Magnet and Bush Administration see eye to eye

We don't write much about quackery here. My SciBling colleagues like Orac at Respectful Insolence cover this. Sometimes I make an exception. This is one of those times. This is about magnet therapy, the belief that magnetic devices can cure you of many diseases or relieve you of symptoms. The magnet itself doesn't do anything but these devices can be dangerous in other ways, for example, by resulting in fatally delayed treatment for an otherwise preventable condition. Mostly, though, they are just an efficient way to do a wallet-ectomy.

Or so we thought. Tuesday we heard of an entirely new adverse reaction to therapeutic magnets. Magnets can combine with the mass paranoia fomented by the Bush administration to produce a security scare, complete with bomb squads and bomb sniffing dogs. The scene is a Los Angeles International Airport, where a man is getting ready to board a US Air flight from LAX to Phillidelphia:

An Iraqi national wearing wires and concealing a magnet inside his rectum triggered a security scare at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday but officials said he posed no apparent threat.

The man, identified by law enforcement officials as Fadhel al-Maliki, 35, set off an alarm during passenger screening at the airport early on Tuesday morning.

A police bomb squad was called to examine what was deemed a suspicious item found during a body cavity search of the man. Local media reports said a magnet was found in his rectum. (Reuters)

What was a magnet doing there?

Al-Maliki told investigators the objects have therapeutic properties, and that he had forgotten to remove them before reaching the security checkpoint. They were described as a magnet wrapped with a piece of gum in a napkin and then coiled with wire; and some kind of round, polished stone. (The Daily Breeze via Boingboing who got it from BloggingLA)

It's hard to know what's the most bizarre part of this episode: somebody with a magnet up his ass, or an entire security crazed Administration with its head up its ass.

On reflection, maybe that's not so hard to know, after all.


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Might it have been a test? Could it have been a probe to see if multiple human carriers could take bits and pieces of a weapon and assemble them in the john. I dont know and I dont care if the guy was gay and liked gerbils running around in there. Fact was he had something in there and it could have been a very neat little bomb. Hate to say it Revere, but body cavity searches are just around the corner because this IS a credible threat. Plastique cant be smelled up the ole Hershey highway and these people are determined. Could they get enough on board?

What would you need? Give or take about a pound of plastique explosives (compostion B or something like it), an initiator switch (make a good one out of a click pen), some wire (c wire in telephone cables is pure aluminum and less than a zipper in weight), an electric power source (oh lets see,....hmm battery in your watch is just fine) and a blasting cap. Those are a little harder to come by but so many mines, so many unexploded ones, so easy if you give a guy a G for one or two. Voila' instant asshole bomb delivered by a couple of really determined assholes. With proper protocols they could just put the cap into the Comp b, stick the cap into it, then someone else comes in with the wire and the pen. Hook up the contacts and be ready to flick your Bic while its still in there.

Be a little more pragmatic Revere. All I hear is the Bush bash when no one has bombed your village or knocked an airliner out of the sky lately. Next one will be very picturesque. They could use it to hijack a plane and gain access to the cabin and drive it into lets say Boston Logan or the Sears tower. Either way the average now is not less than 80 on a commercial airliner and I hate to think how many would be in a building somewhere and targeted, so write them off and call it freedom.

I dont like spoiling anyones thought processes. But this one is a bit over the top for me. They drop the security requirements and it will equate to dead people... its as simple as that. That is the one thing we can be assured of.

I hope the guy was just nuts... but I doubt it.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 08 Mar 2007 #permalink

There's a bad pun in there somewhere; I know it!

I've been thinking about magnet, ass, magnetism, bombs, gum, napkin, rectum, cavity search, security, whatever, and the pun just doesn't want to seem to come out. =)

Clearly Revere suffers from BDS.

Darin: If the magnet is intrarectal and Bush can see eye to eye with it, then . . .

I had an unpleasant few minutes in Shanghai Pudong airport due to a magnetic children's toy in my *checked* luggage.
My suspicion is the scanning equipment is sensitive to magnetism ( MRI-like? ). OTOH, you don't have to take your shoes off to fly in China.

Revere: Give me a little credit, I'm well aware of bush having his head up his ass. I was trying to find a pun about the situation specifically and the best I could come up with was, "the pun just doesn't want to seem to come out." Though I swear there's a better one in there.

Darin: Credit granted. Maybe it's enough to say the pun was "in there."


When I read this post, I thought the EXACT same thing you did (uh oh)! That this was a test (of the emergency bomblasting system)!

Revere! Come on! Have a little imagination! I'd at least give the guy credit for effort. I could buy the magnet and the wire bit as being therapeutic (maybe), but I can't figure out the stone and the gum part AND the napkin! Except for suspicious purposes. Hell, rectal vaults have had more illicit contraband activity than most mini storage units! Just ask a cop/prison guard!

Then my scientific/engineering side kicks in and I want to know WHAT kind of gum? Sugarless? Bubble? And what kinda napkin? Dinner size or cocktail?

I even googled "magnetic rectal devices" to see if such a thing exists! Nothing, nada! I thought maybe the guy had given up on the saw palmetto and was trying to EMP his prostate! How'd ya like to leave your cookies on such a site?!! G!

Come on, revere! Is this TRULY a normal event on YOUR planet? Are you SO PC as to not question such a device as it is about to board a passenger plane? Medical prosthetics trigger such alarms all the time. Why would you NOT expect to investigate something as "covert" as this?

At the VERY least, I'm secretly thinking this device just might explain all those mysteriously dropped cell phone calls we all complain about!

I hope he didn't have any credit cards in his wallet!

By ConnectRN (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

If this were a test on the part of terrorists they won part of the battle as al-Maliki's luggage took off in the plane. The plane did an emergency landing somewhere in route and the luggage was removed.

Lea is right. The plane carrying Abdullah the Butthollah's bags did take off and thats a strict no-no. I can guarantee you that the Feds have just had their way with both of them.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 09 Mar 2007 #permalink

At the VERY least, I'm secretly thinking this device just might explain all those mysteriously dropped cell phone calls we all complain about!

nsthesia, you are a genius! That explains everything!.

Whom the Gods would punish, first they drive mad.

I'm with Randolph Krueger on this one, which does not often happen here.

Just because it has to do with someone putting objects up their arse, it's easy to dismiss it as "funny." Ha ha, let's all make arse jokes. "Sorry sir, we're out of gerbils this week, will a hamster do? And would you like a tube of Vaseline with that hamster? OK, that'll be ten bucks.." Right.

This was a test run for a terrorist bomb. I am 100% certain of that, and there are very few things in this world of which I am 100% certain.

The guy was an Iraqi national here on green card. One-way ticket paid for in cash.

The description I read included "a magnet wrapped in a coil of wire." For emphasis: the magnet was _wrapped_ in the coil of wire. Folks, that's 2/3 of what it takes to build a polarized relay, which can be used in at least three ways I can think of to trigger a blasting cap which in turn would blow up a charge of plastic explosive also concealed in the rectum.

I'm not going to describe the bomb designs in a public forum. Suffice to say, terrorist inserts plastic explosives, followed by blasting cap, followed by detonator circuit. Terrorist gets through security and gets on plane. Terrorist goes into the bathroom, pulls down his pants, says his final prayers, and BOOM. Explosive decompression of the aircraft at cruising altitude, 100% fatalities, and no trace of how it was done.

What's needed for this one is to crank up the sensitivity on metal detectors so they will pick up any metallic object inside the body. Then for anyone who sets off the detector (that would include yours truly, with a recently acquired metal doohickey c/o two weeks in hospital last year), they get a trip through the new Xray machine that can do a virtual strip-search. Yes I object to strangers looking at my naked body through my clothes. But OTOH, if the images aren't being stored & traded & posted on the internet, there truly is no harm done. And in particular, no harm compared to letting these guys blow up planes.

Meanwhile, our Iraqi with his interesting internal cargo made himself out to look like a nutter, the better for plausibly denying his cargo had anything to do with terrorism. We can hope the FBI & DHS are watching the little bastard like hawks.

And as a policy matter, I say send all the Middle Easterners with green cards back where they came from unless they have a viable claim for political asylum (e.g. women, gay people, atheists, apostates), and then close the damn doors and do not let anyone in from the entire region for another fifty years. That's not racism, it's keeping out potential enemy agents in time of war. A green card is a privilege, not a right, and the same case applies to a tourist visa.