Federal authorities may direct airports across the country to update security screening procedures amid concerns that terrorists are developing explosives to defeat current detection methods, according to reports on Monday.
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told The Washington Times that security procedures are often updated to address current threats.
“DHS regularly monitors intelligence related to terrorist groups seeking to do us harm,” the official said on background. “DHS regularly reevaluates our security apparatus, which includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, to fit an ever evolving threat environment.”
Several major airlines, airports and trade groups, as well as the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration, referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security.
Douglas R. Laird, an aviation security expert, said there are so many different aspects of security that it is difficult to generalize what the vulnerability could be or how it could be fixed.
But the biggest current weakness, he said, is in the security checkpoints that all passengers have to go through.
“The chance of finding a complex device using the technology at the airport they have today is not really improved” since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said. “They claim it has, but it has not.”
Mr. Laird, the former security director for Northwest Airlines, said that X-rays and metal detectors used on carry-on baggage don’t provide high enough resolution for security screeners to make out all items in passengers’ luggage.
“The weakness in the system right now is somebody could take the components of an IED [improvised explosive device] through the screening checkpoint and have a very good chance of not being detected,” said Mr. Laird, who is president of Laird and Associates, which specializes in helping the airline industry with security.
Controversy over exposure to radiation and privacy concerns have caused the TSA to scrap some types of full-body scanners, he said, warning that those currently in use might not be able to detect some dangerous items that persons could strap to or hide in their bodies.
“It only takes about an ounce, ounce and a half, of a liquid explosive to bring down an airplane,” he said.
CNN reported that officials said there is no imminent threat or plot, but that a potential vulnerability had been identified that was being addressed.
Counterterrorism officials have expressed concern that Syria’s civil war in Syria could give extremists a training ground to test new attacks against the U.S. and its allies.
The takeover of large parts of Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the continuing presence of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has led several experts to warn that Islamic extremist groups are rebuilding in the Middle East.