Implants and Bombs

The latest threat to aviation security now appears to be bombs that are implanted or inserted inside the bomber. Whose to say the next buxom blonde at the checkpoint, isn’t packing bosoms that go boom? Well, let’s look at a few key points. Click here for the story.

Concealing items inside the body is not a new concept. Ask any customs agent or prison guard and either can explain the many ways the human body can be used as a hiding place for contraband. But as an explosive? Well, there was the incident in Saudi Arabia in August 2009, where a suicide bomber infiltrated security and detonated a bomb inserted in his rectum near a Saudi prince. The prince escaped with minor injuries. So, the concept is possible.

TSA has issued travel alerts that we can expect more scrutiny at checkpoints as a result of this threat, even though there is no specific threat (that they are telling us about) at the present. One perspective we do have to look at then, is the possibility that this is no more than al Qaeda propaganda sent our way intentionally to get us to overreact. Remember the printer cartridge plot out of Yemen? That cost al Qaeda about $4,000, meanwhile, we’ve spent billions trying to prevent that type of attack from happening. Not a bad return on your investment when part of your goal is to destabilize the U.S. economy (like we need help doing that – do these guys get C-Span?).

Is this just rumor, designed to get us to panic, be afraid and spend more money? There is also the question about whether the explosive, concealed inside implants, or the body, could be large enough to destroy an aircraft. Some experts feel it’s not possible, others disagree. I guess we need Mythbusters to help us out here.

But let’s assume that it is possible and that enough explosives could be concealed to bring down a plane. Will existing technology, i.e. body imagers, protect us? Yes, in some cases, body imagers can detect items inside an individual – it just depends on the machine. The body imagers come from our prison industry where they were designed to detect items concealed in the body. Also, explosive trace detection systems can be effective at determining if an individual has been handling or exposed to dangerous explosives. While it’s possible, it’s also very difficult to completely clean yourself of residue once handled. K-9 teams, in certain cases, can also detect explosives hidden within or residue left on the body.

There is another consideration. How will the device be detonated if it’s implanted? Will the detonating charge and mechanisms also be implanted? Sounds like some major surgery to me. We have to look at some basic facts. Terrorists and bad guys, who want to be successful, try to keep is simple. The more complex the attack, the more people get involved, the easier it is for things to break down and for someone to talk. There were several additional elements of the 9/11 plot that were left on the drawing table because the chance for failure was increasing with the complexity. Cargo planes were supposed to be targeted on 9/11 and at one point, Atta was pitched the idea of crashing into a nuclear facility instead of the World Trade Centers. Additional aircraft were also rumored to be hijacked on that day.

But back to the subject at hand.

I’m not as worried about implants as much as I would be concerned about a plot similar to the Saudi attack. Much easier to get someone to conceal an item in their rectum (although incredibly uncomfortable I would imagine) and attach a detonator, than to go through a highly complicated process of implanting a device.

But this leaves us with our fundamental security question: how safe do you want to be? If we start digging around in your body, are you ready to set aside your Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to unreasonable search? Many people are – these are the “security at any costs” types who buy into the illusion that the government can prevent every bad thing from happening to them. Even after the pat-down of a 6-year-old and the diaper-gate nanny incident recently, there are still those that believe that everyone is a suspect and that no one should be exempt from scrutiny.

As General Robert E. Lee is credited with saying: “You cannot defend everything and by doing so, you will end up defending nothing.”

Maybe we need to look at this from a different perspective. Rather than buying billions in more technology to try to prevent this “next threat,” we invest heavily in our investigate and intelligence methods and personnel and attempt to stop the implant-plot before it gets out of the safe house, rather than at the last point of failure, the screening checkpoint.

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