Gerardo I. Hernandez: in memoriam

Sadly for Los Angeles World Airports, over the past few months the eyes of the aviation security world have focussed on actual attacks perpetrated at LAX. Most airports have in place a sophisticated security infrastructure designed for the ‘never never’; after all, even in the US, which clearly considers itself to be a potential target for terrorist activity, the chances of any individual being on duty when an attack takes place is minimal.
There are an abundance of security challenges being posed to airport authorities around the world. Airports are becoming centres for civil action as demonstrators take to runways in order to make their point; in October, employees of a food processing plant in Brest, France, lay down on the runway in protest at job reductions at a local abattoir, whilst in November Tuareg demonstrators occupied a runway in Kidal, Mali, in order to prevent the Malian Prime Minister from visiting the town. They are also places at which serious organised criminal acts, where the aviation industry is not the target per se, occur; in November, Vyacheslav Zapryagayev was shot at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow and the thieves escaped with a bag containing $1.6 million which Zapryagayev was, for unreported reasons, carrying.

Airport security departments have to deal with minor criminal acts, such as the woman who decided to try and swing from the Kinetic Rain sculpture at Singapore’s Changi Airport in November or the two British women who decided to strip off at a Manchester Airport security checkpoint last December. And, airlines and airports alike have to deal with their daily peppering of unruly passengers, whilst the other security agencies intercept smugglers, inadmissible passengers and vagrants. But terrorist and other serious incidents, where the airport itself and/or its users are the targets, are, thankfully, a rarity.

One must, therefore, feel sorry for the LAX authorities who, within the space of three weeks, had to respond to, and manage, two serious attacks. On 13th and 14th October, a series of dry ice explosions took place at LAX terminals and, on 1st November, Paul Ciancia allegedly murdered TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, and injured six others, at a security checkpoint.

Some may be quick to point out that the perpetrators were, in fact, probably merely psychologically disturbed individuals rather than lone wolf terrorists. Others will recognise that an armed gunman walking into a crowded passenger terminal with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and effecting the targeted killing of a TSA officer is equally serious and, granted the copycat nature of persons with such a mind-set, arguably more vexing. And if it is proven that the perpetrators of the dry ice attacks were Servisair employees, one must question the effectiveness of not only pre-employment screening, but also post-employment monitoring. The insider threat, whilst not in the form of terrorist activity, is crystal clear.

 

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