The Christmas attempt by a Nigerian man with PETN (one of the most powerful explosives known) affixed to his body to cause harm to an internationally-originated Northwest/Delta Air Lines flight on approach to Detroit shone a bright light on much that is wrong with the U.S. approach to aviation system security, Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) said in his analysis of the incident.
“It is welcome news that President Obama has ordered an airline industry security review so long as it is strategic in nature,” Mitchell said.“It makes abundant sense in the immediate aftermath of a suspected terrorist attempt to tighten security measures to ensure that there is not a wider terrorist operation underway; to guard against would-be copycats; and to adequately complete an investigation such that there is sufficient visibility to the nature and extent of the threat. The restrictions ordered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on passenger movement and use of personal items during the one-hour period prior to landing in the U.S. would defy logic, if they are kept in place longer than what near-term security precautions warrant. Someone wanting to terrorize would simply endeavor to do so 65 minutes prior to landing, or during the beginning or middle of a flight.
“The immediate post 9/11 security priority for the U.S. was to prevent a commercial airline from ever again being used as a weapon-of-mass-destruction,” Mitchell continued. “Airport screening was strengthened substantially, the Air Marshall program was expanded, cabin and cockpit crews were trained in advanced anti-terrorism techniques, many pilots were armed, F-14s were placed on alert, and most importantly, cockpit doors were reinforced and passengers were forever transformed from passive participants in a time of threat to able defenders. All of this was accomplished within a relatively short period of time after the U.S. was attacked on 9/11.
“From that point forward the highest and best use of each incremental security dollar spent should have been on intelligence gathering, risk-management analysis and sharing, and on fundamental police work such that terrorists would never reach an airport, much less board an airplane. What does the immediate investigation into the near-calamity on Christmas reveal?” Mitchell asked. “President Obama is right to review aviation system security. In doing so his advisors should consider that security-theater in fact also inconveniences all passengers, renders air travel less appealing for business travelers and negatively impacts our struggling economy as aviation drives commercial activity and job creation.”