X-Ray Nation | Fliers Could Be Facing Much More Than Pat-Downs

And You Thought TSA Pat-Downs Were Bad…Terrorist bomb attempts could have resulted in much worse

By Christopher Dickey | Newsweek

John Moore / Getty Images

As you slog through security lines this holiday weekend, wondering if you should join the ranks of the anonymously naked observed by an unseen TSA agent or go eyeball to eyeball with one who pats you down, and pats you up, and pats sideways and roundabout with a little probing here and there—and there! —just remember it could have been so much worse. The specific terrorist bomb plots and propaganda that brought us to this humiliating state of affairs began more than a year ago with what some cops discreetly called “the body bomb” and others, rather more coarsely, called “the butt bomb. ”

In August 2009, a young Saudi terrorist named Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, claiming he’d repented of his ways, offered to surrender personally to the head of Saudi counterterrorism, Prince Ahmed bin Nayef. This intrepid suicide bomber flew on a government plane, passed through a metal detector, and actually got into the same room with the prince, then blew himself up. Video of the scene subsequently aired on Saudi television shows pieces of Asiri all over the place, including a hand and arm blown up into the suspended ceiling, but the prince escaped almost unscathed, partly because the body of the would-be attacker absorbed much of the blast.

Initial reports out of Riyadh suggested the bomb was a kind of explosive suppository, which not only prompted a lot of predictable fart jokes, but also sent a chill of fear through airline-security experts around the world. If Asiri’s bomb really had been inside him, the search process at airports today might have to include not just body scanners but CAT scans, not just pat-downs but cavity searches.

Fortunately, further investigation of the bits and pieces that were left of Asiri concluded that he’d actually had the explosives in his underwear. But, according to Saudi intelligence sources, they were very cleverly concealed between his scrotum and his anus, an area not normally touched on, as it were, in cursory airport pat-downs.

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