Show of hands: how many of you out there feel safer due to the airport security measures which supposedly keep bombs off planes? If you raised your hand you must think both that there are plenty of terrorists who try to bring down planes, but that the security checkpoints are in general pretty good at keeping them out. In this post, I hope to disabuse you of both of these notions.
First of all let me vent a little. I'm sick and tired of people talking about terrorists in general terms. I hear it all the time: "terrorists look just like us," "terrorists think what bringing down planes is God's will," and other such phrases which imply that there are enough terrorists to lump them into a uniform seething pile of hatred.
In truth, there are very few terrorists in the United States. When was the last time you heard about a US plane hijacking? Terrorism just isn't a big enough threat to justify its looming shadow over the US psyche.
The 90% Hole in the Airport Security Net
Why am I so sure that there aren't dozens of annual attempts at bringing down planes which we don't hear about due to the covert actions of TSA officials who anonymously shield us? It turns out security is regularly audited by undercover teams of agents who try to smuggle bomb-like devices aboard planes, and they succeeded in about 90% of post-September 11 2001 attempts, as reported here.
The take-home message is that the world doesn't hate us as much as militant politicians want us to believe. If about 90% of attempted plane bombings would be successful and yet US passenger planes don't regularly explode, we're left with no other conclusion than airline terrorism is exceedingly rare. If there's been one take-off for every 5 seconds since September 11, that's more than 30 million terrorism-free flights.
We're safe in the air, not because of an army of screeners, but because people don't hate Americans as much as we're told. Now, dear readers, could you let me know if you think our paranoia over plane bombing is just garden-variety misplaced fear, or does it come from a conspiracy of plutocrats in a position to profit from it?