back to article America throws down gauntlet: Accept extra security checks or don't carry laptops on flights

Folks flying into America must endure extra security checks if they want to bring their laptops into airplane cabins. In a press conference on Wednesday, US Homeland Security boss John Kelly announced the introduction of: Enhanced screening of passengers and their electronic devices. Increased security protocols around …

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  1. Lost In Clouds of Data
    FAIL

    Last I read...

    ... planes had yet to be fitted with bomb proof holds. That said, what's to stop 3 maniacs checking in 3 laptop bombs into checked luggage, all three synced up took detonate simultaneously?

    Or are these measures somehow miraculously going to extend to all checked baggage as well?

    I get security, and fully understand the risks, but none of this to me seems to prevent your average religious zealot from carrying out their sick plan of mass murder. No longer is it a case of detonating a bomb in the main cabin after somehow sneaking it onboard, now they can have more in the hold, all placed there by your friendly neighbourhood airport security team.

    In addition, at what point do you say that, to all intents and purposes, the feckers have won?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last I read...

      As Arthur C. Clarke noted, the Ramans do everything in threes.

      As George W. Bush noted, the terrorists have won when they see us curtail our liberties. So the Islamic Statists need not do more than hint at further attacks on USA targets.

      As many have noted, the TLAs win, in the Imperial sense, every time they can foist a new restriction on a frightened public.

      As open software enthusiasts might note, we have a win win Win situation. Bliss.

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Last I read...

        I'm part of the frightened public, but I'm not afraid of the terrorists. It's the people "protecting" me that give me the cold sweats.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Gimp

          "It's the people "protecting" me that give me the cold sweats."

          And so they should.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: "It's the people "protecting" me that give me the cold sweats."

            @JS19

            You appear to have aquired some serial downvoters.. What did you do?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "It's the people "protecting" me that give me the cold sweats."

              @JS19

              You appear to have aquired some serial downvoters.. What did you do?

              Nothing to worry about, that's partially weather and weekday dependent :)

            2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Unhappy

              "You appear to have aquired some serial downvoters.. What did you do?"

              Impossible to say, as people who do so are unwilling to actually post a reason. Written communication does not seem to be their strong point.

              I usually expect down votes from

              Apologists for, or beneficiaries of (IE tax money) state surveillance

              Believers in security theatre. I guess they're too terrified to leave their basements much.

              Those supporters of the D who suspect I'm not wholly sympathetic to his vision.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Last I read...

      "In addition, at what point do you say that, to all intents and purposes, the feckers have won?"

      October 26, 2001, when the USA PATRIOT Act of Congress was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last I read...

      @Lost - "That said, what's to stop 3 maniacs checking in 3 laptop bombs into checked luggage, all three synced up took detonate simultaneously?"

      "Or are these measures somehow miraculously going to extend to all checked baggage as well?"

      Don't worry - someone will be opening your laptop in your checked luggage and reviewing (and possibly copying) all your files - for your safety, of course.

    4. Brenda McViking
      Flame

      Re: Last I read...

      It's not the bomb threat that is the most dangerous thing about this. Putting more lithium batteries into the hold is asking for trouble. As with all risks, it's simply a matter of time until one catches fire, cannot be controlled and brings a plane down.

      I trust that these anti-terrorist rulemaking idiots who apparently are trying to make us "more safe" are going to be tried for pre-meditated murder and gross professional negligence when this inevitably happens.

      The aviation safety authorities are warning that electronic devices containing lithium batteries are classed as dangerous goods and should be carried in the cabin. to quote EASA "We must take all precautions to make sure that mitigating one risk does not lead to another risk." That's about as strongly worded as EASA ever get and should be treated extremely seriously. Politics and aviation safety should not ever mix. EVER

      1. Stork Bronze badge

        Re: Last I read...

        and once again: if this is a real danger for international flights, so it is for domestic flights. I may start considering this real if it applied to all flights.

        1. MrBanana

          Re: Last I read...

          Exactly.

          From https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/28/usa_may_extend_laptops_on_planes_ban_to_all_flights/

          “There is a real threat. There's numerous threats against aviation. That's really the

          thing they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight,

          particularly if it is a US carrier, particularly if it is full of mostly US folks.”

          That sounds to me like the perfect description of a domestic flight.

        2. LDS Silver badge

          " if this is a real danger "

          Especially in a country like US with a lot of internal flights from small airports even for short routes because of outdated and inefficient roads and railways. Even downing relatively small planes would be a hit for terrorists.

          And if this capability exist it would have been used already, especially now that Mosul and Raqqa are under heavy pressure, and you couldn't wait months to apply countermeasures.

          It looks they have an hint that someone may have been trying to develop a possible way to hide somehow enough explosive into an electronic device which could in some cases bypass checks. And they entered panic mode - exactly what terrorists want.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: " if this is a real danger "

            I don't suppose it is too hard to modify a battery to overheat causing a fire that threatens a plane.

            To the ones who think the government guys are overreacting, you had better hope they protect your next flight.

            PS I for one will not miss having someone working away in the seat next to me or watching some drivel on their laptop. Most of the time I can telework so this will reduce the travel I will have to do.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: " if this is a real danger "

            @LDS

            Just saying "Boo!!" with an Arab accent is enough to put the septics in panic mode.

            1. Archtech Silver badge

              Re: " if this is a real danger "

              Actually, it's quite enough to say "Good morning!" with an Arab (or Indian or Pakistani or Iranian or Paraguayan) accent.

          3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            "Especially in a country like US with a lot of internal flights from small airports "

            Already happened.

            All the 9/11 flights were internal to the US.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Last I read...

          "and once again: if this is a real danger for international flights, so it is for domestic flights."

          Don't be silly. There are no terrorist in the USA. All US terrorist attacks are caused by swarthy arab looking people who fly i especially to carry them out. </sarc>

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Last I read...

            Don't be silly. There are no terrorist in the USA.

            Hang on, isn't that precisely where they come from? AFAIK, the 9/11 guys lived in the US, so, on an equally flimsy basis as the present measures I propose that (1) countries need to get flight lists of anyone leaving the US, (2) anyone LEAVING the US must be thoroughly searched on departure and arrival, especially politicians with a non-natural skin colour (like, say, orange) as that is clearly camouflage (let's call it an orange flag rather than a red one) and (3) they must be re-inspected when they've travelled 50km from the airport, just to make sure they don't communicate with anyone dodgy. And, of course, we will have to copy every shred of data they carry and have access to all their email as they could have something to hide.

            I would also add social media executives to this as they are clearly involved in carrying dodgy messages for evil people, given their reluctance to be made accountable for content. Let's make America behave again.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last I read...

          Well, September 11 was all international fli-- oh, wait a minute

      2. Msquared10travel

        Re: Last I read...

        The battery problem gets worse. A couple of weeks ago I checked into Turkish Airlines in Istanbul. Laptops etc confiscated at the gate, placed in a communal suitcase for collection at the destination (fortunately no stop-overs _ don't know how they handle that). I then remembered laptop was in sleep mode and asked to retrieve it temporarily to switch off fully. Request initially denied till I kicked up a considerable fuss with security, pointing out the danger of (potentially several) laptops in sleep mode overheating, fire etc. Very grumpy security officers eventually gave way when a crew member intervened. Several other passengers, hearing the disturbance, revealed they had the same problem. Minor chaos ensued. I don't expect routine security personnel to appreciate the problem, but their instructions must include ensuring laptops are full switched off before bulk storage in the hold. Won't go into a rant about Bluetooth connectivity between cabin based smart phones and hold based laptops _ that's a whole other problem.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last I read...

      ... planes had yet to be fitted with bomb proof holds. That said, what's to stop 3 maniacs checking in 3 laptop bombs into checked luggage, all three synced up took detonate simultaneously?

      There's more screening techniques you can use on hold luggage that you can't use near security queues. Stronger X-rays for a start, stuff that would be dangerous to have running near passengers and staff. You can detect certain chemical bonds that way, similar to the way a smoke detector works.

      As other people have pointed out, having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

        Here's the question.

        What is Probability(number of Lithium batteries in hold) Vs Probability(laptop with plastic explosive in battery compartment or elsewhere) ?

        My instinct is the former is >> than the latter and if the hold is un-pressurized the pressure and thermal stresses will be much more severe on those batteries.

        1. Peter Ford

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          My laptop has a removable battery module, so perhaps I should take the battery in my carry-on bag and put the rest in the hold...

          Of course, that wouldn't work with an awful lot of low-end kit where the battery is not easily removable (like tablets)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          PanAm flight 103 was brought down by what looked like a Toshiba radio stowed in the hold. Maybe the best thing to do would be to ban ALL electrical or electronic equipment ANYWHERE on every aeroplane?

          *

          And perhaps you remember all the problems with the lithium batteries in the Boeing Dreamliner -- and these were part of the Boeing design! Perhaps we should ban ALL lithium batteries from aeroplanes and go back to good old NiCads...or even the trusty lead acid sort?

          *

          Then there's the wetware problem -- pilots who are mentally unbalanced and crash aeroplanes into mountains....what to do about that?

          *

          I really don't think the authorities are doing enough to "keep me safe". I think I'll stop flying in aeroplanes. Oh wait....crossing the road is more dangerous than flying.....

        3. Vic

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          if the hold is un-pressurized

          The hold is pressurised...

          Vic.

        4. MrBanana

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          Passenger aircraft holds are pressurised. It is easier to do that than it is to build internal floors and bulkheads that can withstand the pressure differential.

        5. Brenda McViking

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          The hold is pressurised - if you think about an aircraft cross section (image), the pressure bulkhead is the fuselage itself. It may get a little colder down there as it isn't actively heated, but it's not -50C like outside the fuselage at 35,000ft either. Where people "stow away" and freeze, they tend to be in wheel wells outside the pressure bulkhead.

        6. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: "having a load of Lithium batteries in the hold sounds like a bad idea to me."

          Reminds me of the ancient joke about the fellow who consults a psychiatrist because of his morbid fear of being on a plane with a bomb on board. After the usual chitchat, the psychiatrist points out the huge odds against such a thing happening. When the patient still demurs, the psychiatrist suggests, "Why don't you take a bomb on board yourself? The odds against being on a plane with TWO bombs are far greater still".

    6. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Last I read...

      ... planes had yet to be fitted with bomb proof holds.

      There was an attempt to bomb-proof containers (as used in a lot of airports for loading and unloading) shortly after the Lockerby investigation concluded. The attempt was successful - the container contained an explosion with high explosive of the same quantity as the one which was used at Lockerby. The incremental increase in weight of the container even with that level of technology was minimal.

      It was not implemented because:

      1. The whole chain for loading and unloading of luggage would have needed to be modified and containers which are optional today would have become mandatory.

      2. The containers today have canvas sides - that would have had to become hard requiring extra maintenance and once again changes to loading and unloading

      3. Probably the biggest issue. There is no way to design a fire suppression system when fully enclosed containers are in use. So while the explosion was contained in the experiment, further experiments with LOWER energy explosives which are easier to obtain and result in both fire and explosion were failures all of them - no fire suppression system could effectively mitigate a fire inside the container.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: Last I read...

        no fire suppression system could effectively mitigate a fire inside the container.

        Does it matter if the container is tight enough to contain an explosion? In a tightly closed container, the fire would eventually go out because of lack of oxygen.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Last I read...

          "Does it matter if the container is tight enough to contain an explosion? In a tightly closed container, the fire would eventually go out because of lack of oxygen."

          Odds are the initial blast will at least burst it open, leaving plenty for the subsequent fire.

          1. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: Last I read...

            Odds are the initial blast will at least burst it open, leaving plenty for the subsequent fire.

            Would not that mean the containment idea already failed? The rupture lets the pressure wave out, which may breach the hull.

      2. Guus Leeuw

        Re: Last I read...

        @ Voland's right hand

        Dear Sir,

        if the container is airtight, any there-in contained needs no suppression system. The lack of oxygen will eventually remove the fire...

        Regards,

        Guus

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last I read...

          FYI, there are materials that burn under water, where there is no oxygen. Or even in vacuum...

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Last I read...

          if the container is airtight, any there-in contained needs no suppression system. The lack of oxygen will eventually remove the fire...

          Unless (of course) the fire is hot enough to melt the container. Or there are other things stored in the container that contain sufficient oxidiser to enable the fire..

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            " Or there are other things stored in the container "

            That argument cuts two ways.

            Such a container has a lot of thermal mass. It all gets a bit hotter but nowhere near close to the average ignition temperature of most of it, smothering the fire.

            That said Lithium sounds like something that burns very hot. OTOH water is a complete failure on burning Group I metals.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last I read...

          lithium fires do not require oxygen

        4. Adrian 4 Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: Last I read...

          Unless the incendiary device contains an oxidisation agent.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Last I read...

          if the container is airtight, any there-in contained needs no suppression system. The lack of oxygen will eventually remove the fire...

          AFAIK the problem isn't actually fire as such, it's self-heating to the point of combustibility. That process needs no oxygen in itself.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last I read...

      In addition, at what point do you say that, to all intents and purposes, the feckers have won?

      Terrorists are never the real target, they're just an enabler to push through laws and powers that a sane and calm civilisation would balk at.

      In this case, the target isn't terrorists, it's you. As more and more people use encryption, the US needs new ways to steal intellectual property and getting it directly off source is the simplest approach with the highest quality results. Remember, they have already known sine WW II that foreigners are smarter (when they took in German scientists to make bombs and rockets for them) - this is just an electronic version of the same.

      1. Uffish

        Re: "foreigners are smarter"

        SOME foreigners are smarter. Come on, don't spoil a good point with sloppy thinking.

    8. NoneSuch
      Coffee/keyboard

      An Added Bonus

      Putting aside whether the cargo hold of a plane is any safer for a bomb to explode than the cabin for the moment.

      Unguarded laptops in checked bags can be outside of your view for hours. The contents can be searched and copied by TSA or delegates at their leisure.

      But I'm sure that has nothing to do with the "threat."

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Last I read...

      "Or are these measures somehow miraculously going to extend to all checked baggage as well?"

      As mentioned checked baggage is already scanned more rigorously than carry on. Most airports use CT scanners on checked bags which were impractical to use in the passenger security areas due to the size, noise and speed of the machines.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or just don't go to America

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anon

      Apparently the fact that the UK and other countries may follow suit is lost upon you. When in doubt, blame the US, right? (Don't hold us all accountable for Trump)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anon

        Yeah, what's next? Ban phones? Prosthetic limbs? Tooth fillings? You can put explosives anywhere. How about clothes, food (already in your stomach, waiting to be activated by acid)?

        Body scanners were too much, but this is insane

        1. Updraft102 Silver badge

          Re: Anon

          Just wait until the bombers discover that they have body cavities that can hold stuff.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Anon

            I think a no-arseholes rule when travelling to America may be difficult to implement

          2. hplasm Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Anon

            "Just wait until the bombers discover that they have body cavities that can hold stuff."

            In dogs...

            FTA:- "An expansion of canine screening."

            Exploding dogs? A new low.

            (I know about WW2... not any better.)

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