In a recent speech to the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, Transportation Security Administrator John S. Pistole discussed the need for aviation security to be “curbside to cockpit.”
Unfortunately, today’s attack at the Domodedovo Airport on the outskirts of Moscow (the busiest airport in Eastern Europe), demonstrates the importance of a comprehensive approach to aviation security. The attack today killed 29 people in a waiting area for arriving passengers, just outside the Customs area. Another 50 were hospitalized, including 35 who were listed in critical condition. As in most airports, the area struck was outside the security zone.
In response to the attack, TSA stated “We are monitoring the tragedy at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. As always, we are working with our international partners to share information regarding the latest terrorist tactics and security best practices.”
This response by TSA is a reasoned one that hopefully will prevail in the coming days over more reactionary ones. Today’s incident demonstrates how complicated aviation security is, not only in the U.S., but internationally. Threats can be mitigated, but they must be done so through risk management and cooperation globally. The creation of international standards and strengthened information and intelligence sharing for terrorist attacks are also both critical tools.
As the U.S. further develops its “curbside to cockpit” vision for aviation security, it should recognize that security must be layered and that VIPR teams, explosive detection technologies, canines, and behavioral patterns are all important parts of a security program. Just as important is the recognition that not all travelers are the same and mechanisms for getting low-risk travelers in and out of airports quickly, while focusing government attention on those that are higher risk is critical to our future efforts.