Saturday, May 12, 2012

New Al Qaeda threads from Yemen could complicate air travel and staying connected; 9th Circuit takes up problems with no-fly list

Brian Ross, of ABC News, has an alarming story on May 9, about new Al Qaeda “plans” being developed in Yemen (by Ibrahim al-Asiri) to hide hard-to-detect explosives for US-bound flights in places like pets or human bodies (surgically implanted), or in certain kinds of cameras, lenses, or external hard drives triggered by USB connection to ordinary laptops.

The main link to the ABC story (with several videos) is here

Al-Asiri, 30, is considered one of the most dangerous terrorists now, is said to “hate western values” after the death of his brother (at the hands of the US).

Scientific American has a more detailed report on the specifics of the recent threats, which would have included checked baggage and cargo planes (for ordinary shipping) as well as carry-ons by passengers. 

There’s discussion the way these devices work, with lead azide and PETN, in this link of an article by Larry Greenemeier called “Screening Test”.

Pete Williams has a report from NBC here

The major concern of a practical nature for travelers would be whether the TSA would ban further items that are accepted today.  For some people this would obviously be their pets, or perhaps people who have had certain surgeries that somehow create issues for scanners.  It could also affect hand-carry of electronics, which generally cannot be checked because of the likelihood of damage.  I discussed the details of current rules on my “IT Job Market” blog on May 9. 

It used to be the case that when you traveled with a laptop, you were expected to be able to turn it on at checkpoint.  So you ran a slight risk of missing a flight if your laptop failed.

It also used to be common for hotels to offer more services for travelers in the way of in-house business centers.  Today, most  hotels and motels expect travelers to have their own electronics.  Possibly, the infrastructure of the travel industry should depend less on expecting travelers to carry so much gear around, especially overseas.  Increasing security concerns could create real problems for some travelers, especially those entrepreneurs “on their own” without regular employers or staffs.

CNN has also been reporting issues with the TSA no-fly list, with about 20000 people on it now, and mentioned the only process for redress, DHS TRIP, as described here
CNN has been reporting problems with it, including a toddler (daughter of a Mid-Eastern New Jersey family) placed on it by mistake, and several veterans, now suing in the Ninth Circuit; one owned a dog business and said he was told he could only come off it if he would become an informant at his mosque (Fox has a story here.).  CNN's Jason Carroll reported, and said that people have, in practice, very inadequate ways of finding out why they are on it.  If flying is a necessity and not a privilege, there seems to be a lack of "due process".  

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