Home­land in­se­cu­rity alert: Dry ice and dry runs

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Michelle Malkin

Test­ing, 1, 2, 3, test­ing. Ji­hadists never go on fur­lough. The ques­tion is: Will Amer­ica keep hit­ting the post-9/11 snooze but­ton? At Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port, two dry ice bombs ex­ploded this week, and two oth­ers were found in a re­stricted area of the air­port. Ac­cord­ing to the Los An­ge­les Times, the de­vices “ap­peared to be out­side the ter­mi­nal near planes where em­ploy­ees such as bag­gage han­dlers and oth­ers work on the air­craft and its cargo.”

That reminds me: It’s been more than a year since watch­dogs warned Capi­tol Hill that our mas­sive home­land se­cu­rity bu­reau­cracy was ne­glect­ing th­ese very ar­eas of our na­tion’s air­ports. Grand­mas, ba­bies and war he­roes are rou­tinely groped, man­han­dled and hu­mil­i­ated in the name of trans­porta­tion safety. But un­told num­bers of ground per­son­nel still have easy, breezy ac­cess to air­planes and lug­gage.

In Au­gust, seven bag­gage han­dlers at Kennedy Air­port were ar­rested af­ter be­ing video­taped steal­ing jew­elry, cash, watches and com­put­ers from pas­sen­ger lug­gage. In June, a bag­gage han­dler at At­lanta’s Harts­field-Jack­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port was ar­rested af­ter us­ing his cre­den­tials to by­pass air­port se­cu­rity and carry back­packs con­tain­ing what he be­lieved were drugs and guns onto com­mer­cial flights. It’s al­most as if any bum­bling bimbo can con­nive his or her way into sup­pos­edly se­cure ter­ri­tory.

A Nige­rian il­le­gal alien named Bimbo Oye­wole did just that. He used a dead man’s birth cer­tifi­cate and So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber to get a job with a pri­vate se­cu­rity firm at Ne­wark Air­port. Con artist Bimbo went un­de­tected for more than two decades while su­per­vis­ing se­cu­rity guards who po­liced tar­macs, planes and cargo. Last sum­mer, in the wake of Bimbo’s be­lated bust, the DHS in­spec­tor gen­eral called for stricter back­ground checks on bag­gage han­dlers, main­te­nance work­ers and other civil­ian air­port em­ploy­ees.

But by the feds’ own ad­mis­sion, le­gions of work­ers who were grand­fa­thered into the sys­tem may yet be traips­ing around re­stricted ar­eas of our na­tion’s air­ports -- do­ing God knows what. TSA does not keep sys­tem­atic records on air­port se­cu­rity breaches re­ported to head­quar­ters. “I’m go­ing to tell you right now that the next in­ci­dent is go­ing to come from the ground,” Rep. Chip Cravaack, Min­nesota Repub­li­can, tes­ti­fied last spring. “It’s go­ing to come from the shadow of the air­craft, not from the ter­mi­nal. I’m telling you that.”

Rest as­sured, how­ever, that we are as vul­ner­a­ble as ever to the old triedand-true scheme of send­ing hi­jack­ers aboard planes to take them down. The U.S. Air­line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion spelled it all out in a memo ob­tained by WTSP Tampa Bay reporter Mike Dee­son last week.

“Bring­ing down an air­liner con­tin­ues to be the Gold Stan­dard of ter­ror­ism,” the doc­u­ment warned U.S. Air­ways pi­lots. “If any­one thinks that our en­e­mies have ‘been there, done that’ and are not tar­get­ing com­mer­cial avi­a­tion -- think again. There have been sev­eral cases re­cently through­out the in­dus­try of what ap­pear to be probes, or dry runs, to test our pro­ce­dures and re­ac­tion to an in­flight threat.”

The as­sess­ment bluntly de­scribed “a group of Mid­dle-East­ern males” who boarded a flight at Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for Or­lando, Fla., on Septem­ber 2. On­board, the men made “a scene”: run­ning to­ward the flight deck door, loudly open­ing and shut­ting over­head bins, and mak­ing what ap­peared to be a co­or­di­nated at­tempt to dis­tract flight at­ten­dants. Fed­eral air mar­shals were con­cerned enough about the be­hav­ior to “make their pres­ence known.” The memo notes that a se­cu­rity search found “ev­i­dence of tam­per­ing” on the plane.

It’s just the lat­est sus­pected dry run since the 9/11 at­tacks:

In May 2011, Ye­meni na­tional Rageh Ahmed Mo­hammed al-Murisi rushed the cock­pit door aboard Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 1561 shriek­ing, “Al­lahu ak­bar!” at the top of his lungs more than 30 times in­tend­ing to take down the plane and kill ev­ery­one on board.

In July 2011, Saudi Ara­bian na­tional Saleh Ali S. Al­ra­makh caused United Air­lines Flight 944 from Chicago to Ger­many to di­vert to Cleve­land af­ter vi­o­lat­ing air­line se­cu­rity rules dur­ing a bizarre melt­down. He locked him­self in the bath­room when pas­sen­gers were sup­posed to be seated, scuf­fled with flight at­ten­dants and had to be re­strained by the flight crew and other pas­sen­gers.

In 2010, Pak­istani na­tional Muham­mad Abu Tahir was sen­tenced to prison af­ter dis­rupt­ing AirTran Air­ways’ At­lanta to San Fran­cisco Flight 39. Af­ter de­fy­ing flight at­ten­dants and lock­ing him­self in the bath­room, the plane was di­verted to Den­ver. His im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and oc­cu­pa­tion were un­known, though he had lived in the U.S. since at least 2002.

In De­cem­ber 2009, of course, failed un­der­wear bomber Umar Farouk Ab­dul­mu­tal­lab boarded North­west Air­lines Flight 253 from Am­s­ter­dam to Detroit with skivvies loaded with plas­tic ex­plo­sives.

In 2006, U.S. and Bri­tish of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged al Qaeda dry-run plans in­volv­ing op­er­a­tives smug­gling liq­uid ex­plo­sives onto planes through their carry-on lug­gage.

In 2004, 13 Mid­dle East­ern men aroused the sus­pi­cion of fed­eral air mar­shals, flight crew and pas­sen­gers on North­west Air­lines Flight 327 with dis­rup­tive red-flag be­hav­ior at take­off and land­ing.

And in Au­gust 2001, one month be­fore 9/11, ac­tor James Woods wit­nessed four sus­pi­cious Mid­dle East­ern males aboard an Amer­i­can Air­lines flight from Bos­ton to Los An­ge­les. Woods shared his fears with the pi­lot and filed a re­port with the FAA. His warn­ing was ig­nored. Years later, the feds con­firmed it was in­deed a dry run and that 9/11 lead hi­jacker Mo­hammed Atta was on Woods’ flight.

Feck­less feds keep ad­mon­ish­ing the rest of us to “say some­thing” if we “see some­thing.” But what good will it do if they’re asleep at the wheel, blind to cor­rup­tion and deaf to ji­had?

Michelle Malkin is the au­thor of “Cul­ture of Cor­rup­tion: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies.” Her e-mail ad­dress is malk­in­blog@gmail.com.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Po­lice at Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port stepped up pa­trols af­ter the ar­rest of a bag­gage han­dler in con­nec­tion with a pair of small ex­plo­sions.

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