We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Are you sure you didn’t miss anything?

According to Fox News, the FBI has released a new list of “things that can be used as weapons”. Airport security personnel are being briefed on how to spot the new no-no’s. I am certain we are all pleased the FBI are on their toes. In a mere two years they have discovered hidden knives and other weapons are available in martial arts catalogues. I’m sure we will all breathe easier knowing we are now completely safe.

I am of course being facetious. The list is inadequate and will always be so. They could perhaps force us to check everything at the ticket counter and fly naked. That certainly would limit the possibilities for smuggling knives on board. While the idea does have its’ charms and would certainly ease the boredom of long transoceanic flights, it would be insufficient. There is an old adage: “There are no dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous people.” In the hands of a trained warrior virtually anything is a deadly weapon quite capable of intimidation of the cowardly. One can do terrible things with bare hands.

So let’s get real guys. You are wasting your time and ours at the gate. You will fail to spot the terrorists or their weapons. They will do something you have not thought of. They will get on board a number of airliners again one day. They will imagine they can intimidate an airliner full of Americans into submission again… and we, the flying public will then tear them into pieces too small for burial.

There is a field in Western Pennsylvania that shows who the truly dangerous people are.

20 comments to Are you sure you didn’t miss anything?

  • jb

    oh, you forgot about the step about tying us naked in to our seats and drugging us. that might just work.

  • Charlie

    If they offered that now I’d like flying a lot more.

  • AmeKes

    With me luck, I will get stuck between two 300lb women.

  • Zhang Fei

    Ever since I watched the movie Papillon…

  • Chris Josephson

    I’ve often thought that no matter what future terrorists are armed with, there’s no way the people on the plane will allow them to achieve their goals. They’ll have to blow up the plane or kill everyone on board. People won’t sit meekly in their seats hoping all will be ok.

    Of all the items they disallow on planes, I still can’t see how a small nailclipper could harm anyone. It’s silly some of the items you can’t bring on board.

  • zack mollusc

    Can we assume that the same amount of thought has gone into the aircraft; removing any parts that could be used or adapted as weapons?

  • zack mollusc

    And ditto the area in which you wait after being scanned?

  • EU Delenda Est

    I’ve said for years that for long haul flights, they shouldn’t have seats, but racks from floor to ceiling. Everyone should be given a hypodermic injection of sleeping drugs on entering the plane and, while still awake, go lie on a rack and get buckled in. Then fall asleep for 10 hours or so. The airlines would have the ultimate in the passive passengers we know they really want; any terrorists would be just as knocked out as everyone else; with racks, they could probably squeeze in more passengers – or at least, racks are cheaper than seats and little plastic trays; no need for inflight “entertainment”; the passengers wouldn’t have to endure endless pointless announcements (I personally do not care what altitude we are flying at. As long as we’re not dragging over rooftops, that’s all I care about. We also wouldn’t have to listen to the captain telling us to sit back and enjoy – by which he means, of course, endure – the flight.). We would land refreshed and unharrassed. I predict the day will come …

  • Jamieson Christie

    The current security measures might have had some effect if they had been in force on September 11. But now it just seems like the generals are planning for the last (i.e. previous) war.

    All the precautions, whether you agree with them or not, are designed to prevent future hijackings. I would suggest that an ingenious terrorist seeking to cause maximum destruction would abandon the idea of hijacking a plane, and plan something else.

  • And, before you get on the plane, you pass through the airport’s shops, where you are encouraged to buy glass bottles of drink, any of which can be quickly adapted into a lethal weapon, and which you are allowed to take onto the plane with you. Diabetics are allowed to take needles on board with them. Inject insulin into a non-diabetic and they’ll die pretty quickly.

    A friend of mine was at Heathrow, passing the big glass boxes in which they display all the confiscated “weapons”, and saw a pair of horseshoes.

  • Peter

    “What’s the use of weapons, when anything can be used as a weapon?”

    This is pointless. Utterly, utterly pointless. Stupid restrictions to give stupid people a completely misplaced sense of stupid safety.

    Last time I went through Gatwick (having been told I couldn’t have my disposable razors in my hand luggage), there in Boots were replacements for the ones that would have been confiscated.

    Glass bottles.
    Ballpoint pens (Bic-types have about the best longitudinal strength for hammer blows)
    Magazines and newspapers (roll them up tightly & jab – surprisingly effective).
    Batteries in a sock.
    Hands. Feet.

    This is without getting onto anything exotic, like ceramics and GRP weapons (which would possibly be spotted on an X ray).

    I have to admit that anything overt is unlikely to get through British airport security, but I’ve seen some astonishing incompetence in other airports.

    I’ll go back to beating my head off a brick wall now.

  • I just got back from a cross country flight (in the US). I failed the magnetic test and got “wanded.”

    The guy literally wanded each of my fingers. For the reasons already mentioned in these comments and a heap of others, the “security measures” appear starkly idiotic and hopelessly incapable of deterring someone determined to perpetrate violence on the plane.

    Not only that, but you know those vaunted steel cockpit doors? They’re there all right–but the crew opened the door on my first flight just minutes after takeoff!

    That plane, an MD-80, wouldn’t make a good hijack target anyway, as it was WAY too narrow and horribly cramped. Or I don’t know, maybe that would make it a better hijack target.

  • I agree with Jamieson Christie about what a terrorist would do now, but with the caveat “because of the extra security.”
    Yes it is true that many things can be employed as weapons, and yes you can kill someone with an insulin injection. But to return to the field in Western Pennyslyvania, the reason the passengers foiled the hijackers was because of the weapons the hijackers had. Had they taken machine pistols on board, they may have crashed the fourth plane on target.
    What changed in the fourth plane was the passengers. Previously they had thought “If we do what they say, we may live”, when they knew about the Twin Towers, they knew that if they didn’t resist they would certainly die – along with many on the ground. If there is an equality of arms, and several good citizens to each terrorist, the hijackers will lose. If the checks keep it that way, good for them.
    Now the terrorists boarded those planes before the new security checks, so in themselves, the checks don’t seem to have been the reason for the hijackers lack of overt arms. But some were wanted by the FBI, there could have been better intelligence, and so on. If the hijack gangs had been only three strong because some were detained, 9/11/2001 would just be a date.
    Surely the point of the exercise is to limit the terrorists options, and that can only be a good thing.
    And if fighting the last war is a mistake, how much worse is making the same error twice?

  • I think I’ve got to disagree with you, Dale, if you’re saying that trying to minimise the availabilty of the most easily-used and ganderous weapons on planes is a waste of time. I’d much rather be on a plane where the terrorists had plastic knives than one where they had machine-guns.

    Yes, evil minds will carry on seeking ways. There are right this minute, surely. But there hasn’t been another 9/11 yet. Security is surely worth something, despite the fact that it can’t ever be infallible: the very time required to invent 9/11 #2 will be extended, now that even knitting-needles aren’t allowed on planes. Delaying terrorism saves lives.

  • Tony H

    My key experience with airport security was when I took a hunting rifle to Canada from UK. Naturally I checked out the rquirements in detail in advance, so the only difficulties I encountered were through the ignorance & incompetence of airport staff – which was considerable. In UK, security reacted with alarm & incomprehension at the sight of my rifle bolt, which I’d separated from the action as usual when travelling: they had to go and check with higher authority before letting me carry it on board, having decided I was unlikely to drill a hole through the floor into an unpressurised baggage hold to reunite my rifle with its bolt…
    At Toronto, security failed to be convinced by a couple of Mounties I called over (great guys who actually knew something about firearms) that my bolt was an improbable weapon, and I had to go back to check it in, thereby handily reuniting it with the rifle for any criminal baggage-handler who cared to steal it. Later at Toronto, a guard gravely inspected my high-velocity rifle and asked, “So what do you use this for – ducks?” thereby confirming my view that airport security might be qualified to confiscate nail-clippers, but as for guns, they don’t know a damn thing.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    “So what do you use this for – ducks?”


    That’s hilarious. Yes, “security” dude, I plan to make pate of the duck with the first shot and eat it with a spoon. Moron.

    Wait a second, this idiot has the power to detain me. On second thought, it’s not so hilarious.

    By the way, please post links to the specific rifle. Can’t get enough.

  • Last winter my brother was flying to the US olympic center for a week of shooting training. He brought his ray gun looking competition air pistol, and his self defense glock. After properly checking in and declaring he was traveling with firearms, he and the luggage back bag went to the back for inspection. The found the air pistol in its case. They also found a pair of tiny scissors cleverly concealed inside a pouch inside his med pack. They did not find the disassembled Glock, or the magazines with ammo for it.

    Most airline security personal are trained to hunt for nail clippers or scissors.

  • Johan

    “The government also recently tightened visa rules for international travelers passing through U.S. airports after warnings in late July that Al Qaeda teams might try to hijack international flights.”

    (from article link provided)

    I’m sure the reason for tightening visa rules is to prevent terrorists to enter the country (or something like that), but unfortunately it’s preventing honest, ordinary people from enjoying a stay in the States as well. Sure, people enter US soil everyday despite hardened rules, but being treated as a potential terrorist everytime you’d like to visit New York is not something pleasurable. I’ve been there and the people at customs seemed to actually be aggravated that they didn’t find anything wrong with me or my bags.

  • Sigivald

    Come on, guys. The article focuses on the utility of the list as an educational tool for showing the clueless gits who do screenings what various “disguised knives” look like – it’s not a list of “new things that are banned”, since knives are already (foolishly, yes, but that’s another issue) verboten.

    If we’re going to have such regulations, stupid as they are, and rely on barely-trained monkeys to enforce them, it’s not a bad idea to at least show them how to stop the most likely disguised versions of such weapons.

    Of course, as the general consensus seems to be, the rules themselves are stupid, and an aware and uppity set of passengers is a far better defense against hijackings than confiscating pen-knives, but there’s precious little that can be done, sadly, against the governmental urge to Be Seen To Be Doing Something. But the FBI, in this *specific* case, isn’t doing all that badly.

    (And the part about the metal playing cards “thrown with deadly results” was hilarious, though probably added by the reporter or editor. Deadly results? Sure, if you’re two feet away and throw it into his throat, I suppose… otherwise, maybe you’ll give him a nasty cut and make him bleed his own blood.)

  • I reckon they should be checking all passengers for weapons before boarding so that they can hand out knives and coshes to the unarmed ones.