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Advocacy Update: TSA Back on High Alert

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#1 Posted: 2/2/2010 08:47:27

On page 105 of this month's EAA Sport Aviation, Earl Lawrence, EAA's Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs, writes about new restrictions imposed by the TSA after the attempted terrorist bombing on December 25th, 2009.

Earl closes the piece with some questions :

Is it realistic to consider that every terrorist action in or out of aviation can be stopped? How can each of us and your EAA organization best influence public opinion to favor our freedom to fly over burdensome security and safety restrictions?

What do you think?



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#2 Posted: 2/3/2010 07:44:34

Recent experience answers the first question.  The Christmas Bomber (aka the Underware Bomber) was successful in bypassing all the security that was in place, at the time, by using the simple technique of putting the explosive in his pants instead of his shoe.  How hard is that?  Of course we don't know each and every attempt that was thwarted by increased security. but we do find out about those that bypassed security, and it seems that it is not all that difficult to do so.

As to the second question, I fly out of a small grass strip located in rural south central Pennsylvania and the only increase in security that we have expereinced is that the owner has asked us to close the hangar doors while we are flying instead of leaving them open until we return as we used to do.  Therefore, I have suffered very little from increased security and my freedom to fly has not been severely restricted, except it is more combersome to fly in the Washington DC area (but still possible)

With the historic attempts to use aircraft in the war of terror, I think we would be stupid to ignore the fact that the airplane is a very good terror weapon.  Whatever security procedures we put in place are, in some way, justified because we can not, in clear conscience, just do nothing.  We are limited in some of the more effective security measures by our slavish following of Politically Correct restrictions on 'profiling'.  This means that we must do whatever we can to reduce our vulnerability to attack by air.  We really have no idea of how many attacks have been thwarted by current regulations.  How many repeats of the World Trade Centers/Pentagon attack were planned, but discarded because of increased screening?  We do think that increased survelience disrupted a plan to attack Los Angeles by air, but this can not be actually proven.  Not knowing what was planned, but not carried out, makes it very difficult to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of current security provisions.

I am just wondering how long it will take the terrorists to think of using a vehicle other than an airplane to launch an attack and what our response will be then???? (Car bombs seem to be very effective in Iraq and we can all remember what a rental truck did on Oklahoma).  Our Battalion Commander always insisted in mounting a perimeter guard even though we had never been attacked.  Was he prudent or merely bound by regulations?  The small town in which I live hasn't had a fire in 40 years or more.  Think we should disband the volunteer fire department?



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Paul Dowgewicz
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
149
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#3 Posted: 2/3/2010 09:07:05 Modified: 2/3/2010 09:07:52

A major problem is that the government rulers are throwing away the last line of defense against the terrorists. The government is needed to thwart the terrorist's plans, but we've seen that when the imperfect government bureaucrats miss something, and a terrorist gets through, it's the ordinary people who are needed to stop them.

First responders are not the fire or police personnel, it's the ordinary citizen who is put on the scene through fate, divine intervention, or however. The fire and police departments are the second responders. Since we've seen that the first victory against terrorists in Shanksville, it's the disarmed airline passengers who saved thousands of other people.

I know it may sound extreme, but Archie Bunker  had a good point. Those towers in New York would still be standing if we listened to him.

Seriously, the government must use all the resources available to stop terrorists. Throwing away the 99.999% of the people who are able and willing to help is absurd.

 



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#4 Posted: 2/3/2010 12:17:44

Thbis quote from a British Newspaper seems appropriate here:

"http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1247338/

Terrorists 'plan attack on Britain with bombs INSIDE their bodies' to foil new airport scanners
 

Britain is facing a new Al Qaeda terror threat from suicide ‘body bombers’ with explosives surgically inserted inside them.

Until now, terrorists have attacked airlines, Underground trains and buses by secreting bombs in bags, shoes or underwear to avoid detection.

But an operation by MI5 has uncovered evidence that Al Qaeda is planning a new stage in its terror campaign by inserting ‘surgical bombs’ inside people for the first time.

New weapon: To avoid detection by airport body scanners (above), Al Qaeda are said to be planning to surgically insert explosives into suicide bombers' bodies

Security services believe the move has been prompted by the recent introduction at airports of body scanners, which are designed to catch terrorists before they board flights.

It is understood MI5 became aware of the threat after observing increasingly vocal internet ‘chatter’ on Arab websites this year.

The warning comes in the wake of the failed attempt by London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up an airliner approaching Detroit on Christmas Day.

One security source said: ‘If the terrorists are talking about this, we need to be ready and do all we can to counter the threat.’

A leading source added that male bombers would have the explosive secreted near their appendix or in their buttocks, while females would have the material placed inside their breasts in the same way as figure-enhancing implants.

Experts said the explosive PETN (Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate) would be placed in a plastic sachet inside the bomber’s body before the wound was stitched up like a normal operation incision and allowed to heal.

Failed attempt: Abdulmutallab tried to detonate a bomb sewn into his pants  A shaped charge of 8oz of PETN can penetrate five inches of armour and would easily blow a large hole in an airliner. Security sources said the explosives would be detonated by the bomber using a hypodermic syringe to inject TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) through their skin into the explosives sachet.  PETN – the main ingredient of Semtex plastic explosive – was used by Richard Reid, the British Al Qaeda shoe-bomber, when he unsuccessfully tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami in December 2001.

In November, a Somali man who attempted to board a flight carrying a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals was arrested before take-off.

The airliner had been due to fly from Somalia’s capital Mogadishu to Dubai. The Somali was carrying a nearly identical package to that of Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate it by injecting TATP from a syringe. Abdulmutallab had stuffed explosives down his underpants as the Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam made its final descent to Detroit carrying 280 passengers. But the detonator fluid set his clothes on fire rather than the device, and he was overpowered.  Security sources fear the body-bombers could pretend to be diabetics injecting themselves on airliners, Tubes or buses in order to prevent anyone stopping their suicide missions. But one source with expertise in the field said: ‘They can make as many pieces of security equipment as they like but there is no one magic answer that can spot every single potential terrorist passing through. Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Commons Counter-Terrorism Sub-Committee, said: ‘Our enemies are constantly evolving their techniques to try to defeat our methods of detection. ‘This is one of the most savage forms that extremists could use, and while we are redeveloping travel security we have got to take this new development into account.
 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
David Hook
NAFI Member
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#5 Posted: 2/5/2010 08:25:56

It is unrealistic to consider that every terrorist action can be stopped.  That's the short answer.

The Christmas Day condom bomber proved that despite multiple layers of security someone was able to get an explosive device onboard a commercial service aircraft and detonate it.  The attack was successful...just not effective.  This happened despite terrorist and no-fly watch lists, magnetic and explosive detection systems, behavior recognition training, ID checks and so on.  But none of this is to say that we should give up our security screening processes and disband the Dept of Homeland Security.  Despite multiple attempts to conduct similar attacks against commercial service aviation, the aircraft suicide bombers have been held to just one successful attack aboard an airliner over US soil since 9/11.  That's not a bad goal-line defense.

What we can't have happen is making the choice to commit economic suicide by strapping on expensive and overly burdensome security requirements in an attempt to defeat our adversary.  If we do that, then the terrorists will have won without making another attack.  But we shouldn't drop our guard either.

Pilots and all of our general aviation family are the true first responders on our GA airports.  In the coming months it's up to us to remind DHS and TSA that we will be the ones who make that first critical observation and assessment as to the intentions of a potential criminal / terrorist on our ramp.  We need to remind them that we're one of the key team players on the field, not spectators in the stands--just a group to be "managed" during a crisis.

No, not every terrorist action can be stopped.  The odds are against it.  But by working together effectively, we as the GA Community can make it so difficult for the enemy to plan a successful attack using our airfields and our aircraft that they decide it's easier to do their dirty work by another means...and leave us alone.

Keep the Mach up!

Dave



Earl Lawrence
Homebuilder or Craftsman
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#6 Posted: 2/5/2010 08:34:22

Thank you all for reading and responding to my question.  I am also getting comments directly emailed to me.

Here is one of the comments from EAA member Nickolaus Leggett.

Earl

 

     The freedom to fly includes and represents the following important American freedoms:

 

1. Movement and travel (ranging from the first pioneers through our current travels on the Interstate Highway system and the National Airspace System)

2. Participation in the economy (flying for hire and flying to further one's own business enterprise)

3. Learning new skills and responsibilities

4. Innovating, inventing, designing, and developing new aircraft and aircraft components

5. Building one's own vehicle (building planes, boats, cars, etc.)

6. Associating freely with fellow Americans for business, pleasure, and learning

7. Appreciating natural environments and natural beauty

8. Connecting to the history of America through aviation (war birds, restored aircraft, the shared skill of flight,etc.)

9. Connecting to the image of a dynamic aerospace future

10. Providing emergency transportation and observation flights (Haiti, Civil Air Patrol, locating downed aircraft or others in distress)

11. Demonstrating America's trust and faith in its citizens and their sense of responsibility (a similar effect occurs with citizens' gun ownership)

12. Training of America's youth, adults, and seniors

13. Experiencing a wholesome adventure

14. Amateur and professional scientific research (tracking wildlife, observing migrating birds and butterflies in flight, observing weather, observing soil erosion effects, observing land use patterns and their changes

15. Support and enhancement of other activities such as camping, family interactions, photography, amateur radio, news reporting, etc.

 

     If these freedoms are dropped in the name of security, then America will suffer a rather unpleasant future.  (Note: I wrote a very nasty science fiction short story about just such an event.  If you are interested, I will email a copy to you.)

 

     Private aviation is very closely linked to the basic aspects of American culture listed above.  Denying the freedom to participate responsibly in aviation is to deny many of our culture's aspects.  If these aspects were to be removed from society, we would be left with a very passive populace who would be the subjects of a new "security state".  Much of the populace would be bored and resentful of the excessive limits placed on them.  The new society and sociology would be like that of the Soviet Union or other totalitarian states.  Such a society would not enjoy a stable and prosperous future.

 

Nickolaus E. Leggett

EAA Member # 715753

 



Vincent Pangia
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1
#7 Posted: 2/5/2010 12:20:39 Modified: 2/5/2010 12:33:31

 I’m outraged and am surprised more of us aren’t.

Homeland Security was supposed to coordinate law enforcement agencies.   Remember, the 9/11 plot was uncovered and reported by a GA flight instructor weeks before the disaster.  The breakdown was with the FBI who didn’t know what to do with the information.  Homeland Security was supposed to fix this.   Instead it has become another layer of bureaucracy imposing unwarranted restrictions and fixing problems that do not exist.  This inept approach negatively impacts all of us and obfuscates more effective security protocols. 

The anarchist’s methods may take the form of terrorism, but their goal is the breakdown of our basic freedoms.  They succeed when common sense no longer prevails.  Every 2 lane highway has the potential of a head on crash caused by a suicide driver.  Every train, bus, and truck can carry more explosives and do more damage than an airplane. Yet, no one is proposing installing barriers through the middle of our roads and no one is fencing off our cities,bus stations or truck stops.  Why is GA treated differently?  The focus is to isolate all airports under the misconception that limited access will protect us from terrorism.   If  Homeland Security had its way they would shrink wrap all aviation facilities. Fences and limiting through the fence access may sound good to the uninformed, but there is absolutely no evidence that such restrictions protect us. 

The principle of aviation security is simple:  Know your passengers; know your students.  While this may be impossible in air carrier operations necessitating body and baggage screening, it’s basic common sense in GA.  No GA pilot I know has ever taken off without knowing who is on board. 

Why not focus on the terrorist community?  Require anyone who has trained in Afghanistan or otherwise with Al Qaida to register with Homeland Security.   This would serve as an initial list of potentially dangerous people who bare watching.  Those who chose not to register would be telegraphing their intent to do harm to America.  Making noncompliance a crime would also serve as sufficient legal grounds to arrest and detain these people.  Presently, law enforcement must wait to detain them until after these dangerous people have hurt someone.   

 



Pierre D'Entremont
Homebuilder or Craftsman
131
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#8 Posted: 2/5/2010 20:32:16

For the first time in the history of man, as we remember it ;  We do not have to live on the ground. 

What does that mean ?       Have we come to a place where we would know or begin to fathom what our purpose is... as those who fly ...who have that sense of touch ... the virtuousity of the physical understanding of a higher realm of consciousness ... portent of a clue ...    where are we from ???    

WE ARE EXCENTRICS ADDICTED TO FLYING.....                 ( we  say aircraft .....but it's the opportunity to encraft it )

What are we experiencing but conflict of intellegence ... but we will fix it...   thats what we do.....

We will all go together one last day...

And we'll all see each other along the way

and if we all don't go ... we all might not go ....


We will realize we are all intrinzically connected ... KLATU BARRADA NIK TOEW ...just ask the cats on the international space station ....   What are we doing ? ? ?    but wasting time...........

Just check out your tv....embarasing isn't it ....

Now EAA.....there might be hope.......

Keep the faith.




Tooky or Pierre
Rod Witham
Homebuilder or Craftsman
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#9 Posted: 2/6/2010 00:57:07

Some extremely insightful responses here that I just had to applaud: 

David Hook wrote:

What we can't have happen is making the choice to commit economic suicide by strapping on expensive and overly burdensome security requirements in an attempt to defeat our adversary.  If we do that, then the terrorists will have won without making another attack.  But we shouldn't drop our guard either.

Pilots and all of our general aviation family are the true first responders on our GA airports.  In the coming months it's up to us to remind DHS and TSA that we will be the ones who make that first critical observation and assessment as to the intentions of a potential criminal / terrorist on our ramp.  We need to remind them that we're one of the key team players on the field, not spectators in the stands--just a group to be "managed" during a crisis.

 

Vincent Pangia wrote:

The anarchist’s methods may take the form of terrorism, but their goal is the breakdown of our basic freedoms.  They succeed when common sense no longer prevails.

 

 



Bill Greenwood
Warbirds of America MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
121
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24
#10 Posted: 2/6/2010 12:58:45 Modified: 2/6/2010 13:04:41

As a military type attack the 9-11 crashes were very successful, and probably beyond what the planners had hoped for in that the trade center buildings fell.

But as for much of the rest of the damage , beyond those killed, it has been what the U S govt, with the support of most people have placed on ourselves.

The 3000 people killed on 9-11 was a tragedy to them and their friends and familys. But if we look at all the deaths in the U S each year that number is pretty small. If I have the figures right , smoking and traffic accidents kill 50,000 each year. Do we really care about all the people who die from cigarettes, many more than 3000?

Pres Bush and to some extent Obama have made an emphasis on the 3000 killed , but the war one started and the other continues have resulted in about 5000 U S dead and perhaps 5 times that many injured so badly that they will never be whole again. The death toll from the war will probably be twice the 3000 killed on 9-11 before long. What kind of new math is this?

The other way the terrorists won is far beyond the 3000 killed. The govt, through TSA and others, and  with the acqiesence of many U S citizens, have altered our life in major ways. Everyone that goes on an airline, regardless if it is a child or an elderly person, is a target for accusation and personal intrusion, and common sense does not enter into it. I have often seen the TSA people searching ladies that looked to be in there 80s and read of one Mother who has a hassle every time she flys because her 4 year old Son was put on the "no fly list" and 4 years later it has not been corrected.  I used to fly one way a lot, often at the last minute and United and TSA gave me a hard time. A little research would have helped, I own stock in a majot airline, had a "secret" military security clearance , ( not top secret) and had flown both as a passenger and a milage plus member for years. Reason did not seem to matter, and finally the harrassment stopped suddenly.

I don't know all the details of terror threats and security, but it just feels wrong to me, that as a country we let one big successful attack make us almost afraid to act like a country of free people anymore. We now have a new techno gadget that sees through peoples clothes and I can't believe that so many people feel that is ok. I don'tr have a teenage daughter, but if I did and for those who do I don't think TSA ought to have nude photos of them, or even men for that matter.  We have made terrorist into the boogie man and we see him behind every tree, and under every bed. Bin Laden must be pretty pleased with himself.

 



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#11 Posted: 2/7/2010 06:19:09

 And Bill, your reaction to 9-11 would be?

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Joe LaMantia
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
175
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69
#12 Posted: 2/7/2010 11:45:34

Another very interesting topic!  Bill has made some good points, I did an "Ask Jeeves" search and found the annual death rate for traffic accidents in the US to be 40,000 and from gun shots a tad above 30,000.  The response to those facts has been an effort to design safety into vehicles, things like seat belts and air bags.  This adds cost and creates jobs.  The statistics suggest that about 40% are DUI related.  We do have laws in most states that punish drunk drivers, but this hasn't seemed to reduced the accident numbers.  There is no effort or even a suggestion that we re-test people before we renew the license.  No suggestion that we even provide some safety courses or videos.  As for gun shots, I think the NRA has answered that one.  We have a few laws to register sales which are badly written and rarely enforced. 

In the world of national politics we like simple solutions that make everybody feel good and maintain simple myths.  I think the initial response to 9-11 was correct, but we lost focus in Iraq, and the outcome there is still an unknown.  I think our political class forgot a famous quote "We have nothing to fear but fear itself".

Jerry has a very good point, the combining of our intelligence efforts and overall coordination were needed. Keeping an active pressure on the bad guys is very important.

The reality of the situation is that we cannot possibly stop 100% of all attempts, but that shouldn't keep us from living as Americans.


Joe




Bill Greenwood
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121
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#13 Posted: 2/8/2010 11:54:56 Modified: 2/8/2010 12:03:08

Jerry, if one could go back to right after 9-11 with hindsight, one could buy some stock in Haliburton , Oskosh Trucks, or whoever makes the machines that take nude photos of airline passengers, and they would have done well. 

If you took a factual look at the 3000 deaths, most did not occur on the airliners, they came from the Trade Center buildings falling. So obviously we should not have people in tall buildings. But that would be kind of a hard sell to the public would it not, and hard to make a profit from.

 

If we put this in other terms, there are people killed each year by dog attacks, about 18 per year. Almost two thirds are by pit bulls, and if you include Rottweilers it is about three forths. So obviously we should focus most of our prevention and enforcement efforts on Golden Retrevers and Collies. Maybe we could invade a country where there are a lot of Collie owners.

Do you think that if we have secure doors and air marshals , decent, psychologically  stable, well trained ones, on the planes it would also help? Probably not as profitable though. Lot"s more markup in the high tech nude photo machine than in these. Probably a lot more applicants to look at the machines than marshalls to ride on the planes, also.

 



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
Posts
101
#14 Posted: 2/9/2010 08:21:03

Bill,

Needless to say, I find your solutions untenable. Have you figured out how many air marshalls would be needed to protect all the flights on just one day? Add in those required to cover for weekends, vacations, holidays and sickness and the number is considerable. 

 I can't tell whether you are being sarchastic, or are actually as cynical as you come across.  But, in any event, I see no reason to continue this discussion.

 

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Bill Greenwood
Warbirds of America MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
121
Posts
24
#15 Posted: 2/9/2010 10:40:52 Modified: 2/9/2010 11:27:46

Jerry, the airlines and FAA/TSA found reinforced cockpit doors tenable, if there is such a word. All the planes have them now. The trouble is that the horse was out of the barn before the doors were installed. Some foresight might have had them in place 9-11 and prevented the planes being taking over. Obviously the hijackers could and likely would have threathend the crews in the cabin, but then , armed with only knives they would have to face all the passengers. 

An air marshal on every plane or at least most of them may be expensive, but so are all the TSA machines and the delays caused to all the passengers. And it does not look like TSA is catching any terrorist. The sure are giving the 4 year old children and the 85 year old ladies a good going over. And the airlines do some of the same thing, they recently declared an emergency because of a young Jewish man who had a small traditional wooden prayer box..

I think the big difference in how we view this is not really in the details. Rather, you seem to accept the govt treating everyone like a criminal, except perhaps those who actually are most like the hijackers. And you seem to  happily accept letting the 9-11 attacks change much of our way of living, and hiding from the big, bad radical Muslim Boogie Man. Thus we have two wars which will soon have killed more than twice that of 9-11 and have injured many times more. Does that count or not? And the vast hundreds of $billions that we have spent and wasted on these wars are not available for anything meaningful like cancer research that might save many more lives than the 3000 lost on 9-11, or maybe better schools that might cut future gang and gun violence in our worst big cities, or a simple thing like more law enforcement to target drunk driving deaths on weekend nights.  Are we really going to make our lives better , by using the same plan as the 15 years or so under Johnson and Nixon where we went to a small 3rd world country and made their life miserable, not to mention a lot of our own young men and their families. ?  The courts and legal system are short of funding to combat DUIs, I know this because my Son works as an assistant prosecutor in this area.

It just does not feel right to me that we have let Bin Laden change our whole country this way, and most of the TSA solutions put in place and called for a more about profit for the companies that make the high tech devices than reality. And the targeting of private aviation and small planes is as much about our lack of real political clout, and public support  as it is any real danger from a 172. The Muir federal building was bombed using a big truck, but you don't see TSA out there targeting truck drivers or everyone who rents a truck, do you.? Why is that? Maybe taking nude photos of truck drivers in not as much fun.  Could it be that gen av is such a convenient and easy target?

Maybe I am not in too good a mood toward our all knowing govt, since they just shut down the Loran system. The Loran in my Bonanza was working just fine and despite what Big Ears the second says, not everyone has, ( or wants GPS). But whats another $5k or so for a new one?