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Category Archives: Christmas Day Bomber

Ideology Dies Hard, maybe we need Bruce Willis

Ever notice in all the Die Hard movies that once the bad guys are dead, they stay dead? They don’t continue to inspire hundreds if not thousands of others? Too bad movies don’t imitate real life.

For the past few years, YouTube has been the place for those really upset with society to get their terrorist freak on. Fortunately, the propaganda machine was hit with the heavy sledge hammer on the day that YouTube Star and Chief Motivational Officer (CMO?) for al-Qaeda, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Inspire magazine editor Samir Khan had Hellfire missile for breakfast. But I guess there are a few previously inspired nutjobs still out there.

The recent arrest of Jose Pimentel, suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in the U.S. demonstrates the power of the spoken word and the threat posed by those who not only inspire violence, but provide information on how to carry out such attacks. This model is not without precedent – it is well known now that Timothy McVeigh was inspired by the Turner Diaries, to carry out his attack on Murrah Building. Now, being a writer, I’m the last one to dress down our 1st amendment right to free speech, but every writer should realize that what you write, sometimes has power and influence. I guess if you’re going to yell fire in a crowded theater, when there’s no fire, don’t be surprised when someone pops you one. Remember Salman Rushdie?

The power of the Lone Wolf nor the propaganda ministers, should not be ignored. While large scale attacks, such as the Mumbai active shooter assaults, the train bombings in Madrid and the subway and bus bombings in London, along with 9/11, are devastating, hundreds have been killed by a lone wolf. The downing of PSA Flight 1771 in 1987 was by a distraught airline employee as just one for instance. The bombings of numerous aircraft throughout aviation’s history were carried out by a single person.

The Lone Wolf attacks seem to be ramping up. It’s apparently getting harder for the bad guys to put together a large-scale attack, but consider if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” or Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, had been successful. Hundreds would have perished, and the response from Congress and Homeland Security would have cost billions more to the U.S. economy and eroded more of our personal freedoms and way of life.

While we have been worried about the large scale attacks, we should not lose focus on the Lone Wolf. The Lone Wolf is harder to detect – he or she lives among us and moves throughout our society with less suspicion. Operational security is easier to maintain when the Lone Wolf keeps his mouth shut, as compared to 19 people, their handlers and trainers, and support personnel, trying to keep their mouths shut. The Lone Wolf, when properly motivated, carries out his or her mission, rather than, as in the case of one of the 9/11 hijackers, who began to lose heart because he had a wife and child to live for. The Lone Wolf is a one-and-done operation, which are among the hardest to defeat.

What will stop the Lone Wolf? The first step is to eliminate the motivators and opportunities for training. The killing of a Anwar al-Awlaki and the editor of Inspire magazine, Samir Khan, is a victory for the good guys. Both used the power of social media to influence the masses, just as Hitler and others controlled the media in order to ensure only approved messages were sent forth. Inspire magazine provided blueprints for creating bombs and carrying out attacks. While similar “instructional” documents are available on the Internet, consider that much of what is on the Internet, isn’t accurate enough to stake your life on. Just ask any academic or researcher.

Most of the Lone Wolf attacks that have been recently thwarted have been the result of good investigative and intelligence work. This layer of aviation security cannot be underestimated. While the focus is always on the screening checkpoint, the reality is that the checkpoint is near the FINAL point of failure of the system – it’s better to stop the attack in the initial phases.

Other Lone Wolf preventative measures include, as I’ve always encouraged, good workplace violence training and being aware of your surroundings and the people you come into contact with. Lone Wolves exhibit signs far ahead of time, that they are disenfranchised – not like everyone else in the U.S. workforce, but enough to take violent action. While we all may despise working for “the Man,” there are those who have decided that their lot in life is really someone else’s fault, and they find inspiration and instruction on YouTube and in the pages of terrorist publications.

While the recent deaths of bin Laden, al-Awlaki and their ilk, have struck a blow for justice, there always seems to be someone coming along to take their place. Their influence has extended beyond their years here among the living, and continue to inspire others. There will be others. There will always be others. It’s not time to let the guard down. Bruce Willis’ enemies may die hard, but ideology dies hardest.

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This has been a test of the aviation security system

Remember when the Emergency Broadcast System would do those tests on TV? They still do from time to time, but without the threat of being annihilated by Soviet ballistic missiles, we don’t seem then much anymore. However, terrorists and bad guys continue to conduct tests of aviation security, and they just did another one. Click here for details.

When two men were apprehended in Amsterdam after traveling from Birmingham, AL to Chicago and Dulles, were found to have several items such as cell phones, watches, liquid bottles and box cutters taped together in their checked luggage your first thought should be that they were testing the aviation security in preparation for a future attack. Whether they were testing for a future bombing or hijacking attempt or just to be stupid, it was still a test. Continue Reading

Smokes on a Plane

Keeping in mind that the news reports are still coming in, let’s talk about what we know so far about the smokes-on-a-plane story developing at Denver International Airport. From what has been reported it appears that a Qatari man, possibly a diplomat, was arrested after making a comment about trying to light his shoe on… Continue Reading

Jihadists continue to look for aviation security weaknesses

According to a CBS news report Jihadists continue to attempt to exploit gaps in aviation security. One website invites members to post methods of circumventing aviation security and how to bypass screening, while others ask about the capabilities of screening detection equipment. On one site a visitor asks a question involving the whole body imagers:… Continue Reading

Rx for Aviation Security

In recent interviews on Denver’s Fox 31 News and on 9News, I tried to answer the most commonly asked question whenever there is a security incident: “How can we improve the system?” A good follow up question to that is: “At what point does all this security just cost too much?” The answers to both of these questions are interrelated.

At some point, security will cost too much. It will cost too much money, too much time and too much of a compromise of our civil rights. The solution is to improve the system through a strategy of reducing the number of people that we our looking at.

Whole Body Imagers can be effective but they take up a lot of space, may need stronger floors to sit upon and there may be additional power requirements. To replace all of the metal detectors in the U.S. will be costly in terms of both money and security wait times. Continue Reading

Getting it right, getting it wrong

It seems that Rep. John Mica has joined the opposition to the appointment of Erroll Southers to the head of TSA. Mica is criticizing what he perceives is Southers lack of executive management experience. Among rumors that Southers was nominated only after more qualified candidates passed on the opportunity as being unwilling or reluctant to serve, Mica is blasting both Southers position on collective bargaining for TSA screeners and what he calls Southers “second-tier” leadership experience.

Meanwhile, an article ran today on The Daily Breeze.com addressing measures the Los Angeles International Airport is taking to increase security. LAX has been one of the airports on the forefront of aviation security taking additional measures, studying counterterrorism methods and employing them where appropriate. Did I mention that Erroll Southers is from LAX!

After hearing Erroll lecture to a classroom full of airport security coordinator trainees in a class I was training last June in Los Angeles, I was immediately impressed with his poise, knowledge and learned perspectives on aviation and transportation security. Continue Reading

Who is responsible for airline security?

Ask virtually anyone on the street “who is responsible for airline security,” and the answer will most likely be, “TSA.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and could mean that airlines will have to pay more and take on more security responsibilities for their international flights.

While TSA sets forth and enforces the regulations, there are many players and many layers within the aviation security system, and it’s important to know who’s who and what’s what because it could make a difference in the security of the plane you’re on.

Recently, after the failed Christmas bombing, TSA dished out several security procedures … Continue Reading

Fixing the System

As more and more news reports begin to come out about this incident, along with the inevitable “what needs fixing,” stories, let’s take a look at what really needs fixing.

The No-Fly and TIDE List

TIDE is the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center and is a repository of information on international terrorist identities. According to a recent press report, there are about 550,000 people on the TIDE list, 14,000 on the Selectee and 4,000 on the no-fly (click here for source).

We need to continue initial efforts by TSA to clean up the no-fly and selectee list. The fact that this guy wasn’t on the no-fly list may just be an indication that he had not done enough previously to warrant being placed on the list. To screen everyone on the TIDE list however, will take more time and may potentially let the bad guys know that they are on the list. Sometimes, in law enforcement and intelligence, it’s not good to let the hunted, know they are being hunted.

Deployment of Whole Body Imagers … Continue Reading

Attempted Bombing

The attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 brings aviation security back to center stage. The attempt of course brings many questions back to the forefront about aviation security, questions I have addressed in this blog previously. So, let’s use an interview style to address what inevitably will be questions being asked at media outlets… Continue Reading