Monday, May 07, 2012

The Boy Who Cried Wolf - Updated 5/8/12

My Twitter stream, about the middle of the afternoon, started telling me that the CIA had acquired an improved underwear bomb. The various reports were that a plot had been thwarted, but the person with the bomb hadn't been found, and a number of other confusing details. That's par for the course on Twitter. The early news reports didn't have much information. It's the CIA, and if the reporters printed any information, they'd have to kill them, haha.

Almost immediately, the questions began pouring in with no answers. No sources, no country identified, no information about how the bomb was acquired or why it was an improved model (improved detonator was mentioned). Would it be detectable by the naked scanners, which, after all, were brought in to detect precisely such things? Which airline?

And, along with the questions, the snark. Was this an FBI plot disrupted by the CIA?

@dougsaunders: Just when underwear was beginning to recover its respect and credibility, it gets caught up in another bomb plot.

@stevehynd: New HuffPo/Yahoo! "sex sells" photogallery: "10 celebrity underwear choices you couldn't fit a bomb into" in 3...2...

@joshuafoust: Anonymous officials allege plot by unknown people broken up using unclear methods. Natsec reporting in a sad nutshell

@mattduss: Maybe bin Laden's directive to "keep trying to blow up your underwear" will be in the next batch of docs

@lrozen: Maybe CIA can enlist underwear manufacturer/distributors to Yemen to add some more flame retardant? #likelockingcockpitdoors
There have been a number of "terrorist plots" here at home that have depended on FBI informants for ideas and materials. Reports of TSA being missing hazardous materials while harassing four-year-old girls and grandmothers in wheelchairs continue. And we are regularly treated to alarums and excursions about how terrible a cyberattack would be if there were an attacker and if it were possible to damage physical things with code. So much hype, so little content.

Please look at the title of this post. It is a reference to a folk tale, which, if you haven't heard it as a child, you can probably find through Google.

A more modern version is that people turn off alarms that go off too readily. The snark on my Tweetfeed is the same thing. The counter to it was anticipated by one of my follows, something about a pool for which outfit, probably rightwing, would be the first to declare this a victory for the terrorists. That doesn't seem to have happened yet, but it probably will, a partial corrective to the snark in keeping us vigilant and the manufacturers of bodyscanners and whatever new gadget is in the pipeline wealthy.

Convincing people that governmental announcements of danger can be ignored seems like a bad idea to me. Yes, get the news out, but make it matter of fact.

Ah, more coming in:
@will_mccants: now reports of more undi-bombs on the loose. unsubtle junk scratching on planes next few days may lead 2 passenger beat down

Update (5/8/12): Well, it looks like a CIA informant delivered the bomb. It's not clear whether this means that the CIA is doing much better in infiltrating al-Qaeda or that it's another law-enforcement-enabled bunch of screwups. It does explain why the CIA announced they had the bomb but not the bomber.

Meanwhile, the TSA is breaking insulin pumps for diabetics.

Further Update: It looks like maybe they got it right this time. NYT, WaPo.

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