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  • CYA

    Posted by James R. Rummel on December 9th, 2004 (All posts by )

    This news item says that terrorists might just use lasers against commercial aircraft. If they can shine a laser inside the cockpit, they might be able to blind the pilot and cause the plane to crash.

    I’ve said before that one of the problems with law enforcement is that the public likes to blame them for events outside of their control. Terrorists use three captured planes as guided missiles for the first time after hundreds of previous hijackings and everyone starts screaming about how someone dropped the ball.

    So now we have this Dept. of Homeland Security, and are they under a microscope. Not only do they have to keep an eye on foreign nationals, but there might be some US citizens who hate America. Not to mention all of the copycat nutbags who don’t mind if they kill a few hundred innocent people just so their name would make it into the paper.

    Bottom line is, if the terrorists keep trying they’re bound to have a success sooner or later. When that happens heads are going to roll even if it happens in such a way so that placing blame is absurd.

    We’ve already seem some hysteria over the supposed vulnerability of commercial flights before. That whole flap about how .50 caliber rifles could bring down or blow up just about anything from extreme range with a single shot is just the first thing that pops into my head. I’m still waiting for the terrorists in Iraq to start potting aircraft with a single round. (For some reason they haven’t gotten around to exploiting this vulnerability even though they have access to military equipment.)

    So the people involved with DHS are tossing out terror alerts no matter how remote the possibility. That way some of the criticism might be countered. Just a little proactive action before a terrorist attack.

    That is, after all, their mission. They’re just working the PR angle here instead of the physical side.

     

    8 Responses to “CYA”

    1. Steven Den Beste Says:

      It’s not that easy to blind someone with a laser beam. I think someone’s indulging in a bit of fantasy here.

    2. Patrick Chester Says:

      Ah, so airliners are doomed due to fricking terrorists with fricking lasers? (Though probably not on their heads.)

      As for the evil .50 rifles, I suppose a .50 bullet in the right place could bring down or maybe blow up (assuming it hit a fuel tank) an airliner. It’s possible that it hasn’t happened or even been tried because airplanes are moving targets.

      I mean, military aircraft have been shot down by lower caliber weapons, but only because the enemy on the ground basically filled the sky with bullets. A .50 Barrett can’t fire that fast.

    3. Dave Schuler Says:

      I’ve said before that one of the problems with law enforcement is that the public likes to blame them for events outside of their control.

      But a more important problem with law enforcement is that, at least with our system as it is now, law enforcement means apprehending and prosecuting criminals not preventing crime except insofar as the unlikely possibility of punishment deters crime.

      BTW that is the problem with approaching radical Islamist terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter. To do that we’ll either need to change our model of law enforcement to include prior restraint or we’ll need to accept that every so often a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand of our fellow citizens will be murdered by terrorists whom law enforcement is hard put to apprehend.

    4. James R. Rummel Says:

      But a more important problem with law enforcement is that, at least with our system as it is now, law enforcement means apprehending and prosecuting criminals not preventing crime except insofar as the unlikely possibility of punishment deters crime.

      This isn’t a bug but a feature. Innocent until proven is the way we do things around here. Or would you prefer to live in a society that does it the other way around like Cuba, North Korea, Iran or China?

      BTW that is the problem with approaching radical Islamist terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter.

      You’re way off base on this one, Dave. International terrorism is just that: international. That means they have support from foreign governments. When I can send the cops from Columbus, Ohio to arrest Saddam instead of having to resort to an invasion by the US military you give me a call. Until then it’s just not a good idea to think of it as a law enforcement problem at all.

      I think the best way is to approach it like a Cold War sabotage excercise. Actors from a foreign government are here to do damage.

      That means we can’t ignore the terrorist’s support base. If they have a sanctuary, some place to plan and gather their strength, then we’ll never be rid of them. A policy of ignoring terrorist organizations until they manage to land someone on US soil is a recipe for defeat.

      James

    5. Chris Says:

      Yeah…I would resign if I was Tom Ridge too…that guys job is THANKLESS. One thing gets through during your tenure and you will be blamed over and over again(forget actually assigning blame to the person who set the bomb or hijacked the plane)…..but on the other hand, if one innocent arab immigrant, visitor, or citizen is inadvertantly detained, then you will be called a facist, nazi…yada yada….

      oh what the hell…they call you that anyway…

    6. Chris Says:

      “…I’m still waiting for the terrorists in Iraq to start potting aircraft with a single round….”

      They probably have tried it to some degree…the problem is two fold…one….even though these .50 rifles are large caliber…they are many times not the same round as anit aircraft capable rounds…meaning…same caliber bullet….much smaller balistics load of gunpowder….hence many aircraft, including helicoptors are relatively well protected in many areas from a round like this…

      Second of all…people don’t realize how incredibly hard it is to actually hit a moving aircraft with small arms fire…..it is very, very difficult…

      I am of course speaking as a rule..there are exceptions and I am only talking about the Iraq situation…not your point about commercial flights…

    7. Billy Beck Says:

      I used to pull my car over on the shoulder of the Interstate just off the approach end of Runway 9L at Hartsfield (Atlanta), just to watch traffic rolling in: heavy after heavy crossing the highway at never more than about 250 feet down final approach.

      I’m here to tell you that that is a sensational front-quarter shot. Anyone interested could sit there and blast ’em with the greatest ease imaginable. I’m experienced with firearms and airplanes. I would lay heavy money that someone with a decent eye could fairly precisely pop pilots right out of their seats with an AK from that position. And it’s not the only one in the country, by a long shot.

      It is utterly inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened yet, and anyone who thinks it would be difficult is simply ignorant of the problem.

    8. chris Says:

      “..I’m here to tell you that that is a sensational front-quarter shot. …”

      “..It is utterly inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened yet, and anyone who thinks it would be difficult is simply ignorant of the problem….”

      Oh…well if YOU are here to tell us…how can we doubt that sort of evidence..

      Great…if the insurgents want to take out Atlanta flights…I guess we are screwed…however if you read I was referring to military aircraft in Iraq.

      “..I’m experienced with firearms and airplanes..”

      Hey hey..I’ve back and forth to/from Hawii and seen lethal weapons 1-4 AND Red Dawn…so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about!!