Monday, December 1, 2014

Tip of the Day: Follow 4 Critical Steps When Inside an Airport Terminal

Why the preoccupation on the ease of picking foreign travelers out of a crowd? It's simple. They're all potential targets!

Criminals usually know (or believe, which is just as dangerous) that US citizens invariably carry more money, credit cards, and electronics than do travelers of most other nationalities. Unfortunately, this assumption is almost never correct

For terrorists and extremists, Americans are the most desirable targets, followed by Israelis and citizens of nations with aggressive counterterrorism policies. The following case study highlights this point:

On December 27, 1985, terrorists belonging to the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), a Palestinian group connected to the Fatah Revolutionary Council, simultaneously walked into the international airports in Rome and Vienna and took positions near passengers gathered at the El Al and TWA ticket counters. They pulled AK-47s from their gym bags and fired at anyone appearing to be Jewish or US citizens. The assailants killed 18 and injured 140.

The following are more examples of targeting individuals based upon citizenship:
  • June 2004: A gunman in downtown Dar es Salaam accosted two British tourists by pointing his gun at them and demanding to know whether they were Americans. The gunman left the scene only after the tourists con- vinced him that they were from the United Kingdom;

  • January 2004: A US citizen was hiking alone on the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, when two Bolivian men approached her and asked her nationality. They then demanded money, threatened her with a knife and gun and sexually assaulted her. Both assailants told the victim they attacked her because of what the United States had done to Bolivia; and

    Today: A potential risk for all foreign travelers today is still at airports, even after the multibillion-dollar buildup of current passenger screening by airports worldwide. In most airports—in the United States and abroad—ticket counters, luggage check-in, stores, concessions, restaurants, and newsstands are in the public-access part of the terminal. Passengers do not encounter the TSA screening process (x-ray units, magnetometers, screeners, etc.) until they are well into the terminal. Ironically, despite the billions spent on airport security, the attacks in Rome and Vienna could happen just as easily at any airport tomorrow!

    Terrorists using small arms, wearing explosive belts, or carrying explosive backpacks could easily kill hundreds of out-bound passengers with little opposition from the occasional patrolling police officer. Although the risk of such an attack is remote, it still exists. To counter this threat, I offer the following:

    1. Get to the airport at least two hours before departure so that you can check in quickly;

    2. Be observant of everyone you encounter while in an airport terminal;

    3. Proceed to the security screening area and the passengers-only area of the terminal as soon as possible; and

    4. If you observe anything unusual or suspicious, report it to airport or security personnel. 

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