Blowing up planes is easy!

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Having recently traveled from Mexico, through the US, and on to Canada with a great deal of luggage, has given me a few new insights and experimental observations about smuggling and aircraft hijacking (not that I foresee either act in my future). I'd been in Mexico for a year, and Phil had a significant amount of stuff as well — we were traveling with several bikes, five computers, over a dozen harddrives and enclosures, a guitar, and lots of cables, clothes, and other items. Here's a photo of Phil taken as we finished our trip in the Toronto airport:

As you can see, it's a very large pile! And yes, the one bag exploded due to how heavily it was packed — two of the suitcases actually split open on the trip, but luckily nothing was lost.

Anyway, the journey began in Mexico in San Jose del Cabo. They made us shift some things around in our luggage and charged a hefty fee for it being overweight, but there was no search of any meaning. One of the suitcases contained a mid-tower desktop PC case, which didn't only contain a computer — I'd stuffed it with power supplies, cables, and anything else that would fit to save space. So it was outrageously heavy, and if x-rayed, would look nothing like a computer. Searching was limited to a young Mexican kid opening the bag, looking at the top layer of clothes, and closing it again.

My first carry-on luggage bag contained two 17″ laptops each with dual hard drives stacked on top of each other, along with power supplies, a digital camera, and an MP3 player. They were not removed to be searched or x-rayed separately (meaning they could have been just about anything). Nor was my NAS computer (which contains four large hard drives, a power supply, and the electronics all in a tightly packed case), the contents of my second carry-on, searched or examined.

So in Mexico I could have easily brought a bomb into luggage, or a gun or other weaponry into carry on. OK, but it's Mexico, right? But when we transferred flights in Chicago, while I did have to take my two laptops out, I didn't have to take out the NAS (which could easily contain anything) or any of the steel-cased harddrive enclosures… So even in Chicago I could have brought a gun onto the flight with ease. Just as disturbingly, there was no real search of the checked baggage, although we did discover that the DHS had chosen a single bag to search:

Seriously, WTF? 650 pounds of pretty suspicious luggage, and all they look at is the guitar case, the least threatening of everything we checked? I have three possible explanations for this:
  • The legacy of Ashcroft's hatred for rock'n'roll.
  • Too many viewings of el Mariachi.
  • The DHS and TSA employees are lazy and don't really care about doing their jobs well, so they just pick easy objects to search.

Sadly, if I had to guess it's the last option. Pure and simply laziness and incompetence. What's the law? “Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity?” It was a little disturbing to have confirmed my belief that it would be very easy to take out a plane, but then it's also refreshing to look at that fact and realize that because it hasn't happened, that “terrorists” must consider hijacking a plane an absolute final option that they don't particularly want to do.

Oh, and Canadian customs didn't search me either; they didn't even look at what Phil and I were traveling with. Not that there's really anything particularly problematic that people would bring back from Mexico to Canada, so I can't imagine there's really much worth searching for… Maybe cheap cigarettes?

PS. I don't believe there is really a reasonable solution to what I've described about.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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