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 organisations and eco-systems. While building its global organisation, '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 counter measures 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 detect "Ingenious explosives"
Meanwhile the vision of Al Qaeda always was building presence inside their targets to change them 'like a 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 own people on key positions within the eco systems 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 of the jobs are with private employers such as airlines, hotels, cleaners and food service companies, while other airport jobs are directly 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 eco systems 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. It is at that first line of defense, that 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 obviously alert for thefts from baggage carousels, swiped property left unattended, and thefts by baggage handlers.
* Under that layer of insured petty crimes hides trafficking by serious organised crime.
Even though the list of serous crimes recorded inside airports areas seems sheer endless, what we know is a tip of the iceberg.
* Criminal and anti money laundering investigations revealed the presence of the 'nexus organised crime terrorism' on airports in Europe and the MENA.
Investigations came for example across; 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 that controlled their traffickers of white heroin, al Shabaab operating telecom shops facilitating credit card airline ticket fraud, Boko Haram perpetrating ID theft, operating 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 obvious criminal eco systems on airports.
First published by Ultrascan Humint Februari 2014 - 2016
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