Al Qaeda repeatedly designated high-profile airlines as targets in a bid to "crush the enemy's economy." A long-term prime target in the sense of patiently creating access to the aviation industry, airport organizations, and ecosystems. While building its global organization, 'patience' has proven to be one characteristic of the Al Qa'ida leadership.
The priorities are passenger and baggage screening; airport security, including access control and perimeter surveillance; aircraft protection; security personnel training; implementation of security clearances of airport personnel; air cargo screening; and armed security, including deploying air marshals.
In the past decades, the aviation industry became leading in developing Hi-Tech countermeasures against threats.
Initially, the state-of-the-art detection systems in place at modern airports make it difficult for terrorists to sneak bombs onto planes.
After the threat by AQAP-Khorasan with "Ingenious explosives" and "tactics not detected by security measures," the efforts of the security industry were immediately dedicated to detecting "Ingenious explosives."
Meanwhile, the vision of Al Qaeda always was building presence inside their targets to change them 'like cancer from within and enable their mission "Tactics."
* Terrorist groups found loopholes and developed new ways to get bombs onto passenger jets by recruiting insiders and inserting their people in critical positions within the ecosystems of their enemies.
It takes a vast array of workers to make Big Airports run smoothly. Customers rely on pilots, mechanics, ticket agents, security personnel, and vendors to create a smooth transportation hub. Most jobs are with private employers such as airlines, hotels, cleaners, and food service companies, while other airport jobs are direct with the facility.
For example, there are 76,000 employees in the London Heathrow airport area
When properly secured, access to aircraft is limited to owners, pilots, service personnel, and other authorized persons.
* Organised crime has access to the ecosystems of all those categories. This threat always existed but changed dramatically when shifting from criminally into ideologically motivated.
The airport, where crime meets ideology
The workforce and visitors on an airport mirror society, including crime. At that first line of defense, tackling crime at the back leads to treating symptoms and needs to be addressed at the front before incidents happen.
* International transport hubs provide a perfect matrix to synchronize and fuse criminal inspired activity with ideology-driven terror mechanisms.
Since losses are covered by insurance, why worry about security? Frequently stolen items are laptops and iPads. Travelers and security are alert for thefts from baggage carousels, swiped property left unattended, and robberies by baggage handlers.
* Under that layer of insured petty crimes hides trafficking by serious organized crime.
Even though the list of serious crimes recorded inside airport areas seems sheer endless, what we know is the tip of the iceberg.
* Criminal and anti-money laundering investigations revealed the 'nexus organized crime terrorism' on airports in Europe and the MENA.
Investigations revealed, for example - Hezbollah with smuggling and sale of counterfeit drugs. - Members of the Muslim Brotherhood who worked at the airlines (pilots) and as staff in the baggage department facilitating card fraud and theft. - The Taliban controlled their traffickers of white heroin. - Al Shabaab is operating telecom shops facilitating credit card airline ticket fraud. - Boko Haram is perpetrating ID theft, conducting fake bank branches, and change offices. - And all major crime groups that worked on the airports knew beforehand which of the flights (the passengers) would NOT be checked.
Few airports require employee screening before work, a shared responsibility often starts with the private employers and ends with a limited crosscheck for criminal records before security badges are issued.
* In European airports, we found minions everywhere, from airplane cleaners, maintenance, pilots, shuttle service, and baggage handlers to operators of screening machines that waved their friends through checkpoints. Also, security staff that knowingly 'operated' a scanning machine with crucial malfunctions were not exceptional in the MENA.
Suspect behavior by staff is often categorized and prioritized under the usual crimes, which intentionally veils possible terror (support) acts.
Profiling for terror threats needs to be adapted and extended to the apparent criminal ecosystems on airports.
First published by Ultrascan Humint February 2014 - 2016
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