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Preparing for the Last Gag

January 6, 2010

“And besides, you don’t run the same gag twice. You do the next gag.”

That’s Basher from Ocean’s Thirteen, referring to the idea that the gang of thieves cut the power to the hotel, as they did in Ocean’s Eleven.  Not to make light of al Qaeda, but does that remind you of anyone?  They didn’t change the location of the PETN much, but they didn’t send another guy with it in his shoes to try to blow up an airliner.  And the next guy they send won’t have PETN sewn into his underpants.

It is with that in mind that I approach stories like this one:

The explosive device smuggled in the clothing of the Detroit bomb suspect would not have been detected by body-scanners set to be introduced in British airports, an expert on the technology warned last night.

The claim severely undermines Gordon Brown’s focus on hi-tech scanners for airline passengers as part of his review into airport security after the attempted attack on Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

It would be very disappointing if we spent billions of dollars on airport scanners that could not detect the explosives that the last guy who got through security had.  That said, it feels like we’re regulating the last gag here.  There’s not going to be another Knickerbomber.  There might be a watch bomber or a sunglasses bomber or a yarmulke bomber or something else we’re not prepared for, which will leaves saying nothing about how our high-tech, very expensive screeners can detect explosives in the undergarments.  Why are we behind al Qaeda on this?  It can’t all be the ACLU’s fault, although it would do them to get off the TSA’s back about screeners that reveal a person’s anatomy to a security official in a separate room (get over it).

There are several things we ought to do to improve our security (decrease the number of people on watch lists, look for terrorists instead of tweezers), but spending a fortune fixing what has already happened and is unlikely to happen again doesn’t seem like one of them.

UPDATE: As uncomfortable as it sounds, things like this are probably what we should be preparing for.

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