15 November, 2007

19 Planes Virtually Destroyed In US Skies

The administration likes to say that they're doing a great job with homeland security, since no significant attacks have been made on US soil since 9/11. But today that story has been proved to be nothing horseshit.
The GAO released a report today that detailed how teams at 19 different airports were able to smuggle bomb parts and liquid explosives right past security to get onto the planes. These bombs were built out of $150 worth of materials commonly available at hardware stores, and a video they showed in session with congress today showed just how powerful such an explosion would be. (I will upload the cspan footage onto youtube shortly and post it here.) I think it was clear to all who watched that the resulting explosion could easily destroy any plane it went off in, although TSA chief Kip Hawley just had to point out that since such an explosion has not been tested inside a plane, "no one really knows" what would happen if it went off in mid-flight. (I guess they'll have to check Mythbusters for that one.)
While it is clearly troubling that in 19 attempts, 19 successes were had, perhaps it will be even more troubling to realize that when they saw how easy it was to get through, they tried AGAIN, but this time triggered the special screening to see what would happen. They STILL got through in 19 out of 19 tries.
But believe it or not, this is not the worst part.
The worst part is that last year, the GAO did the same exact thing and got the same exact results. There has been no improvement in the intervening year, even though last time, Congress told the TSA to train their people to protect against this threat. TSA chief Hawley insists that "as of right now, our airports are safe. We have fixed the problem", yet immediately afterward, the GAO official (sorry, but I didn't catch his name) retorted that "we used the same exact methods we did last year, and had absolutely no problems getting through", though he admitted he also used new techniques in some cases and additionally smuggled in liquid explosives, which they didn't do in last year's exercise.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that we apparently can't guard against this stuff. This problem was brought to the attention of Homeland Security and its TSA division last year, and were told to at least fix this breach, yet a year later, no progress has been made. It remains obvious, therefore, that no progress can be made, since I refuse to believe that these people actually want security to be so easily broken.
The simple fact, then, is that anytime terrorists want to, they can blow up passenger planes in American airspace. With all that this gov't has tried to do to limit such threats, nothing has worked. The fact that we haven't had a major terrorist attack recently, I then conclude, is not because of hotshots behind the scenes who are taking out the badguys Bond-style, but rather because the would-be terrorists simply haven't yet had the willpower to see such plans through. If they did, then numerous planes would already have been destroyed.
Or do you think I'm being too harsh? What do you guys think?
Update: Summary of the GAO report is available at their website. Also, apparently CNN did a short piece on this as well.

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