Counterterrorism officials, prompted by overseas attacks against commercial airliners, have taken steps to protect jetliners at Los Angeles International Airport from terrorists armed with shoulder-launched missiles, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although there is no credible intelligence indicating that terrorists have planned such an attack at LAX, officials say the security measures are needed because portable weapons are easy to buy on the international arms market and are deadly, with infrared guidance systems that lock onto the heat emitted by jetliners’ engines.
The security measures include increased police patrols around the airport, new perimeter fencing, stepped-up training to help personnel spot the tubular weapons, and expanded helicopter surveillance during terrorism alerts so a missile’s route could be tracked in the event of an attack. A Rand Corporation report commissioned by airport authorities said that LAX is “a particularly attractive target” for terrorists and outlined ways of reducing the risk of attacks involving so-called man-portable air defense systems. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer said that counterterrorism experts have warned in numerous reports about the threat. “I’m telling you, I am reading these things and I’m losing sleep at night,” she said. “The threat is real,” John Miller, the Los Angeles Police Department’s counterterrorism chief, said in an interview after appearing at a counterterrorism conference last month at the University of Southern California. “With about 20,000 of these available on the black market, for $2,000 to $3,000 each, there is no indication it will not be tried again.”