Friday, 15 July 2011

Belly-Bomb Baloney: the TSA Lies Yet Again

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Ah, belly-bombs -- the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) newest scare-story for frightening us into its porno-scanners and sexual assaults at airports.

Belly-bombs play right into the TSA’s hands even if passengers won’t. They kill, which makes them petrifying. And they’re invisible but pervasive: since terrorists “surgically implant” them inside the body, almost any passenger could conceal one. Worse, “regular scanning equipment, including full-body scanners, is not designed to penetrate the skin, so it would not be able to detect implanted devices.”

Ergo, the possibility that we could explode from causes other than rage at the TSA justifies “additional security measures at U.S. airports and overseas airports serving U.S. destinations, the [TSA] said in a statement. The new measures could include increased use of behavior-detection techniques such as agents studying passengers for nervous behavior and conducting airport interviews, pat-down searches, and efforts to detect traces of explosive materials by swabbing skin and clothing and using explosives-sniffing dogs and machines, the TSA said.”

It’s all a tad too convenient, isn’t it? As the TSA abuses dying grandmothers and molests children, as legislation at both the local and national levels threatens to trim its power, as calls for its abolition reverberate, along comes a diabolical threat right out of Marvel Comics. The lesson from the TSA and its collaborators in the corporate press who ballyhoo belly-bombs is clear: not only do we “need” the agency with its groping and ogling, we must cede it authority for “additional security measures at U.S. airports” -— and everywhere else.

And so reporters without a scintilla of skepticism or a single reliable source quote “U.S. official[s] who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.” Or because of the pure moonshine of the information: we can’t hold officials responsible for lying if we don’t know who they are. And the TSA also benefits when we can’t judge the credibility of said official, either. For example, your colleague at the office says he hears the company will fire four people in your department. How much you panic at this news depends on its provenance. If he says, “The boss told me,” you begin composing your résumé. If instead it came from Chris the secretary, you head for lunch. And if he were foolish enough to shrug when you ask, “Who says?” while vaguely responding, “Oh, a guy who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information,” you’d laugh in his face.

Yet the corporate media routinely resorts to this cheap trick. Eternal shame on them, certainly, but more shame on us for so gullibly believing whatever absurdity they and their “anonymous officials” allege.

In this case, the shame is particularly searing. Implanting explosives inside the body to kill anyone but the bomber is physically impossible — as one Warrior on Terror himself frankly confesses.

Kerry Patton published an article earlier this week in Homeland Security Today, which bills itself as “the leading source for independent news and analysis on homeland security affairs. Founded in 2004, … Homeland Security Today’s audience [consists] of highly targeted officials with homeland security responsibilities at all levels of government…” (I know: gag.) If any publication should sympathetically cover the TSA, it would be HST. And Kerry himself is a loyal Warrior: he “served in both the US Defense and Justice departments and was a contractor for the departments of Homeland Security and State…” (Yep: gag again.)

Kerry sometimes writes for the mainstream media, but I think he’s sunk his chances of doing so hereafter since he actually questions the TSA rather than accepting its preposterous claims. Then he multiplies his mistake with some good, old-fashioned journalism: instead of recycling the government’s propaganda on the dire danger menacing the Homeland à la the Wall Street Journal or Associated Press, he cheekily asked “a group of highly experienced professionals” whether belly-bombs are possible.

They aren’t. Not even remotely.

Kerry’s “professionals” raise a series of objections to the idea, many of which by themselves put belly-bombs in the realm of fantasy; together, they guarantee that explosive implants are a sophisticated and very expensive way to commit suicide. But unless folks nearby die of shock or disgust when his insides splatter them, the culprit won’t take anyone with him.

For starters, if the amount of explosive is small enough to fit inside the would-be murderer, his body will absorb the blast (why else would Marines throw themselves on grenades to protect their platoons?). Kerry’s experts estimate you’d need to pack 45 pounds of goods into a guy before the damage would extend to a radius of 20 feet.

There are insurmountable medical problems as well. How do you sterilize explosives? You can’t, so you sterilize whatever you use to encase them. Unfortunately, “the types of materials that would work the best are highly reactive to the majority of chemicals that are found in explosives”; those chemicals would “eat away” the wrapping and leak into the body, which “would likely kill the host within days, if not hours or minutes.”

Compounding this is post-op recovery: it could require weeks, depending on the patient’s fitness, and every passing day increases the chance of leakage.

“Wait a minute!” the TSA’s apologists snort. “Some guy tried to blow up that Saudi prince or whatever by putting explosives where the sun don’t shine. And the stuff went off, even if he didn’t get close enough to the prince first. So, OK, belly-bombs won’t work, but butt-bombs do!”

Steve Watson “easily debunk[s]” that at He cites accounts that corrected erroneous first impressions from Newsweek (“Saudi officials initially thought the bomb had been secreted in the operative’s anal cavity. But after investigating the matter more thoroughly, they concluded it had likely been sewn into his underwear”) and CNN (“the would-be assassin of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Nayef hid his bomb in his underwear … Several news reports this week have said the assailant hid the bomb inside his rectum, but according to the Saudi official, the government assessment discounted those reports, based on various factors”). And even if “the operative” had secreted a pouch of explosives in a certain cavity, he would have killed no one but himself.

But truth never matters to the TSA. Belly-bombs serve the same purpose as shoe-bombs (only thrice in aviation’s history have nuts tried to sabotage flights by blowing up footwear, and they failed each time) or even the War on Terror itself: they keep childish, cowardly, credulous fools fearful, the better to subjugate them.

Meanwhile, “Mark Rossini, a former senior FBI counterterror agent” solemnly intones, "No technique [including belly-bombs] is off-limits to Al Qaeda to achieve its destructive goals."

Sounds a lot like the TSA. 

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