The tragedy of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attack caused by hijacked airplanes on September 11, 2001 has made it clear that previously adopted airline security plans have not worked. The tragedy has escalated interest in improving airline security to a top priority requiring immediate action.
The options facing those charged with responsibility for guaranteeing the general flying population that they can fly without fear of terrorism is either to fix the problems in the existing system or create a new security strategy.
The history of the existing airline security system, dramatically underscored by the tragedy of September 11th cause system analysts to question whether the existing system can ever be improved to the point that terrorist actions, such as the one at the New York World Trade Center and Pentagon, can be prevented.
The present system is based on a set of assumptions that have proven to be invalid. The most significant of those assumptions are noted below:
- The assumption that the screening of the entire flying public at airport security check points can result in the identification of potential terrorists and prevent them from boarding an airplane;
- The assumption that the screening of the baggage of the entire flying public at airport security check points can result in the identification of baggage containing terrorist assets and prevent this baggage from being loaded on a commercial aircraft;
- The assumption that the general flying public will continue to tolerate the inconvenience and delays required for the security program outlined in #1 and #2 to be properly administered;
- The assumption that the cost of the program outlined in #1 and #2 can be cost justified based on the speculation that it can be implemented in such a manner that it can prevent terrorists and their baggage from being loaded on aircraft.
Indeed if an upgraded security program, such as the one outlined in #1 and #2 above were pursued it would make air travel extremely inefficient, inconvenient and costly to both the airlines and the general flying population. The terrorists would have won. However, the biggest concern is whether such a system can ever achieve the goal of protecting the general flying population from terrorists and having their deadly baggage loaded on airplanes.
Those considering how best to guarantee security to the general flying public should reject the premise that airline security can be guaranteed by the screening of the entire flying population to identify potential terrorists and prevent them from boarding an airplane. This premise needs to be replaced with a new airline security concept and a set of assumptions that have greater probability of achieving the security goals with minimal inconvenience to the airlines and the flying public and stand up to reasonable cost benefit analysis.
This article was originally written in September 2011 shortly after the terrorist attack based on the belief that the existing airline security is faulty and can never achieve the goal of providing reliable, cost effective and convenient airline security. Those responsible for airline and air traveler security have not taken steps to reduce the inconvenience of the system to travelers, reduce the costs, but have continued to tinker with the old system without making the fundamental changes that will help guarantee the air traveling public protection against a terrorist attack. A totally new airline security concept is needed to protect the flying public from terrorists. This article was originally written to introduce such an alternative.
The Key Questions Basic to Guaranteeing Airline Security
As originally conceived airline security was based on the assumption that terrorists could be prevented from boarding an aircraft, and as a result the airline and its passengers could be guaranteed a safe and secure flight. This assumption has proven to be false at great consequence to the airline industry, the flying public and those that perished in the WTC and Pentagon tragedies.
To achieve true airline security, a plan must be devised that takes into consideration the knowledge that has been gained over the past 20 years as governments and the airline industry, and their attempts to develop and administer a security system that can ensure safety, guarantee the reliability and effectiveness of the system, minimize the level of disruption to the industry and the air traveler caused by the system, is based on the body of knowledge gathered about airline terrorists, the actual circumstances and conditions that define the nature of the terrorist threat to the industry and the air traveler, and the cost effectiveness of those airline security plans.
History has demonstrated that a security strategy that attempt security company hong kong to identify terrorists by screening the general flying population at the point of boarding the aircraft is very costly, inefficient, ineffective, inconvenient and easy to circumvent by the terrorists. The obvious difficulty of the exisiting system to isolate a flyer that presents a threat to the flying public dictates that those responsible for airline security explore a more innovative and creative alternative based on a new set of assumptions.
This new airline security alternative should be based on specific security performance goals targeted at actions that can reverse the failures of the present system. These goals include:
- Goal I – Identification of potential terrorists prior to boarding a commercial aircraft;
- Goal II – Isolating the terrorists from the general flying population;
- Goal III – Prevention of terrorists and terrorist baggage from boarding a commercial aircraft;
- Goal IV – Controlling any potential terrorist that might gain eligibility to be aboard a commercial aircraft;
- Goal V – Disabling any potential terrorist on a commercial aircraft who attempts to engage in a terrorist act.
The new security system designers should begin by examining the existing knowledge base concerning the failures of the present system and set goals that would eliminate these failures and eliminate the terrorist threat to the airlines and the flying public. The basic questions include but may not be limited to the following:
- Who are potential terrorists and how can they be identified so that they can be isolated from the general flying population and prevented from flying on commercial airlines?
- How can the terrorists be isolated from the general flying population, controlled and disqualified from the privilege of air travel?
- How can the potential terrorist who may become eligible for air travel be controlled to ensure that he/she is not a treat to the airline and the general flying population?
- How can the air traveler who becomes a terrorist be disabled in the event that he/she is able to circumvent the air travel disqualification element of the security process?
By incorrectly focusing on the entire flying population to screen out terrorists, who in reality represent a minuscule part of the general flying public, and treating airline security as a problem that must include the screening of all who fly, the resulting security plan, by necessity, is disruptive and inconvenient to everyone who flies. Additionally, screening everyone in the flying public also dictates that the cost will be proportinately higher and make the process of identifying a potential terrorist unnecessarily complicated and difficult.
Contrastingly, by making the terrorist the primary focus of the airline security system, and separating potential terrorists from the general flying population, the general air travel population can be excluded from the system, air travel can return to a more convenient experience for the general public, the costs to the airline industry can be dramatically reduced and the efficiency and effectiveness of the system can be dramatically increased.
How can such a system work?
A General Introduction to a New Approach to Airline Security
The new approach to airline security must be based on the following goals:
- The identification and isolation of potential terrorists from the general flying population;
- The disqualification of potential terrorists from eligibility for commercial flight until they can certify that they are not a terrorist risk, only then to be granted eligibility for commercial flight;
- Control the action of potential terrorists who gain conditional eligibility to fly commercially;
- Have the ability to disable a potential terrorist who has earned conditional eligibility to fly and becomes a terrorist threat during flight.
How can these goals be accomplished within the existing air travel system?
How can they lead to increased convenience for the air traveler, less cost for the airline and greater security for the general flying public?
Goal I. – Identify and Isolate Potential Terrorists from the General Flying Population
Air travel should be regarded as a privilege rather than a right, and to be eligible to enjoy the privilege all air travelers should be required to make application for air travel eligibility status. While this may sound like a major task for the airlines, those who have been air travelers in the past can be easily identified, screened and granted eligibility status.
The criteria for determining air travel eligibility status should be determined collectively by the airlines, the government regulatory and security experts based on a set of discriminating criteria designed to separate the general flyer from those individuals who might be potential terrorists. Those individuals who meet the air travel eligibility requirements would be granted multiple identification vehicles and would then have access to air travel without the need for the traditional airline security checks. In this manner 95% of the existing security requirements and related inconvenience and costs could be eliminated.
What might the air travel eligibility status criteria include?
Terrorists around the world have developed a history which includes a comprehensive picture of who the terrorists have been, the groups they have been affiliated with (IRA, White Supremacist, PLO, Lebanese Hizballah, al Qaeda, etc.), place of national origin, the views they represent, the philosophies they espouse, their educational background, work history, family background and so on. This body of information should provide the data to help develop the air travel eligibility status criteria. Any potential air traveler who is found to have any of the terrorist characteristics could be denied air travel eligibility until evidence is provided that eliminates the concern for that characteristic.
By following the air travel eligibility process, it is likely that 99+% or more of the general air traveling public can be granted air travel eligibility without the need for costly and inconvenient traditional security screening, and the potential terrorist can be isolated and disqualified form air travel.