The TSA would have missed the bomb the CIA found

In predictable fashion, the nation’s security apparatus reacted this week to impassioned calls for John Pistole to resign and the TSA to be dismantled with yet another bomb scare.

The CIA announced the existence of another non-metallic underwear bomb, and described foiling an early-stage plot to sneak it onto an international flight bound for the U.S. The kind of intelligence and police work that uncovered this alleged plot are precisely what we should be doing to secure air travel, not traumatizing children and putting the health of innocents at risk.

This plot proves conclusively that the TSA simply cannot prevent attacks on aircraft. The bomb-bearer would certainly have walked right through the checkpoint without the bomb’s being detected.

How can I be so sure, when the Christian Science Monitor argues that the bomb might have been detectable in the TSA’s controversial body scanners?

Because, other than the fact that other experts say the scanners wouldn’t have detected such a bomb, it’s a trivial matter to guarantee you won’t go through a body scanner. I do it all the time.

I simply purchase tickets that leave from terminals that can be accessed through body-scanner-free checkpoints. If you would like to fly without being subjected to a body scan, just check the list at TSA Status.

For instance, Reagan National’s terminal A, BWI’s Southwest gates, Boston’s Virgin America gate, Austin, Fort Lauderdale (Southwest), San Francisco (United first class), and many other major and minor airports offer scanner-free access.

The metal detectors at these checkpoints could never have detected a non-metallic explosive.

The TSA thinks body scanners are so important that they are willing to destroy a teenage diabetic’s insulin pump with one. They’re willing to force an Alaska state senator to take a four-day ferry ride home. But the TSA offers a wide-open door for people to fly without going through a body scanner. Millions fly every day without being directed to a scanner.

Let’s leave aside the growing mound of evidence that body scanners are grossly ineffective. In fact, if an attacker wanted to carry a metal object, he could easily have taken it through a body scanner in a side pocket, as Jonathan Corbett taught 2 million YouTube viewers to do.

Rest assured that the TSA could never have foiled this plot, because terrorists don’t have to go through body scanners. You might. You might well be unable to find a way to fly to your particular destination without letting strangers peer through your clothing. But others, including terrorists, need not go anywhere near a body scanner to board an airplane.

Then again, they can also blow themselves up in the concourse, as they did at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Francois Cuccu)