This Saturday we celebrate 20 years of the attacks of September 11, which ended up becoming one of the greatest tragedies of our millennium. The attack not only caused the death of nearly three thousand people in the United States, it also had enormous consequences for the Western way of life.
The date September 11, 2001 marked a notorious kind of threat: planned and coordinated terrorist actions, which brought horror and uncertainty to a range of characters, institutions, processes, cultures and behaviors never before reached by any other action with similar characteristics. .
The aim of the terrorist action, organized by al-Qaeda, was to show the world that the United States was not as strong as it thought itself. In fact, with the destruction of symbols of that nation’s capitalism and military might, such as the Twin Towers, in the World Trade Center business complex, and the Pentagon, respectively, the episode brought to light security vulnerabilities in the US defense system. . Not to mention the fourth plane, which ended up crashing in a field in Shanksville after some passengers and crew tried to take control of the aircraft, and which was destined for Washington DC, where, certainly, the tragedy could be even greater.
What has changed since then? Has there been an effective improvement in the protective barriers that separate terrorists from their targets? Would it be so easy today to implement a terrorist attack along the same lines? How does technology contribute to airport security?
September 11th started a giant wave of professionalization and support for security within organizations that was very intense and constant.
Facility counterterrorism, crisis and emergency management, critical infrastructure, resilience building, contingency planning, video surveillance, guarding force and background screening have been extensively studied and reformulated to meet the protection, security and tranquility needs of people who enjoy, live, visit or work in places that, due to their characteristics, become “relevant” targets for extremists seeking visibility.
After the attacks, all attention turned to the successful planning of terrorists who turned the planes into incendiary bombs and managed to hit targets that, despite having a robust structure in terms of security, were not prepared for attacks of this nature.
The scenario unleashed from the plan designed by the terrorists highlighted that the bigger and more important the target, the more “positive” would be the result for those who planned the attack.
In light of this statement, countries that have consolidated democracies and a free press constantly become targets for terrorist actions. Precisely because of the repercussion achieved in the media. Targeted enterprises such as hotels, sports halls, soccer stadiums, airports, subway stations are increasingly seeking to invest in technology, training and qualification of their security agents.
Airports, then, go without saying: they are considered highly attractive places and many changes were promoted by governments and companies around the world in search of safety.
Criticism suffered by the CIA in connection with the attacks, and widely publicized in several reports by major press agencies, led the intelligence services to seek greater integration, maintenance and updating of their databases in order to identify any potential threat as early as possible. .
The constant exchange of information and monitoring of people linked to extremist groups has become an essential tool, since after the September 11 attacks, the theory of the attack cycle (Detection Points in the Terrorist Attack Cycle) proved that strong planning and targeting for years preceded the tragedy. This demonstrated that for such a complex planning, traces were left and information is generated, which are the focus of all the monitoring work carried out by intelligence agencies today.
Many fundamental fundamentals in the area of physical facility security have been applied to aircraft security, and although many protective measures against IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) are the focus, the cockpit and copilot have been reinforced at the door. The intention, however obvious, is aimed at reducing the risk of unauthorized access and, consequently, taking full control of the flight.
Obviously, baggage screening and scanning gained attention and reinforcement. In 2001 the TSA (Transport and Security Administration) was introduced as part of the new security law, currently a department created in 2002 in the United States and that handles aviation in the country.
From the prohibition of small slides to liquid bottles in aircraft access, from simple metal detectors to full body scanners at airports, from inspection in larger electronics to a simple cell phone, as well as facial recognition, among other features, everything helps every day in the processes of security at airports.
The technological transformation of the last 20 years was vertiginous, and much is due to September 11, 2001. Artificial Intelligence Surveillance, Smart Cities, Facial Recognition System and Intelligent Policing are some of the technological advances resulting from the attacks and, consequently, from the combat to terrorism. In addition to these technological advances, authorities began using drones and biometrics, among other solutions, to fight terrorism.
It is worth remembering that, despite 20 years after the attacks of September 11th and the US government has already allocated nearly US$ 6 trillion to finance the operations, Terrorism is far from over and the actions to prevent terror, based on processes and technology, must continue to evolve as intelligence systems improve, becoming increasingly proactive.
* Emerson Januzzi is a master corporate security consultant at ICTS Security, a security operations management and consulting firm, of Israeli origin.