Last week, British authorities arrested 24 members of a terrorist cell plotting to blow up about a dozen U.S.-bound planes simultaneously. As a result of those arrests, we learned:
Nothing being done by airport security since 9/11 would prevent a bomb from being brought onto an airplane; and
This terrorist plot -- like all other terrorist plots -- was stopped by ethnic profiling.
Last week marked the first official admission that everything government airport screeners have been doing until now is completely pointless -- unless you're an airport security guard with a thing for women's undergarments, in which case it's been highly effective.
As we now know, all the ingredients necessary to blow up an airplane can be carried in small liquid containers. Airport security has not even been looking for small liquid containers. Judging from my personal experience, they seem to have been focusing on finding explosive devices inside women's brassieres.
After five years of submissively complying with bag checks, shoe checks and underwire bra checks, Americans have now been informed that the hell we've been going through at the airports (but which the president and members of Congress do not go through because they refuse to fly commercial air) has been a useless Kabuki theater.
The procedures that have wasted millions of hours of time cannot keep the most basic bomb materials off an airplane. This is like locking your windows to prevent burglaries, while leaving the front door wide open.
Airport security has been using metal detectors to confiscate sharp objects that could be turned into make-shift weapons, which could then be used by terrorists to commandeer control of a plane and fly it into a building.
Except the terrorists can't do that because we've seen that trick before.
After 9/11, airline passengers will never allow a half-dozen terrorists to take control of a plane again. Indeed, on 9/11, passengers on Flight 93 prevented terrorists who had already been given control of the plane from flying it into a building after hearing what had happened to the first three hijacked planes.
To pull off a 9/11-style attack now, literally half the passengers on the plane would have to be terrorists. (At least the airport screeners wouldn't have to worry about confiscating a lot of deodorants.)
I think a planeful of Arabs would attract attention -- except from people who had recently completed a government training program teaching them not to notice anyone's appearance. Not even a group of liberal Democrats flying off to a Renaissance Weekend would stand for that.
The sole objective of airport security post-9/11 has been to accomplish the impossible -- remove all sharp objects from a plane -- in order to prevent an attack that won't ever happen again. (OK -- well, that and finding out what color of lingerie Ann Coulter prefers.)
The plan seems to be to make flying so unpleasant that terrorists -- like the people who write laws about airport security -- will refuse to fly commercial air. On that theory, we could also keep terrorists off planes by forcing passengers to undergo root canal surgery before boarding, making them stand on their heads for an hour, or enacting an "all Whoopi Goldberg in-flight movie" policy.
What stopped last week's terrorist attack was ethnic profiling. We don't know the details of the British intelligence work that nabbed the 24 Muslims because The New York Times has not been able to obtain that classified information and publish it on its front page yet. But it is a fact that you could not catch 24 Muslim terrorists by surveilling everyone in Britain equally.
Without the ethnic profiling going on outside of airports, no security procedure currently permissible inside airports would have prevented a terrorist attack that would have left thousands dead.
Airplanes, ports, bridges, subways and shopping malls cannot ever be sanitized against every type of attack that can be dreamed up by fanatics engaged in asymmetrical warfare. We have to target the fanatics themselves. Baby formula doesn't kill people. Islamic fascists kill people.