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End, don't mend, the Transportation Security Administration

Passenger pat-downs haven't dug up a single terrorist.

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Sometime in 2010, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will stop swiping airline passengers' bottled water and cups of coffee at security checkpoints. Instead, the agency will once again permit us to carry liquids and gels aboard planes.

It's not that the TSA has finally realized mouthwash and moisturizer really can't explode, not even at 30,000 feet. Rather, it claims it has a combination of new contraptions to prove that. Advanced Technology X-ray machines, bottle scanners, and spectrometers will confirm that your unopened, factory-sealed Listerine is, well, Listerine.

The ban on liquids and gels has plagued passengers for over two years now, ever since British police insisted they had foiled a plot for bombing jetliners en route from London to the US and Canada. Supposedly, terrorists planned to smuggle the ingredients of an explosive elixir aboard their flights in soft-drink containers, then combine them to blow the planes sky-high.

Horrific, murderous – and virtually impossible. The TSA makes it sound as though anyone with a year of high-school chemistry and some hydrogen peroxide can whip up explosives in an airplane's restroom. But mixing a truly explosive bomb is a delicate operation. It requires exact temperatures, precise measurements and methods, and specialized equipment – all more commonly found in laboratories than lavatories. The procedure takes a while, too. And the fumes are likely to alert the passengers shifting from foot to foot in the aisle as they await their turn in the washroom.


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