The U.S. has banned inflight electronics larger than a cell phone on non-stop flights on 9 airlines from 10 airports in 8 countries.
You might think that the goal is for terrorists to bore themselves to death (there’s really not that much interesting content on Etihad’s E-Box system) but defenders of the security state are leaking that while there’s not “a single specific incident but a combination of factors” there’s a fear that terrorists have developed a bomb “hidden in a fake iPad that appeared as good as the real thing.”
The idea then is a theoretical iPad that both has explosives in it and still functions as an iPad. So requiring passengers to turn on their electronics at the security checkpoint wouldn’t reveal that the device is a bomb.
Since we know that airport security has missed over 90% of the dangerous items going through the checkpoint for more than a decade and it’s easier to identify that there is an iPad rather than a dangerous iPad this is a necessary step.
Otherwise the only thing standing between us and oblivion is every time ISIS submits their trigger app to the app store, Apple rejects it.
And yet if this is a real — rather than scifi movie plot — threat, the response is silly.
- The UK implemented an electronics ban but didn’t see the need to include flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha.
- Five Eyes countries Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — who share intelligence with the US and UK via the multilateral UKUSA Agreement for joint cooperation in signals intelligence — looked at the intelligence and didn’t impose the ban at all.
- The electronics ban was intended to fight an ostensibly existential threat yet wasn’t required to be implemented right away, and was developed over weeks including extensive legislative briefings.
- Already we’ve seen the ban applied to electric toothbrushes and noise cancelling headsets.
- Abu Dhabi — whose security is tight enough that the US allows flights originating there to land in America as though they’re domestic — is on the list of airports where electronics aren’t permitted. But Paris and Brussels which have been the scene of extremist airport attacks are not.
- Terrorists can connect and the ban is extremely limited to a handful of airports. The US won’t allow electronics from Dubai to New York JFK, but a would-be terrorist could hop Azerbaijan Airlines from Dubai to Baku, Azerbaijan to New York JFK and bring their iPad bomb onboard no problem.
Security at the Dubai airport is extensive, and they don’t feel the need to ban electronics on other flights. The US puts every passenger through immigration controls in Abu Dhabi. They stop people from boarding planes, rather than stopping them at the border. This isn’t just the usual passenger lists they approve for every flight to the U.S. And baggage is scanned, passengers go through a second – extensive – security check above and beyond what’s normal for the airport.
If you grant the most extreme version of the threat then the challenge is admittedly hard though the response makes other airports more attractive, other means of attack (such as conspiring airport employees) more attractive, and other targets more attractive.