I have published a bit of research on terrorism, beginning over twenty years ago. So I think a lot about the subject. The attempt by a Nigerian to blow up a plane enroute to Detroit has me musing again.
Enhanced security measures adopted after 9-11 exasperated me. Rude, low intelligence, bureaucratic TSA screeners at airports were doggedly searching for men's razors and throwing them in the trash (no, that never happened to me--I did lose a few bucks worth of bottled water once). I yelled at the television more than once, "Nobody will ever hijack a plane using box cutters again! Stop it!"
I did not hear anyone agree with me until I saw a CSPAN Booknotes interview with Tom Clancy. Clancy said exactly what I had been thinking. The reason that box cutter hijackings worked on 9-11 was that the passengers had no idea that their plane was being hijacked as a projectile. They thought that they would be taken to a remote location and held for ransom.
Even on 9-11, the passengers of United-93, once they had used their cell phones to find out that they would likely be flown directly into a large building, attacked the hijackers. If the United-93 passengers had known the truth an hour or so earlier, the hijackers would have never entered the cockpit.
After 9-11, any hijacker without an AK-47 would be subdued or killed by the passengers. Clancy's analysis was perfect.
We are always closing the barn door after the horse has escaped--searching for useless box cutters and razors. Now, after a Nigerian attempt to blow up a plan, we are going to require that passengers keep their seats for the last hour of flight. Uh . . . because the Nigerian chose this time . . . to prepare . . . uh . . .
If we had this rule in effect before the Nigerian attempt, he would have triggered the explosive earlier in the flight. The new policy is regulatory lunacy.
If we had taken the box cutters from the hijackers on 9-11 the incidents would not have happened. But afterward we closed the barn door, by preventing incidents that would never again be successfully launched.
But with the Nigerian, we are not even closing the barn door. If we had put a new policy in place on the morning of his attempt, he would have had the same measure of success (pants flambe). This time the horse has escaped and we are painting the barn door.