The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Dec. 3-9, 2005

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl gives a weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession


Last Friday, the TSA formerly announced it was changing its rules on objects allowed to pass through screening. The new rules allowed for such objects as small scissors and screwdrivers to be allowed, with the rationale being that secured cockpits and the ability to focus more resources on explosives detection would out-justify the cost of focusing numerous personnel to find these small objects.

How well TSA could find these small objects has always been slightly in doubt. I remember when, just two months after 9/11, I hopped a plane with my keys in my carry-on bag. I had forgotten to remove a tiny 1-inch pen knife that I had clipped to my keychain. It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I didn't even recall that this small blade was attached to the keys until after I landed and was sorting my luggage out at home.

Was it a bit disconcerting that the newly installed TSA measures had failed to recognize my miniature Swiss-army knife? I'm not sure I can really find fault. Among my safety razor, shaving cream, ink pens, Walkman and keys, such an item would be a difficult thing to recognize, even with the state-of-the-art X-ray systems being used on these scanners today. Were it about an inch longer, I have no doubt it would have been picked up by the screeners, and rightfully so.

As someone who reports on the security industry everyday, and as an air traveler myself, I find the new changes a breath of fresh air. Yes, we may have opened ourselves up to possible attacks between passengers with screwdrivers, but today we're seeing the rapid implementation of more "fresh air" via the "puffer" machines from companies like Smiths Detection and General Electric. These EDS (explosive detection system) machines, appearing at select airports as part of pilot projects, will become more accurate and will achieve higher-throughput, and instead of focusing on risks like a screwdriver threat, we can face more substantial risks like the presence of bombs on crowded concourses and on our jetliners.

There are those, however, who would not agree with my endorsement of this rule change. I don't dispute them; they see risk and are responding to what they see as immediate concerns. To see that other point of view, take a look at comments from Craig P. Coy, chief executive of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan Airport, on the new TSA rules. Also consider comments from flight attendants, who believe that they have become a line-of-defense against small-items attacks within airplanes.

On this same topic, there's news of a prototype shoe scanner that would detect explosives hidden in shoes. L-3 also landed sales of baggage detection systems at nine Mexican airports, which is encouraging news, since the push towards transportation security has to be universal to ensure that these explosives can't move at all. There's a lot happening on these subjects; so, to stay in-the-know, keep a close eye on the news and announcements that appear on our content-specific Detection Systems and Transportation Security landing pages.

Petro-Chemical Security

Last week, the state of New Jersey became the first state to make specific requirements for security of chemical plants. The state has an estimated 140 chemical or petro-chemical plants within its borders, and is being proactive by requiring that assessments and response plans be not only coordinated by plant safety/security, but also by the state. No surprise here, really...N.J. Senator Corzine (now the governor-elect) has been a longtime proponent of government controls over chemical plant security.

Rolling the Dice

Harrah's casino and resort in Tahoe was the unfortunate site of violence when an argument escalated to the point of a patron drawing a gun. Prompt response meant that casino security and local deputies were able to control the situation rather remarkably according to news reports. The situation ended with the gunman being "downed" -- read more.

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