In response to Homeland Security Ponders Laptop Ban On All International Flights: Surefire Way to Stop Bombs on Planes reader Brindu sent a pair of interesting links discussing new bombs that airport scanners cannot detect.
Amid the bombed-out ruins of Mosul University, U.S. officials say they have uncovered evidence that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was developing a new type of bomb that could pass through an airport scanner undetected.
CBS News joined Iraqi Special Forces in Mosul just days after the hard-fought battle to recapture the University in January. It’s long been believed that Mosul University was the center of the militants’ bomb-making projects, using the school’s equipment and labs.
Now, U.S. officials believe that research includes a new generation of more powerful explosives that could be concealed in a computer.
When ISIS overran Mosul in 2014, they also captured the city’s international airport. And with it, all the modern security scanner and screening equipment necessary to test their new bombs.
Professional Pilots Discussion
The Professional Pilots Rumor Network, PPRuNE Website, has a discussion on undetectable bombs.
Dubaian: What’s to stop ISIS putting this clever new ‘undetectable’ stuff in pretty well anything a PAX might take on board. And it’d be easier than replumbing a laptop.
Peekay4: A working explosive is composed of several elements. These elements can be disguised within a laptop, large tablet, etc. Put them into a box of chocolates or a can of Pringles, they would be very easy to detect.
EDLB: What can they detect in checked luggage but not in a carry-on?
Peekay4: Not going into specifics but part of the reason for requiring them in checked luggage is not only for detection but also isolation (containment).
Lomapaseo: Containment from what? If they go boom as baggage the damage is variable as hell based on location. If they go boom in the cabin the damage is predictable based on seat location and/or overhead storage which is specific by PNR (boarding pass). And then there is the fire hazard from a typical LI cheap battery in passenger luggage. In the overhead or cabin, it’s specific in location and ability to assess and contain.
Infrequentflyer789: If they go boom in the cabin the damage is predictable based on exactly where the attacker decides to set it off, which is nothing to do with a boarding pass. A small boom set by a clever attacker in the right place is going to be as big a threat as a large boom placed randomly, and that’s before we get onto stuff like shaped charges and really clever placement.
Edmundronald: This will make Chromebooks and other net-connected empty-shell computers the tool of choice for biz travelers. Rent one or buy a cheap one as soon as you touch down.
RTD1: Rather, this will result in a massive push towards video conferencing/telepresence in lieu of business travel. I’ve been a management/technology consultant flying weekly for 20 years now, and if this ban were extended to all domestic and international flights, I’d likely either find an alternative to in-person meetings or switch careers if it were not feasible. I haven’t checked a bag (save for gate checking carry-ons on puddle jumpers) in years. I keep my timelines from landing to meeting starts pretty tight, and I count on flying time for working. I’m not unique, such a rule would be devastating for business travel.
Pax Britanica: There is always an element of business travel that is not really necessary but its hard line to draw between beneficial and essential. There are also events like conferences where most of the attendees don’t’ actually attend but meet with peers from other companies and do business just because a lot of people from one industry are in the same place. Ie the conference itself isn’t really ‘necessary’ but it’s a good opportunity to meet clients and suppliers without doing separate trips. Video links are usually fine for inside the company work and some external stuff but many cultures like the physical presence bit.
Mickjoebill: What about camera crews and photographers who carry kilos of lumpy electronic gear onboard? It is trivial to provide enough power to activate a camera to make the battery appear unadulterated when the cells have been repacked with something deadly.Unless every item is sniffed, a laptop ban seems half arsed.
ISIS Knows What We Know About Them
The preceding comment by Mickjoebill gets to the heart of the matter. And that was the point of my satirical suggestion on a Surefire Way to Stop Bombs on Planes.
ISIS knows, that we know, that they had been working on laptops. As a result, ISIS will likely shift to an electronic toy or camera equipment (as I suggested in my post).
FAA Traffic by the Numbers
In 2105, the FAA Traffic by Numbers website shows some interesting air traffic statistics.
- There were 8,727,691 commercial flights in 2015.
- There are 7,000 planes in the sky at any given time.
- There are 23,911 flights a day
Convenience vs Safety
Does it make sense to ban all laptops on all flights as they are discussing now?
Banning laptops alone is insufficient. It is impossible to eliminate all airplane risk without banning all flights.
Reader Maxx offered this pertinent thought:
At some point to unravel a knot, you have to start pulling on the other end of the string. Technology chasing technology only goes so far. For all the time spent harassing a new mom about baby formula, we could be using those hours to interview a 20-year-old “quiet” male with no real friends and an extensive Facebook trail to a Pakistani ISP. When are people going to wake up and realize politically correct bull&h!t is FATAL. This is costing our economy enormously.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock