Shoe bomber attacks may be coming back again to an airport near you again, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has issued covert warnings to airline operators to be on the lookout for more explosive footwear. Other well-placed but unnamed intelligence officers have reportedly stressed that there are no red flags flying and were “puzzled” about why DHS issued the warning, according to a CNN report.
To date, only one shoe bomber, Richard Reid, has been apprehended. Reid was captured in a failed attempt to destroy American Airlines Flight 63, on a flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001, in what would have been the first attack on an American icon since the World Trade Center bombing on Sept. 11, 2001. In the Richard Reid case, the shoe bomber’s plot was foiled by an alert flight attendant, who caught Reid red handed while trying to ignite a fuse which refused to burn because it was too damp from Reid’s perspiration and the wet weather in Paris where he boarded the plane.
In the aftermath of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on Nov. 12, 2001, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Kuwaiti- Canadian who agreed to cooperate with authorities to gain a reduced sentence on terrorism-related charges, alleged that the Airbus 300-600 was brought down by a second shoe bomber, Abderraouf Jdey, with another shoe bomb device. The official explanation that the crash resulted from errors made in the cockpit has been challenged by first responders who were on the scene minutes after the crash, but the fact remains that Abderraouf Jdey was still alive in 2004, three years after Flight 587 went down in the Belle Harbor section of Queen, New York. This means that he could not have been on the plane when it crashed.
While there’s no other hard evidence to support the belief that there have been any successful shoe bomber attacks, Scotland Yard suspects their subway bombers may have used shoe bombs to penetrate the London subway system’s security measures, honed by defending the system against decades of IRA bombing runs. The evidence, however, has gone up in smoke, if there ever was any to begin with.
Today’s warning indicated there were signs that terror groups have been working on new shoe-bomb designs that, presumably, do not depend on ordinary, moisture-averse fuses, but that scenario seems unlikely because – until recently – the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations required all passengers to remove their shoes so they can be tested for explosive compounds.
Those rules are being superseded by new TSA protocols that will allow travelers passing through 100 selected airports without removing their shoes, belts, and jackets.These exceptions are being granted in addition to the senior citizen exemption that is now being granted to allow seniors to keep their shoes on as they pass through security.
In addition to relaxed rules at many airports, the PreCheck program gives frequent fliers the option to pay $85, verify their identity and provide fingerprints at an enrollment center. Once they are accepted into the Precheck program, they will join thousands of frequent who were nominated for the PreCheck program by their favorite airlines.
The sources who leaked the story stressed that there was no imminent threat assessment, nor any chatter indicating that a shoe bomber was about to board an aircraft at an airport near you. Instead, the unnamed sources are stressing that the warning is based on chatter indicating that terror groups are have been working on new shoe bomb designs.
Peter Greenberg, travel editor at CBS News, has a different take on the “PreCheck” program. In a Nov. 12, 2013 post on his LinkedIn page, Greenberg reported on his own experience with the PreCheck program.
According to Greenberg, just being enrolled in the PreCheck program doesn’t mean that you will automatically get to use the PreCheck lanes to breeze through security. On an apparently random basis, the system refuses you. The travel editor was miffed because he was refused on two out of five recent occasions, which means that he was only deemed trustworthy on 60 percent of his flights. As he puts, you’re either a trusted traveler, or you are not.
If there any one lesson learned from the events on Flight 63 story, it is that one person – one shoe bomber – can bring down an airliner, but one person -like American Airlines flight attendant Hermis Moutardier – can step up and stop him.
By Alan Milner