When I fly, I've taken to swapping toothpaste for baking soda to minimize the hassles at airport security, where "liquids, aerosols and gels" have to be bagged and x-rayed separately from everything else. Because, really, what's more innocuous than a sandwich bag full of white powder stuffed in my toiletry kit? How prescient I've been! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is warning airlines to beware lest toothpaste tubes packed with explosives make their way onto Sochi-bound airplanes in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.
The United States is advising airlines with direct flights serving Russia to be aware of the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Wednesday night.
Rep. Michael McCaul said the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin to airlines flying into Russia warning of the potential threat.
The bulletin, the Texas Republican said, indicated that officials believed the explosives might be used during flights or smuggled into the city of Sochi, where competition at the Winter Olympics begins Thursday. The opening ceremony is Friday.
These malevolent 3.4 ounce (presumably) tubes of dentrifice won't just blast the tartar from your teeth, says the DHS, but the Tartars right out of the Rodina.
Maybe it's true. Who knows? Explosives, frankly, aren't that hard to make or conceal. Plastic explosives developed by many countries are moldable into a variety of forms and could probably be squeezed into toothpaste tubes if somebody really wanted to. It's hard to see getting an effective quantity into a little container of Crest, however. Security researcher Evan Booth has improvised weapons, including explosives, from off-shelf-commodities purchased in airport stores after passing through security. And do I really have to point out that explosive powders predate the squeezable stuff by a good, long time? (Crap. There goes my baking soda.) The most dangerous weapon is the ingenuity of the human mind, not its specific products.
But we're on Colgate alert as the world prepares for the Sochi winter olympics, never mind that the plumbing at the event may pose a much greater threat than any deliberately malicious creation of mankind (at least a few hotel faucets appear to have been linked to sewage lines rather than fresh water).
And get ready for the toothpaste terror to continue.
A former airline security chief anticipated that the threat will prompt authorities in the United States and Europe to clamp down on toothpaste and cosmetics.
"My prediction is that they will give a direct order that they'll be removing toothpaste from passengers' hand-carried items" and possibly from checked luggage as well, said Glen Winn, a former security director at United and Continental airlines.
Because, if we're going to react, we might as well oveerreact. Nothing else will keep us safe from the…whoever.
The Rattler is a weekly newsletter from J.D. Tuccille. If you care about government overreach and tangible threats to everyday liberty, this is for you.