The U.S. is concerned about reports that radical Muslim terrorist groups are getting more and more creative with their bomb making capabilities. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which monitors terrorist chatter, there has been some intelligence that terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula have been building bombs designed specifically to target commercial air flights. Further, there is concern that these new and improved bombs are being constructed of non-metallic materials that may escape detection by current airport security measures unless tightened.
If the chatter is true and these “new generation” bombs come into play it could potentially allow would be suicide bombers to smuggle the explosive devices onto airplanes. As was tragically demonstrated by the events of September 11, 2001 airplanes can be extraordinarily effective weapons of mass destruction.
President Obama responded to the potential increased threat by pursuing an examination and possible overhaul of current airport security systems. The tightened security measures would also need to be in place for overseas airports because, as Representative Peter King (R) from the House Homeland Security Committee states, “…a number of airports do not have the type of security that they should have.” He further stated that the U.S. needs to be “very aggressive” in responding to the potential security risks overseas but declined to provide further details.
Terrorist chatter about the building of bombs that could potentially escape detection by airport security was intercepted as early as February of this year. Since then DHS and the Obama administration has been developing plans to enhance national security measures in airports and it appears, given the rising threat level, that those measures may soon be implemented. The new increased security measures for both national and overseas airports could include additional profiling and random checks of travelers although details as to the tightening methods have yet to be released.
Some of the chatter specifically relating to detection free bombs has been far more sophisticated than previous chatter related to underwear bombs or shoe bombs. This has senior intelligence agencies on high alert. According to a report by ABC News, the chatter represents a threat that is “different and more disturbing than past aviation plots.” However, DHS has not provided any information on possible credible chatter that identifies a time or location that represents a specific terrorist threat.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has now claimed to be the leader of radical Islamic terrorism and has declared statehood for the areas it now occupies in Syria and Iraq. ISIS also claims to be ushering in a “new era of international jihad.” In addition, these militants have put out the call for all terrorists to swear fealty to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Of further concern are reports that al Qaeda connected groups in both Syria and Yemen have united in their cause to inflict terror on the west. According to ABC News, it may be this “potentially lethal partnership” that has prompted additional security concerns.
Regardless of the faction or allegiance, any radical Islamic terrorist group that has the ability to build bombs capable of escaping detection by U.S. and overseas airport security represents a huge threat. Tightening security by increased profiling and random security checks may not suffice to catch potential suicide bombers and the new generation of bombs could easily lead to an increased risk of an airplane being used, once again, as a weapon of mass destruction.
By Alana Marie Burke