Saturday, May 13, 2017

U.S. airlines meet with Homeland Security on expanding laptop ban | Reuters

This threat is real, but I am not sure the risk assessment is valid as far as it goes. Yes the threat can be seen in the x-rays shown in this article, but it is the amount of explosives that can be available in these devices. In some of these cases it would appear the explosive content would be less than 6 to 8 ounces. Can this be deadly, yes, it could result in the death of the people around it, and by that it would people with in a few feet, and even then the device would not have a high probability of killing those people, but it would cause sever injuries. As with any explosive device going off the fragmentation from the devices, could reach out and kill people at a further distance, but the chances are fairly low. Its chances of bringing down a plane are very small, the device in the Pan Am 103 bombing was considered to be around 11 ounces, and it did bring down the plane. But what is not talked about is the incredible misfortune that plane experienced. The bomb was in a tape recorder/boombox that was in a suite case, that was in a baggage container with a lot of other suite cases. The misfortune was that the bomb ended up near the edge of the suite case, and that suite case ended up near the edge of the container, and that container just happen to be right up against the body of the plane, actually on a rivet line of the body of the plane. Then to make it all worse the plane was going through a rough patch of air, that put the plane at high stress levels, if any of that had not been in place, it is quite possible the plane could have survived. Now that is the threat, a small tablet or smart phone carrying a small amount of explosives, or perhaps only the detonator for a larger bomb, is the threat we face. Bigger electronic devices are quite probably at much larger threat, and would have to be banned until this threat is resolved either by finding the problem people, and or detecting the device. It is not been fully explained but the problem is exacerbated by the lap tops that have made it on planes and have been detonated, both seemed to be the problem of an insider threat, in this case people working at the airport sneaking devices by security, in one case they have a video of a passenger being given a laptop when he was past security. In some areas of the middle east the insider threat problem is almost insurmountable. In Egypt for instance when the Muslim Brotherhood took control of the government they put followers in a lot of critical spots, some of those spots turned out to be key areas of the airport, to include airport security. In Brussels one of the bombers used to work part time at the airport, and 7 to 9 others working at the airport were also Islamic Radical followers. As the aviation industry comes to terms with this evolving threat, we all have to agree that the insider threat is real and is in many airports. Just look at the number of drugs smuggled on planes every day, in that case the insiders have proven to be people working for the airlines, and airports, and have been TSA screeners, as well as local police. The hardest insiders for the US to deal with would be the TSA staffing since they are in charge of the main line of defense at the airports. There at this point are really no over site control of the TSA except their Internal affairs teams. and if the word gets out in some way then the FBI can move in. In a number of cases the TSA staff ran smuggling operations for over a number of months. If just one pack of drugs was really carrying explosives and the two packages can look identical, then the results could be devastating. Lastly the detection of the devices by screeners even expert screeners, has been a problem for this particular bomb maker. A few years ago two bombs had been put in printer cartridges, an informant told the US about them, and one was found in an Mideastern country, the other made it to London, and was not found on the first two searches. This is the bomber or his trainees that it is believed we are dealing with here. So do we except the risk, do we mitigate the risk, by only letting smaller devices like tablets and almost any smart phone. This is the question, it is a tough one, but one that a risk assessment analyst has to deal with all the time. If I were doing the assessment, I would error on the side of letting more devices on, with a nod to our intelligence folks to give us a heads up.
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