First, we have no means of knowing what the pilots involved used. Certainly, they made use of flight training, but since it is entirely speculative as to who was involved, where they went, and what they did in the years prior, it is sheer fantasy to claim -anything- for certain, beyond the fact that these people weren't killed in traffic accidents in all that time. Which, given the US road system, is amazing in itself.
Second, their "objectives" are, and always have been, irrelevent. They had one overriding objective, the casting of shadows and the creating of fear. That's ALL this kind of stuff is about. In that, they succeeded far beyond any other organization, past or present. Even the anger seen daily in the news and in the streets is just disowned fear. Every part of America is consumed with fear, in one form or another, as is much of the rest of the world. NOBODY, in all of history, has been able to generate such universal terror.
(The military action, the anti-terrorist bill, even the "tighter security" - which is a phantom in itself, are ALL acts of a terrified people, scared shitless by a threat that's no more solid than a moonbeam and no more identifiable than a grain of sand on a beach. Even calling the acts a "failure" is the act of a person desperate for a shred of security in what is really an insecure world.)
How many such attacks were contemplated? We just don't know, and can never know for sure. Sure, there have been other box-cutters found. So? You imagine that NOBODY in an airport would EVER use such a device? Don't you think that something unusual would be reported instantly? That this was only possible PRECICELY BECAUSE it was nothing unusual? *SIGH* People ignore what they expect to see. The greatest disguise in the world is the totally mundane.
As for people being spotted at airports - uhhh, chances are that two out of every three people who are ever "spotted" as someone "suspicious" is simply some peacable Joe or Jane Normal, who happens to have an unusual fashion sense, or an unusual ethnic background. When you next go to an airport, watch for who gets targetted. Frequently, it'll be students, geeks, religious devotees, etc. Anyone wearing a fashionable suit, with a neatly-trimmed haircut, polished shoes and a briefcase will typically go through unchallanged and unquestioned.
Given that this is common knowledge, which is a terrorist organization most likely to do? Send off people dressed like raving fanatics, with hair everywhere, screaming "death to the infidels!"? Or have people neatly manicured, looking like upper management from a Fortune 500 company?
DUH! This one is so brain-dead that it staggers me that anybody could even imagine anything different. Nobody, but NOBODY, questions a senior executive. Especially one that might easily play golf with their own upper management. It is tried, from time to time, around the world, and ends invariably in the person seeking new employment. Worse, they're unlikely to get it. Nobody touches a hot potato, when their own job might be put at risk.
This, I suspect, is why you'll find that so many of the alleged terrorists went first class. Because they blended in with the "Rich And We Know It" crowd, completely. And, in turn, that means any associates likely did also. Which means that just "spotting" them in a crowd of other "Rich And We Know It" yuppies & business executives is so unlikely as to be pure fantasy.
Lastly, let's look at these "clues" for a moment. Most of them are so vaporous that if this were a court of law, ALL of them would be dismissed as either heresay or circumstantial. And that is for the few "clues" any of us mere mortals know about. The US Government is telling exactly NOONE what it knows, purportedly for "security reasons". But since we don't know what it is that they know, we can only take that on blind faith.
So, these "clues" are really not clues at all. They are allegations, rumors, speculation and heresay. They're about as solid as the moonbeams the adversary is made of. And that is a serious problem. If the Government is entitled to wage a war, whether by force of arms and/or financially, on the basis of =ITS= say-so alone, then the rule of law is effectively abolished and replaced with an effective Monarchy with Absolute Power.
"Bin Laden is the enemy!" we hear. "But we're not going to tell you why, how, or any other goddam thing! You're going to believe us, because we say so!" If this had been any other issue, at any other time, American citizens would have given that bit of Orwellian carp short-shrift. In addition, the other parties would have just about demanded impeachment.
This hasn't happened. Nobody is so willing to step out of line, and risk alienation, that they would openly confront or challange this monstrous abuse of authority. Especially when GWB has declared so openly "you are either with us, or against us!", putting any skeptic in the position of having to feign acceptance or be put in serious danger from vigilantes and the "over-zelous".
What has happened is that America has become a place where you are either "one of the crowd", or a corpse waiting to happen. IMHO, this degree of self-abuse and self-castration that America is so willing to perform is a success to whoever ordered these attrocities, FAR beyond the impact of their actions. The buildings can be rebuilt. The injured can heal their wounds. But scar the psyche of the nation, and it will take centuries to heal. (We know from Vietnam that forty or fifty years is not enough. The abuse America dealt to itself in those years ran so deep that, even today, the scars from the self-mutilation of a nation seem almost fresh. PTSD amongst vets is still the norm - so much so that the Pentagon has been forced to ban giving Purple Hearts to inmates of Death Row. Such a ban would be stupid, if such extreme damage were not common enough to warrant action.)
What, then, will be the scars of the current action? The military stuff is irrelevent. Those involved expect to see action. Those here expect that some families will receive the unwelcome news. We can all deal with the expected. No, it's not the expected we'll have trouble with. It's the paranoia, the political stresses, the McArthyisms, the feeding of fear to a terrified country. THESE will do the damage. And we shall be called upon to suspect our neighbors, and fear the different. The result will be psychologically far, far more destructive, over time, than all the overt acts of terror the world has ever seen have ever been.
Why? Because you can deal with the overt. It's there, it acknowledges itself in all it's pathetic excuse for "glory", and honestly people see it for what it is - pathetic. So a bunch of clowns destroy two buildings, and kill 5,000 people. (Notice that now that everyone has begun to turn away from the attrocity, the number is rapidly falling. I wonder if it'll even be in the thousands by the end of next week.) So what? Sure, I'm sad for all those who died. I'm actually a lot more sad for any who were involuntarily there, such as any children taken into work. Those who worked there have always known that tall buildings are prone to being threatened, and it's not as if this was the first time anything had ever happened there. Even if that were not the case, we can mourn them, honor their memories, and then get on with life.
The covert is another matter. The fact that, if the current anti-terrorist bill goes through, ANY computer expert can be arrested and held indefinitely without trial or bail, on the pretext that someone in the Government =claims= to suspect that the person is either a cracker OR might know one, is guaranteed to create an aura of suspicion. Are you sure ALL your co-workers are "clean"? And if they're not, are you at risk, by association?
The same applies to foreigners, who could in future be subject to arrest for being, well, foreign. Again, indefinitely and without any explicit accusation.
Of course, this bill is being opposed, but you can be certain it'll go through. In the end, nobody wants to be known as a sympathiser to terrorists, especially politicians who depend upon support from the population. And the population's mind is made up. At least, right now.
Once it goes through, the Mcarthy trials will be unnecessary. An accusation will be the same as securing a conviction, for all intents and purposes.
Is it really failure, for a band of terrorists to turn a nation renoun for its dedication to world peace into a nation that is bent on destroying itself? IMHO, that would seem like ultimate success.
Is it really a failure, for that same band to "unite the world" against a mere suspect? Even if the suspect is the "right guy", we're one step closer to turning him into whatever the Islaamic version of a saint is. This guy's gone well beyond martyrdom, and is well on his way to making the worst points in the history of the Jews look like a relaxing day in paradise.
Is it really a failure, to suck 90% of the world's armed forces and intelligence forces into some nowhere country? A nowhere country that the alleged leader of this alleged organization might not even be in? (And if he is, he could be anywhere in a labrynthe of bunkers built by the US to survive almost anything.)
Is it really a failure to be the lead news item for two weeks running? In this day and age, there has been no tragedy so terrible, no success so great that the media and/or the world at large doesn't get bored of it after the third day. Until now.
And what if the USA is wrong? Maybe they're after the wrong guy, and the real villain is laughing his or her socks off. Imagine! They've pulled off the crime of the millenia, and it's the kid next door that's going to get the black eye. Would that be so great a failure for them?
The truth is, the only ones who have failed are us. Each and every one of us. We have failed, by giving this act the power to affect us. We CHOOSE how we respond, and we have chosen to react to these events in a predicatable way. It might almost have been scripted for us. (In fact, given the Reagan response to acts of terror was essentially the same as GWB's, it might well have been.)
WE have failed, not them. WE have failed, by choosing to put anger over compassion, by choosing to put revenge over understanding, by choosing to play God rather than look for good. WE have failed, by following a leader who believes himself superior to the God he follows. (Think about that!) WE have failed, by looking for excuses and scapegoats, for imagined security and imagined enemies.
Yes, THIS is the failure. Airport security is as loose as it has ever been, where it matters, with near-daily reports of people "testing it" or just being absent-minded, and being able to walk through with everything from box-cutters to firearms. I'm waiting for the day someone decides to drive an armoured personel carrier through the metal detectors, and gets away with it.
Our security hasn't been tightened, it's been infected. The swelling you see isn't from superior protection, it's from disease.
And what's this "protection" for, anyway? To prevent another take-over? A switch connecting the air to laughing gas would do that. A camera in the passanger cabin would be much more effective than a handgun for the pilot. The ability for the pilot to irrevocably switch to automatic or to remote operation would be invaluable. There are vests which monitor vital signs, and which could alert ground control and/or an on-board computer if the pilot were disabled or killed. THESE offer security.
Then, you can "bomb-proof" the cargo area. Easy enough to do. Instead of thin aluminium sheets for the crates & cargo space, use a honeycomb structure. Essentially, bubble-wrap everything. Then, if something explodes by intent or by accident (as happened in the ValuJet incident, where compressed air cylinders exploded at altitude), the explosion would be absorbed. For anything but a huge incident, you're most likely to just need to replace the crate, and at worst, some passangers will lose their underwear. Big deal. Those you can replace. Just as importantly, any residual fire won't last. Aluminium sheet burns almost unstoppably, as HMS Sheffield demonstrated in the Falkland Islands. Here, you might still be using aluminium, but in a way that would require a hotter, more sustained fire to ignite. Hey, it's not perfect, but it's 100% of an improvement.
The second thing to consider here is that it would also increase cushioning from forced landings. Plenty of aircraft have been lost, due to loss of control and ploughing into forests, runways, etc, at high speed. If the aircraft's belly can absorb a significant amount of energy, this might turn an unsurvivable disaster into something maybe a few people could walk away from.
Of course, Concorde demonstrated that debris (either accidently or deliberately) on the runway can also have devastating consequences. But why? Again, impact-absorbing structures could have helped, as would the experimental fuel that was tested which combusts only in the engine. It can't catch fire in the tank, because it's combined with a suppresent. Only by seperating them out can you burn the fuel. Blowing a hole in a fuel tank would create a fine spray, but that's about it. Better than slicing off the top of a hotel.
This is NOT rocket-science. These types of design are tested out by high-school students, and are known to every engineer on the planet. Structures designed specifically -to- disintegrate, and thus carry energy away from any danger-zones, are also common-knowledge. Indicar and Formula One depend on them. You don't survive 240 MPH collisions with a barrier, and walk away, without the engineers putting in effort to ensure that you WILL walk away.
Then, there's the passanger cabin. Most aircraft explosions don't kill passangers. The number one killer is the impact on the ground, with the number two being head-injuries inflicted by being propelled round a densely-packed cabin, filled with extremely rigid structures. The first is just a case of packing an emergency parachute into the chair, maybe into the head-rest. The second is adding a roll-bar, so that the head is shielded against collisions from above.
There. In just a few paragraphs, I've covered how to prevent all such future tragedies, PLUS prevent all future disasters due to explosions, fuel tank punctures, loss of control, passanger riots, pilot heart-attacks, structural failure, etc.
Please remember, in the end, the only people who really decide how an aircraft is built are the engineers who build them. My opinion is therefore not worth a damn, in terms of practical, day to day reality. In terms of why what's being done is meaningless, and whether there ARE alternatives which WOULD offer security, though, I believe they offer a message of hope.
My suggestions don't have to work, as written. If a single engineer, in a single aircraft company, follows the principle that safer designs are the best solution to an unpredictable problem, and manages to build an un-terrorizable aircraft that is also damn-near accident-proof, then that is everything anyone could hope for. This post is written in the hope that maybe someone else can hope for a safer, AND less paranoid, future.