Once again yesterday we were treated to breathless press accounts of an Aer Lingus jet effecting an emergency evacuation because of a bomb threat.
Dick Butler, head of ground operations with Aer Lingus, said a man with a strong Dublin accent told Gardai there was a liquid explosive on board the aircraft.
Today, news reports indicate it was a false alarm; perhaps a practical joke, perhaps something more sinister.
Oh my! Liquid Explosives! Again! My word, hadn't we just been through all of that last week? Aren't we screening for liquids now? Did explosive breast implants slip through?
We should at least note that Irish authorities handled this one well: the plane landed as scheduled. They parked it at the edge of the airport, pulled the luggage, re-screened the luggage, packed it back in and sent the plane on its way.
"Security authorities carried out a full security scan of the aircraft. Following a full search of the aircraft the security alert was stood-down at 11:47 a.m. (1047) and the aircraft has returned to service," Aer Lingus said.
"It wasn't an emergency landing. It wasn't a red alert. The flight was coming here anyway," Pratt said. The aircraft was parked at a remote stand as a precaution, he said.
But the point of concern is this: even though our friends across the pond seem to have responded well, the American press again made the "terra threat" front page news. And more than likely, someone got exactly the reaction they were looking for.
Why would someone phone in a bomb threat? It is sort of a serious thing these days - I'm afraid the authorities don't have much of a sense of humor about such antics. Making a bomb threat, causing an aircraft to be diverted, these things will get you into a world of trouble - and it's a sure-fire guarantee they are looking for whoever is responsible. So why would someone take that risk?
Two possibilities come to mind immediately: it was a practical joke; it was an exercise intended to probe our defenses and readiness. If it was indeed simply a practical joke or garden variety hoax, someone, very likely the Irish equivalent of a 101st fighting keyboardist, got his jollies and will have something to brag about in prison.
If instead it was a strategic probe, what did they learn? First, that while Irish authorities responded reasonably, Americans still knee-jerk any time someone says "bomb!" Second, that the American press stands ready to whip up the fear factor in support of new Administration initiatives - some of which, emergency internment camps, for example, would be cheered by those who actually are enemies of our country. Third, that they don't have to actually do anything to get us going, they just have to suggest they might. And finally, that it wouldn't take that much to have us fondling jell-filled bras at airport security again.
But maybe I'm taking this too seriously. Maybe some passenger screener at JFK got his Irish cousin to do this hoping he'll get to body search female passengers as a result. Stranger things have happened. What are your thoughts?