A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a warning to the Transportation Security Administration stating that al-Qaida may attempt to use Casio watches with built-in altimeters to sabotage US airliners. The idea is that since Casios are readily available and very affordable, budget-conscious terrorists could modify a Casio ProTrek or Pathfinder so that it could detonate a bomb at a specified altitude (I suppose you wouldn’t want to blow up a Suunto, Tissot, or a Hamilton). I received a lot of skeptical email regarding the warning, however whether it was justified or not, Casio’s legal team has apparently responded. According to Robert Shapiro, Director of Legal Affairs, Casio is more than happy to work with the DHS to help limit any potential threats:
“We hope to have a meeting where we can help screeners with identifying the watch and understand how it’s used, how it functions. If they feel it’s an issue, we’ll try to come out with a tool or public service announcement to help minimize any types of problems they may have. We see this as an opportunity to help them.”
I wonder what such a tool would look like, how it would function, and what a public service announcement from Casio about terrorists using their watches to blow up airplanes might look like. Anyway, I’m no security expert, so I’m happy to reserve judgment, and I would certainly prefer airlines err on the side of caution when it comes to security. At the same time, I will also say that I stood in the longest security line I’ve ever seen this morning flying out of Oakland, CA. I travel a fair amount — often out of Washington, DC — and I’ve never seen a longer, slower moving security line as the one I stood in this morning, even right after 9/11. I don’t know if watches had anything to do with it, but I suspect that with each warning that gets issued, policies get stricter, and lines get longer. It probably didn’t help that between my backpack, suitcase, and my arm, I was personally responsible for bringing five different watches aboard the plane myself, though I was careful to leave all my Casios at home.