Strong opinions, weakly held

Security theater

Let me get this straight: the British authorities had been tracking a cell of would-be terrorists for nearly a year, and had appraised the US government of the threat months ago. Furthermore, they have known for some time that the terrorist plot involved the use of liquid explosives, a potential means of attack that was already well known to law enforcement. Pakistan arrests affiliates of the British cell, so the British authorities move in and arrest the locals before they figure out that the jig is up.

Only upon the arrests do transportation officials impose radical new security measures for airline passengers? Why now? Is the threat of attack via liquid explosives suddenly higher now that the active cell working on such an attack has been neutralized? Why not impose these measures months ago when the cell members had not yet been captured and such an attack was thought to be in the offing? I guess I don’t get the point.


  1. I think the point is that there are still members of the cell at large, and they may have the capability to go ahead with the attack. In any case, we may never be allowed to bring our own beverages on planes again. The airlines will no doubt see this a revenue source, and start charging for soft drinks…

  2. I still wonder whether there’s any evidence that these people were able to synthesize and deploy the explosives successfully. Something tells me that if they were already making bombs and were prepared to use them, the British would have rolled them up earlier.

  3. The “why now?” question is certainly a good one. Keith Olbermann had a good piece the other day reminding us that the Bush administration didn’t really seem to care about a report from March of this year about threats to airlines, and in particular liquid explosives. Crooks and Liars has the video clip.

  4. Because you want to bust them, not let them know that they have been penetrated. So you can’t bring in the measures before arrestring them, because then they would know that the plan wouldn’t work.

    But you can’t be absolutely certain, when you have busted them, that you have caught the whole gang. So you bring in the security in case there are others hoping to try the same trick.

  5. Rafe,

    I imagine Andrew has it right. It is a VERY fine tightrope to walk. NBC reported that the US and British had a disagreement concerning the timing of the arrests. I’m not sure there is a “right” answer or that the public will ever have all the inputs to armchair the decision that was made.


    The sources did say, however, that police believe one U.K.-based suspect was ready to conduct a “dry run.” British authorities had wanted to let him go forward with part of the plan, but the Americans balked.

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