Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Airline Security

Author: John KahrsImage via Wikipedia

As we enter into a new decade, America and every other world target of Al-Qaida can't possibly be too careful when guarding against another major terrorist attack.

Look no further than what almost happened in Detroit on Christmas Day with that attempted terror bombing of  Northwest Airlines flight 253, who's safe landing was more a holiday miracle than the result of optimum, or, even adequate security.

Emerging details tell  just how close this miracle came to being our worst massacre since 911.  Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has known terrorist ties, sneaks quietly into Amsterdam on Christmas Eve.  He buys one cash ticket to Detroit, checking no luggage and carrying no passport! 

He does, however, possess 80 grams of PETN explosive, a detonator and a vile of combustible liquid hidden in his underwear.  Upon approach to Detroit airport Mutallab, who somehow failed to set off several red flags before boarding, does try to set off a bomb. But, instead of exploding it only catches fire momentarily, while he is captured by passengers....and the plane lands safely.  Merry Christmas and a vigilant, fore-warned New Year!

Perhaps this failed attempt was a blessing in disguise.  President Obama has now ordered a full review of airport security measures.  The Transportation Security Administration is also speeding up the installation of new, full-body scanners that can detect plastic and other substances hidden on a person's body. 

This 30-second scan amounts to a revealing, virtual reality strip-search, which some groups including The American Civil Liberties Union call overly invasive.

Closer to home at San Francisco International Airport, arriving passengers are glad for increased security measures, even though travel time has been increased.  "Whatever needs to be done, needs to be done," said Dublin resident Konark Uppal who arrived Monday from Dubai, India.

SFO has also beefed up the numbers of San Francisco Police officers on site, and added more bag searches and pat-downs to the screening process.  Domestic and international passengers are also being asked to stow personal items, turn off electronic equipment and remain seated during certain portions of the flight including the final hour....when pillows and blankets may also be taken away.

Other changes such as having no access to carry-on luggage during the last hour, and additional passport checks and finger printing at arrival customs, may be inconvenient...but necessary.  One passenger from Vallejo, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the added security slowed things down but didn't cause serious problems.  "It isn't difficult, but it is different," the passenger said.

This point should be well taken, because to fully guard against terrorism takes being different, and it takes making matter how difficult!  We can't count on a lucky landing next time.  That next bomb... won't be a dud!

Happy Holidays and have a safe New Year!


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