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The Next American Terrorist

History is repeating itself, but the future will be worse than we ever imagined. Some people believe the divisions in our country are so great, the results of the next election may lead to the next American Civil War.

I don’t know what will happen after this election. All I know is the history of domestic terrorism in the United States and our aviation security system’s vulnerabilities. Together, the results could be worse than the 9/11 attacks because now, the threat is coming from inside the house.

Remember a time when two friends could hold different political beliefs and, outside of lively debate, stayed friends? Now, we ostracize, demonize, and dehumanize those that do not believe exactly the way we do. At the very least, we take them off our Instagram and Facebook accounts, and at the worst, we shun them, shit on them, and, if necessary, support eliminating them.

Remember, when Trump used to be a Democrat and an independent before becoming a Republican? Remember that Biden claimed he was labeled one of the most liberal members of the United States Congress. Still, his voting record with Republicans is extensive, including his vote to authorize the Iraq War.

Remember a time when American beliefs and values came in shades of gray and that we understood that ‘if you’re not for us, you’re against us’ was merely a bumper sticker philosophy used by politicians to stir up the masses?

No one here is without sin.

Regardless of who wins this election, my concern is the gears are already set in motion to create the next American terrorist.

In 1995, I was the assistant security director at Denver International Airport, which had opened a couple of months earlier. Part of my job was to monitor threats to the airport. We routinely received memos from FAA security regarding threats from an up-and-coming foreign terrorist, Osama bin Laden, so most of our security system focused on outward threats. Very few of us were looking inward.

We watched the rise of the militia groups with some interest, but before the Murrah bombing, they were mostly survivalists living in the woods who wanted to be left alone and not pay their taxes. But the FBI’s mishandling at Ruby Ridge and in Waco, Texas, triggered two men to action, killing 168 people, including 19 children, in the most violent terrorist attack on US soil, by US citizens with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Photo from makeshift memorial for the victims of the 1995 bombing of Murrah Federal.

What do I worry about? I worry about the insider threat. I worry that someone with authorized access to the airport may drive a truck loaded with explosives onto the airport and park it next to an airplane. I worry about an aviation worker sabotaging aircraft engines and systems. I worry about airport and airline workers, who access an aircraft because they are authorized to do so, but then, unlike the ramp worker who stole a Q400 and took it for a joyride out of Sea-Tac airport, decides to crash it into a building. I worry about a captain or first officer whose political beliefs are so strong that they fly their airliner, charter, or private jet, full of innocent passengers, into a ground target, such as a hospital or school.

The bad guys already know about these threats and scenarios because they are aviation insiders. But, outside of aviation, not many of you do. I believe in understanding the threats to be ready for them and spot an attack before it happens.

In 1995, most of our security was still trying to prevent the external threat. We were looking the wrong way. We still need to keep an eye on the external threat, but it’s time to better monitor what’s going on with airport workers. The most dangerous terrorists intend to harm our industry, our citizens, and our country are inside the house.

Jeffrey Price

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