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As I write this morning, news is just reaching sjhoward.co.uk towers of a foiled terror plot to blow up planes in mid-flight. In response to this, hand baggage has been banned on aircraft departing from the UK – all that is now allowed is a clear plastic bag containing travel documents. And medications. And glasses. But that’s it. Except for baby food. Oh, and wallets. But not much, really, no. Forgot to mention keys – they’re still allowed. Oh, and ‘small personal items’. Which I guess doesn’t include small personal explosives. And everybody’s being hand searched, and the clear plastic bags are being X-rayed for reasons that aren’t clear to me. US flights are having two searches, just to make sure, and you’re not allowed to take liquids on board. Except the baby milk, but you have to taste that to proove it’s safe. Books and newspapers are too dangerous to take on board, because you could give someone a pretty nasty paper cut. It’s beyond parody.
Really, this is quite a wonderful idea. Everybody is carrying an identical clear plastic bag containing identical passports and tickets. How long before everybody ends up with somebody else’s passport and tickets? That’ll complicate things a bit.
The terror threat level has been raised to ‘Critical’ – the highest possible level. Or at least, it has in some places. The MI5 website says it’s ‘Critical’, but the new exciting important Intelligence.gov.uk reckons it’s only ‘Severe’. Good to see a unified approach. And the police have just been ‘explaining’ the threat level. ‘Critical’ means that an attack is expected imminently. The police say they’ve foiled this plot, aren’t aware of another, but it’s possible. So they’ve raised the level from ‘Severe’, where an attack is ‘Highly likely’, to one where an attack is ‘expected imminently’. Even though threre’s apparently no specific threat. Yup, this is the new intelligence logic.
Why any organised group of terrorists would bother trying to smuggle bombs in hand luggage anyway, I really don’t understand. It’s far too risky. It only takes one of them to be discovered for an organised security response to prevent the others happening. There are many ways of getting explosives on to an aircraft that stand less chance of being discovered, as shown in Whistleblower a couple of years back (and I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting those loopholes have all been closed). Why go with the riskiest option? Organsied terrorists wouldn’t.
Perhaps the new security’s a good thing. I got on a flight last Friday – and off at the other end – without having my ID checked once. My passport never left my pocket from entering the airport to leaving at the other end. There’s a lot of tightening to be done, if you ask me. But then, I flew with an airline that charged extra for hold baggage – they’ll be rubbing their hands with glee today…