Security theater --- the flaw in the plotline

Security Theater

by digby

A lot of people, including Jeffrey Goldberg on Keith Olbermann last night, have said that one of the reasons El Al doesn't use these airport procedures is because the long lines present a target so they like to move people through quickly. But this raises a question that's been driving me nuts for years. I get why Islamic suicide bombers pick airplanes, especially if they can target a national airline --- it's an excellent way for them to dramatically kill a whole bunch of infidels and make a political statement against the west. But after 9/11, why would they use this method if they were already in the US? There are literally thousands of places where a suicide bomber could cause widespread panic here without having to go anywhere near an airport. There would be no need to smuggle anything in your underwear or your shoes --- any determined person could find enough explosives in this country to make a bomb without having to go through even one "lovepat" to get it.

Doesn't it seem logical that the danger in airplanes these days comes from overseas airports and that the greater danger for Americans is in other gathering places --- few of which can effectively be stopped through these methods? Once they instituted metal detectors and random searches and put lots of people in uniforms watching passengers closely in the boarding process at American airports, terrorists surely realized that there were better targets elsewhere.

It's not like the they haven't shown that they are creative enough to do something other than blowing up an airplane to make their point. Look at the London and Madrid subway bombings or the Mumbai operation or that horrible Chechen school hostage taking. In fact, law enforcement here in the US has caught a bunch of losers plotting non-airplane related bombings without making us get stripped searched every time more than a hundred people are gathered in the same place.

It's certainly possible that one day an Islamic terrorist is going to kill a lot of people in America again. But it's almost certain they will do it somewhere other than a passenger airplane. If it's in a shopping center, will they then make us all go through scanners at the mall if we want to buy a pair of shoes? If they blow up an office building will every worker in America be subject to frisking?

That's why this is security theater. We are chasing phantoms by pretending that if we stop people from carrying a bottle of shampoo on an airplane that we are safe. If you are so scared of terrorism that you're willing to throw logic out the window and subject yourself to ever more irrational safety procedures for no good reason, you'd better think twice about ever leaving your house. That, of course, is exactly the point of terrorism. And authoritarian police states.