Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Terror Dry Runs

A dry run is a simulation to test something which is good for only one use, a rehearsal. A fire evacuation plan for your home, for instance is a good example. Especially if you have children, you might want to practice escape procedures. This makes sense so that any problems can be corrected before an actual Life and Death situation presents itself. It also helps everyone understand what they are expected to do.

So it makes sense that part of the planning for another Terrorist Attack would be one or more dry runs. And like a fire drill, these dry runs would show what works, and maybe more important, what doesn't work. This technique of Dry Runs or Trials was used by the 9/11 Terrorists prior to the actual attack.

Consequently, when I hear that The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had issued an advisory (Experts Praise Airport Security Warning) about suspicious activity that may represent Dry Runs, my internal alarms sounded. Yours should too.
Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September.
This sounded ominously similar to an Usama bin Laden pre-9/11 Terror plot to blow up 11 airplanes, Shoe bomber Richard Reid and the more recent plot to blow-up airplanes bound for the US. Fortunately all of these plots were either canceled or foiled before they could be completed.

The TSA advisory was issued July 20th, and revealed today.
Citing four incidents since last September at the San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore airports, the agency said screeners had found in checked and carry-on luggage various combinations of "wires, switches, pipes or tubes, cell phone components and dense clay-like substances," including block cheese. "The unusual nature and increase in number of these improvised items raise concern."
Hopefully these are the only incidents of possible Terrorist Dry Runs. Better if they turn out to be some idiotic sort of prank. There remains a troubling question, to which we have no answer, were there other Dry Runs which escaped detection? It's possible this advisory was released as an unclassified alert, to raise awareness among the ranks of professional screeners, law enforcement personal and the general public. If so, it is another reason to celebrate the recent Congressional actions to protect anyone who in good faith reports suspicious activity. See my previous post on John Doe protection (John and Jane Doe Could Face Legal Action).
...but if someone has a block of cheese with wires and a detonator - I want the FBI to be called in," said Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at the security firm BT Counterpane.

Cheese is a good stand-in for explosives, such as C4 and Semtex, that are favored by terrorists because they can look similar to X-ray scanners, he said.
All these incidents and the people involved have been and continue to be investigated. As yet no connection to Terrorist activities or groups has been uncovered.

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