Will terrorists hijack a foreign airliner to attack Americans? That is one concern that contributed to the higher U.S. terror alert status, USA Today reports. Foreign airliners are more vulnerable to hijacking than are American aircraft, but a domestic hijacking also is possible. Said Brian Jenkins, a counterterrorism expert, “Commercial aviation is very much in the al-Qaeda playbook.”
The U.S. has spent billions of dollars since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to improve airport security. Security shortcomings in other countries are worrisome, officials say.
This week, officials at U.S. airports across the country began performing spot checks of cars and adding bomb-sniffing dogs to airport patrols.
USA Today said the new developments that led to the “orange” alert included terrorist “chatter” gathered over the past few months that recently was deemed credible by U.S. analysts, and new information received about extremists abroad planning attacks soon to rival Sept. 11, 2001.
Extra patrols covered the nation’s waterways from the Port of Los Angeles to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, where 50,000 travelers were vacationing on 15 cruise ships. In New York City, security was beefed up at tourist attractions, news organizations, subway stations, and commuter hubs. Heavily armed “Hercules teams” were among hundreds of additional officers patrolling streets and protecting landmarks.
The Boston Globe reported on criticism of the terror-alert system. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), called the code orange shift “a perfect example of the ambiguity — the `Crayola confusion’ — generated by the threat advisory system.” He said the Homeland Security Department failed to provide Congress with a review of the system, which it was mandated to do by last week.
A Rand Corp. report said that the “warning system can cause confusion because there has not been a willingness on the part of the federal government to help local . . . authorities define what actions are appropriate for the different threat levels.”