Are Body Bombs a Real Concern for Airport Security?

Body Bombs: TSA and the New Security Threat

Let’s cut to the chase. The TSA stepped up airport security at U.S. airports last week due to a potential threat: it seems terrorists have discussed implanting bombs and/or explosive devices in bodies. Can it be done? Yes, in theory anyway. However, there is no indication of any such immediate plot to do so.

That said, we also know that any determined individual with enough time and resources can do catastrophic damage.

Some see the new threat as little more than scare tactics; certainly, the timing of the bombs-in-bodies story is interesting, coming as it has on the heels of the torrent of abuse showered down on the TSA in the wake of the 95 year old lady who was stuck at security due to a “suspicious” adult diaper she had on.

No New Anti-Terror Tactics Announced Yet

But let’s say there is nothing suspect about the timing. From what I have seen, there may be no fool-proof practical method of detecting a carefully implanted bomb-in-a-body. Or for detecting one implanted in say, a large dog traveling in a plane’s cargo hold. Now, if full body X-rays are used, perhaps a device could be readily identified and intercepted, but no one is going to approve that high level of radiation (at least, I hope not).

The TSA is obviously not telling all they know about methods to counteract threats and understandably so, but that is not much comfort to the average flyer. All we know is what they tell us. Here is a portion of the official statement on the TSA Blog:

“Domestically, TSA employs a layered approach [that includes] intelligence gathering and analysis, deployment of cutting edge technology, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public. Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a strong, formidable system.”

A formidable system, or “theater” as some critics claim? I do not have the answer, and find myself disagreeing at times with both the TSA and its critics (which usually results in me being slammed as a “sheep” or an “idiot” but I have thick skin).

What Flyers Can Do About Airport Security

Airline passengers are getting tired of being harassed by airlines and security, yet still we fly. I suspect if enough people stop, changes will be made. Until then, time for some tips.

Tips for Faster Lines at Airport Security

  1. Know what is banned at security: A big bottle of water could mean a big delay
  2. Pack bags neatly: Messy cables or cords may look suspicious and result in extra scrutiny
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff: Unless you are victim of egregious security measures, save your arguments for another time. You have the right to speak up, true, but remember that screening officers do not make policy, and making a stand at the checkpoint over a minor matter may not be as productive as you hope.

We all want to do the right thing, I do believe that. Figuring out what that means in today’s world of air terrorism is another matter. Hang in there, fellow flyers.

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Published: July 11, 2011