Attacks on Brussels international airport last month have put another question mark over perceived security at any location where people may gather. Each country has taken a different approach to dealing with both the genuine risk and helping travelers continue their lives unperturbed.
Renato Sales Heredia (pictured above) of Mexico’s National Security Commission simply stated that the situation leaves citizens vulnerable, and that security at airports, embassies and border points have been reinforced. The US, far from the security breaches in Europe has opted to make security more visible, with patrols and random checks at airports, as well as roaming sniffer dogs in public areas. Greece took a similar approach, increasing police visibility at airports but also included plain-clothes police officers stationed at metro stations and embassies to ensure that the appearance of more security is accompanied by measures that criminals may not be expecting.
Israel has stated that Brussel’s security was always too light-handed. Tel Aviv, the safest airport in the world, has an onion-layering of security since Palestinian attacks on Israeli aviation in the seventies. Much of existing security at other airports have centered on perfecting databases for screening purposes. The filtering of passengers as they enter the terminal to await their flight was priority, until the most recent suicide bombers carried out an attack without even buying a plane ticket. The Israeli authorities have a point, though to date the only other country to apply nationwide security checks at terminal entrances is Russia. The Russian Transport Minister has stated that although security is already an example of the tightest control possible at Russian airports, they are re-evaluating the system following further attacks on European airports.
Authorities in Europe have begun to be increasingly concerned about ‘soft targets’ including cinemas, shopping centers, concerts, or any queuing opportunity where security is minimal. Certain individual airports have begun individual measures, including Rome and Milan, which have emulated the US’ plan to increase police visibility, delegating police to patrol terminal entrances on buggies and increasing the use of sniffer-dogs to identify explosives on airport grounds. Los Angeles airport also performs random security checks on taxis and private vehicles for suspicious goods before passengers even enter the airport. German transporters have simply stopped high-speed train services to Brussels, arguably the least effective measure as the next target is unlikely to be a repeat on the same destination.
Keen to appear as safe as any other country following the embarrassing security breach last month, Egypt has not upped number of officers but rather chosen to place top-security professionals at airport checks. This preference for expertise over sheer quantities of police was also preferred by the UK Civil Safety and Security Unit. An official interview revealed that UK forces believe that, “airport security is as tight as we can make it in a free society.” The checks at airports, which are already fairly invasive, would not necessarily improve in quality if increased. Therefore the current plan is to train staff in behavioral analysis and make security less predictable, to ‘surprise’ terrorists with varied security measures that they are not prepared for.
The next steps worldwide will need to include closer security on insider threats, inspired by Egypt Air’s latest hijacker who was supposedly aided by an airport staff member, and Atlanta’s alleged gun-smuggling airport workers. The latest updates from security departments, governments, and private agencies will hopefully do more than simply calm the nerves of frequent flyers. However, the true effect of each nation’s aviation security choices will not be put to the test until the next successful or thwarted terrorist attack. While we take heart that something is being done globally, we hope that the next attempt is in the latter category, and those hoping to harm large groups of fairly random selection are made an example of before more people are caught in the terrorist crossfire.
Data sources: CNN, CTV News, El Economista.