Homeland Security Network Blog
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Terror in the Workplace: How to Counter the Threat?
By Pierre Spain
The following article was adapted from a speech given at a conference titled Islamic Radicalism in the Workplace sponsored by FIRM (Forum on Islamic Radicalism and Management) in Paris November 16, 2017.
The airline business has been a target for terrorists since the early 70’s. There were bombings on planes prior to this, but the first terrorist attack was against a Swissair aircraft in 1970 and was attributed to the PLO at the time.
But the attack that shook the world and changed the face of airline security was the bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland in December of 1988.
Since then, the airline industry has spent an enormous amount of money and resources on ways to protect itself. These measures were boosted hugely following 9/11 when governments became involved – in the U.S. through Homeland Security and the Transport Security Administration (TSA).
There are now good, automated systems to identify potential threats and solid security processes in place that vet passengers and their baggage prior to boarding, starting with intelligence and ending with prevention and detention.
However, that is not the end of the story.
Change in Tactics
The big change in terror tactics, from the early days of hijackings and bombings, is the willingness of terrorists to sacrifice their own lives in the commission of the act.
In aviation, we saw this first in 2004 when two domestic Russian aircraft were brought down by Chechen suicide bombers. The tactic grew in the Middle East with individual attacks and was further developed in Paris with the combination of the suicide bomber and armed attacker.
This was a significant shift in tactics, one that changes how a siege or attack is handled and what the results will be. Although these were high profile events, there have been more localized attacks with employees attacking colleagues or supervisors.