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snowberry's avatar

I am aware that this blog was written a while ago, but I just read the news article, and the blog that initiated it. It’s still relevant to talk about today, because it’s still happening.

Cruiser's avatar

Frankly I am glad this profiling goes on…I feel bad for the target groups but this is the world we live in created by the lunatic fringe in these profiled countries. Israel has the safest aviation record due to their ability to fully and thoroughly screen airline passengers and I will not protest if and when similar protocols are implemented here in the US. IMO the recent relaxing of TSA screening protocols was a big mistake.

johnpowell's avatar

Once, in 2008, I had to confiscate a bottle of alcohol from a group of Marines coming home from Afghanistan. It was celebration champagne intended for one of the men in the group—a young, decorated soldier. He was in a wheelchair, both legs lost to an I.E.D., and it fell to me to tell this kid who would never walk again that his homecoming champagne had to be taken away in the name of national security.


elbanditoroso's avatar

Not remotely surprised.

rojo's avatar

No surprise here.

El_Cadejo's avatar

No surprise here. Fuck the TSA, I’ve had things stolen from my bag and broken by them and was essentially told “tough titties” when I complained.

What would surprise me is someone coming out with a pleasant story about TSA.

snowberry's avatar

@Cruiser Are you glad about the stupid X-ray machines that never worked and maybe still don’t work, even if they’re “better”? Are you glad about all the stuff that gets broken or stolen? Are you glad about all the abuse and nonsense that goes on in the name of your being “safe”, and really doesn’t save you from anything at all?

El_Cadejo's avatar

Btw when I say I’ve had things stolen, I mean around $90 in money from various nations. I was stupid and put it in my normal bag instead of in my carry on (sad that I can’t even feel my bag is secure) and well the kind agent thought they could make better use of it rather than me having it as a memento.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

Issue hipsters aren’t surprised by anything; they knew about it before it went mainstream.

Cruiser's avatar

@snowberry There are bad apples in every facet of our lives and the TSA is no exception by any means. I first hand experienced the terror of 9/11 as I was in the air in a plane when all that $hit went down. I had an M-16 shoved in my face when we de-planed as an Indianapolis National Guardsman scream at me and my kids to get Fck out of the terminal NOW at the same moment planes were being flown into the twin towers. So I would be more than glad to be strip searched naked if that is what it takes to fly safely and I am certain the 3,000 plus people who died on 9/11 would say the same.

dougiedawg's avatar

I don’t fly anywhere if I can help it. The combination of overly zealous security (they took my sun screen for chrissakes!), delays, lost baggage, germs in the airport and plane, plus the cost of flying make it unpleasant for me. TOO MUCH STRESS!

El_Cadejo's avatar

Oh yea I should also add, last time I flew I somehow forgot about 3 lighters and a pocket knife in my carry on. I realized about half way through the flight they were still in my bag. Super efficient security – _ -

rojo's avatar

I like to pick up rocks when I am out hiking. I once took a flight using my daypack as a carry on. They pulled it out of the x-ray and had me stand there while they went through it. Turns out I had overlooked a rock (smooth, pretty patterned, about the size of a 50 cent piece) in one of the creases inside the pack and it showed up in the machine.

They gave me a very questioning look, I told them I collect rocks and must have overlooked it. They took me aside, did a full scan and pat-down of me then let me go.

They kept my rock though.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@rojo Interesting. I also had about 30 different shaped/sized rocks in my carry on. Some of which were metallic. They didn’t say anything about them either. Though I did have to get rid of the can of soda I had just bought in the vending machine 10 feet away.

Now that I think about it, I brought a good amount of rocks and seeds home from Belize with me on my carry on as well and they didn’t say anything then either.

rojo's avatar

@uberbatman That was over ten years ago. They were probably a more paranoid bunch back then. The thought of hijacking a plane with a rock is a little extreme in my opinion but I got over it.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@Cruiser But these measures are not ‘what it takes to fly safely’. I’m sorry that a National Guardsman stuck a gun in your face, and I’m sorry that the whole experience frightened you (and many thousands of others). But your experience does not make flying any less safe. In fact, the events of September 11, 2001 did not make flying measurably less safe, and the massive overrreaction by the US government did not make flying more safe.

Exactly two things improve the safety of today’s flights from terrorist attack over pre-9/11 flights. First, airline passengers are now aware that airplane highjackings are likely to get them killed, and so are now willing to fight to the death to stop those highjackings (this changed on 9/11, as the passengers of Flight 93 fought off their highjackers.) Second, airlines are now more diligent about keeping the cockpit doors closed and locked while in flight. FAA had mandated this rule years before 9/11, but it was frequently ignored as it’s rather inconvenient.

Commercial airline travel is already safer than driving, playing sports or taking a shower in your own bathroom. How much safer does it need to be before we stop being frightened of it and acting crazily on that fear?

Cruiser's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius I am very sure the flight attendants and passengers that had their throats cut that fateful day with box cutters that were hidden in seats pre-flight would argue with you and so would many TSA and FBI agents who have intercepted attempts to take down another flight or two or three or four…etc. We only hear about the f-kups and underwear bombers who came close to succeeding. If you think we are safe from another 9/11 you are in the ranks of the delusional and I do hope you or no one you truly care about is a victim of the next terrorist event that is inevitable on our sacred soil.

rojo's avatar


There is zero evidence of box-cutters on either plane that hit the World Trade Center. Not a single flight crew member or passenger on American Airlines Flight 11 or United Airlines Flight 175 reported seeing box-cutters or plastics knives. Nor were they mentioned in the FAA executive summary on any of the hijacked plane. Only on American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon, was there a near-mention by one passenger that the hijackers in the back of the plane had knives and “card-board cutters,” and even that passenger did not claim to see what weapons were actually used to hijack the plane. The claim by administration officials that plastic knives were used to hijack the planes is pure invention.

Following the September 11th attack, government authorities declared that the weapons.
used to hijack the planes that crashed into World Trade Center were plastic knives and box cutters. The story about plastic knives and box cutters, implements which passengers then were not legally restricted from bring through security checkpoints at airports, was relentlessly drummed into the public’s mind by two of the highest officials in the government. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Ashcroft told ABC News on September 15th that “investigators believed that each of the commandeered planes had been hijacked by groups of three to six men armed with box cutters and plastic knives.” Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News on September 16th, that the hijackers used weapons that are distinctively different – - plastic knives.” On October 9th, he suggested to Dan Rather on CBS News “plastic knives and the use of a U.S. airliner filled with American people as a missile [were used] to destroy a World Trade Center.” On November 7th, he described to Jim Lehrer on PBS ” One of our planes is used as a missile to fly into our building and into the World Trade Center. It was beyond one’s imagination that plastic knives and our own commercial aircraft filled with our own people would be used as the implement of war.”

Actually, it was their imagination, not established facts, that informed the world that the hijackers had used plastic knives and box cutters to commandeer the two airliners that had destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Not a scintilla of evidence had been found then— or to date— that either plastic knives or box cutters were used by any of the ten hijackers who crashed United Airlines flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. No box cutters or plastic knives were found in the debris. Nor were the cockpit voice recorders ever found from Flight 11 and Flight 175. No witnesses, either passengers or crew members, on either flight 11 or flight 175 ever reported any hijacker having a box cutter or a plastic knife.

An executive summary of an unpublished FAA memo stated:

“At approximately 9:18 am, it was reported that two crew members in the cockpit were stabbed. The flight then descended with no communications from the flight crew members. The American Airlines FAA Principal Security Inspector (PFI) was notified by Suzanne Clark of American airlines Corporate Headquarters that an on board flight attendant contacted American Airlines Operation Center and informed that a passenger located in seat 10B shot and killed a passenger in 9B at 9:20 am. The passenger killed was Daniel Lewin shot by Satam al-Suqama. One bullet was reported to have been fired.”
The information came from two cell phone calls made by flight attendants, Betty Ong and Madeline Amy Sweeney, to American Airlines ground controllers. Ong, who was in the first class compartment— and the only witness to the assault on the cockpit. She reported that she had seen four hijackers come from first-class seats, kill a passenger seated behind them, and use a chemical weapon which she described as “some sort of spray” that made her eyes burn and made it difficult for her to breathe.” Madeline Amy Sweeney, the flight attendant in the rear compartment, call was not recorded. According to the ground controller, she said that the pilots, another flight attendant and a passenger had been stabbed or killed.
The FAA subsequently said that the report of a gun shot was an error proceeding from a “miscommunication”. The ground controller did not recall a gun shot or a bullet being mentioned.
In any case, there were no box cutters or plastics knives on flight 11 were used.

Two other flights were hijacked that morning, American Airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757 departing from Virginia, and United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 departing from Newark. On flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, one single passenger, Barbara Olsen, reported on weapons that some of the five hijackers had in the back of the plane. She told her husband, Theodore Olsen, on a cell phone that the hijackers who herded her and other the passengers into the back of the plane had two kind of weapons: knives and cardboard cutters (presumably box cutters). She did not say anything about the other hijackers in the cockpit and she apparently did not even know that they were piloting the plane. Nor did any other passenger or crew member on Flight 77 describe the hijackers’ weapons. It cannot be assumed that all the hijackers on the plane had similar weapons. The hijackers assaulting the cockpit might have needed more sophisticated weaponry to rapidly stun or kill the pilots.
On flight 93, the Boeing 757 which crashed near Pittsburgh, the flight attendant reported over a cell phone that a hijacker in her plane had a “bomb strapped on.” Some unidentified person also said over the loud speaker that there was a “bomb” aboard the plane. A passenger, Todd Beamer, talked over a cell phone about the “terrorist with a bomb.” Another passenger, Tom Burnett, told his wife over a cell phone that he had heard that a pilot had been “knifed.” No passenger or crew member described either box cutters or plastic knives as weapons and, as far as is known, no box cutters of plastic knives been recovered from the wreckage.

Similar weapons thus were not reported in the different flights. A paralytic chemical spray was described in the front compartment of flight 11, knives and card cutters was described in the rear compartment of Flight 77 and a bomb was described on flight 93. Nor is there any reason to assume that different hijackers on different planes leaving from different airports would use the same weaponry. Atta and Alomari, for example, having made a detour to Portland, might have obtained weapons unavailable to the hijackers in Virginia and New Jersey.)

In any case, the Ashcroft’s story that the hijackers used box-cutters and plastic knives in the attack on the World Trade Center is a functional fictoid. In this case, the function was diversion. This fictoid serves to divert public attentions from the responsibility, and legal liability, of the government and airlines to prevent major weapons— such as guns, bombs, chemical sprays and hunting knives from being carried aboard airplanes. If such illegal devices had been smuggled aboard the planes, the liability could amount to billions of dollars. If, , on the other hand, it could be disseminated that the hijackers had only used plastic knives, such as those provided by the airlines for meals, or box cutters, which were allowed on planes, neither the airlines, the screeners at the airport, or the FAA, which regulates the safety of airports, could be held legally responsible. Paul Pillar, who had headed the CIA’s counter-terrorism, could thus explain that “the attack that killed almost 4,000 people used box cutters.”

The press and the gullible American public accepted it as established fact.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@Cruiser Certainly there are a great many folks who would argue with me. That does not change the facts of the situation. Security policy decisions need to be made on the basis of fact, not on that of emotion.
If you think that terrorism is a major danger in your life, then it is you who are delusional. The fact is that any given person is very, very unlikely to be involved in a terrorist incident; meanwhile as many people as were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing die in car crashes every day. Each year about four times as many people as died in the 9/11 attacks die of car crashes. Car crashes aren’t even the number-one cause of deaths and injuries- just very, very much more likely to affect you than terrorism is. Hell, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by terrorists.
The threat of terrorism is a very real threat, and the damage that terrorists can do is great. But threat assessments have to take into account more than just the potential damage or the “scariness” of the threat: we have a finite amount of resources to spend on protecting ourselves, and if we spend our resources defending against unlikely attacks we may leave ourselves open to more likely attacks.

But you shouldn’t take my word for any of this. Some professional security experts write books and articles, some of which are geared for the general public. I particularly recommend Bruce Schneier’s book Beyond Fear.

rojo's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius When, Oh when, is our government going to declare a “War on Lightning”?

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