Here come the airport rectal exams!

Uh-oh. Now that a terrorist has tried unsuccessfully to blow up a Saudi prince with a bomb shoved up his ass, the TSA is obliged to perform rectal exams on every flier for the rest of time. After all, once a jihadi failed to blow up a plane with his shoe, we all needed to start taking our shoes off. Then some knuckleheads believed they could blow up a plane with energy beverages and hair gel, so now we have to limit ourselves to 100ml of all liquids and gels, unless they're for babies or are prescription (because no mass-murderer would be so evil as to forge a doctor's note, which, as every junkie knows, cannot possibly be forged).

Now we found someone who was made to believe he could kill people with an asshole bomb, and so it follows that the TSA will have to ban -- or at least inspect -- our assholes. They're like opinions, you know, everybody's got one. Except, of course, most of us got to keep our assholes to ourselves. Not anymore.

Let's just be thankful that no one has yet convinced a suicidal murderer that he could blow up a plane with his mind, because once that happens, we're all in for mandatory airport trepannations. Because, you know, you can't be too safe. Every little bit helps. If an unhinged suicide bomber believes it's possible, we must take it seriously. To do less would be irresponsible.

For years, I have made the joke about Richard Reid: "Just be glad that he wasn't the underwear bomber." Now, sadly, we have an example of one.

Lewis Page, an "improvised-device disposal operator tasked in support of the UK mainland police from 2001-2004," pointed out that this isn't much of a threat for three reasons: 1) you can't stuff a lot of explosives into a body cavity, 2) detonation is, um, problematic, and 3) the human body can stifle an explosion pretty effectively (think of someone throwing himself on a grenade to save his friends).

But who ever accused the TSA of being rational?

Ass Bomber


  1. They sure must believe in the cause if they go to the point of having a bomb shoved up their asshole, if you ask me.

    But wow, really TSA? This is the most humiliating thing ever. The government crossed the friggin line.

  2. I have to agree with redelephantlabel — I’ll have to stop visiting boingboing if there is any further sarcasm, irony, or indeed levity of any sort. I come here for the dry, unvarnished facts. If I wanted humor or editorializing, I’d get it from AP or Reuters.

  3. Instead of inspecting assholes I think the best solution of all is to ban assholes from the airport entirely.

    Just an idea…

  4. @2 – The link is to Bruce Schneier’s blog, and I think His Bruceness was speaking hypothetically. At least I really, really hope so…

  5. what’s to stop someone drinking a pint or two of liquid explosive, swallowing an impact detonater – then at the appropriate moment, hitting themselves in the gut?

  6. I think you need to consider the words of Redelephant and JGS, because I mean, without their grand, glorious majesty and superior intellect gracing the comments here, this blog would fall apart. FALL APART, I say. In fact, I might fall apart too. The thought is just too agonizing!

    Oh, OOPS. Was I being sarcastic? My bad! Don’t stab me, Redelephant.

  7. The BBC article on this ( has the following paragraphs:

    “Miraculously the prince survived with minor injuries, but footage emerging this week shows a sizeable crater in the concrete floor and the bomber’s body blown in half.

    It is believed the force of the blast went downwards which is why only the bomber died.”

    So Lewis Page’s analysis of body-cavity-explosives as a non-threat seems to be understating the issue a little; a “sizeable” crater in the concrete floor would certainly do a little damage to a plane…

    I wonder what the TSA response will be – probably some form of internal scanners, as also requested by prisons to detect smuggled items…

  8. Is there any particular reason this type of bomb wouldn’t be picked up by current detection systems? Your ass is an odd place for metal, and you would likely have traces of explosives on your clothes/body for a “scent detector” to be effective.

    Besides, I’ve a few friends whose asses can be considered lethal weapons, depending on their diet, and even a digital rectal exam wouldn’t alert airport security…

  9. An x-ray based system, with a very very low dose (far below background dose) would probably solve this issue. And as a bonus, it could stop drug mules.

  10. Wait–is this a case of an asshole trying to blow up an asshole by shoving something up his asshole? Which will result in absurd security measures designed and carried out by assholes?


  11. What I want to know is how he shoved a bomb up the ass of a Saudi Prince.

    The Right Honorable Mr. Sackett
    Chief of Writing Police

  12. Every time I travel (and really every time of day) I have an asshole bomb. Sometimes, for laughs, I light it and amuse my friends. It never seems to wear out either! Whoof!

  13. Is the added discomfort and inconvenience for all travellers not perhaps the aim of such terrorism?

    The threat of terrorist groups using more and more improbable means of getting their explosives onto planes has so fare resulted in far more frustration and anger than actually blowing planes up would.

    In the 21st century, if you want to terrorize a society make improbable threats, press the anxiety buttons and watch them protect themselves to death.

  14. It’s pretty dangerous. You simply remove the bomb once airborne, combine with the detonator and put it against the window. Hardly any metal parts to detect, and good odds of blowing a big enough hole in the side to down the plane.
    The Saudi bomber failed because they did not plan to rove the device from the blast absorbtion (aka his backside) before he placed the call that detonated it.

  15. Help DHS’s TSA with their new exam policy. Start eating an extra strength Texas Chile con Carne diet a day before flying. Be lethal on the ground and in the air!

  16. Charming article title. That being said:
    “They’re like opinions, you know, everybody’s got one.”
    Lol! Cory’s been listening to Salt ‘n Pepa!

  17. I agree completely that the TSA will stop at nothing to destroy what little sense of privacy we still enjoy.

    BUT – there are plenty of combustible agents that will rend a human being’s body in two and completely destroy a commercial airliner. The grenade example works for, say, a grenade. When we’re talking about plastic explosives, however, there is a world of difference.

  18. I still can’t get over the fact that Schneier wrote a post titled “Ass Bomber”. I’m lucky I wasn’t drinking anything when I read it because I would have needed a new keyboard/monitor.

  19. Dear Cory,
    Best. Headline. Evar.

    But, seriously. Or is is Butt, seriously?
    Sadly, this may come to pass, with TSA screeners, inspecting your ass.
    It’s the only way to be sure, they will say, and just take more of your rights away.
    Traveling has lost almost all of its fun, because of the TSA, who are basically accountable to NO ONE.

  20. They don’t have to inspect your asshole. All they need is a bomb-sniffing dog. “Step this way, sir, and bend over.”

  21. In all seriousness, isn’t this the type of thing those millimeter wave machines are supposed to be detecting? I hate those things, but I guess I will have to learn to live with them if I expect to fly anywhere.

  22. #1 @REDELEPHANTLABEL: No, I’m afraid our cowardice in the face of the tactic of terrorism is the joke. The whole point is to induce an autoimmune disease in your target, so that they spend a wildly disproportionate amount of resources on security. We have played into that perfectly.

    As for “isn’t much of a threat”:
    1) Goatse (damn you #14 for beating me to that!), and certainly more than the magic 3oz of liquid that will kill us all.
    2) bathroom
    3) bathroom

    We, as a nation, even as a world, used to be a bit more realistic in the knowledge that if someone wanted to kill people, they will find a way. Our for-profit, sensationalist media have turned us into craven reactionaries.

  23. Well I guess the job of airport screener just got a couple notches worse. Let’s weed out everyone who doesn’t enjoy violating assholes!

  24. Ah haha, RedElephantLabel is so earnest, s/he’s almost cute.

    Aww, did yoo not get yoo tummy tickled dis mornin?
    *tickle tickle*

  25. “Of course we can only speculate regarding the firing system furnished by the back-alley bomb makers who stood behind the young terrorist.”


  26. No, as Timothy Hutton posted, it’ll just be some kind of X-ray.
    “Ow, my sperm! Wait, do it again. That’s funny, I didn’t feel anything this time.”

  27. I have the solution.

    Require all persons wishing to fly anywhere to be anaesthetised prior to boarding, put each passenger in in personal kevlar bag, and keep them unconscious for the duration of the flight. This will make in flight assembly of any ass bombs virtually impossible, and if anyone boards with a pre-armed ass bomb, the exploding passengers will then only make a localized mess.

    This system will have the added benefit of allowing airlines to carry more passengers per flight, as they will be able to stacked like cordwood. Also, it will save passengers from the ordeal of airline food, bad in-flight movies, and being forced to interact with other passengers, particularly small messy children.

    After the initial costs are covered, it should also result in significantly lower airline fees because of increased capacity (see above, stacking passengers).

    An additional benefit will be that the TSA will not have to spend a significant portion of their valuable time inspecting assholes.

  28. > “No one will be able to know the type of this device or the way it was detonated.”

    Hey Prince, pull my finger…

  29. Dammit, Brianary! *dies laughing*

    Now I’m imagining TMBG-style songs all about rectal exams. I’m going to be giggling all day.

  30. Banning assholes from airports is a great idea.

    The TSA will have to prevent themselves from entering airports.

    WADs? (Weapons of Ass Destruction)

    Where’s Doubya when we need him the most?


  31. According to the BBC article I read, the bomber passed through a metal detector no problem, blew his body in two and left a sizeable crater in the floor. But maybe the terrorists didn’t read that bit?

  32. DANLALAN suggested that:

    This system will have the added benefit of allowing airlines to carry more passengers per flight, as they will be able to stacked like cordwood.

    I argue that is not possible – if that would allow more passengers per flight, Southwest would have adopted that model by now…

    Back when they had more respect for their passengers, some specialized passenger ships tried this approach (minus kevlar body bags), but it failed (too much spoilage) – the sharks sure appreciated it though…

  33. Did you hear about the terrorist who managed to commit suicide in Gitmo by using an ass-bomb?
    He ended his sentence with a semi-colon.

  34. Eutychus reminded us that:

    the bomber passed through a metal detector no problem

    True, but if you look a little deeper this person was to be a passenger on the Prince’s private plane, and it would make sense that the security was a bit more lax, since, as we all know, no terrorists are from Saudi Arabia, so I’m sure they were doubly-suprised when a Saudi man smuggled a weapon on the plane… (Does David Axelrod take off his shoes before boarding Air Force One? I bet he doesn’t)

    Who, who could support such a thing?

    Oh, and what ever you do, don’t mention watch lists – this fellow was invited on the plane because he was a known terrorist, but he promised to change:

    According to an Al-Qaida Web site, Al-Asiri flew to Jeddah on Bin Naif’s private jet, as part of the prince’s amnesty program for militants who give themselves up and renounce terrorism. According to the official Saudi version, Bin Naif aides had telephoned a liaison in Yemen by the name of Tamaar to report that Al-Asiri had arrived safely. This call apparently served as the signal to those controlling Al-Asiri, who then dialed the cell phone that set off the blast.

    Al-Asiri, who had refrained from eating or drinking for 40 hours to avoid damaging the explosives in his body, was blasted into dozens of pieces.


    He had a cellphone in there, yuck – and Ouch! (I wonder if it was set to “vibrate” mode – give him a cheap thrill before he collects his prize from Allah?)

  35. I predict: the first politician subjected to the rectal exam will be the author of legislation to dismantle in the TSA.

  36. Santa’s Knee here.

    “We’re dicks! We’re reckless, arrogant, stupid dicks. And the Film Actors Guild are pussies. And Kim Jong Il is an asshole. Pussies don’t like dicks, because pussies get fucked by dicks. But dicks also fuck assholes: assholes that just want to shit on everything. Pussies may think they can deal with assholes their way. But the only thing that can fuck an asshole is a dick, with some balls. The problem with dicks is: they fuck too much or fuck when it isn’t appropriate – and it takes a pussy to show them that. But sometimes, pussies can be so full of shit that they become assholes themselves… because pussies are an inch and half away from ass holes. I don’t know much about this crazy, crazy world, but I do know this: If you don’t let us fuck this asshole, we’re going to have our dicks and pussies all covered in shit!”

    — Gary Johnston, formerly of Team America and now TSA Special Asst. Director

  37. IRONEDITHKIDD predicted:

    the first politician subjected to the rectal exam will be the author of legislation to dismantle in the TSA.

    Depends on who the politician is – some of them like that sort of thing, from what I’ve heard…

  38. 1) you can’t stuff a lot of explosives into a body cavity

    Bullshit. Have you *seen* the size anal plugs come in? Ask an ER nurse how many cubic milliliters you can get into a human ass. Seriously.

    Now image that was RDX, and you’ve got a recipe for a bowel movement that isn’t even going to be remotely muffled by the surrounding tissue. Let alone a plane.

    The reason we have nothing to fear from this is much simpler: No self respecting muslim is going to anally stretch himself enough to hold that much explosives in his rectum for Allah.


  39. a little off topic, but not too far:

    some friends of mine once plotted to slip a >3 oz bottle of anal lube and a giant black dong into my carry on.

    i’m actually sorry they didn’t go through with it. said they couldn’t find a dong worthy of me.

  40. Seriously, if you’re thinking “drug mule type bombs” then it’s a lot more deeper (har har) than just the backside. If you can swallow it, and it’s got a wireless detonator, it’s going to be interesting to try and detect it.

    All jokes aside, it is kind of a serious threat. If someone did managed to ingest explosives and use them on an airplane, I sure as hell would want something done to prevent it.

    Safeway Long-Torso

  41. it’s not too difficult to get even metal items through a metal detector, no? consider metals that are inert and do not react with body chemistry, the types which are used in body piercing and medical procedures.

    i don’t know the exact sensitivity of airport detectors, but fwiw, i have four plates with sixteen screws in my face as a result of surgery, and various piercings and absolutely zero issues with detectors.

  42. #62 — I’m confused, what’s a cubic milliliter? Would that be four-dimensional, six-dimensional, or nine-dimensional?

  43. Jokes aside, the various comments about using x-rays are missing the mark. The whole point of the millimeter-wave stuff is that it doesn’t penetrate anything thicker than your clothes, so would be useless for this application. As for #10, “an x-ray based system, with a very very low dose (far below background dose)” sounds marvy, but I would be interested in evidence that such a thing exists. I very much doubt it does — the whole point is to sense something inside the victim^H^H^H^H^H traveller’s body, which means enough radiation has to go all the way through to expose a sensor on the other side. If that kind of magic pixie do-no-harm x-ray existed in the real world, don’t you think it would already be used in medicine?

    Apart from Schneier, one of my other favorite TSA ranters is Patrick Smith’s “Ask The Pilot” column on Salon. I suspect it was from one of those two that I picked up the notion that we should be running two parallel systems — the TSA freak show, and another with no mandatory security whatsoever, and let the airlines and their passengers (collectively, “the market”) decide which to use. I for one would get right in the (shorter and less annoying) line to use the “insecure” system. It would be interesting to see whether the insurance rates of “insecure” airlines moved… and in which direction. Sadly, this will probably never happen, in part because airlines benefit from the current situation — the mania for government-issued ID makes the Doctrine of First Sale moot, and the fact that the system is government-imposed means that the playing field is artificially leveled. Competition, after all, benefits buyers, not sellers.

  44. Terrorists of the world: please, please, _PLEASE_ try to blow up something using biometric-passport bombs, or use a RFID-based detonation mechanism?
    Pretty please with sugar on top?

  45. the human body can stifle an explosion pretty effectively

    Nice try, but some of us already saw The Dark Knight. The two key things I learned from that movie were:

    1. You can stuff enough explosives in a fat guy to take out a police precinct, and
    2. Cell phone networks can be tapped to create a real-time 3D sonar map of a major city.

  46. Terrorists of the world: please, please, _PLEASE_ try to blow up something using biometric-passport bombs, or use a RFID-based detonation mechanism?
    Pretty please with sugar on top?

    Ummm…one problem with your idea. If, as I suspect, these measures are far more about tracking and controlling the “non-terrorist” population than they are about stopping terrorism, that would be an “acceptable risk”.

    Besides, these guys use shoe bombs with fuses that have to be lit with a match, or when going uber-techy a butt-bomb triggered with a cell phone…

  47. I don’t want to sound like too much of an ‘old guy’, but I well remember the days when airplane hijackings were not unusual (to Cuba etc.) and I never worried about it, I don’t think many people did. In fact I was almost in a plane that was hijacked in Honduras, and it was just a source of a lot of jokes.

    Frankly the TSA and minions, and the generally hysterical response to terrorists, seems to be another example of being willing to do almost anything to avoid ‘risk’, even in the face of the obvious. The risk of aircraft being destroyed by terrorists, although a noxious prospect, is a small one, and certainly not worth the grand culture of fear and abandonment of liberty we have now.

    We need to accept that life contains risk. Soldiers get killed, drivers of cars get in accidents, people do get struck by lightning. These things need to be approached with intelligence. There seems not to be a lot of that around. We will remove more terrorism from the world by demanding action of our ‘friends’ the Saudis, than by idiotic travel restrictions.

    I also remember another time of over reaction. Baader-Mienhof gang was afoot, the Red Army faction was about, and in Canada we had the FLQ. A gang which was willing to kill, and blew up mailboxes in public places. What did our government do – invoked the ‘War Measures’ Act. Essentially suspending liberties and rights to privacy. We had armed soldiers in the streets in response to what really was a small criminal gang.

    It can happen again, and in America – all it takes is a dangerous indecent in a climate of fear.

  48. Cory,

    I’ve been reading BoingBoing for many years and like you a lot – but this article suffers from some “misleading by omission.”

    You state:

    “After all, once a jihadi failed to blow up a plane with his shoe, we all needed to start taking our shoes off. Then some knuckleheads believed they could blow up a plane with energy beverages and hair gel, so now we have to limit ourselves to 100ml of all liquids and gels.”

    This implies that this bomb didn’t work, like all the others, didnt work.

    Yet, let’s look at what is also stated from the BBC (as others have pointed out) is:

    “Miraculously the prince survived with minor injuries, but footage emerging this week shows a sizeable crater in the concrete floor and the bomber’s body blown in half.”

    So technically, unlike the who deal with the shoe and the liquids, is that the bomb does work. If it can leave a crater, it can probably take down an airplane.

    The real question is: Could someone with such a device board a plane? Or get close enough to a plan (say like a luggage handler)?

    If there is a reputable report that says “No way you get through airport security with a phone and bomb inside a human body” then you’re right to snicker with sarcasm.

    If there is evidence that you can sneak this device on board a plan or near it – and we know the bomb works – well, we do have lots to worry about – despite your sarcasm or not.

    1. So, MisterDarcy, you actually are coming out in favor of rectal exams at the airport? You totally have my permission to cut ahead of me in line.

  49. Note to TSA :

    Make compulsory wearing of dildo in ass cavity before boarding plane to ensure no room for bomb.

  50. Dunno about where you guys are from, but airports around here have wonderful glass toilets. If you’re ever suspected of anything up your butt, you get escorted to the toilet and must release it all (they’ll give you something to help!)…. Looks as gross as it sounds.

  51. Antinous:

    I’m saying the threat sounds more credible than the shoe bomber guy or the Evil Shampoo Bomb plot. So sadly enough, the TSA (assuming this bomb can get through detectors) need to focus on this than asking us to take over our shoes or throwing away shampoo.

    And if the only way to do that is via rectal exams, this highlights a huge dillema for the TSA.

    How will the TSA tell the public “Hey Guys, there’s .05% chance of internal/rectal bomb going off and killing 100-200 people. But no worries, considering how many people die in a car wreck every where that’s just acceptable risk we all ave to take – even through we’re responsible for trying to stop such things.”

    So, imagine if a rectal bomb does go off and kills about 120 people. Will the public and pundits ask for heads to roll at the TSA? Or will it just hum along and say “That’s just a facet of modern life”?

    I wish the folks at the TSA all the luck and wisdom in responding to this and communicating it with the public.

  52. In the Denziel Washington movie ‘Man on Fire’, he blows up a bad guy with an anal bomb. My God, what a world we live in that I typed ‘anal bomb’ without shuddering.

    The TSA is both incompetent and abusive. My 82 year old grandma gets pulled for secondary screening every time. Pilots regularly complain about being constantly pulled for secondary screening before they get on the planes they are going to fly. Several years ago, I heard on NPR about former VP Dan Quayle being patted down. Ted Kennedy was on the no-fly list for a while.The TSA at one airport refused to let people carry on ziplock bags for liquids given out by the TSA at another airport.

    Another terrorist attack is inevitable because they only need to get it right once. If it isn’t airplanes, it could be trains or car bombs or an assault like in Bombay or a chemical weapon in a parking lot or any of an almost infinite list. Being calm and rational is the best defense. If we aren’t terrified, the terrorism fails.

  53. @anon 84

    I’m saying the threat sounds more credible than the shoe bomber guy…

    You do realize that passengers in the air subdued your non-credible shoe bomber as he was trying to light the fuse, don’t you?

  54. @Orwellian:
    “my 82 year old grandma gets pulled for secondary screening every time.”

    Do you prefer the TSA says “we only use pattern matching profiling based on the 9/11 hijackers, so we only stop 16-45 year olds males who are likely to be Muslim”?

    If an organization is to make an effort to look like they’re not using pattern-matching (better known as “profiling”), then they’ll check on your sweet 82 year old grandmother.

    My friend is a tiny, barely 5 foot tall female that’s super sweet – but they always do secondary security checks on it. I’m sure the TSA checks on her just to look like they’re not screening only young “Muslim-looking’ males.

    Yes, I’m aware. But this rectal bomb supposedly went off successfully – so this bombing appears unambiguous (if we can trust BBC’s source) compared to the shoebomber guy.


    I realize I’m beating a dead horse a bit, and I apoligize, but from all indications the shoe bombs had more than enough PETN to have taken down the plane had it exploded. If the shoe bomber hadn’t been a complete moron and had gone into the bathroom to light the damn thing, we would likely never have known how the bomb got on the plane and wouldn’t be poking fun at how silly it is to have to take off our shoes. Just saying…

  56. When I first heard this bit of news I was both amused and chilled. About three years ago I repeatedly made the joking suggestion on-line that if Al Qaeda had any actual intelligence they would produce a phony video depicting their training of an elite corp of colon bombers so as to drive compulsive air security to its logical untenable conclusion and bring all air transit to a halt. Makes me wonder just who might have been hearing that joke…

    Of course, I for one am looking forward to the return of airship travel, which was always a more civilized way to fly and quite terrorism-proof -especially today when solar hybrid vessels can fly globally fuel-free and operate VTOL. Besides, what self-respecting terrorist would ever admit to striking at the heart of Western Capitalist Power by attacking the infidels’ blimps?

  57. You always take a bomb all the way to the security scan and blow it up there, or just take a few suitcase bombs into a restaurant in the landside part of the airport.

    Until they check people and luggage away from the terminal, it’s all pointless anyway.

    You’ve a higher risk of being killed in a car accident on the way to the airport than whilst flying anyhoo.

  58. No worries, if the TSA is required to inspect assholes they’ll be too busy checking each other to let anyone through security.

    I predict replacement of airport scanners with MRIs.

  59. I foresee a major jump in ridership on Amtrak and subsequent interest in dramatically increasing both the speed of travel and frequency of service if rectal exams are introduced at the airport.

    Whoa. Just whoa. As a side note, my ReCaptcha to post this was “banny worthy.” lol.

  60. Beyond traditional fingerprints or retina scans, people may be identified by 3D scans of their noses or the unique mix of bacteria living on their skin. Unfortunately, bacteria-slaying plasmas could be co-opted by criminals to evade the latter.

    So a revolutionary new technique measures another unique individual biodata characteristic – dubbed the “bumprint” – expanding the science of biometrics still further, in what many would say are even more invasive ways (and indeed as presaged by BoingBoing).

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