Thursday, August 10, 2006

Anti-Terrorism Operations

The news this morning is dominated by the revelation that the UK security services have uncovered plots to blow up planes in mid-flight between the UK and the US. First we should recognize the good news, that the security services have been able to infiltrate and uncover the potential threat before it could be realized. Though it has to be recognized that there may be other terrorist cells that have not been uncovered by the operation.

As a result the UK Government have introduced draconian measures aimed at preventing the carrying on board airplanes of potential terrorist materials in hand luggage. The latest BBC and Daily Telegraph reports may well be updated during the day, but these links were active at the time of posting.

My immediate reaction to the almost total ban on hand luggage was one of incredulity. Mainly because these days, when on flights to places like Venezuela and West Africa, I am reluctant to put anything of value in the hold of the aircraft. I am also aware that baggage handlers probably don't care too much about the contents of my baggage even if it only contains clothes, never mind my computer.

My second reaction, the knee jerk one, is that once again the terrorists can claim victory even without a bomb exploding in mid-air. We the people are losing valuable freedoms in the name of security measures. Along with this thought is the realization that there is precious little to do on a 10 hour flight to Houston or Calgary than watch third rate movies and TV sitcoms and drink what the airline provides in the way of fluids (passengers will not be allowed to carry any fluids on board a flight).

But logic may yet prevail. The stuff that we used to be able to hand carry on board will still go on board only we won't be able to access it on the plane. That's the knee jerk reaction by the authorities. Yet the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster is believed to have been caused by a device triggered in the forward hold of that aircraft. Maybe when the initial dust settles, some common sense will prevail. I hope so.