Why aviation security cannot be fail-safe

Bikram Vohra

By: Bikram Vohra

There is no such thing as fail-safe security at airports. Despite the best of efforts and the use of technology an assault on an airport or an aircraft is very easy. We have just seen what occurred at Karachi and Peshawar and even the presence of air marshals is not a deterrent to anyone who does not care to lose his life.

While the new “approach” to air security has certainly made it more difficult the human factor invariably kicks in as it has at British airports this week with security tightened following warnings from US experts that two terrorist groups are developing a bomb that could bypass existing safety measures.

US Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson said he had tasked officials to “implement enhanced security measures in the coming days at certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States”.

However, he declined to specify which airports would be subjected to the extra security measures.
A TV channel brought up this issue and it is not sci fi. The alloys and plastic/ceramic equivalents of steel and iron can do the job and get past the scanners without sending out any alarm. Again, those who study aviation security work with several “benign” scenarios in which no weaponry per se is involved but which are equally effective in intimidating an aircrew, passengers or airline.

The best defense is the “big brother” one in which suspects are tracked. This international co-operative measure and the constant need to share data across the globe and work without frontiers is mandatory.

A statement issued by the US Department for Homeland Security said: “We are sharing recent and relevant information with our foreign allies and consulting the aviation industry.” It is when the major nations come together on the same page and in real time can they alert each other to danger.

To be honest this is not yet being done as efficiently as it should. After all ,aviation per se has no borders and is as strong as its weakest link.

“The UK has some of the most robust aviation security measures and we will continue to take all the steps necessary to ensure that public safety is maintained.” That’s the official statement but the concern must be feverish behind doors.

US officials said the move was due to intelligence reports that Islamist groups in Yemen and Syria had joined forces to prepare an attack on the US.

Bomb-makers from al Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are believed to be working together to develop the devices, according to these reports.

Regrettably, the element of racial profiling is integral and innocent individuals do get harassed if they are selected by the computer which works on an imperfect grid.

Passengers can expect heightened scrutiny of US-bound passengers’ electronics and footwear, and installation of additional bomb-detection machines.



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