I was on the phone yesterday with Henri Nolin, CPP, who is one of the assistant chairpersons to ASIS International's Transportation Security Council. Nolin, who works primarily with K-9 protection deployments for cruise ship screenings, is well connected in all areas of transportation security, and was telling me about an ASIS education conference he has planned for Chicago on Dec. 11-13 addressing "Trends in Transportation Security." Nolin mentioned that one of the aspects that the conference addresses is suicide bombers.
"It's not a question of whether suicide bombers will hit us in our own nation," said Nolin, "because we already know they're coming."
Indeed they are coming, and maybe in stronger numbers than before. In the September 11th attacks, 19 men trained by Al Qaeda were believed to be directly involved, and yet in the plot that was unveiled yesterday from the UK, they've already arrested some 24 persons. Many experts are saying that this plot, which was uncovered based on arrests in Pakistan, would have been the next 9/11, and when you look at the scope and the seeming sophistication involved, that seems about right.
I also was on the phone yesterday with Lynn Mattice, the director of corporate security for Boston Scientific. Boston Scientific is in a unique position to feel the effects of global terrorism, said Mattice, because the healthcare products company is truly global in its operations; he estimated that some 30 percent of the company's employees are outside of the U.S.
Mattice was discussing the company's corporate travel security policies in light of the thwarted terror plot, and one thing he stressed was that security may mean some initial inconvenience to employees or customers, but that once people become accustomed to security measures, most are actually appreciative.
One aspect of the Boston Scientific security program is that employees traveling to at-risk areas will need to coordinate travel plans through senior managers and the security department, which means they can't simply buy a ticket, jump on a plane and go. For the company's business travelers, variations are not allowed from approved travel schedules to high-risk areas without additional review. And while that may seem to outsiders to be anything but convenient, Mattice says the company employees see it entirely differently.
"I have employees and spouses that come up to me when I'm at their locations or at company events, and they tell me how appreciative they are of the security program," said Mattice. "They say thank you for protecting me, or thank you for protecting my spouse."
Indeed, says William McGuire, an aviation security consultant and executive protection specialist, in today's column on SecurityInfoWatch.com, some air security policies are outdated. In fact, you only have to look back to 1994 (12 years is really not that long ago) to find an earlier instance when a liquid explosive was used aboard an airliner. The flight was aboard a Philippine Airlines flight on Dec. 11 of that year, and a very small amount of liquid explosives was detonated under the seat of a passenger, killing the passenger. Fortunately the plane stayed aloft -- it had 287 persons aboard.
For what do we owe the ability to carry liquids aboard planes in unchecked luggage since 1994? I'd venture to say it was "convenience" (and perhaps some lobbying that such a move would have hurt the air travel business). On this topic of convenience, I'm reminded of a discussion with Richard Raisler, the director of community-wide security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta following the attacks on the Seattle Federation. Raisler lamented that the easiest time to implement additional security is after an attack or the threat of attack. Indeed, he's right -- as yesterday's ban of bottles from jets so acutely illustrates.