The war on terrorism is about to change. Limit our liberties in airports and cruise terminals? We'll put up with it. Deny us a bathroom because one evil doer used it to try and explode himself? That was the straw that broke the camel's back for many travelers this week.
There was a second terrorist alert on the same flight on Sunday caused by a passenger who "spent a lengthy time in the restroom."
We've put up with some pretty stupid stuff from Homeland Security, for which we spend billions, it would seem, to not be a whole lot safer from some zealot with a condom full of explosives taped to his body.
Do we strip-search all 550,000 suspected terrorists should they try to board an aircraft? No. Only 4000 of them are on the DO NOT FLY list, and apparently neither Amsterdam nor the United States feels compelled to trample their civil rights.
Instead, we trample everyone else's civil rights with stuff that borders on the silly to supposedly give us the comfort that the TSA and the FBI are actually DOING something.
Take away grandma's right to run to the bathroom, and make a guy with stomach flu into some sort of jihadist because he didn't want to soil himself in the seat.
I think that the security guy in front of a Disney World theme park put it best. I asked him if they catch much rattling a stick around a billion guest bags without metal detectors and other screening tools. His response:
"It works about as well. It just makes people feel better."
The sad truth is, that it may for the multitudes of the gullible. Both the experts and the terrorists know that all of those fancy machines from the bag x-rays to those gizmos that puff air at you like you're entering the Fun House at Coney Island are the Maginot Line of airport defense. Just like the famed French solution to keep the Germans from invading their country, you can easily sail around the TSA.
They will catch a gun being carried into an airport, which is yesterday's weapon of choice.
Those brave TSA guys will take grandmas down for their knitting needles, and toss your shampoo into a bin, but the real weapons of choice, from box cutters to chemical explosives which become volatile when mixed, can be carried aboard in small amounts with relative ease.
Interdiction really means listening to those tips like the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and then acting swiftly to suspend visas, or at the very least, conduct full body searches and bag searches of someone elevated to suspected status.
Otherwise, the terrorists win, even when they lose. Terrorism does not require success to actually work. Just the fear of a guy with exploding shoes or that someone can do something like try to blow himself up on an airplane is good enough. The only success you have in the anti-terrorism game is to make these guys feel like they can't pull it off in any way ever seen by the public. No media hype, no win.
The billions that the Bush Administration spent to allegedly make us more secure have largely gone to airport Maginot Lines, and not to speedy computers and more rapid response by the CIA and the FBI to turning the screws down on high-profile terror suspects.
That all was well and good when the worst indignity that we had to put up with was buying beverages on the other side of the screening check points, and taking off our shoes after the shoe bomber was captured.
What's next? If a bomber decides to plant explosives under the seat, are we all going to be made to stand up for the duration of the flight between Amsterdam and Detroit?
People need to go to the bathroom. They want to read a magazine in their seats. What to do?
Install cams in the bathroom at a couple of points that do not create a peep show but do let the pilots and sky marshals know when someone is doing something out of the ordinary.
Put more sky marshals on airplanes. Every time that the threat level subsides, they lose staff on airplanes. You cannot beat, for real deterrent, the threat that well trained agents can be on a large number of flights at any given time. That is a calculation that terrorists, particularly as amateur as most of them are, would have to take seriously.
Make the Sky Marshalls the baddest force in the police world, and untie their hands with the 550,000 suspects on the alert lists. Give them their own Jack Webb or Jack Bauer on TV. Let jihadists know that, before you get to Allah, you are going to be taking a 25 to 50 year detour into a coffin-sized cell of a US Super Max prison.
The last suggestion to put a real damper on terrorism is a courtesy from us in the media.
Unless the airplane explodes, perhaps we could all agree not to publicize the attempts.
Media outlets are really good at turning the screws on other publicity-seekers, but are addicted to promoting the work of terrorists because CNN, Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC, amongst others, all profit from generating the same fear that the terrorists thrive upon.
Our duty to report the news has to be balanced against when our reporting services are used for propaganda or TERROR. You don't give the bully pulpit to race baiters. Why give it to Al Qaeda?
My shiny two.