Israeli Aviation Security Expert in Response to Report of New ISIS Laptop Bombs Able to Evade Detection by Airport Scanners: ‘Human Element More Important Than Technology’
In response to a report that US intelligence services fear that ISIS and other terrorist organizations have developed non-detectable bombs — inside electronic devices — which can be carried on to planes, an aviation security expert told Israel’s Channel 2 on Sunday that Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport has been prepared for such a possibility for decades.
Indeed, said Pini Schiff – former head of security at Ben Gurion – attempts to insert various types of explosive devices in innocent-looking instruments is nothing new.
He pointed to the December 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am flight 203 by Libyan agents, who managed to smuggle 450 grams of explosives on to the plane inside an electrical appliance. All 243 passengers and 16 crew members — as well as 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, hit by debris — were killed.
Since then, he said, all luggage and equipment have had to undergo careful screening before being allowed to board. However, he said — responding to Saturday’s CNN report that new laptop bombs might be able to evade airport security — “The human element is almost more important than the technology. Even the best technology is not effective if the employee using it is not equipped to recognize the difference between explosives and non-harmful materials.”
Schiff said that there are two options when faced with this type of terrorist threat: One is not to let any electronic devices on planes; the other is to subject them to a much more pedantic examination, to see, for example, “whether an appliance actually works or has been hollowed out.”
To set the Israeli public’s mind at rest, Channel 2 said, Schiff stressed that the situation at Ben Gurion is much better than that of the rest of the world’s airports.
“It has been clear to us, since the mid-‘70s, that any and every item a passenger takes with him — whether it be shoes or cosmetics cases — could contain weapons of some sort,” Schiff explained. “As a result, the technology at Ben Gurion is constantly being upgraded, and employees continue to be trained to recognize weapons placed in seemingly innocuous items.”
To put travelers at ease even further, Schiff said, “The amount of explosives that can be inserted into a laptop or something similar is very small. In all probability, such a bomb could cause injury to the person sitting in the next seat, but probably would not lead to a plane crash.”