• The liquid threat: Since September 2001, the [US] government
    has hired tens of thousands of government screeners and upgraded its
    metal detectors and X-ray machines. But most of the equipment is still
    oriented toward preventing a metallic gun or other easily identifiable
    weapon from being carried aboard; it cannot distinguish shampoo from an
    explosive … Most liquid explosives would require a detonator, but a
    music player or other hand-held passenger gadget has sufficient
    electrical energy to do that, according to experts. – New York Times




  • The threat from within:
    Good relations between the police and Muslim communities are not a
    pleasant side-show in the fight against terrorism. Initial indications
    suggest that some or all of those arrested today – like the 7/7 bombers
    – are British nationals, living within and among ordinary, law abiding
    Muslim communities. We cannot hope to be successful in what could be a
    long and drawn out campaign unless those communities trust the police
    and have confidence in their ability to work alongside them in
    precisely the type of partnership that [British Home Secretary] John
    Reid has signalled he wants. – Rachel Briggs, Comment is Free

  • The al-Qaeda threat: An alleged terror plot to blow up
    several transatlantic passenger jets … would have caused even greater
    casualties than 9/11, officials and experts say, marking a chilling
    departure from smaller-scale terror attacks of recent years … Experts
    say that the foiled attack suggests al-Qaeda involvement. Aviation is
    still a favoured target for al-Qaeda acolytes bent on taking terrorism
    to new heights. – Christian Science Monitor

  • American reaction: America’s security alert on aircraft
    from Britain was raised to its highest level for the first time
    yesterday – a month before the fifth anniversary of 9/11 … Even if
    the country has reached the point at which the events of 9/11 are
    deemed suitable fare for a Hollywood movie – Oliver Stone’s film World Trade Centre
    opened this week – a sense of vulnerability remains. Indeed, polls by
    the Pew Research Centre show 80% in the US believe it “likely” or
    “fairly likely” that another major terrorist attack will hit them. – The Independent

  • The sceptics: There’s a familiar ritual each time an
    operation to thwart a putative terrorist incident dominates the news.
    After the public’s initial expressions of relief and shuddering
    contemplation of what might have been, a rising chorus of sceptics
    takes over, with a string of questions and hypotheses. Was it really a
    serious terrorist plot, or only a bunch of misguided, alienated Muslim
    kids larking about with a chemistry set and a mobile phone? Sometimes,
    unfortunately, as with this summer’s ludicrously overplayed Miami
    “plot” to blow up buildings in Chicago, in which the plotters had got
    as far as purchasing some boots but not much else, overzealous
    authorities bring this sort of suspicion on themselves. But you can
    guarantee that every incident now, whatever the evidence, will be
    treated with such derisive doubt. If the police had got to the 9/11
    hijackers or the 7/7 bombers in time, a sizeable chunk of respectable
    opinion would have dismissed them as idealistic young men with no real
    capacity or intent to cause harm. – Gerard Baker, The Times

  • The media’s role: [British Home Secretary] John Reid presumably knew about the plot to blow thousands of British holidaymakers out of the sky when he warned yesterday
    that we face the biggest security threat since the Second World War. At
    5am this morning, the home secretary was chairing Cobra, the committee
    which convenes immediately a major incident is under way. It is named
    prosaically after the Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms
    in which senior officials will now be gathered in more or less
    permanent session, while ministers dip in and out. Its role is to
    gather and assess information, and to co-ordinate action. I have taken
    part during hostage crises abroad, plugging into the intelligence and
    other material coming in from the security services, diplomatic
    missions overseas (by video link) and other sources of information. It
    is vital that ministers and their media advisors know in these
    circumstances precisely what is happening, or thought to be happening,
    because at times like this the media becomes the major instrument of
    public reassurance. – John Williams, Comment is Free

  • Airline woes:
    British Airways
    has been particularly hard hit by the latest security scare. Heathrow
    is BA’s hub and it is Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports,
    that has suffered the most disruption … For BA, the present security
    threat will mark yet another troubled summer. But today’s events are a
    blow to the whole airline sector, not just BA. Even after this security
    scare passes, the TV pictures of thousands of people stuck at airports,
    having to go back home, and the stepped-up security measures – not even
    bottled water was allowed on board because of the fear of liquid
    explosives – could well make people think twice about air travel in the
    future, especially during August. – Guardian newsblog

  • Stockmarket impact: While airlines and travel companies
    were dealt a sharp blow Thursday by the discovery of a terrorist plot
    aimed at trans-Atlantic flights, shares of companies that make
    surveillance and detection technologies were boosted by prospects of
    increased spending on security. – New York Times

  • The future: Can technology create a non-hijackable
    plane? By 2008, European researchers aim to bring that vision closer to
    reality through an ambitious security program to combat on-board
    threats in an industry left reeling this week by a security scare that
    raised the spectre of September 11 … Among the non-hijackable plane’s
    features: computer systems designed to spot suspicious passenger
    behaviour, and a collision avoidance system that will correct the
    plane’s trajectory to prevent it from being steered into a building or
    mountain. – Daily Mirror

Peter Fray

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