Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terrorists also elaborate practical jokers

The terrorist as master practical joker (because that's just as insane an explanation for their activities as any other).
In August 2001, one terrorist to another:
T1 - I bet you I can get boxcutters, letter openers, pocket knives and even nail clippers banned from all flights in the US. Think of all of those aggravated passengers with annoying hangnails.
T2 - OK, you're on.
T1 - If I win the bet I want the money to go to my surviving relatives.

In November 2001, Richard Reid to his terrorist cell controller:
Rich - I bet you I can make everyone have to take their shoes off to fly in an airplane.
Terrorist - OK, you're on.
Richard - If I win the bet and survive I want my winnings in cigarettes, since they are the only fungible currency in prison, otherwise just give it to my surviving relatives.

In August 2006, Overheard at the terrorist water cooler.
Terrorist A - I bet you I can get airline passengers even crankier than that show bomber guy by getting all water and soda (they'll get thirsty), perfumes and deodorants (they'll get smelly), toothpaste (their breath will smell), suntan lotion (sunburned in August!) and every other liquid and gel banned on airplanes.
Terrorist B - Oh, yeah. I'll do you one better by also getting every electronic device larger than a watch banned also. Without laptops and iPods they will go insane on those long flights.
Terrorist A - OK, you're on, but if they allow breastmilk and baby formula I'm only paying you or your surviving relations half the bet.
Has anyone figured out that the terrorists not only want to cause spectacular loss of life to get noticed and forward their cause but also all of the inconvenience they cause gets them in the news just as well? Today's latest scare has us now banning all liquids from airplanes,because some bombs can be made from liquids that are explosive. The electronic devices are banned because they can be used to detonate these liquid explosives. Everything must be checked into baggage, so you can take them, but the business traveler who was savvy enough to avoid bag check is now thwarted.

I understand that loss of life is incalculable, but hypothetically speaking, how would one balance prevention of an attack against all of the cost, time lost and inconvenience of security measures that are intended to catch highly unlikely, rare events. Some econometrician somewhere is doing this calculation and I would love to see their results.

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NotPhil said...

I think the terrorists are relieved that they don't actually have to blow things up to make us live in fear anymore. Now they can just plan to and then snicker while they watch the West turn into police states.

You might be interested in a book called Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. It points out that most of our security measures create far more problems than they solve.

Richard Koehler said...

notphil, good suggestion, I do have Bruce Schneier's book already, I just have to fit it into my reading list and schedule.

I wonder if anyone with influence thinks of the cost benefit analysis of their efforts to stop these terrorists.