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  • Ramel Lee

Beyond “See Something, Say Something”



The innovativeness of malevolent adversaries has put transportation security consistently on the defense. Transportation security operates in a reactive manner. Limited resources cause transportation security administrators to stick with protecting against the probable rather than against the possible. Excluding security designs against the possible curtails security architect’s imagination in their countermeasures. Incidents currently taking place will dictate the implementation of new security countermeasures in aviation and public transit systems.

Aviation security has seen the most dramatic changes in security countermeasures. As previously mentioned, those security measures were reactive to attacks on the airline industry. The attacks of September 11, 2001 ushered in changes from federalizing the passenger screening process, to locking cockpits and utilization of federal air marshals. In less than a year after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was established and hired a force of 60,000 employees (Szyliowicz, 2004). Even with a force of that size, the screening process is riddled with flaws. The TSA, inspired by the security practices of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, embarked on a behavioral profiling program as a security measure (Maras, 2015).

Public transit has also been a major terrorist target in recent history. Attacks in 2004 in Madrid, 2005 in London, and 2010 in Moscow, along with a foiled attack in 2009 in New York City (Maras, 2015). Between 1991 and 2001 42 percent of all terror attacks occurred on public transit systems (Hess, 2006). Public transit systems are vast and service billions of riders. The complexities of public transit systems present an ample amount of vulnerabilities that can be exposed by attackers. Hess (2006) points out “Public transit is particularly attractive to extremist because it generates crowds of people and can usually be found in central locations in cities, often amid high residential and job densities”.

In my opinion, the countermeasures that will be implemented in the future will combine, awareness, profiling, and technology. Vigilant citizens have kept individuals safer than technological countermeasures (Maras, 2015). Awareness campaigns need to and will expand beyond “See Something, Say Something”™. The current awareness programs tell people what to do in case of an emergency (Hess, 2006). New programs should tell the public what to look for (profile) and how to engage technology to a specific target. In addition to training the public, Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) should be advanced and implemented. FAST seeks to use technology to read nonverbal signs of suspicious behavior of those with the intent or desire to cause harm (Maras, 2015). With millions of potential attackers, imagine the general public being “trained” in behavioral observation techniques and the ability to activate some sort of FAST device; that would make a formidable defense system. Works Cited: Hess, D. B. (2006) Security on Buses and Trains. Journal of Security Education, 1(4), 119-132. Maras, M.H. (2015). Contemporary Security Issues (eBook). Jones and Bartlett. ISBN: 978-1-284-00226-3 Szyliowicz, J. S. (2004) Aviation Security: Promise or Reality? Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 27(1), 47-63


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