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Transportation Security Administration

Staying Ahead of Potential Terrorist Threats

Wednesday, July 06, 2011
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A possible terrorist threat is in the news today, and many of you are likely wondering what’s going on behind the scenes.

TSA recently briefed air carriers and foreign partners on intelligence involving concealed explosives. Unfortunately, intelligence has continued to indicate an interest in terrorists targeting aviation. Due to the global technological advancements in security, they are pursuing different ways to go undetected while concealing explosives.

Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable and may differ from location to location. What kind of screening might passengers notice? Increased interaction with passengers, pat-downs, canines, and the use of different technologies such as explosive trace detection.

Because TSA does not conduct aviation security screening overseas, our air carrier and foreign government partners play a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and raising the awareness of U.S. counterterrorism officials. Airports with direct flights to the United States must ensure they meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) security standards as well as any additional measures required by TSA. As always, we urge federal, state and local law enforcement as well as the private sector to remain vigilant.

Domestically, TSA employs a layered approach to ensure the security of the traveling public from curb to cockpit and the Nation's transportation system. These layers include intelligence gathering and analysis, deployment of cutting edge technology, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public. Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a strong, formidable system.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

None of the layers can detect a bomb inside a person. In fact, nothing short of an MRI could detect this.

So which is it? Are you going to be ineffective (21 layers, none of which can detect or stop the problem) or are you going to require everyone go through MRIs?

Submitted by TSA Abuse Watch on

I don't fear Al Qaeda.

I fear being sexually assaulted. I fear being irradiated and get cancer.

I fear the TSA.

So far, the only people to terrorize me at an airport have been wearing Blue Shirts and Blue Gloves.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Other than the terrorist being shifty eyed and laughing maniacally, there is little hope of stopping someone with a bomb inside of them.

AIT machines dont pick it up, pat downs cant get to it, no bomb residue if they wait enough days. You literally have no plan for stopping this attack. 21 layers arent useful if none of them can get to the problem

And any plan that increases security will just cause more and more social outrages.

You cant have it both ways. Scare the public into accepting manditory MRIs or accept that you cannot stop a determined terrorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What form will these additional security measures take? X ray scans? Strip searches? Chloroforming passengers for the duration of the flight?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Good luck with that. I question whether this story is even true. Just more TSA FUD? Will we all get abdominal x-rays at the airport? Will you be hiring state licensed radiologists this go-round? Unlicensed and inadequately-trained TSA employees have been suffering from overexposure even with the lower power scanning x-ray equipment. Will you just be checking for bodily fluid leakage from recent incisions and from postnatal women?

Submitted by Anonymous on

My seventh-grade class read Orwell's Animal Farm. Our teacher explained that Orwell had written it to warn future generations not to lie down and take it when their governments took away their rights. We thought she was being ridiculous because we lived in America! Land of the free and all that!

Then came the TSA. Any of this sound familiar?...

Two of the Seven Commandments:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.

"Napoleon is always right."

"Ah, that is different!" said Boxer. "If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right."

Submitted by Anonymous on

I feel like Blogger Bob secretly thinks his posts are nonsense, and allowing all our disgruntled comments is the only way he gets to express the fact that he agrees with us. If that's the case, Bob, you're an OK guy.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm not just being a brat here; everyone's wondering, I'm legitimately asking, and there's nowhere else to get an answer (speculative or otherwise) from the horse's mouth. Is the TSA planning to implement endoscopy, anal probe, or gynecological-exam procedures now that terrorists apparently aren't too shy to swallow bombs, sew them into their skin, or stick them where the sun don't shine? Or will we have to go through actual X-ray machines and pretend we won't get cancer?

Submitted by Anonymous on

So what's going to be the next great gadget to join the lineup at security checkpoints? A robotic rectum checker?

Everything the TSA does, it does to instill fear in travelers, in hopes that some of it will rub off on some passer-by with a bomb in his pants. Or so terrorists will think, "Oh no, they're virtually strip-searching people now! There's no way I could ever possibly get around that! I might as well give up my crazy plot!"

Everyone in America gets that that's your purpose. But that tactic is never going to work on terrorists. You can't scare someone into submission when their objective is to blow themselves up. So there's no reason you should continue sexually abusing law-abiding citizens. Enhanced pat downs do constitute sexual abuse, even if your policies define them otherwise. A rose by any other name and all that.

I'm getting married soon and I will NOT raise my future children in a country where government officials can do these things to them "for the greater good." I never thought our leaders would condone something so vile.

Submitted by Anonymous on

International extra screening for flights to the US is a joke, and really pointless since it is done after you already went through a regular screening point. They half-heartedly look into your bag until they find some trace of liquid. If you have a TSA-approved baggie on top of everything, they won´t look any further. If you have a water bottle purchased in the airport they will throw it out and abort any further search.

Add to that a half-hearted pat down (usually conducted while you are wearing a backpack, therefore ignoring your whole back!) and you are on your way.

And they never, ever, ask you to remove your shoes (as they shouldn´t).

Submitted by Anonymous on

Oh Great! I have a Total Shoulder Replacement. What is that? Its a stem with ball and a socket to replace my damaged shoulder. It has titanium (A LOT) stem down into my arm in the bone, and into the shoulder. It looks like an L--and sets off metal detectors at any and all airports. I also have a titanium cage around my lower lumbar spine. I get pat downs every time I travel, and have to get to the airport at least 2 hours early to make sure I get to my flight. NOW..how long will it take? I no longer can take the chance on the backscatter scanner--I am at my radiation MAX. Heaven help myself and family during the next trip we take.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, increased security for implants and such. Which I have. Also I travel with a service animal. Any suggestions on how I now get thru TSA security without major delays? Will security take longer than the two hours I presently have to plan? Its also an issue as airlines only allow animals in the cabin on a reseervation basis-so should I miss a flight, its not just get the next one--its back to the counter --back thru security--you get the picture. So surely there is an easy way for the disabled be treated like everyone else. Lets just say that DRIVING across the USA is not really an option..

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thanks TSA for all the good work you do. Many people dislike TSA, these people dislike most everything they come in contact with. I travel alot throughout the country and abroad never had a problem with ANYTHING TSA has done. All the TSA haters are just that "haters", they hate everything.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Shouldn't TSA out of the 'abundance of caution' standard it uses to justify the show inspection, the liquid band and the MMW and Backscatter X-Ray screenings now start subjecting passengers to either cavity searches or medical x-rays to find the 1 person in a billion who might actually have explosives in their body?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Actually, we see what you guys are really doing. This is about distracting from all the bad press and attempting to justify the pornoscanners. You guys already did this with the coffeecups last time (though i imagine that, like the liquid ban, came with some healthy kickbacks from the airport food service industries too)

Submitted by Anonymous on

Ugh, what a crock.
I do enjoy your circular logic -- citing all those media reports about the threats out there, though the media reports are merely reporting the TSA saying there are imaginary threats out there.
My guess is the "intelligence" is a bunch of TSA agents brainstorming ideas that might make the public scared again.
Is this all because of pending budget needs? A need to deflect attention from media reports of TSA agents stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public's luggage? Failing to check thousands of bags in Hawaii and then learning there still is not threat? Agents dying from cancer from those dangerous X-ray machines?

Submitted by Anonymous on

No big surprise - if you look back through the comments in this blog this has been discussed several times.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The TSA must really think the American people are stupid. Your disgraced organizations that humiliates law-abiding American taxpayers decides to release a story that is designed to scare average Americans after the TSA has suffered from weeks of bad press. Your approach is obvious and re-enforces the fact the TSA should not be trusted.

Unfortunately, your organization is now like the boy who cried wolf, when a real threat arises, no one will believe you. The TSA has no one to blame but yourselves.

Submitted by DJ on

increased use of explosive trace detection, which is fairly unintrusive and (as far as you've told us) quite effective, would be quite welcome!

this threat simply highlights the invasiveness and ineffectiveness of the whole body scanners.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Tin-Foil Hat alert! This is going to sound like a conspiracy. It's not, its just my opinion, but if you are so inclined I thought it would be nice to warn you to get yourself ready.

From the linked article:

"The Department of Homeland Security ... official said on condition of anonymity."

So someone in DHS started reading the comments on this blog, realized what we figured out about two minutes after the scanners hit the proverbial ground in that the scanners aren't going to detect a load of petn up someone's arse, and then 'leaked' to the media that Terrorists might do just that.

While I don't doubt the possible threat, it does make me wonder why someone in the DHS went to the media with information that will just support the TSA, which is part of the DHS. Couldn't that same Anonymous DHS Official just sent a memo down the hall to someone in the TSA? Why 'leak' it to the media unless the goal is to put evidence out in the media for the TSA to link to as justification for the next level of whatever the TSA does next to trample on our Rights as US Citizens.

This, to me, seems like the tail wagging the dog.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If this is a threat pertaining to a flight from overseas to the US (subsequently meaning more screening for those passengers), why are the screenings increasing here in the US for passengers originating travel in the US? I think this threat you perceive has more to do with keeping fear in the publics' eyes instead of an actual bonafide threat.

Submitted by FRACUS on

Where's all the comments today about , what do you think the terrorists will stick bombs in their bodies..All the brilliant peop0le out there who for the past nine years have slammed the TSA for being over zealous. C'mon where are the people..I guess this type of news might enlighten you a little that there is nothing that a terrorist won't do...oh yeah I am sure profiling will stop an implanted bomb...even the Saudis didn't profile the individual who trked to blow up a Saudi prince by implanting a bomb..those Saudis are the top of the food chain when it comes to security, but they didn't get it either...so please keep your mouths shut from now on..I have an idea what if the TSA ceased providing security for 90 days at all airports...no x-ray, no pat down, no profiling..that will show us all just how many of you would take the chance..after reading this news, I am guessing not many...Rest easy my friends

Submitted by Anonymous on

You do know that a body bomb cannot take down an aircraft. This has been tested already. The body absorbs the majority of the blast. Too bad your AIT scanners cant detect metals or explosives either. As many have said before you should have spent the money dogs. Speaking of - nice way to wag the dog.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I sincerely pity large chested women flying in from abroad, who will now obviously be more harassed than we are already.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Unfortunately, intelligence has continued to indicate an interest in terrorists targeting aviation."

Please provide details here - like *which* intelligence group is providing you information that makes this threat any more likely than the speculations of 10 year ago.

We trust the media about as much as the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

FUD! Absolute drivel and propaganda.

The TSA has had so much bad press the last few weeks that they're trying to psychologically scare people into compliance. Don't buy it America, the TSA and DHS is crying wolf and trying to justify their existance. This is utter JUNK.

Shame on you TSA to think that we'd actually buy this FUD.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How to predict a new "aviation threat": Whenever the TSA budget is threatened, a new "aviation threat" will be detected.

Submitted by Bcteagirl on

Must be budget time..

Goes to check

Yep, budget time.

I'm psychic!

Or you guys are just really predictable...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your article is about potential explosive devices concealed beneath the skin. I have asked this question many times and have been ignored every time: how does the TSA resolve medical/cosmetic implants beneath the skin?
The obvious answer is you just assume that all such implants are explosives and treat innocent passengers as terrorists and subject them to the most humiliating and degrading searches. Short of the TSA cutting medical/cosmetic implants out from under the skin I cannot see how you can resolve such 'anomalies'.
You raised this issue in your article so this is a reasonable question. Will you answer it?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Here's the problem, TSA. You are NOT staying ahead of the latest security threats. In fact, you seem to be one step BEHIND the terrorists at all times.

So now we've spent all this money on these body scanners and they will do NOTHING to detect the latest terrorist tactic.

And this was a terrorist concern that you KNEW was out there. Bombs concealed in people's bodies have been discussed in the comment section of this blog for MONTHS. It's one of the reasons people have been arguing AGAINST these body scanning devices. They are not an effective deterrent to terrorism.

So what are you going to do now? Your rep says you are going to emply the "use of enhanced tools and technologies." What new horror are you going to unleash on the traveling public now? You like to imply that you can protect us from terrorists. Who's going to protect us from you?

Well, I know what I'm going to do. 1) I'm going to once again write my elected officials and ask them to take 100% of our taxpayer money away from the TSA and give it to organizations that are working to identify and apprehend terrorists LONG before they even get close to their targets. And 2) I'm going to vote for Ron Paul who has promised to take steps to reign in the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow, I'm so glad that TSA spent MILLIONS of dollars of taxpayer money on body scanning machines that are completely useless in stopping the latest terrorist tactic. What a brilliant use of our money. GREAT JOB TSA!

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

Implants? For real?

Ok, a few years ago there was a news story about someone successfully pulling off a terrorist plot with a bomb inserted up his rectum. It happened in Saudi Arabia.

If you want to come up with a rationale for your intensifying searches, try using a real news story, not a plot from a bad science fiction movie.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"A possible terrorist threat is in the news today, and many of you are likely wondering what’s going on behind the scenes."


So Bob, could you give us some detailed info on the next stage?
You know, like what size Tampax will be ok, when we're supposed to remove suppositories or sanitary pads.. helpful stuff like that, to keep us up to date in the fight against terrorism? Thanks ever so much, and God bless the United States of Orwell.

Submitted by AK-VStrom on

Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a strong, formidable system.




You mean any one of those layers is capable of stopping people like this guy here? Good job, guys...you're doing terrific!

Submitted by Anonymous on

2003 mortality data from the Center for Disease Control:
-- You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
-- You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
-- You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane
-- You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack
--You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack
-- You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack
-- You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack
--You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack
--You are 9 times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack
--You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist
--You are 8 times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack
-- You are 6 times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

Submitted by Geo on

I assume we have cavity searches to look forward to in the near future?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is pure TSA propaganda.

So what are you guys going to do to protect me from getting my computer stolen from a TSA agent?

Something tells me I'm going to be asked to walk through an even bigger x-ray machine, while a TSA agent is selling my belongings on the internet and another agent is running his fingers through my wife's hair.

Submitted by F2000 on

"many of you are likely wondering what’s going on behind the scenes."

Well, Yes. And wondering how many more agents are more concerned about selling stolen ipods in ebay than busying themselves as one of your many efficient, professional and necessary layers of security.

Submitted by F2000 on

Of course, the only answer to this new threat that also fits with the oft repeated justifications for groping and porno scanners is to require travellers to fully disrobe as they go through security.

Anything short of that is pretty conclusive that your current arguments are simply used out of convenience, and not out of any tangible security principle.

Submitted by Ticked Off Traveler on

*facepalm* Really Bob? Really? This isn't even good damage control. There is no threat, this is disinformation to help justify your jobs. Propaganda TSA: "Halp! Halp! The Terrorists are coming! The Terrorists are coming!"

Nice try Bob, we know the terrorists aren't coming, and even if they were, the TSA would be useless in trying to catch them because y'all are too busy searching my grannies diapers and feeling up my 6 year old niece, or rubbing down my bare arms and legs. My plane is still more likely to crash due to pilot error or mechanical failure.

GET YOUR NASTY BLUE GLOVES OUT OF MY BRA!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is this news? We've known body cavity or implant bombs are a possibility for years. The airlines knew it too. Duh!

Nothing has changed except for the TSA's reaction to the possibility.... a reaction designed to induce and ignite fear amongst the traveling public.

Makes you stop and ask yourself: Who is the real terrorist here?

Hmmmmm........?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is this news? We've known body cavity or implant bombs are a possibility for years. The airlines knew it too. Duh!

Nothing has changed except for the TSA's reaction to this possibility.... a reaction designed to induce and ignite fear amongst the flying public.

Makes you stop and ask yourself: who is the real terrorist here? Hmmmmm........?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The problem here is really one of being realistic. It isn't possible to stop all possible risks without simply eliminating the activity that is threatened. That is true whether the problem is terrorists on airplanes or drunks driving cars. The simple fact is that the TSA is a massive over-reaction to a minor threat.

The number of people killed by terrorist attacks on airplanes WORLD WIDE is significantly less that the number of people killed in the U.S. in automobiles. Were we to over react to the threat of drunk or simply bad drivers to the same degree that we do with regard to the risk of airborne terrorism, we would make cars effectively useless. Yet for some reason the American public finds it acceptable to create an agency that is only seen as effective if it stops 100% of airborne terror attacks. In pursuit of that goal we experience, at great cost, largely ineffective but highly intrusive encroachment on civil liberties.

The answr is for the public to find the courage to accept the risk.

Submitted by Anonymous on
FRACUS wrote: even the Saudis didn't profile the individual who trked to blow up a Saudi prince by implanting a bomb..those Saudis are the top of the food chain when it comes to security, but they didn't get it either...so please keep your mouths shut from now on..

The Saudi prince survived, despite standing right next to the bomber.
Submitted by Dan on

One question: Why does your cowardice trump my liberty?

Submitted by Anonymous on

[[what if the TSA ceased providing security for 90 days at all airports...no x-ray, no pat down, no profiling..that will show us all just how many of you would take the chance]]

Well, "Fracus", TSA doesn't profile. But if they stopped all the rest of their pointless nonsense, I'd make a point to fly everywhere I could.

In the words of a boring and homerish White Sox television announcer, "You can put it on the bo-o-oard... YES!"

Submitted by RB on

Ya know, if TSA hadn't tossed a few hundred million dollars worth of Puffers (ETP) in the trash so TSA could line the pockets of Chertoff and friends we might not have to worry about this threat.

But NO, TSA is all about corruption and graft.

Good Show TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Where's all the comments today about , what do you think the terrorists will stick bombs in their bodies..All the brilliant peop0le out there who for the past nine years have slammed the TSA for being over zealous. C'mon where are the people."

Hi! This info by all accounts is over one year old. Handed to the DHS by Mi5. Question is why is the DHS reacting to this now?

Secondly us brilliant people have never said we want no security. We have said we need effective security. Effective security means metal detectors to detect metal, canines and trace detection systems to detect explosives, common sense, and more old fashioned police work. Effective security means screening ALL airport personnel and 100% of passenger cargo.

As pointed out many many times the AIT scanners cannot detect explosives or metal. The amount of money wasted on these machines is criminal. The GAO reported their testers walked through AIT scanners with handguns undetected. Something a basic metal detector can do.

Body bombs themselves also have dubious effectiveness as most of the blast is absorbed by the body. Person carrying the bomb also has little time to deliver it. You could easily spot someone fresh from surgery. This is very old news... Why now? Deflection from the real issues.

http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/declassified/2010/01/04/exclusive-intellig...

Submitted by Anonymous on

FRACUS said...".I have an idea what if the TSA ceased providing security for 90 days at all airports...no x-ray, no pat down, no profiling..that will show us all just how many of you would take the chance."

Sign me up! When does the 90 days start? I want to get to the airport before the crowd gets there so I can get a good seat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said..." All the TSA haters are just that "haters", they hate everything."

No, I don't hate everything. I just hate people like you who support what the TSA is doing even when evidence to the contrary is presented. I hate people like you who think it is my responsibility to join you in giving up one set of my Rights as a US Citizen just to exercise another set of Rights. I hate that I am treated like I am a criminal who simply hasn't been caught yet for no reason other than a desire to fly from here to another part of the country. I hate that I have to comment here as Anonymous because I fear if the TSA were so inclined I would find myself on the No-Fly list simply because I spoke out against the TSA. A list, I might add, that I would have almost no chance of ever getting myself removed from and which is a huge violation of Legal Due Process here in America. I hate that I have to keep explaining these very concepts to people like the TSA, and you, while you blissfully accept everything that is happening because the TSA said it was for your safety. I hate that people like Pistole and Napalatino (sp?), and people like you, think you know what is best for people like me, but never ask my opinion. I hate people like everyone listed above and more who ask for my opinion, after the fact, and then tell me I'm wrong because my opinion is different from what you decided was good for me.

And while that may seem like a lot of hate, I don't find it to be so. I am happy guy. I have a job I like, a wife I love, a dog, a cat, a home although I do not have a white picket fence because that is trite these days. About the only thing in life that isn't good for me is the fact that my government scares the crap out of me by installing a National Police Force under the guide of DHS and TSA. It is supposed to be the other way around, the Government is supposed to fear me as a Tax Paying Citizen with voting powers.

So, long story short.... (too late) I don't hate everything I come in contact with. Just idiots like you.

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