10/09/2001

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind!"

A Disturbing Report from the Airport Check in Line
by Al Holbert

(From the Informed Source Newsletter, published by Profiles Threat Countermeasures Group.)

In my professional capacity, I frequently travel with at least two carry-on bags which are literally crammed with newly designed electronic knik-knaks of the strange looking gizmo’s kind! I’m a Professional Security Consultant who specializes in the field of "Technical Security Countermeasures". Having an electronics background, I also design special operations electronic countermeasures security devices.

In other words, no "alert" security personnel in their right minds should ever let me pass through any security checkpoint without a careful investigation of who I am, and what I’m carrying, something I anticipate, something I prepare for, something I take extra time for, something I appreciate, and something every security checkpoint at Airports and Airlines should be responsible for professionally conducting!

All of us, from security consultants, to police officers, to executive protection specialists - devote our lives to protecting the innocent and going after the bad guys. No one knows better than we do, how conscientious everyone in security must be at all times, and we expect Airline and Airport personnel to be as conscientious about bad guys and the potential for bombs as we are. Neither you nor I want to be counted among the victims of carelessness or "things that go boom in the skies!"

Encounter number one: On December 24, 1996 accompanied by my girlfriend, trusted companion and business partner, I found myself encountering Airport Security in Oakland, California prior to my Southwest Airline flight #986 departure at 12:30, arriving later at Los Angeles Airport at approximately 1345 hours.

Being an experienced traveler and well aware of ongoing Airline Security measures (and in light of the recent loss of commercial Airliners to one excuse after another), I allowed for an extra half hour for security to check me out and check all those non-lethal but peculiar and suspicious looking high tech gizmos I was carrying. On this trip, I was combining business with pleasure, visiting my daughter over the Christmas holidays.

My carry on bags were with me. God forbid that I should ever allow my baggage out of my sight. They were crammed with three, brand new micro-miniature wireless video surveillance systems as well as an assortment of small test instruments, electrical wires, infrared devices, small hand tools, batteries - and, I believe, a text book.

I’ve been at Airports across the country and overseas with Airport Security encounters before, where not only my bags were turned inside out, but I’ve occasionally found myself in an isolated room being questioned, and even strip searched. In Paris, enroute to Israel two weeks before the Gulf War, El Al Security (spelled “Shin Bet”) even telephoned my host in Israel (a retired Army General) as to my bona fide credentials, (demonstrating good use in providing extra time for inspections which I happily provide for Airport Security and my own security.)

There was no security alertness at the Oakland, California Airport! I was sent through the security checkpoint in about 60 seconds, and my bags with all those suspicious looking electric wires and batteries were not even opened! I was stunned! So much for my first security encounter!

Encounter number two: If you’re ready for this, the exact same process was repeated on my return trip from Los Angeles Airport on December 29th, Southwest Airlines, flight #1290, leaving Los Angeles Airport at approximately 1300 hours for Oakland! This second "security" encounter left me (you should excuse the expression)... "freaked out!"

What the hell is going on?! My own life and everyone else’s at an Airport facility is up for grabs when so-called "security" measures allow anyone with what should be highly suspicious materials to pass through without so much as blinking an eye! Even though they’re innocent and non lethal, my high tech gizmos should be noticed - and they should be suspect, and I should be interrogated!

What about suspicious items that are actual dangerous items, materials or devices?! If I can waltz right through security checkpoints without attracting attention, so can any hot-head or terrorist with a real bomb! And who is better qualified to spot such dangerous incompetence than someone in our profession, particularly someone who specializes in carrying suspicious looking items?!

Encounter number three: My third "encounter" was with the editor of this Newsletter, who upon hearing this story suggested (insisted) that I write this report for our colleagues. (This is an encounter which doesn’t frighten the hell out of me as did the first two!)

When will all these Airline and Airport people take things seriously?! When will they wake up?! When will they stop conning the public into believing they’re doing their jobs? How many lives will it take?! I just pray that I won’t be counted as one of their disaster statistics (especially since I just learned that I’m shortly headed to Denver on another business trip!)


This report is presented to the security profession by Al Holbert, the CEO at Poseidon Systemsan Investigative Research/Security Development firm specializing in the Technical Security Counter Measures Field and the design of Special Operations Electronic Security devices.


This article is reprinted with permission from Informed Source Newsletter at www.profiles-threat.com.

Profiles Threat CounterMeasures Group serves clients both nationally and internationally with protective services, training and educational seminars, products, threat assessment evaluations and educational information - from small start up companies to Fortune 500 and 100 companies, to Professional Consulting and Investigative firms, Executive, Dignitary and Tactical Protection Teams, Law Enforcement, Local, State and Federal Governments both domestic and foreign.

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