[Editor’s note: In light of the horrific shootings today inside the lower level baggage claim area of Terminal 2 at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in Florida, last August, John Halinski, a former TSA deputy administrator and former chief operating officer for TSA responsible for helping TSA grow as a high-performance counterterrorism agency, warned in his Homeland Security Today report, Curbside Vulnerability, about the lack of security outside and immediately inside the nation’s airports]
The horrific attack at the terminal entrance of Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in June and just inside Brussels’ airport in March are stark reminders that much work must be done to protect the vulnerable front side of airports. Previous vehicle-borne attacks in Scotland, the murder of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer in Los Angeles and an incident of “suicide by cop” in Houston are but a few examples of preventable tragedies in this vulnerable part of the airport.
The street side of an airport historically has been susceptible to attack by terrorists, and this vulnerability is now being exploited. The obligation to protect travelers and employees is a shared responsibility – most residing with the airport authority and its police or associated security elements, which are typically undermanned and under budgeted.
Unfortunately, this zone from the front of the airport to the federal checkpoint is many times a “no-man’s land” lacking any real security personnel, adequate physical protective structures, a general lack of security technology and effective coordinated security policies.
Internationally, airports have increased procedures to protect this vulnerable front zone. They have taken measures to protect the front of the airport from vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, have instituted procedures to check passengers before they are allowed to enter the airport and have improved the physical structure of the front side of the airport to resist impact from explosions. Additionally, in many countries, military and national law enforcement agencies provide frontside protection of airports. Regardless of where the responsibility lies, an armed presence is an absolute necessity, but that responsibility comes at an enormous cost.
What can be done to protect those who have yet to pass through security? All entities with transportation equities must be committed to a risk-based approach with unfettered cooperation.
Read the complete report here.