To those who believe that DHS and TSA are simply fighting yesterday’s war, I point to the trial of the liquid explosive plotters (from August 2006) currently taking place in London. The details emerging from the trial are a reminder to all that terrorists remain interested in attacking the global iconic air transportation system.
The trial also points to the ongoing challenges TSA has in detecting both liquid explosives and explosives on individuals traveling through the checkpoint. TSA is taking proactive steps in addressing both of these threats but more work needs done. As good as the TSA TSO’s are at their job, they can only detect so much without the proper mix of technology.
At the time I left TSA almost two and half years ago, these two threats were well known and being worked on diligently. We’re probably not as far as long as we should be in deploying new technologies to the checkpoint but ensuring new technology can withstand the rigors of an airport environment is a challenge.
TSA is currently in the market for additional bottle liquid scanners to deploy to its checkpoints. The hope is for these units to be incorporated into the AT x-ray or Auto-EDS systems at the checkpoint so as to speed up passenger throughput. TSA is also looking at both millimeter wave and backscatter technology to guard against individuals with explosives on their person. However, neither of these technologies is widely deployed leaving an ongoing vulnerability at the checkpoint.
As we get further and further away from the tragic events of 9/11/01, we must not let complacency take root and think there is nothing more to do. TSA doesn’t operate this way and I thank them for that.