Monday, November 01, 2010

Attack In A Box

The most recent bombing plot from the Middle East appears to have been thwarted NOT because of high-tech detection devices but the lowest-tech detection method of them all -- a tip provided by an informant

In other words, after spending billions of dollars on technology and imposing countless dollars worth of delay, inconvenience and fear on the American public, our only real defense against the terrorist threat seems to be remorse or incompetence on the part of the bad guys.

The "shoe bomber," the "Times Square bomber" and the "Underwear Bomber" all failed because they goofed up.  Not because we spent billions on equipment and training to catch them before they could deploy their weapons.  And now the Ink Cartridge Bomber has been stopped by an insider's tip. 

Cargo and shipped packages have long been the "soft underbelly" of anti-terrorist security and it is truly remarkable that there have not been far more similar attacks. The Lockerbie bombing occurred way back in 1988.  For years following that disaster airlines were required to ask each passenger whether anyone had given them a package to bring on board the plane.  Anti-terrorism on the honor system.

"Mail bombs" have been a threat for decades, possibly for centuries.  Yet tons of cargo are still shipped around America each day with only the paper equivalent of an honor system to protect us.  Hopefully, every package airmailed in America is subjected to at least as much screening as an airport passenger's baggage, but because that information is considered "sensitive" the full extent of such security measures is unknown.

There seems to be no amount of inconvenience and delay too great for the "security theater" performed at airports by passengers.  Yet the nation's water, land and air ports remain far too vulnerable to attack-in-a-box terrorists because of corporate concerns that it might reduce profits if we required more extensive security procedures for packages than for people.

The two packages intercepted in this latest incident were, apparently, only the tip of an iceberg.  Some reports suggest another two dozen suspicious packages were simultaneously identified.  All of these facts certainly don't bode well for the annual increase in online holiday shopping.  "Free Shipping" may not be so free after all.

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