Thursday, August 24, 2006

scared silly

Before the Bush reign, I had always assumed that when as Americans, we find ourselves swindled out of our civil liberties, there would be a national uproar. After all Clinton almost got impeached for bad judgements made that affected none of us. Surely when our basic tenets of democracy & freedom are stifled, the stakes will be higher--the accounts more exacting, more demanding.

Such naivety.

How did Bush manage to do what he has done? Among other things, how did he manage to detain an American citizen for over three years before the courts decided to grow some fallopian tubes and force him to charge the man with a crime? Theories and punditry abound, and I don't plan to add to the clamour here. But in the wake of the UK terrorist plots, I've been noting the hysterics of our airport security. And for what?

Remember it was the "plot to commit murder on an unimaginable scale"? No more pepsi, toothpaste nor--horrors--laptops or i-pods aboard aircrafts. They could be fashioned into bombs, we were told. And most of us agreed. Reasonable request. Minor inconvenience.

After all, the UK intelligence swooped down and nabbed these baddies right at the nick of time. I imagine terrorists snarling their way through the London airport with a little bit of puppy blood staining their fangs as they proceed to "commit murder on an unimaginable scale". Unimaginable, they said.

Then I read this report by Craig Murray that's been making the rounds in the blogosphere. None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports.

Then I heard this NPR report on the plausibility of making a bomb out of liquids.

Truth is like contact lenses you drop on the bathroom floor. It leaves you blind and groping, hoping to catch a glint of light across that concave glass.

It is not simply that such information is largely absent from the public discourse, which is irksome and disconcerting. But that this information is largely ignored altogether when piecing together national security. Policy considerations are reduced to ideological and reactionary fervor, appealing to the least thoughtful amongst us.

Last week, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King endorsed requiring people of "Middle Eastern and South Asian" descent to undergo additional security checks because of their ethnicity and religion. more

This came shortly after, Fox News queried whether "It's time to have a Muslims check point line in American airports and have Muslims be scrutinized." more (via Sepia Mutiny)

Check out all the work our security authorities have been busy with lately:

  • Shortly after that, British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed. The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic. more

  • Iraqi Peace Activist Forced to Change T-Shirt Bearing Arabic Script Before Boarding Plane at JFK.

  • A Muslim doctor gets kicked off the plane. (Link)

  • A claustraphobic, 59-yr-old woman was arrested by the FBI and her plane escorted by military jets. For "causing a disturbance".

  • The latest flight that didn't reach its destination resulted inthe arrest of 12 passengers. Because apparently, some of the passengers pulled out cell phones during the flight and appeared to be trying to pass the cell phones to other passengers, a U.S. government official said. In addition, some passengers unfastened their seatbelts while the light requiring they be fastened was still illuminated, the official said. That was enough for U.S. air marshals aboard the DC-10 to break their cover. more ..These charges, however, have nothing to do with terrorism.

  • And lastly, Azad Amin decided to tell TSA that the object in his luggage bag was a bomb. 'Cuz he didn't want his momma to know he was carrying around a penis pump. Moronic? Surely. But a potential 3 year prison sentence?

Didn't Aesop warn us about crying wolf? Security is heightened to that fever pitch that comes with misguided ideology, fear and paranoia. I'm flying next week, and I am more concerned about tightly-wound security officials than I am of any terrorists. Remember those movies where a governmental big-shot looms protectively over his brethen and say, "We cannot let this get out! It will cause a public panic!" Now the government thinks up ways to ensure we don't feel too safe, too comfortable.


Blogger MadHat said...

I remember reading an article in the ScienceBlogs about the feasibility of a liquid based bomb. The best bet, according to the article, was acetone peroxide (if I remember correctly). But peroxides are extremely unstable and need to be prepared fresh to be effective and also, you would require quite a lot of it to disrupt a flight. Else, it might just cause some damage but not "murder on an unimaginable scale".
Conspiracy theories are always there but one must remember the history of the American cold war and the trainings imparted to school kids in the case of an nuclear attack which served no purpose other than to keep them scared and afraid.
All this terrorist scare tactics seems to me to be a measure to keep the populace frightened. But, but, but WTC attacks and the london bombimgs did happen...
IMHO, they are exaggerating a real threat to their security.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Sony Pony said...

Rings disturbingly familiar, no? We are living in vigilante times, apparently.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous njus said...

They also locked up Murat Kurnaz for nearly 5 years in Guantamo, altough he didnt speak english or arabian (oonly german and turkish). I really wonder how they interrogate people there? Do they really pay a translators for german/turkish for 5 years to interrogate only one person (he was the only turk/german there)? Or is this a plain sado-torture camp?

1:18 PM  
Blogger MadHat said...

Rings disturbingly familiar, no?

Yeah. It reminds of the old Marxian aphorism - "History repeats itself, first as a tragedy, second as a farce"

That man was a genius and is more relevant today than any other time (or perhaps, he always was and always would be).

4:45 PM  
Anonymous brandon said...

This has really bothered me as well. After this happened, I mentioned to a FOX-watching co-worker - "maybe the airlines should have us change into govt-regulated clothing and shoes when we get to the airport, and we can just Fed-Ex our clothes to our destination". Obivously, I'm not being serious here, but she not only took me seriously, but thought that was a great idea!!! What have we come to???

8:31 AM  

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