First there was the shoe bomb. Now Al Qaeda has taken it to the next level: Yesterday's failed terrorist attack was supposed to be delivered by a suicide bomber with the payload sewn into his underpants.
ABC News is reporting that Al Qaeda sewed about 80 grams of PETN, an explosive that's similar to nitro-glycerin, into the Nigerian attacker's underwear. For comparison, the shoe bomber only had about 50 grams in his footwear. Luckily, officials are saying the detonator was either too small or wasn't making proper contact with the explosive.
What does this mean for the future of airline security? After the shoe bomb attempt, we all had to start taking off our shoes at the screening line. Are we going to start walking through the detector in our birthday suits now?
Security expert Bruce Scheier points out that increased security in these sorts of situations just doesn't work, because the tools TSA uses can't detect schemes like these:
I don't want to even think about how much C4 I can strap to my legs and walk through your magnetometers.
Not to mention how ineffective the whole no movement during the last hour of flight idea is. In his words:
Do we really think the terrorist won't think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?
For years I've been saying this:
Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.
This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.
Whatever inconveniences this may cause, I'm just glad that we averted another disaster. It's pretty unbelievable that twice—twice!—this stuff has snuck by security in various articles of clothing, and both times we've been incredibly lucky that no one got hurt.