The events of this past Christmas day, when a Nigerian terrorist attempted to set off a bomb while onboard a Northwest Airlines flight, are a reminder that terrorists are still hard at work against the US.
We were lucky on December 25th when a Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab set off an explosive device hidden in his underwear as he sat onboard a Northwest Airlines aircraft. Thankfully, the device fizzled and the would-be-bomber was subdued by the passengers and crew.
“I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results,” said Janet Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary.
The passengers and crew did indeed react heroically, reminding one of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 who fought the terrorist hijackers on 9/11 and caused them to crash the aircraft into a field in Pennsylvania.
“The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures into place—for all domestic and international flights—to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public,” Napolitano said after the Christmas Day near-tragedy. “We are also working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners on enhanced security at airports and on flights.”
Napolitano went on to state that passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere.
On January 3, 2010, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued new security directives to all United States and international air carriers with inbound flights to the U.S. effective January 4, 2010.
TSA stated that the new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and TSA’s domestic and international partners.
“Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” TSA announced. “The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights.”
The countries of interest named by TSA are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen. The countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
Although commercial flying remains one of the safest modes of travel, business travelers should be aware of the terrorist threat and remain alert when traveling.
Sure, have a drink and read a book or magazine, as it is unlikely that a terrorist is onboard. But one should also be observant. Look for suspicious activity. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of anything that appears out of place or unusual. If you do discover suspicious activity or odd behavior of a fellow passenger, immediately report it to the airline crew.
“This is a fanatical religious sect dedicated to establishing the most oppressive medieval theocracy,” Charles Krauthammer wrote in his nationally syndicated column, describing the terrorists who threaten us. “And therefore committed to unending war with America not just because it is infidel but because it represents modernity with its individual liberty, social equality (especially for woman) and profound tolerance (religious, sexual, philosophical).”
“We are at war,” President Obama said in a speech concerning the Christmas incident. “We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.”
Business travelers, like all Americans, must remain vigilant as the terrorists are a real threat and they will likely be with us for some time.