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No shirts, no shoes, or no service?

May 8, 2012 - Rob Weaver
The news sent a shiver through just about everyone, especially those who fly the not-so-friendly skies: A covert CIA operation had intercepted a supposedly undetectable explosive device intended to be worn -- and detonated -- aboard an airliner bound for the United States.

The device is a more sophisticated model of the underwear bomb that failed to detonate aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009. Apparently, the new bomb also was designed to be concealed in a passenger's underwear, but used a more-refined detonation system.

Those who heard the news likely experienced a second shiver: How would the airport security screening process adapt to this development?

First, Richard Reid made a futile attempt to ignite an explosive in one of his shoes in 2001. Afterward, the screening process required air travelers to kick off their shoes so they could be scanned. Flip-flops, sandals and slip-on shoes have become preferred footwear of even infrequent fliers.

Then came the underwear bomb. Since then, the screening process has been even more personal, stopping just short of requiring passengers to turn their heads and cough. What’s next? Will air travelers have to remove their shoes, belts -- and pants? Or will all passengers have to change into Transportation Security Administration-supplied jumpsuits before being allowed to board a plane?

I feel sorry for TSA agents. Like their counterparts at the Internal Revenue Service, they don’t write the regulations; they just have to enforce them. But if an IRS agent errs, generally speaking, one taxpayer suffers. And that mistake can be corrected. TSA agents now have to worry about explosives hidden in undergarments. And be responsible to avert an attack that could impact hundreds of souls.

The problem is, even though an attack using the newer device was interrupted by the CIA, air travelers and the TSA still will have to deal with the aftermath of an explosion that never occurred.

The war on terrorism might never truly be won, never really be over. We just need to stay ahead of the terrorists.


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