The War on Terror has been underway for over a decade now, and we aren't likely to see the end of it anytime soon. In our desperation to get any kind of firm foothold in the conflict, we have gone to some extreme measures, ranging from ominous legislation (the Patriot Act) to the baffling indulgence of gibbering lunacy (deploying anti-terrorist dolphins, and also the Patriot Act). What follows are some of the most shining examples of that second type.
#5. Hiring Science Fiction Writers as Consultants
After the 9/11 attacks were deemed a "failure of imagination" on the part of government officials (because evidently gaping holes in transportation security are the same thing as not believing in fairies), the Department of Homeland Security began looking for ways to better anticipate mass-murdering craziness. So, they hired a team of science fiction writers to act as a predictive think-tank for future acts of destruction, because who else better knows the inner workings of the Jihadist mind?
Get ready for some peace, baby!
The group, called Sigma, is comprised of some of the most intelligent and established names in the modern science fiction community, including Greg Bear (author of three books about the video game Halo), Arlan Andrews (author of two self-published Kindle books on Amazon.com), and Jerry Pournelle (author of the novelization of Escape from the Planet of the Apes). Each of these literary powerhouses is required to have at least one doctorate-level degree in order to be a member of Sigma, because otherwise their appointment as top-level government consultants would seem ridiculous and stupid.
Basically, Sigma's job was to dream up possible future technology that could be used against the United States in another terrorist attack, because apparently a group of fundamentalist lunatics living a brutal existence in hollow mountain caves on the far side of the world might suddenly figure out how to build cybernetic assassins. Some of the invaluable suggestions Sigma provided included mind-reading helmets for bomb sniffing dogs (though not mind-reading helmets for humans, like the president, because that would be absurd), clothing that turns into armor when struck by bullets, and satellites that beam in solar energy from space.
"Now, does the helmet let the dog read my mind? Or vice versa? Because we're getting a sitcom out of that either way."
Note: If this project does eventually result in the invention of any of the above, we will publicly apologize for making fun of it.
#4. Creating Bomb-Sniffing Plants
"Bomb-sniffing plants" is one of those phrases that looks like a typo, but you can't figure out what it was supposed to be saying ("Pants? Pants that sniff bombs? Paints?"). But yes, plants that can detect bombs are on the verge of becoming a thing. Researchers at the University of Colorado have begun engineering plants to react to traces of TNT in the air around them, resulting in bomb-sniffing plants that could be implemented in security checkpoints in the near future. They'll provide a relaxing atmosphere while you wait in line at the baggage scanner, but if they suddenly change color, fucking run.
"This one has escaped! Everyone into the shelter!"
By modifying the genetic makeup of the plants, the researchers were able to change their existing defense mechanisms to react to specific substances, such as explosive compounds. When the plants are exposed to minute traces of the target substance, they drain the chlorophyll from their leaves, turning them from their natural green hue to the spongy whiteness of a corpse. This would alert TSA agents that the passenger in question is either carrying a bomb or is a hideous, realm-striding necromancer. The plants are so accurate they can "smell" traces normally too slight even for dogs to detect.
"... Uh, it's either a cake or hand grenades. Don't you guys have X-rays?"
The plants are not currently being used on a wide scale, as it still takes several minutes for the bomb-locating color change to occur and it would be difficult to convince already weary passengers to stand around for another quarter-hour while airport security officers stare expectantly at a potted fern for further instructions. However, commercial application is expected to be underway within a few years. We eagerly await our first round of hilarious false-positives.
#3. Combing Nursery Schools for Burgeoning Extremists
As both terrorist organizations and Disney market researchers have long since discovered, fanaticism is bred from an early age. Adults don't just suddenly wake up one day hopelessly devoted to something.
It takes years of constant exposure, best introduced during the impressionable years of childhood, to create a true disciple unshakeable in both loyalty and belief and utterly rage-blind to any conflicting viewpoints. So, in an effort to curb that early recruiting process, authorities in the U.K. have created a special unit to investigate kindergartens as a potential breeding ground for young terrorists, because the sudden and unpredictable nature of catastrophically violent attacks delivered by a nebulous decentralized enemy tends to set people grasping at straws.
"I am a soldier of the one true God, and I will burn this world around you."
Counterterrorism agents from the Institute of Race Relations began canvassing local preschools to search for any red flags that would suggest that the children were being "radicalized" with anti-Western rhetoric. Their lists of "warning signs" include artwork depicting bombs, guns, and burning buildings - which, as you may notice, describes every single volume of Calvin and Hobbes, as well as the notebook of every little boy in the history of the world -- as well as expressing a favorable opinion of an Islamic state.
The Institute argues that indicators like these could be evidence that a child is being indoctrinated into a vicious terrorist cell. Additionally (and probably more effectively), the interrogation of very young children could be useful in uncovering criminal activity, because toddlers are notoriously candid with their speech and will happily tell you whether Mommy or Daddy or Uncle Desert Spider has been sleeping in the basement and building a big clock made out of candles. And if you're going to harass 4- and 5-year-olds, you might as well Jack Bauer every last thing you can out of them.
"And what should our hero use to blow up the church, Suzie? C4? Ammonium nitrate?"