Three plus one plane-killing things current security cannot stop

(#2 in a series of unoriginal and obvious points I want to be able to say that I made publicly back in August 2006.)

  • Bomb in the cargo hold.
  • Artificial limb containing 460 ml 50% hydrochloric acid and 432 grams of sodium cyanide. When mixed, these form enough gas to contaminate the 703 cubic meters of a 747 with 300 ppmv of hydrogen cyanide—which can kill you by entering through your eyeballs. (With a long enough exposure, it can even enter through your skin.)
  • Sealed glass capsule containing 40 ml GB—which enters through your skin quickly. Assuming 10 ml for the glass itself, this can be carried in the rectum for hours at a time without incurring so much as a funny walk. (VX is worse, on a deaths per gram scale, but is a bit harder to weaponize.) Neither nerve gas requires a government-sized organization to produce—Aum Shinrikyo made (and killed people with) both.

I am not the first to think of these schemes, nor the first to speak of them. Thus, defeating them requires, at a minimum, inspection of all cargo, a qualified radiologist to take and inspect X-rays of all prosthetics, and full cavity searches of all passengers. Any airliner security program that does not include all three things does not protect passengers from threats known to be within the capabilities of private organizations.

Ergo, I argue that the debate is not whether airport security is sufficient. It is known not to be. The only question is why we’re bothering to implement measures that do not solve the problem they’re intended to. What benefit do you figure we derive? Are you sure it’s worth the price?

Further, even if we were to implement all three, there is one last scheme:

  • Corrupt a mechanic to install a bomb on the jet during routine maintenance.

No security measure inflicted on passengers can prevent this. Knowing this, does all the delay and indignity of passenger inspection still make you so much as make you feel safer?

Even ignoring the wasted time and subsequent loss of productivity, the security infrastructure is not free. You understand now that the security measures are pointless. How much of your money are you willing to pay—in the form of taxes and higher travel costs—to buy the props for a fool’s paradise?