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Sunday, December 28, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/10/2005

Laser 'tag'

The latest terrorism fear doesn't involve shoe bombs or surface-to-air missiles. After a rash of bizarre incidents around the country, the Department of Homeland Security has sounded the alarm about a potential weapon that costs as little as $15 at most hardware stores.

From New Jersey to Utah, pilots are reporting incidents of laser beams aimed into cockpits during flights. In a few cases, pilots were temporarily blinded before recovering sufficiently to make safe landings.

As far as the Justice Department is concerned, there isn't much difference between a terrorist attack and garden-variety mischief when the safety of airline passengers is at stake. Though there's little evidence that al-Qaeda is orchestrating a barrage of green laser attacks on domestic air flights, at least one American has been arrested for two incidents.

David Banach, 38, of Newark, N.J., was charged under anti-terrorism statutes last week with aiming at a charter jet and shining a laser beam at a helicopter investigating the incident.

After posting $100,000 bond, Mr. Banach said he meant no harm and that he was simply giving his young daughter an astronomy lesson on Dec. 29, the night of the first incident.

How bad a shot would he have to be to point a laser at a star and hit a plane? A possible 25-year stint in federal prison might be just enough to persuade him and others to find another hobby.

Mr. Banach's attorney accused the feds of overreacting, but we suspect he would take a different view if a loved one was on a plane that crashed after the pilot was blinded by someone playing "Star Wars" with a laser down below.



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