Scotland Yard reports that it foiled an attempt to blow up a US-bound UK passenger jet though a bomb in hand luggage. The UK government has responded to this exemplary bit of policing -- using investigative techniques to discover plots while they are hatching -- by prohibiting all hand-luggage on planes, except for a transparent shopping bag carrying a few permitted items: a couple tampons, baby food (if another passenger is forced to taste it first), glasses without cases (deadly, deadly cases!), contact holders (but no cleaning fluid!), keys (but no electric fobs), and your wallet. You're not allowed to bring on magazines (deadly, deadly magazines!) or books, no laptops, no iPods, no oversized watches (!), and so forth.
The point of terrorism is to make us afraid. The UK response to a foiled plot is to create an unspecified period during which fliers are arbitrarily deprived of iPods, novels and dignity.
If this is a good idea now, then why won't it still be a good idea in a year? A decade? After all, terrorist plots will always exist in potentia (can you prove that no terrorist plots are hatching at this moment?) Until they handcuff us all nude to our seats and dart us with tranquilizers, there will always be the possibility that a passenger will do something naughty on a plane (even then, who knows how much semtex and roofing nails a bad guy could hide in his colon?).
I flew from the UK to the US about fifty times in the past 36 months. Speaking as someone who's neck would be on the line if a terrorist got onto a plane, I'd take my chances with the iPods and novels and dignity.
(via Plastic Bag)
Update: The TSA has also prohibited liquids on flights -- thanks, druidbros.
Update 2: Kelaine sez, "The Canadian transport authority just announced that they were also following the no liquids policy! WTF? I'm in Paris right now and flying uber-cheap Zoom back to Alberta. Zoom makes you pay for extra on-board beverages. I always take two bottles of water with me for trans-Atlantic flights."
Update 3: Wise words from the Hello World blog: "I’m sure they didn’t catch these guys in Britain because one of them was trying to sneak baby formula onto a plane–they caught him through the standard channels of surveillance and investigation that are both more effective and less obtrusive than these constant checkpoints and useless regulations. There are tons of things going on behind the scenes to which we in the public aren’t privy, and although those mostly-secret actions have their own issues at least they aren’t essentially public relation moves."
"In brief: Hand baggage restrictions are in place; Passengers will be handsearched; Footwear and all items (including pushchairs and walking aids) must be x-ray screened; Liquids will be removed from the passenger."
"Ooh, I don't like the sound of that last bit!"
Despite the obvious risks (choking, stabbing, tripping), the Transport Security Agency has declined to ban toy Transformer robots from flights originating in America. Liquids are still prohibited, though (no spittin'!) -- thanks, Dave!
Update 6: Jason Gill sez, "I am in the Atlanta airport as I write this; security is a zoo today with many around me complaining of hour long waits. Not only are liquid drinks prohibited, but we were checked for anything even semi-liquid. My girlfriend had to discard lipgloss, lotion, etc. We were told that even deoderant is prohibited and a recording played every few minutes at the gate warns that shampoo and toothpaste are banned. The overpriced perfume/lotion/makeup store is humorously still open past the security checkpoint, but TSA overlords are performing random bag searches and body pat-downs in the gate area.
"As I sit waiting for my turn to board now, a prerecorded announcement informed me that there would be no meal service but that 'Delta always welcomes its passengers to bring their own food and beverages aboard.' Hah."
Update 7: Ze Frank has an amazing episode of The Show up already, devoted to commentary on this.