Jihad Jane: we could see this coming

As reported in USAToday, we now have American citizens actively engaged in the Jihad cause. This is not completely new as we have had others, like John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban, who was caught shortly after 9/11 in Afghanistan, but what is new is that the threat is now much closer to home.

Another close-to-home incident was Najibullah Zazi, the airport shuttle bus driver who was arrested in Denver, Colorado by the FBI, and who recently plead guilty to conspiring to detonate explosives in the United States.

In 2005, citizens of the United Kingdom attacked their own countrymen in the subway and bus bombings in the streets of London.

This sort of “insider” threat is a natural outgrowth of a terrorist movement. Historically, in many of these types of movements, there is an eventual sympathy for the “bad guys.” Most often this results in political change or political pressure to either end a conflict, or make some other sort of social change. However, in extreme cases it results in recruits to the cause. The Internet makes recruiting, training and equipping insider terrorists that much easier. Unfortunately, this internal threat is now in the U.S. But is there a solution?

Yes. There is a solution and it’s not that difficult to implement. When workplace violence was on the rise, the HR industry responded with all sorts of training to be able to identify workplace violence pre-incident indicators. Even recently, when Joseph Andrew Stack flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, there were pre-incident indicators. When Amy Bishop allegedly opened fire on coworkers after being denied tenure, there were pre-incident indicators. In every incident, there are always pre-incident indicators. We need to pay attention and report when these indicators are occurring.

In another important angle about the insider threat. As pointed out several times in our textbook, Practical Aviation Security, many attacks on aviation have had an insider component. With “homegrown terrorists” now making their appearance in the U.S. there is the strong possibility that, like Zazi, one of the future attackers works at a U.S. airport.

There is a benefit however to the security systems in place at U.S. commercial service airports that most passengers never see. Among the 1 million plus employees that work in the secure areas of airports, is a credentialing process that they are required to undergo in order to be issued an access badge. While this process is not full proof, it does, like Zazi, “put them on the grid.” Therefore, it is even more important that airport and airline credentialing personnel place a premium on verifying the identities of those applying for badges, and that they are also trained in suspicious awareness as they are often the front-line in employee security.

The greater issue of terrorism, Jihad, and the political and social objectives of the various sides of this issue are generally beyond the day-to-day control of the average citizen. What is within their control is what’s in front of them every day. Notice surroundings. Notice people. Notice how they behave, when that behavior changes and tell someone about it. The life you save may be theirs and your own.

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2 Responses to Jihad Jane: we could see this coming

  1. Well, just like we got our warning before the 9/11 attacks, we have been warned again. Yeah our intelligence is ok and they are preventing things and catching people on the spot, but there will still be back doors. I am a pilot and I know first hand that there is still so many ways that we are not looking at. One example is in Florida, there are flight schools that train people from overseas and a lot of them are becoming flight instructors and will go on to a U.S. airline career. The scary thing is that we have a future 9/11 where the terrorists get enough of these future airline pilots to coordinate an attack and on each of those flights, you will have either two pilots on the same page or one pilot will take out the other and that whole flight will be at his mercy. You can imagine the damage that a bunch of these upcoming pilots can do all at once. When I tell people the only thing I hear is that they will have to go through so much to get to the airlines that they will be Americanized too much and would care about our country too much to attack in that fashion. Not only is that a load of crap but you have to think that Osama Bin Laden was here in the U.S. for quite some time before and trained here. We really need to pay attention to whats around us.

    • I have heard that same argument about being Americanized. That does the other way of course, to the true devotee the Americanization just provides more fuel to their fire.

      As for your other scenario, authorized pilots, properly employed and already flying commercial airliners deciding to turn their planes into missiles, I’ve heard that come up several times in some of my security training. In fact, the TV show The Event used a very similar scenario in the season opener. There was much discussion after 9/11 about putting an override into the cockpit where an air traffic controller could take control of a hijacked jet. As a pilot myself, I can understand that most pilots would not want that. Plus, now you have to worry about cybersecurity to prevent someone from hacking into that system and taking over a plane and also better security of air traffic control facilities and better background checks of air traffic controllers. We’ve already heard where The Taliban and others can intercept the transmissions to the unmanned aerial vehicles we use, so there would need to be a lot of discussion before looking at this option.

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