New airport security: everything you need to know

2014-07-04 10:29

Washington - The United States has called for tighter security checks at airports. Aviation expert Jeff Price discussed with AFP a new generation of bombs that Washington fears getting aboard planes.

What are these ultra-sophisticated devices that could emerge?
There's no specific threat but they (the intelligence services) understand Al-Qaeda has been working on new, less detectable technologies. They probably got the information that the technology now exists and that it needs to be deployed so they need to start watching for it.

That's something that's been around for a couple of years. Al-Qaeda has looked to come up with an undetectable device, also a device that is a little bit more idiot-proof, that's not too complex to trigger. That was the problem with the first under-wear bomber (in 2009). It was too complex to trigger the bomb.

To make it as simple as possible, typically it's just doing something where the chemical mixture can be mixed rather quickly, rather naturally(...) and as soon as they're mixed, they carry the chemical reaction that initiates the device. So it's far less complicated than trying to put a bunch of wires together. A lot of that stuff might come up on X-ray machines and look totally normal or not be detectable at all.

It's going to be as non-metallic as possible. Most likely, it's going to be liquid. Unfortunately in aviation, it doesn't take a big amount to make a boom. Due to the pressurization of the aircraft, a smaller level of explosives can actually be more destructive on a higher altitude than it would be on the ground, which makes it even more important to foil on the ground before it gets to the air.

While it is possible to wear something inside (the body), you'd have to put a lot of explosives inside to really get the effect you want. The problem is that the body makes a great buffer between the explosive and the outside of the body. Typically, no, it is too complicated and terrorists look for stuff that is easy to do. The more complex it is, the more difficult it is to pull off and terrorists want to be successful.

What is the source of the new threats?

The usual suspects are AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) down in Yemen and certain areas in Afghanistan. You got Iraq, you got Syria which is gigantically variable, and you got people leaving the US to get some material and training somewhere else and come back here, with some kind of Boston Marathon bomber situation (who is) less likely to be noticed with a US passport.

I think what they are really looking at now is traveler pattern. If I go from the US and I travel to Yemen and that's not something I would normally do in the course of my business that's going to be a red flag for some folks.

What kind of measures are going to be taken in airports?
There's a variety of measures that they can do that are not publicly visible. Often it's just additional scrutiny of checked bags and carry-on bags. In terms of slowing down the X-ray process, holding more people aside for a secondary screening, putting more detection behaviour personnel within the screening checkpoints and down at the checkbags, pulling more bags aside for random screening, particularly for people coming from specific countries.

By and large, most people probably won't notice a huge difference. Things might slow down a little bit.

It's going to be slowing down the X-ray machines just a little bit, the lines will move a little slower, and downstairs (checked bag screening), additional proceedings, adjusting the calibration of the machine to be more sensitive. Those are typically measures that would not be visible for the public, additional scrutiny behind the walls.


Read more on:    travel  |  travel international

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