- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Security aboard flights into Glasgow Airport was beefed up two weeks ago with protection by U.S. air marshals who are now on board every inbound and outgoing European flight, according to a Homeland Security official.

Air marshals also began guarding flights into Prague at the same time, and in May stepped up coverage to guard all flights into and out of Germany, where terrorists are reportedly in the advanced planning stages of an attack. Air marshals are also guarding some flights into South Asia airports.

An official who asked to remain anonymous said suspicious events aboard flights have been reported and are being investigated but declined to reveal any details of the events.

“There is so much going on out there. We do know these guys are definitely in an operational phase right now,” the official said.

As of yesterday, eight suspects including three physicians had been taken into custody by British authorities for questioning in the weekend attack on the Glasgow Airport and two car bombs dismantled in London.

The aviation sector in the U.S. has been on high, “Orange Alert” since August, when another plot was uncovered in Britain to hijack nearly a dozen airlines and use liquid explosives to bomb the planes over U.S. airspace.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday appeared on morning news programs and said the U.S. is in a “constant process of monitoring people that we believe have connections with terrorists or with al Qaeda.”

“We’re also concerned about people coming from Europe to the United States, which is why we’ve taken some very vigorous steps to increase the type of information we collect on passengers coming to the United States from overseas,” Mr. Chertoff told ABC News.

Appearing on the Fox News Channel yesterday, Mr. Chertoff said “we don’t have specific information about an attack against the homeland at a particular time.”

“I will say we have seen an increase in the number of public statements recently by al Qaeda leaders. That’s certainly a matter of concern,” Mr. Chertoff said on “Fox and Friends.”

The official confirmed reports that there has been an increase in communication that plans for an attack are in place in the U.S. and that there continues to be concerns over a “spectacular attack” in Germany.

“Flying remains the biggest concern. [The terrorists] … come back to aviation” as a target, the official said.

Mr. Chertoff said U.S. officials “are concerned about the fact that there seems to be an uptick in the number of either homegrown terrorists in Europe or people who have some kind of European connection who are engaged in terrorist activity.”

“We have an increasing concern about people who might be training in Pakistan or Afghanistan or in South Asia and who might then be traveling to Europe, where they have European documents because they’re European citizens, and then might use Europe as a platform to launch an attack against the U.S.Mr. Chertoff said.

“And we’ve taken some very specific measures to increase the amount of information we’re gathering on passengers precisely for that reason,” Mr. Chertoff said.