Friday, September 18, 2009

The Cost of Intelligence, Air Travel, and Health Care

Yesterday Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, disclosed that United States intelligence operations worldwide over the past year employed some 200,000 people and cost $75 billion.


And that's just the government.

There is also a very successful commercial intelligence and forecasting firm called STRATFOR which produces some very interesting and thought-provoking analysis. Each week I receive a copy of their free newsletter (a teaser to get me - so far unsuccessfully - to subscribe to their rather expensive services), and find it fascinating. Here is a link to this week's topic, titled "Convergence: The Challenge of Aviation Security."

Having just returned from our recent trip to Colorado Springs, I'm still irked over the necessary, but maddening kabuki dance of airport security checks. But if you read the STRATFOR article, you'll learn that the latest threat to aviation security isn't hijackings or improvised bombs or shoe bombs, it's internal bombs.

The article reports on an assassination attempt against Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Nayef by a man posing as a repentant terrorist who got close to the prince, then used a cell phone to detonate a pound of explosives stuffed in his rectum. Think of it as a terminal fart.

Having described the grisly, if unsuccessful attempt to kill the prince, the article goes on to consider how it might be possible to protect against bombs actually stuffed into a body cavity, rather than carried in luggage or worn under one's clothing. I've gotten used to the baggage searches and the metal detectors and the pat-downs at the airport, but I'm not sure I'm ready to have a bomb dog sniffing my crotch each time I want to fly.

There is, nevertheless, a potential up-side to this situation, as pointed out by my good friend the Eminience Griese, who posts comments to this blog using his spiffy and original nickname, "Anonymous." He noted in an e-mail exchange yesterday that we might enjoy some potential savings in health care costs by combining airport security screening with prostate exams. Think of it ... we could cut back on the number of people the health care industry employs to examine our backsides, and ensure double use of all those rubber gloves the TSA folks at the airport go through each day. The potential savings are enormous.

Of course, not everyone would accept the wisdom of this plan. It clearly plays to the worst fears of the Hysterical Right over overly-intrusive government programs, and airline seats are uncomfortable enough already, without having to cope with the aftermath of a cavity search. But times are hard, and everything is on the table. So to speak.

As for me, if this comes to pass, I'm going back to riding Greyhound.

And as for the terrorist mastermind who dreamed up this latest tactic, just take your bomb and shove it up your ... uh ... never mind.

Have a good day. Cartoon Saturday is coming...



Amanda said...

I'd catch the bus too!

I remember the security at Bali airport.....they were really thorough in their pat down of everyone. REALLY THOROUGH!!

Bandit said...

This reminds me of I think, a local story that took place within the last few days. A 250 lb. lady was getting locked up in a county jail. She tried to smuggle in cocaine by hiding it in the rolls of her belly fat.

Anonymous said...


Eminence Grise

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I'm getting lousy at stopping by in the morning these days..

If dogs start sniffing those areas...well...yeah..I'm glad I don't and probably will never fly anywhere. I'll stick to the ground. Bus and trains are nice.

Mike said...

I can never get the girl TSA agent to do the pat down on me.

Bilbo said...

Amanda - your response begs the question, "how thorough ARE they?"

Bandit - I've seen similar stories elsewhere. I wouldn't want to do the search.

Eminence - thanks for the inspiration!

Andrea - I don't care when you stop by...always good to see you!

Mike - I wouldn't WANT a pat-down from most of the female TSA agents in our area...