pearl Harbour! 9/11! So I’m not surprised to read this:

The US has warned of a “specific, credible threat” ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, possibly in New York or Washington DC.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the threat was “uncorroborated”, but security would be boosted at bridges, tunnels and on public transport.

That the 9/11 hijackers chose September 11th rather than February 26th, the anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is something else that doesn’t get mentioned much. In fact the only case I can think of offhand in which an anniversary figured was the Oklahoma City bombing carried out by Timothy McVeigh, who chose the second anniversary of Waco to carry out his attack. And since McVeigh wasn’t responsible for Waco but as he saw it was attacking in response to Waco I’m not sure that really counts. If September 11th marked some date in which the US or the west had done something specific to piss off Alky-Aida then perhaps there’d be a reason for them to mark that down in their calendars as getting-killed-for-the-cause day, but otherwise…

I dunno, maybe there really is a genuine cause for concern, but it seems to me that Alky-Aida could just as easily make a few noises about the tenth anniversary as a shit stir and then go back to milking the goat. Or it could just as easily be confirmation bias and we’re twitching at shadows because we’ve half convinced ourselves that the people who attacked ten years ago attach some special significance to that date. I’ll eat my words if anything does happen – and I mean more than some wide-eyed teenager with a milk bottle full of petrol damaging a police station or something – but I reckon any particular day is no less likely than any other. And no more likely either.

Remembering those important dates

Tomorrow marks a date we’ll all be expected to remember. The papers will be full of it, it’ll be mentioned on every news and current affairs show, the blogosphere will no doubt add its contribution (and in a way this post is a part of that) and the never-mind-liberty-give-me-security-or-at-least-the-illusion-of-it paranoia brigade will spend the whole day shitting themselves in case the alky-aida bogeyman blows something up. And on that point, look, if the alky-aida bogeyman can blow something up tomorrow I don’t doubt that he will, but I doubt he’ll be hung up on anniversaries and special dates like most of the west seems to be. He’ll be just as happy to blow something up a fortnight next Tuesday or this time next month. Or a fortnight last Tuesday or this time last month. Whatever suits him, really.

But it suits our media and the governments which pushes their buttons, and the corporatists which in turn push their buttons, to get hung up on this specific date: September 11th 2011, the ten year anniversary of the attack which damaged the Pentagon and destroyed, among other buildings, the two main towers of the World Trade Center. I’m not saying we should forget it and pretend it didn’t happen, but I am saying we haven’t had a chance to forget it when, a decade on, the date 9/11 has been trotted out to justify every loss of liberty and every state intrusion into the lives of private citizens, not to mention the fact that Ground Zero is still a building site. And why? I know the site had to be cleared and that there were human remains there, but still… ten years? Construction of the originals began in August 1966, with the first tower opening just over five years later in December 1971 and the second tower being completed about 18 months after that. Following their destruction it took longer than that to decide what to replace them with. Perhaps they were just asking the wrong people.

“We’re chucking away what we should cherish most, motherfuckers” doesn’t really work as well.

Anyway, I don’t want to forget or avoid mention that ten years ago tomorrow close to three thousand people lost their lives in one of the most despicable acts in human history. Learn, accept, move on, but never ever forget. But the tenth anniversary will be marked by many other people who get paid by their networks and publications to write about it. Apart from HuffPo, obviously. Well, I’m on my own time and dime here, and I thought that instead, or rather in addition, I’d consider some other dates that I feel are worth remembering as well.

  • October 7th 2001, less than a month after the attacks, US led forces invade Afghanistan. First prisoners captured will begin to arrive at Guantanamo Bay before the end of the year.
  • October 26th 2001, just 45 days after the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, President George W. Bush signs the USA PATRIOT Act into law.*
  • Novermber 19th 2001, 69 days after 9/11, Bush signs into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which among other things created the Transportation Security Administration the following year. 
  • December 14th 2001, 94 days after the towers were destroyed, the UK’s Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, granting the government powers to intern non-British citizens without trial, receives Royal Assent.
  • December 18th, 98 days later after the attacks, the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent.
  • December 22nd 2001, the actions of a complete cocksocket called Richard Reid make authorities suspicious of the shoes of all air passengers. Millions of shoes have doubtless been checked since. Number of other shoe bombs reported in the media, as near as I can recall: zero.
  • January 5th 2002, British police forces begin a series of raids and make a number of arrests in relation to the so-called Wood Green ricin plot. Despite being cited as a need for tougher laws no actual ricin is ever discovered, but this information is not revealed to the British public until trial two years later.
  • October 12th 2002, the Bali bombings kill 202 people, including 88 Australians.
  • November 25th 2002, President Bush signs the Homeland Security Act.
  • 11th February 2003, troops in Scimitars deploy at London’s Heathrow airport due to fears of a missile attack on a civil aircraft. No such attack occurs, and no explanation of what light tanks designed for armoured reconnaissance would have done if there had been an attack is given.
  • February 7th 2003, in the US the Center for Public Integrity obtains a copy of draft legislation for a Domestic Security Enhancement Bill, nicknamed Patriot Act II. Opponents claim that some provisions violate the US Constitution. The Bill never becomes law and is not even introduced to Congress.
  • March 25th 2003, the TSA moves from the US Department of Transportation to the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
  • November 20th 2003, in the UK the Criminal Justice Act, which among other things doubled detention of terrorist suspects without charge to 14 days, receives Royal Assent.
  • December 2003, British parliament approves additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000.
  • March 11th 2004, bombs on trains in Madrid kill 191 and injure around 2,000.
  • March 31st, June 17th and June 24th 2004, new Anti-terrorism Bills pass in Australia.
  • December 18th 2004, the Civil Contingencies Act allowing the government to suspend almost any law it wants by ministerial fiat receives Royal Assent in the UK.
  • March 11th 2005, introducing ‘control orders’, the UK’s Prevention of Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent.
  • April 2005, British parliament approves further additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • April 7th 2005, in the UK the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act receives Royal Assent, restricting the right of protest in an area near the Houses of Parliament – the precise area is defined by Statutory Instrument and can thus be altered by ministerial fiat. 
  • July 7th 2005, the London Tube bombings kill 52 people and injure hundreds. A fortnight later a similar, though failed, attack follows.
  • December 6th 2005, Australia’s Anti-terrorism Act passes.
  • March 30th 2006, drafted in response to the bombings the previous year the UK, the Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent, creating some new terrorist offences and reclassifying some existing offences as terrorism, and also extending the period of detention without charge (to 28 days after the government’s desire for 90 days was rejected).
  • July 2006, British parliament approves yet more additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • November 8th 2006, British government successfully grants itself powers to amend legislation by Statutory Instrument with the granting of Royal Assent to The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act. Occasionally called an enabling act in all but name, as originally drafted it granted the government such wide powers that it was sometimes sarcastically referred to as The Abolition of Parliament Bill.
  • May 15th 2007, Schiphol in Holland is the first airport to begin using body scanners.
  • June 30th 2007, two men attack Glasgow airport, attempting to crash a car full of propane gas cylinders into the terminal building. Bollards stop the vehicle, which catches fire without causing much harm except to one of the occupants, who later dies of his burns. The only other injury is sustained by taxi driver Alex McIlveen, who hurts his foot kicking one of the attackers in the balls. McIlveen is rewarded by having his trainers and clothing confiscated by police and by finding a £30 parking ticket on his car when gets back to the airport.**
  • July 1st 2007, Dr Mohammed Asha is arrested on the M6 in Chershire on suspicion of involvement in the Glasgow airport incident after lending money to one of the attackers. He will eventually be acquitted of all charges, but will then remain locked up while the government attempts to deport him instead.
  • July 2nd 2007, Dr Muhamed Haneef is arrested at Brisbane airport, also on suspicion of involvement in the Glasgow airport attack. Like Dr Asha he will also eventually be released.
  • July 27th 2007, the Director of Public Prosecutions withdraws charges against Dr Haneef. He leaves Australia voluntarily, and despite not actually having ties to the Glasgow airport attackers his visa is cancelled shortly afterwards.
  • February 2008, London’s Metropolitan Police launch a campaign targeting people taking photographs. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is used against numerous innocent photographers. Number of photographers subsequently reported in the media as being charged with a terror offence, as near as I can recall: zero.
  • July 1st 2008, The Washington Times reports that a senior Homeland Security official has expressed interest in the idea of all air passengers wearing a bracelet with a taser-like function (video). ***
  • July 11th 2008, an American pilot writes for Salon.com that he has had a small, well used and pretty blunt butter knife confiscated from him by airport security despite pointing out that it’s the same kind that they’ll give to first and business class on the plane and that he has no need to use a knife to storm the cockpit since he’s paid to sit in it.
  • August 30th 2008, the Australian Federal Police finally announce that Dr Haneef had no involvement with the Glasgow airport attack. The hospital where he worked has kept his job open for him but he chooses to practice medicine in Dubai instead. In December 2010 he will be awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation.
  • November 26th 2008, the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 receives Royal Assent. Among other things the Act removes the prohibition on post-charge questioning, allows DNA and fingerprints to be taken from people subject to control orders (which are civil rather than criminal), and Section 76 appears to prohibit anyone from photographing a police officer.
  • December 16th 2008, Dr Asha cleared of any involvement in the Glasgow airport attack. The judge criticises police for interviewing him without a solicitor present on no less than two occasions. Prosecutors also were forced to admit that officers had falsely told Dr Asha that more evidence against him had been found. Having been cleared Dr Asha is returned to prison pending deportation instead. He will contest the deportation order.
  • August 8th 2009, the day after Dr Asha finally wins his fight with the UK Immigration Service to stay in Britain, the “I’m A Photographer, Not A Terrorist” campaign is launched in response to persistent use of Section 44 against them by British police forces .
  • Christmas Day 2009, another fucknuts attempts to ruin air travel for the overwhelmingly innocent majority of passengers by trying to blow up his underpants. Happily he only causes a small fire, sustaining second degree burns to his hands and genitals in the process. That he roasted his own wedding veg is of scant consolation to the rest of the travelling public who will soon be on the receiving end of pat downs and body scanners, partly as a result of this arsehole.
  • January 14th 2010, a clip of a German TV (video) show is uploaded to YouTube in which an airport body scanner is demonstrated to fail to detect bomb parts.
  • February 2010, British parliament again approves additions to the list of state agencies allowed to access data under RIPA.
  • November 2010, in the US the TSA begin a policy of “enhanced screening procedures” of all aircrew and passengers, which will result in news stories of children being patted down, elderly people with catheters ending up covered in urine, breast cancer victims having to remove prosthetic breasts, and breast feeding mothers having to drink milk they’ve expressed earlier for their babies. Strip protests will take place at several airports around the world and the phrase “Don’t touch my junk” will end up on tee shirts.
  • January 7th 2011, undercover French journalists are reported to have smuggled a dismantled 9mm pistol through security at two French airports and were able to assemble the gun in the toilets on the plane. 
  • February 21st 2011, in the US a female undercover TSA agent is reported to have carried a handgun through Dallas/Fort Worth airport body scanners in multiple tests by hiding it in her knickers.
  • May 7th 2011, TSA agents at Kansas City airport pat down an 8 month old baby.
  • June 13th 2011, it is reported that 30 staff at Honolulu International Airport are fired for not having screened luggage properly. 

A litany of balls ups, war, pointless security theatre and erosion of freedom, and since I just kept to incidents well known in western nations and legislation I’ve heard of and can easily find links for, that list is far, far from exhaustive. I could have gone on, of course, but I’ve long since lost the will to fly and have no desire to lose the will to fucking live.

And with so many notable dates perhaps it is easier just to remember September 11th 2001 after all. Not just as the day the world ended for nearly 3000 people or the day it changed forever for their loved ones, though that’s certainly the first thing we should remember about it, but also as the day liberty began slipping away for all the rest of us, slowly taken a piece at a time here and there but always being taken and so rarely being returned. And worst, this theft is not at the hands of those who attacked the west supposedly out of hatred for its freedom and free citizens, but at the hands of those who claim to be protecting us and our freedoms from those who hate that freedom. It’s also worth noting that the legislation rushed onto the books in the immediate weeks and months after 9/11 failed to prevent Richard Reid from getting on that plane with explosives in his shoe or the Wood Green plot or the Madrid bombings or Bali etc etc. But there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush to repeal much of it.

So this Sunday if anyone asks you where you were when the towers fell, remember all of it – both the people who died then and the liberties lost since. And in return ask the other person where they were when the day the free world responded to an assault on our freedom by locking it away for safekeeping.

* Or to give it its full and less snappy name, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. There really ought to be a law against starting with the acronym when thinking of names for things.
** Sadly, I am not making this up. I don’t know if the ticket was cancelled and he got his clothes back, but I’d hope so.
*** This seems to have gone away quietly before much of a fuss was made and it became more widely known, but the outrage I felt when I read about it was such that I’d have sworn off travelling to that country in which a government official has seriously considered it except that flying to the US had already got so bad that I’d foresworn it long before anyway. But it deserves wider attention and I’ve been meaning to work it into a blog post ever since. I’d very much hope that if taser bracelets ever come into use the vast majority travelling public introduce both the airlines and authorities to their extended digius medius and simply refuse to fly. I just wish I could be confident that they really would.

Bin Laden is dead but he’s still fighting

No, he’s not a zombie, but we’re still spending ridiculous sums of money fighting the war on a vague sense of unease and it’s clear from statements made by Obama, Cameramong and others in the last day and a half that finally having slotted Bin Laden doesn’t mean bringing back soldiers or winding down on the security theatre. If anything, they tell us, it means the opposite because of the desire of the wild-eyed religioloons to avenge Bin Laden’s death, itself an act of vengeance for 9/11 which in turn, according to some of the loons, was an act of revenge for occupation of Muslim lands, itself a reaction to one lot invading another lot and the constant threat of almost everyone there to wipe Israel off the map or words to that effect.

Now I’m not going to go all bleeding heart on you and say things like an eye for an eye means we all end up blind. There may be something in that but while thinking about this latest concern over possible revenge of revenge of revenge something quite different occurred to me. As I mentioned the other day, our act of revenge has cost well over a trillion dollars, taken nearly a decade and indirectly cost the lives of more than twice as many as were killed in the atrocity we’ve been trying to avenge. Some might say that turning fewer than 3,000 dead into more than 9,000 is, in hindsight, a good enough reason to stop, but it’s not the only one. Look again at the money – more than $300 million a day.

This isn’t about putting a dollar value on the lives of those who died on September 11th 2001 because it can’t be done and would be distasteful even to try. However, revenge cannot come at any price for one very simple reason. Each act of terrorism or even the threat of it is relatively cheap, but if each act of revenge is even a tenth as costly as getting Bin Liner has proven to be then before long we in the West, the ‘free’ countries, will bankrupt ourselves. And the horrible thought that occurred to me last night was this: maybe that was the plan all along.

Seriously, have a think about it. Did the West beat the Soviet Union in a gunfight? No, it just outspent it. Various things made this possible, not least of which was free(ish) markets and an absence of five year plans made it easier to make the money, and of course there were other things besides the Soviet economy involved, but they were provoked into spending more than they should faster than they should have. Bin Laden, whatever else he was, wasn’t stupid. Couldn’t it have occurred to the bastard to try the same thing with us, to wound pride cheaply but deeply in the hope of an expensive and drawn out response? I’m not the only one to think so (from the Ludwig von Mises blog):

Mises wrote, “No foreign aggressor can destroy capitalist civilization if it does not destroy itself.” [implying] that the sole way a foreign aggressor can contribute toward capitalist civilization’s destruction is to goad it into destroying itself.

That was what Osama Bin Laden was trying to do all along. And the war party (along with its enablers at the Fed) has been playing right into his hands. Even now that Bin Laden is dead, they have given every indication that they will continue to do so.

From the Washington Post:

Did Osama bin Laden win? No. Did he succeed? Well, America is still standing, and he isn’t. So why, when I called Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism expert who specializes in al-Qaeda, did he tell me that “bin Laden has been enormously successful”? There’s no caliphate. There’s no sweeping sharia law. Didn’t we win this one in a clean knockout?

Apparently not. Bin Laden, according to Gartenstein-Ross, had a strategy that we never bothered to understand, and thus that we never bothered to defend against. What he really wanted to do — and, more to the point, what he thought he could do — was bankrupt the United States of America. […]

The campaign taught bin Laden a lot. For one thing, superpowers fall because their economies crumble, not because they’re beaten on the battlefield. For another, superpowers are so allergic to losing that they’ll bankrupt themselves trying to conquer a mass of rocks and sand. This was bin Laden’s plan for the United States, too.

On Monday I said that despite everything, especially despite being dead, Bin Laden was technically still ahead on points, though when I said it I was really only thinking how he managed to hurt our liberty just by tempting our governments to take it away from us and – oh, the irony – keep it locked up for safety. Now I wonder if he isn’t even further ahead than I’d thought. I suppose the answer depends on for how much longer the US can and wants to carry on spending 300 million dollars a day.

And from the Mash…

THE death of Osama Bin Laden is a temporary glitch, purveyors of top quality fear have insisted.

The world’s leading fright-mongers said the Tom Clancy death of the world’s craziest scary-bogey man would focus the industry on developing a new state-of-the-art nightmare, probably with giant, razor-sharp tusks and eyes the colour of Satan’s droppings.

Tom Logan, booga-booga-booga analyst at Donnelly-McPartlin, said the US government’s decision to ethnically cleanse the underside of the Western world’s bed was a surprise change of tactics.

He added: “If America keeps making the monsters go away like this then eventually someone might start to ask why they still need so many anti-monster guns.

“And at that point the house of cards begins to look a tad shaky.”

Gold. Do go read the rest.

Questions, questions redux

And now the lily is being de-gilded. Contrary to what was being reported earlier it now turns out that Bin Breathing did not use his wife as a human shield and being apparently unarmed nor did he return fire. I appreciate that this is still soon after the raid in which he was killed that the ink labelling his DNA test has barely had time to dry and that details can easily be misreported at this early stage, but it’s a pretty big detail to get wrong, isn’t it?

I’d bet the guys who actually dropped the bastard knew perfectly well which of those was closest to what actually happened and the info from their first hand reports is now starting to come out and contradict the earlier stuff. The whole cowardly hiding behind others while fighting to the death thing was just too like the story that Hollywood would have told. Embellishment, perhaps not deliberate, added by someone who wanted to believe it happened that way? Who knows, but it sounded a bit too comic book villain to be reliable enough for the papers to jump all over right away.

Questions, questions – UPDATED

Right, so a guy who’s evaded capture for nearly ten years is finally tracked down and killed by a US special forces team the existence of which the US government refuses to confirm, and which manages to identify the body by means of a DNA test (oh boy, Jeremy Kyle must be rueing the lost opportunity there) conducted at a speed that must have every police department in the world salivating in envy, before promptly weighting the body down and chucking it overboard at a so far undisclosed location. I’m not saying that that it couldn’t or didn’t happen that way – I’m not a ‘truther’ and use only moderate amounts of tinfoil – but it’s not exactly the most convincing narrative, is it? It’s sure as hell not going to convince anyone who thinks there was any more to the September 11th attacks than crashing aircraft and incompetence.

Meanwhile, the von Mises blog proves the point I made yesterday, that this will almost certainly mean no increase in liberty for citizens in ‘free’ nations and if anything may well mean even less (quoting en bloc):

Via ESPN Chicago:

CHICAGO — In the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden, the Chicago Bulls will use metal detectors to screen all patrons entering the United Center before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

I’m sure this is just a temporary security measure until we apprehend bin Laden. Wait a minute…

Quite. We have always been at war with Eastasia terror, or at least we soon will have.

UPDATE – and shooting back while using his wife as a human shield too. Again, I’m not saying it didn’t happen that way, but doesn’t it sound to anyone else like these preconceptions – cowardice, misogyny and, somewhat strangely for a coward, a willingness to fight to the death – are gilding the lily just a bit?

Come fly the unfriendly sky

What have we come to when a government that likes to think of itself as the leader of the free world has its airport security drones conducting physical searches of children?

“I’m sorry mummy. I don’t know what I did wrong.”

You don’t even need to be a parent to feel that one like a punch to the guts. How do you explain it to a child? How do you explain that they haven’t done anything wrong but that the airport staff have been instructed to think they might have? How do you tell them that their own government, in its paranoia and fear of not only them out there but also those that might be them in here, has granted itself the presumption of guilt and the power to invade their personal space? How do say that this may happen every time they fly and that they have no rights in the matter, none at all? How do you explain that despite the embarrassment, shame or discomfort they may feel while being searched they have no grounds for complaint because ‘the agent followed proper procedures’? Or that the way things are going there will soon be a generation that has grown up to believe this is normal and who will not make much objection when its suggested that the same thing be done at railway and bus stations? How do you tell them that they should say ‘no’ when you yourself are unable to?

Except, of course, you can say ‘no’. You can say it simply by not going anywhere staffed by people who have been directed to think of you a a suspect to be checked, interrogated and searched. You can say it by refusing to fly anywhere unless absolutely essential, as the Drexels are now considering.

The family has changed plans for an upcoming trip: they’ll be driving instead of flying.

Which is what I’d encourage everybody to do rather than meekly submit. Drive, get the train, sail, video-conference – do absolutely anything but get on a fucking plane unless there really is no alternative. And I really mean no alternative. Don’t just look at the map and think that places are a long way apart so you have to fly and put up with all the crap that involves these days. Plan ahead and work out how much time is needed to go by other means, and then balance that against the aggro of flying. Sure, if I had to go to Brisbane tomorrow I’d fly, and if I had to go to New Zealand there’s not much option when there’s more than 2,000km of sea to cross, but if I had to be in Brisbane in a month’s time I’d consider taking 3 days extra to drive there and if I needed a face-to-face on the other side of an ocean I’d loo at doing it with Skype. Anything, anything at all, to get out of the purgatory-like experience of spending time in an airport queueing up and being questioned and queueing up again and being scanned and queueing up again and being patted down, all in the knowledge, as shown by the events in Moscow back in January, that none of this makes you safe if someone has thought about bombing the security queues instead of an aircraft.

And it’s saddest of all to see the Americans putting themselves through this. I rather like the bits of America I’ve seen – and of course like Australia the place is big enough that it should have something that appeals to nearly everybody – and I have a lot of time for Americans in general. More than two hundred years ago they went further than anyone before or since in their efforts for individual liberty, and that so many still revere the document that was written to guarantee their freedoms and is still is their highest law is something I really admire them for. But what a shame it is their government no longer pays more than lip service to it, toeing the line rather than the ideal and spirit, and spinning the idea that such egregiously intrusive measures – physically searching toddlers, for example – are needed to keep Americans safe, in spite of the fact that even Israel, surrounded by people who want it destroyed, doesn’t bother with all that unnecessary and pointless crap. Despite my admiration for America and its people these days, thanks to their governments, I’m simply not willing to go there anymore.

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has become the land of the sheep and the home of the slave, and in a way gave away the easy victory over terrorism by changing its values and way of life in favour of a climate of fear, suspicion and never ending checks and screening. And the men responsible for it? Well, here’s one of them.

I can’t imagine how to explain that to a six year old child either.

Leader of the free world still going the wrong way

I feel for the Americans, I really do. They probably are still the most free people in the world or are at least among them, but I don’t think they’re as free as they were not even ten years ago. And I don’t think they’re getting any freer thanks to their current crop of pollies.

The US Senate has voted to extend controversial surveillance powers granted by the Patriot Act law, put in place after the 9/11 attacks.
By a vote of 86-12, the Senate approved a 90-day extension of wiretaps, access to business records and surveillance of terror suspects.
The move came one day after the House of Representatives voted to extend the provisions until 8 December.

Super. Must be wonderful to be a freedom loving American and see that by way of making it up to those who envy you for it your country is gradually becoming the land of the sheep and the home of the slave. Still, Super-Barack will save you, eh? Unlike that horrible Republican President you had the Obamessiah is a nice Democrat. A liberal, a word which comes from liberty. I know you guys like liberty – I’ve seen the statue myself, although they weren’t allowing anyone up it. The war on tourism, someone said. Or something like that. Anyway, the point is that your new(ish) President will step in and… er, do nothing?

The White House backed the bill, but would have favoured a longer extension.

“Change you can believe in” seems to mean more or less fuck all change, and I personally I already believed that was likely way back in the middle of 2008. As in Britain and Australia I’m convinced that to get change that’s actually meaningful they really need to stop voting for the usual suspects.

Was it something I said?

I don’t generally go in for looking too much at my visitor stats, being the fragile soul I am and unsure if my delicate ego can take it if neither of my readers show up one day (hi, Mum). But as I mentioned earlier I have looked today just out of long dormant curiosity about what search terms people have been using, and while they were a bit boring by comparison with some of the lunacy that takes people to some other blogs I did notice that I’ve had an awful lot of visitors in the past 24 hours. Much of it is from the US and it’s mostly going to one F-bomb strewn post about the increasing levels of airport security theatre in general and those bloody airport body scanners in particular.

I’d like to expand on that earlier post a little by telling you about the moment when for me airport security jumped the shark so hugely that there was room for several full grown Megalodons tucking into an eight course whale banquet underneath. This was at London’s Heathrow airport in early 2003, just a few month after someone shot at (and missed, thankfully) an Israeli airliner with surface to air missiles as it left Mombasa airport in Kenya for Tel Aviv.

… it was the missile attack at the Mombasa airport that sent shivers around the world, even though the stingers missed the Tel Aviv-bound plane with 271 people aboard.
Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a very serious escalation of international terrorism.”
“Today, they’re firing the missiles at Israeli planes. Tomorrow, they’ll fire missiles at American planes,” he said.

Whether it was some concrete intelligence or whether it was just a feeling in Britain that if it could be American planes then it could as easily be British too, and so began what seemed to me to be the most high profile but completely fucking pointless security operation at Heathrow airport. From the BBC:

The deployments of troops at Heathrow Airport has once again highlighted the danger to airliners from shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the hands of terrorists.

Although there has been no confirmation of the specific threat to UK airports, speculation is rampant that the current state of alert has been sparked by fear of a missile attack.

The Daily Mail:

Meanwhile, a heavy military presence was in place at Heathrow as London remained on a heightened level of security alert amid fears of a possible terrorist attack.
Scotland Yard has refused to reveal the substance of the threat but terror experts said it pointed to a possible missile attack on a plane similar to the one carried out by al Qaeda terrorists in Kenya last year.

The Indie:

The plan seems to have been to fire a shoulder-held anti-aircraft missile at a commercial airliner taking off from Heathrow. Members of al-Qa’ida are known to possess the Russian-built Strela-2 missile, better known as the SAM-7, which has a height range of 3,000 feet. They have used the weapon before in attempted attacks, most recently when two missiles were fired at an Israeli charter aircraft taking off from Mombasa airport in Kenya last November. The Strela-2 can be fired from more than three kilometres away. It was also possible that they had obtained a Stinger air-to-surface missile made in America, which is even more powerful.

The Teletubbygraph:

A suspected Islamist plot to fire a missile at an airliner prompted the largest security operation at Heathrow for a decade yesterday.
Tony Blair personally authorised the use of 450 troops, with armoured vehicles, to back up more than 1,300 police officers.
Soldiers from the 1st Bn Grenadier Guards and Household Cavalry, carrying semi-automatic weapons, patrolled the terminals and the 17-mile perimeter road.

Al-Qa’eda is believed to have a stock of shoulder-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles, some capable of reaching targets at a height of 10,000ft and up to five miles away.

Assuming that they’d want to shoot at aircraft landing or taking off, five miles from Heathrow’s runways means attackers would have something like the red area in which to shoot from, possibly a bit more or a bit less depending on how quickly planes departing or arriving at the airport pass in or out of that 10,000 foot ceiling. So potentially all of Staines and Ashford would need watching, plus the outskirts of Windsor

Click to enlarge – 

Egham, and Slough. And then there’s all of Hounslow and Isleworth too. And all those fields and roads and so on. Whether they’d want to attack from a rural location where they’d hope to remain unseen or an urban area where they might hope to disperse or near a main road for a fast escape, there’s a lot of choice.

So what protection did Heathrow get to deal with this threat and cover the 150 or so square miles it might come from?

… 450 soldiers at Heathrow, using armoured Scimitar and Spartan reconnaissance vehicles, were deployed throughout the airport from dawn as the first of the day’s 150,000 passengers began checking in.

So about three soldiers per square mile if they were evenly spread, but since they were all hanging around the fucking airport the real average beyond the airport itself must have been close to zero.

Click images for links to Life originals

And excuse my layman’s ignorance but what the fuck were they going to do there? Seriously? The Scimitar is an armoured reconnaissance vehicle with a 30mm cannon firing a variety of ammunition up to 4,000 metres and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun in case you only need to make something lightly dead. While I’d be very reluctant to get on the wrong end of either of them I highly doubt that they’ve been used to shoot down many surface to air missiles, particularly if launched from a site and at a target beyond the 4,000 metre range of the Scimitar’s main weapon. So as far as I can see deploying troops in Scimitars was, to quote Malcolm Tucker, as much use as a marzipan dildo. The Spartan, being an armoured personnel carrier with just the machine gun, wasn’t even that useful.

So I ask again: what the fuck were the troops and armour for? Had the worst happened and some young lads with full balls and empty heads, too hopeful of getting laid in the next world to settle down and enjoy this one, actually got hold of a couple of Stingers and downed a plane – because the troops didn’t seem to have anything that would have stopped it – what exactly were they going to do? Presumably they could use their vehicles’ speed across country to close within range of the wreckage and… er… look at it for a bit until the fire brigade showed up and began hosing down the burning debris. Perhaps you might be thinking that there was an unaired possibility of a car attack like the one at Glasgow airport in 2007, but if so I still don’t see what good they’d be. Let me put it like this: hands up anyone who likes the idea of machine gun fire and 30mm cannon shells flying around one of the world’s busiest airports.

Anyone? Anyone at all?

No, thought not.

So it seems to me that their purpose was never to be an effective counter to possible missile fire but to be seen, to make the threat seem credible, to make people think it was being taken seriously if the Army was being deployed, and to give everyone the illusion of being safer.* And look, who knows? Maybe there was a lot of other stuff going on with the police, Special Branch, MI5 etc behind the scenes to make sure a missile wouldn’t be launched in the first place. That seems likely to me but it certainly wouldn’t require the support of 450 soldiers in light tanks hanging around outside the terminals who weren’t equipped for doing much in the event of an attack but standing guard while someone else swept up the fucking wreckage unless, by some miracle, a spectacularly stupid terrorist chose to set up to fire a SAM within range of a 30mm and without any innocent civilians in the way.

So that was when and where I stopped taking it seriously, and I’ve looked at it all with a critical eye ever since. As a practical matter I don’t worry about flying because the odds are really very good for each individual passenger, but I’d feel absolutely no safer as a result of all this crap we’re put through before we’re allowed to fly and certainly not from seeing troops equipped for battle with Soviet patrols blocking the entrance to the fucking car park. As I keep saying, the Israelis don’t bother with this bullshit and they’re surrounded by people who want them dead. More to the point, I object to being treated like a suspect when there is no earthly reason I should be. I doubt I look or act like a loony bomber and I imagine the only profile I fit is that of an annoyed bastard who objects to having to turn up so early for an international flight because of all the fucking security procedures that it’s fast becoming possible to spend more time in the fucking airports at either end than in the fucking air between them.

And here’s a thought – almost certainly neither do you! And if we don’t then why the fuck are we having to pay for the privilege of being treated this way?

Well, I won’t. Flying doesn’t scare me but it does bore me, and these days it also offends me. For that they should be paying me to get on the fucking plane! Until something changes I simply won’t fly unless circumstances absolutely force me to. This is a bloody big country and that choice sometimes means either a long drive or bus ride or a slightly faster but very expensive train journey, and obviously all international trips would mean a very long swim. So the bastards know they’ll get me on a plane now and then – for my last trip to Perth I didn’t have time to go overland and had to grit my teeth through the bullshit, especially when I forgot about shoe checks and showed up in hiking boots – but if at all possible I’ll drive straight past the airport, window down, arm extended and middle finger raised to the unfriendly skies.

And I recommend it to anyone.

Edited to add: link fixed. Thanks for the heads up to Sadbutmadlad.

* And maybe, just maybe, to build the foundations for people to accept far more expensive and intrusive security theatre later.

Missing the point.

I suppose the effort should be acknowledged, and no doubt it’ll be more than enough of a concession for some people, but scanners which show a gingerbread style line drawing instead of some false colour image of me with my dick waving around is not going to tempt me to fly again.

The US Transportation Security Administration yesterday began rolling out new airport scanner software that produces less revealing images of travellers.

The new software “enhances privacy by eliminating passenger-specific images and instead auto-detects potential threat items and indicates their location on a generic outline of a person,” the TSA said.

What the fuck are you smiling about?

Now I do realise that many people do have a nudity taboo and many others have reason to be less than proud of their bodies, and so this is the principle concern for a lot of people. However, I feel I must explain something both to those people and to those involved in installing all this security theatre in airports:

We are not all fucking terrorists, you fucking bell-ends.

There is no practical purpose served by authoritarian cockweasels spending vast sums on questionable technology to be used on overwhelmingly innocent people, especially when the fuckknuckles then ignore the possibility of a bomb going off in the fucking queues they themselves have fucking created with this shite.*

I don’t stay away because you want to look at my knob in a scanner. I don’t even stay away because of the possible health risks of the scanners or because you’ll want to cop a feel if I refuse to be scanned. I stay away because I am not a fucking terrorist and there is absolutely cube root of fuck all evidence for any fucker to believe otherwise, so I refuse to be treated like a fucking suspect by humourless apes with polyester uniforms and 200 word vocabularies. If I don’t need to be on the other side of an ocean or continent in a hurry badly enough to make it worth my while putting up with hours of interminable queueing for securiteee – to have my shoes X-rayed and my luggage X-rayed and my pockets checked and my mouthwash sniffed and my drinks bottle measured and any harmless everyday objects, obvious toys or tee shirts with intimidating if unintelligible writing confiscated for some fuck to take home later, and finally to be made to stand in a giant open ended fucking microwave and have my bollocks warmed for little or no fucking benefit – if it’s not important enough to go through all that then, to be blunt, I’m not fucking going. Especially when it’s all so fucking unnecessary.

So turning me into a gingerbread man on the fucking monitor is not going to tempt me back. You’ll see me when you fucking learn how to treat me as a paying customer again, you cunts.

Fuck. You. All.

* Yes, I know that the Moscow bomb went off in arrivals. That doesn’t change the point that the possibility of one going off in the queue for one of the various new security measures is still there.