Security or Protectionism?

New flying rules are afoot:

The US has announced a ban on large electronic devices from cabin baggage on passenger flights from eight Muslim-majority countries.

Bombs could be hidden in laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and electronic games, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.

Well yes, they could be. Which is generally why everyone has to go through that pantomime of taking out all electronic items and scanning them separately. Or doesn’t this actually work?

The nine airlines affected are Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The cynic in me thinks this is less about security and more about hobbling Middle East airlines which are cheaper, cleaner, better, and have nicer staff than airlines operating out of the US.

The UK is due to announce shortly a similar ban on certain flights.

Which is good news for British Airways, no doubt.

[A]viation security experts were alarmed by an incident in Somalia last year when the insurgent group al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop on a flight out of Mogadishu, blowing a hole in the side of the plane.

Somalia. On Daallo Airlines, whoever the hell they are. But this might be a concern:

A suspected suicide bomber on a Daallo Airlines flight was originally meant to be aboard a Turkish Airlines plane, Reuters cited Daallo’s CEO Mohamed Yassin as saying. A separate report claimed the blast had come from explosives hidden inside a laptop.
The majority of the passengers on the bombed Airbus A321 flight were scheduled to fly with Turkish Airlines, but were redirected after the Turkish carrier cancelled the flight due to bad weather.

I’m a bit concerned about Turkish Airlines. They have done an impressive job of becoming a very good, high-profile airline offering flights practically everywhere through an airport which I’ve been told is excellent…but at the same time, as I wrote here, Turkey’s state security services might have been severely compromised. If so, their national airline makes for a ripe target indeed. I sincerely hope this is not the case because, regardless of what I think about Turkish politics right now, plane bombings is something we really need to see eradicated.

The problem is, aircraft security has been so badly handled what with so many senseless, arbitrary rules applied inconsistently across airports and jurisdictions and the ubiquitous security theatre seemingly designed to make passengers docile and compliant rather than safe, trust in the authorities is pretty low these days.

Jamil al-Qsous, a former Jordanian aviation security official, told the Associated Press news agency that the ban meant “one less headache” for security agencies.

And for the passengers? Who cares about them? Presumably they will be invited to fly with a different airline, an American one, onto which they can bring their electronic devices. Yeah, it’s all about security.

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17 thoughts on “Security or Protectionism?

  1. “The cynic in me thinks this is less about security and more about hobbling Middle East airlines which are cheaper, cleaner, better, and have nicer staff than airlines operating out of the US”: in general US foreign policy is about trying to advance the interests of US corporations. Nothing wrong with that, of course; it’s the endless spew of hypocritical false explanations that can grate.

    Hence, I have always assumed, the Yanks’ keenness to ensure that WWII resulted in the demolition of the British, French, and Dutch empires. They thought successor states would provide easier pickings for the aforesaid US corporations. Perhaps they did. Perhaps not; nobody has ever accused the State Department of routinely adopting subtle, intelligent, well-informed, or successful policies.

  2. I dunno, it’s a long time since I flew and can’t say I am bothered about flying again soon. Never thought it was much more than a bus in the air with little leg room (and I’ve got short legs)

    Part of me thinks that maybe (a) someone knows something is up and an early restriction might stop some nefarious plot or (b) let’s piss off the ME airlines because someone, somewhere has to tell islam it is a pile of stinky poo that no one wants near civilisation, and this is a place to start. Yeah I know, what would we do without their kindness over petrol products (other than realising God has a wicked sense of humour by giving those with sand between their toes the majority of the world’s energy supply.

    There is a (c) that it is an experiment to see if some sort of control can be instituted because our masters all love to practice control techniques. probably a (d) too but mentioning that would illustrate my lack of imagination.

  3. Actually, it was material found during a raid in Yemen in which a US service member died about which Trump was so criticized. AQ in Yemen is seeking to turn laptops/smart phones into bombs – remember a couple of years ago they tried to turn printers into bombs?

  4. Let’s just skip through the logic again;

    1. The security authorities are claiming that there is an increased threat of larger electronic devices (i.e. anything bigger than an iPhone) being modified to become explosive.
    2. The threat is specific to a particular geography; the Middle East.
    3. The explosive devices are safe if stowed in the hold, but not in the cabin.

    I’m struggling with (3) here, I must admit.

  5. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H. L. Mencken

  6. If they really cared about security, they’d study how Israel do it.
    They have multiple levels of security checks and profiling (starting outside the airport) and the use of explosion-proof rooms within the terminals for the examination of anything suspicious, which makes everything run smoothly, so no evacuations are necessary.
    Considering that they are one of the most likely targets for an attack, their record is exemplary.
    But what would we do with all the useless security drones we already have?

  7. @TNA on March 21, 2017 at 7:50 pm said:

    Let’s just skip through the logic again;

    1. The security authorities are claiming that there is an increased threat of larger electronic devices (i.e. anything bigger than an iPhone) being modified to become explosive.
    2. The threat is specific to a particular geography; the Middle East.
    3. The explosive devices are safe if stowed in the hold, but not in the cabin.

    I’m struggling with (3) here, I must admit.

    Try thinking about it.

    eg: Terrorist at cockpit door: I have a bomb, let me in vs I have a bomb in luggage in hold, let me in.

    Does that help?

    @TN,
    UK has implemented similar today, scrub “protectionism” suggestion from title.

  8. Hi @Pcar,

    I thought it trough for a moment and came to the conclusion that the halcyon days of the Baader Meinhof Group are behind us. Islamic terrorism has solved the problem of the perpetrator not being overly keen on dying.

    The fact that the UK has followed suit is not necessarily an argument that this isn’t protectionism. Regardless, it’s definitely security theatre.

    Tim, I demand you write the word “Cockwomble” in the title of you next post. Is that how this works?

  9. This looks like Protectionism from hollywood. Stopping people from watching pirate movies on their ipads while flying and forcing them to watch the rubbish in-flight stuff.

  10. UK has implemented similar today, scrub “protectionism” suggestion from title.

    British Airways has long complained about the unfairness of the Middle Eastern airlines being subsidised, although why – as a customer – I should be in the least bit concerned that wealthy oil sheikhs are subsidising my international travel I don’t know. This might be about security, but let’s not kid ourselves that BA wouldn’t be rubbing their hands with glee at this announcement.

    Sorry, but the governments and airport security authorities no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt over these issues. It has long been clear that the interests of the travelling passengers are very much secondary; a good example of this is the rather dubious insistence that no liquids or gels can be transported except in quantities of less than 50ml and then only when packed together in a transparent bag, yet those prohibited products are prominently displayed for purchase a few metres the other side at four times market price. If the governments and airport authorities wanted people to trust them, they shouldn’t take the piss in this manner. They should also try not treating passengers like cattle and issuing threats whenever they see somebody not being 100% compliant.

  11. I’m struggling with (3) here, I must admit.

    So am I. If a bomb is going to go off and create one or more martyrs in the process, I don’t see that putting it in the hold is going to make much difference.

    They also appear to be admitting they cannot tell whether an item is explosive by scanning it.

  12. But what would we do with all the useless security drones we already have?

    Exactly, it’s an employment programme, much like the DMV in the US. Welfare, basically.

  13. dearieme,

    A lot of people accuse the US government of assisting its corporations, and I can think of instances where they have domestically, e.g. made-up safety issues regarding Audi and Toyota. But the US seems to hinder rather than help its corporations overseas, and especially so compared to their European counterparts. It is an irony that the US is held up as a warning of corporate power corrupting governments, yet European governments are far more in hoc to their industrial champions than the US government is. Germany’s foreign policy regarding Russia is pretty much dictated by their industrial corporations, for example, trampling over all the objections to Nord Stream from the smaller EU countries (before Gerhard Schroeder went to join the board of Nord Stream mere days after leaving office: how many US presidents would have gotten away with that?). And what is the EU if not a political vehicle to enable selected EU companies to benefit: the ban on Chinese lightbulbs was to protect Phillips’ manufacturing operations in the EU.

  14. AQ in Yemen is seeking to turn laptops/smart phones into bombs

    Jean, Samsung have beaten them to it.

  15. I always thought that the yanks would retaliate to that ad with Jennifer Aston getting a shower on an Emirates flight and we know that the poms don’t wash and don’t like being reminded that they are on the nose.

    https://s21.postimg.org/vmx8q9wtz/Bardon_s_after_take_off_shower.jpg

    Its also different from the currently set aside US Islamic nation migrant ban as they were for the bad guy of the Shiah nations, this one is right square on the nose of the good guy Sunni block of nations, the US and British so called allies in the Mid-East conflicts. Scope for loss of face here if not handled well.

    As for is it security, it could very well be a hobgoblin.

    Commercial angle, and this is a long bow I know, the decline of the PC laptop and the stimulation of smart device market. I am a dyed in the wool PC laptop user I have been using them since they first became available, I have always had the latest and greatest market laptop, currently got a Dell XPS 13 and am on it now and I swear by them. I also have a MacBook Pro Retina Display for graphics so I know those systems as well. I have never been a tablet type either. Up until about two months ago my laptop was my piece, then I got the new iPhone 7 Plus, discovered the extraordinary camera functionality on this model and other larger screen features and have since massively switched over to using that now as opposed to my laptop when mobile. This is a step change for me. I didn’t take my laptop out on some recent long haul Emirates flights.

    I also know that Huawei just said that the mobile device market is only just getting started and they see a trillion-dollar market in mobile devices with video, Emirates just signed up to a big deal with IBM to revolutionize in flight services direct to customer owned devices.

    “In basic terms, let me tell you that video on mobile will be the next trillion dollar market,” said Zou.

    This cluster of circumstances could accelerate a development.

    I was working as dispatch rider in London in the eighties and I remember when the Post Office went on strike. Fax was just starting and with the mail system stopping, it boomed overnight, being a courier was lucrative as well, fetching $20 cash for a pickup in EC4 dropping in SW, great days alright. Faxes never declined after the strike finished, they increased, they stole market share from the courier market as well.

    So just saying there are similarities and necessity is the mother of invention.

  16. TNA

    The hold is depressurised and an explosion there may compromise the hull but has little structural impact, from a small bomb anyway, so if safe. One in the cabin will cause explosive decompression that can rip the plane apart and kill people.

    I see a minor flaw in their plans. If Mr suicidal nutter can’t get a laptop on to a banned airline won’t they just take their laptops to one that they can get v it on. Thus making those airlines more dangerous.

    Maybe Trump should use this process to limit immigrants. Ban them via bureaucracy.

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