:: The Security Bug; futility of anti-terrorist precautions


Ever since 9/11, the Americans became crazy of the security precautions. Hours-long lines in the airports became an everyday picture, scaring away reckless customers who still did not refuse this mode of transportation.


The attempt to increase the security at any cost is only another side of the failure to fight the threat at its source, or eliminate the feeding ground of terrorism, the arbitrary foreign policy. Like it commonly happens, people first try to fight the consequences, and only much later, recognizing the structural flaw of such attempt, go for the roots.


This paranoid security is not only inefficient. Its effect is opposite of the intended. Contrast millions of man-hours lost every day in almost strip-searches during the check-in with possible loss of lives in terrorist action. No doubt, more aggregate lifetime is lost in such peaceful and seemingly unimportant measures, than would have been lost otherwise.


The same is true on the material side. Salaries for all kinds of inspectors, beef-up of bureaucratic establishment, skyrocketing cost of equipment surely offsets any possible damage from suicide attacks certainly, if this damage is measured in actual costs, not in the dozens of billions of dollars the WTC damage was valued.


Democracy and equal rights add their share of stupidity to the proceedings. While nationality of terrorists is on the record, people of evidently different ethnic groups are searched as well. German businessman, whose laptop was sniffed for half an hour during my latest air trip, and African-American teenager, who has to remove his belt at the same time, hardly fit into any terrorist profile. But, then, everyone is equal before the law, even if this is plain foolish.


A sad thing is that these efforts are futile. Remember the fellow who transported a bit of explosives in his shoes? Now millions of passengers have to remove their boots. And imagine someone is caught trafficking C4 in his rectum. How would you like a line to proctologist near a ticketing counter? Or what if someone actually eat the explosives in plastic pack, the way drugs are carried? Perhaps, all of us would have to pass X-ray exam.


These hassles are not even for a real security threat, since the explosive shoe story was a transparent provocation, presumably in order to heat up the customers, a good follow-up of the main action of 9/11. Only the people deliberately staging spectacle would have hired an evidently insane person, and supplied him with quantity of the material sufficient to impress the TV audience but far from enough to inflict even incidental damage to the plane. The organizers calculation was meaningful: yet another crush could have provoked a deep recess in the popular trust to the government, while an uncovered attempt proved that the government security measures were correct.


We would be threading on a thin ice looking to uncover a force beyond 9/11 attack. There is no sense to hijack planes in order to crush them in nearby buildings, which could have been blown safely and easily by renting an office there, slowly accumulating explosives and discharging them with mobile phone call made from a street phone somewhere in the Emirates. And, of course, it is exceedingly odd for a terrorist to refrain from claiming responsibility for attack this is what terrorism is all about; there is no reason to attack, if not to say who and why has done it. The suggestions that Oussama was afraid are ridiculous; such an operation is a crowning jewel of any terrorist career, worth dying for. Later bombing of the US compound in Saudi Arabia confirms the view of Oussama non-involvement, since what possible reason could have driven him to stage the attack in his home country, where his family has vast commercial empire, not in the nearby Kuwait? On the contrary, other forces have every reason for such show, driving home to fundamentalist Muslims that they should join America in its fight against terrorists.


Returning to our point, consider that no possible security measures can create a barrier to guerilla warfare. This should be already evident from Israeli experience, where even a tiny country with extremely security-minded population cannot prevent every terrorist act.


There are so many ways to carry weapons on board of plane that it would take a manual to describe them. Undetectable knives could be made from nylon, and guns from ceramics. Nitroglycerine, chemical and bacteriological weapons could be camouflaged as medicine. Traces of explosives could be eliminated by chemical washing with subsequent galvanic covering of the container.


There are plenty untraditional ways as well. Terrorists dont have to board the plane: they can hire its pilot for suicide mission, or an armed security agent now present on many flights for hijacking.


Baggage could be checked in at the airports with low security measures. Even if at some unimaginable cost major airports would introduce full screening of transit baggage, there is no reason for terrorists to wait until the take off. The baggage could be blown up upon transit landing, when the plane arriving from a third-world country comes close to the terminal in a major airport.


Why bring explosives on board? Its a headache and prohibited by the federal law. Much simpler is to blow them in the airport terminal, before security check, but in the presence of large crowd of would-be spectators. Ex-spectators, if you prefer.


Explosives could be added to fuel, inserted in spare parts for installation during maintenance, and hidden in the plane during the landing in any lax-security airport. Pilots could be poisoned through food or killed by a hired crewmember.


What really puzzles me, is why all this fuss about airplanes? Terrorists can blow ships, and buses, and buildings, and simply the street crowd. Taken to the logical end, the security measures should include screening of the pedestrians briefcases and purses. Not impossible, but, then, not feasible, either, especially if we consider various kinds of terrorist threats. To prevent the explosions of the Oklahoma type, it would be necessary to prohibit sales of common fertilizers. Acetone and Vaseline could make a nice bomb for school kids. Biological hazard or poison can be created in the comfort of ones home and simply poured in a sink. And I recall there was a book on making nukes in garage. If not to this extent, it still should be simply enough; no fifty-year-old technology is much of a secret nowadays.


There are so many ways around the illusory security. Indeed, this is what was true throughout the history: no large-scale security is possible; every man should fight for himself. Due to the technological progress, government for a time obtained means to offer large-scale security, but the technology available to commoners soon reached up, and the protection proved very vulnerable.


Why, then, much more terrorist acts are not coming up? Perhaps there is a paranormal control, not letting the suffering to extend beyond tolerable. Perhaps, people are naturally reluctant to inflict an unwarranted damage on others. Or, perhaps, we are just in front of their wave, and technological knowledge only needs to be distributed a little more. But the lack of widespread terrorism is certainly not because of the flimsy security.

Designed studio Alexandr Ozverinoff