The CIA’s recent success in interrupting an al Qaeda-inspired plot to destroy an airplane bound for the United States with a non-metallic bomb is an important victory for American security. It is also a harsh reminder that while many of America’s terrorist enemies are dead, jailed or on the run, others remain committed to turning the aviation system against us. Here is a piece I wrote for Defense Media Network about the foiled plot and what it means for aviation security.
The news that that the CIA successfully thwarted an attempt by another Al Qaeda-inspired bomber to destroy a U.S.-bound plane serves as a sobering reminder that the threat many have forgotten about (as well as belittled) is never going to go away. Despite several different attempts by al Qaeda and its inspired followers, their incompetence, along with enhanced information sharing by U.S. government agencies, improved passenger screening, and actions by intelligence and security professionals, have kept the skies free of the horror that befell four planes over a decade ago. None of this has been easy, free from controversy, or without tremendous cost. Let’s face facts – when the Internal Revenue Service is looked upon more favorably by American politicians and the travelling public than the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), the people working to safeguard a traveling public – you know you have a problem.
For all of the anger and venom that is directed at TSA (and anyone who even attempts to defend them and their mission), there remains an almost incredible forgetfulness as to the threat they and many others are working to combat. There remain a group of people absolutely committed by any means necessary to seize American airliners and do the unimaginable to them. They have evolved from box cutters and utility knives; to shoe explosives; to mixing fluids; fashioning explosive underwear; creating body cavity bombs and now, apparently, something even more challenging – improved non-metallic bombs.
The unfortunate evolution that al Qaeda and its like-minded brethren engage in is a tragic measure of the era we have inherited and will forever occupy. For every countermeasure we take, a dynamic, far more patient and ruthless adversary takes another step technologically and tactically to fulfill their goals. Furthermore, there are no limits to what they will do to fulfill their mission. Time is literally on their side. All they need is one slip up, one off day from the intel/security crowd and for everything else to go just right, and their goal will be fulfilled. That’s a gut-wrenching thing to say, but I fear it’s the truth.
Read the full article.