- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Transportation Security Administration has told federal aviation officials to be on the lookout for possible terrorist activity after an increase of “suspicious incidents” at U.S. airports.

The surge in these incidents “may indicate terrorists are conducting pre-attack security probes and ‘dry runs’ similar to dress rehearsals,” according to a TSA intelligence report.

“Past terrorist attacks and plots show that such testing generally indicates attacks will soon follow, according to a joint FBI and Homeland Security assessment,” the TSA report stated.

The report cited probes and dry runs in Baltimore, Houston, Milwaukee and San Diego.

In all of the cases, carry-on baggage contained “several items at airports resembling improvised explosive device (IED) components,” the TSA report stated.

On Sept. 16 in Baltimore, screeners found “a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.”

Houston screeners on Nov. 8 found “a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals and pipes.”

On June 4, screeners in Milwaukee discovered “several items resembling IED components, such as a wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese.”

Screeners in San Diego found “two ice packs covered in duct tape” on July 5. “The ice packs had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.”

A Homeland Security official called the report “routine information sharing.”

“There continues to be no credible or specific threat to the homeland at this time,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “TSA has sent 90 of these types of products to airport authorities, law enforcement partners and TSA personnel since January.”

This is the first time the agency has said that probes and dry runs are occurring.

The TSA said identifying such incidents is key to preventing future terrorist attacks. The report cited the August 2006 plot to blow up airlines using liquid explosives and said “terrorists discussed dry runs to test airport security procedures.”

In June 2005, “operatives discreetly practiced a mock attack while riding the London subway.” The following month, 52 persons were killed on coordinated attacks on the city’s transportation system.

And, in the months prior to the September 11 attacks, the “hijackers rehearsed events aboard transcontinental flights,” the report stated.

The plots and attacks “demonstrate that operational tests results hold unlimited value for terrorist planners and may even prepare terrorist operators for stress experienced on the actual attack day,” it stated.

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