Los Angeles International Airport’s established a new anti-terrorism intelligence unit that highlights the enduring terrorist threat to critical U.S. infrastructure, The Atlantic reports.
LAX was the target of one of the biggest terror plots in the history of the U.S. in 2000. An Algerian man, Ahmed Ressam, was caught on a ferry from Vancouver to Seattle with over 100 pounds of high explosives in his car. Ressam was an al-Qaida operative who freely traveled between Canada and Afghanistan to receive training at one of Osama bin Laden’s camps.
LAX’s terrorism unit was established after a 2011 Blue Ribbon commission ordered by the mayor of Los Angeles found that the airport was not prepared for even a small terrorist attack 10 years after 9/11. LAX is one of the most crucial junctures in the international airline system. A single day of closure would cost international business 100 million dollars in cargo costs alone, on top of the cascading effects for international transport.
Airports present a unique target to terrorists, airport security expert Stacey Peel told The Atlantic. She continued that airports have all the desirable aspects of a soft target including, “the economic impact, the media imagery, the public anxiety, the mass casualties, the cultural symbolism.” Another security expert elaborated that LAX’s unit formation is “the natural trickle-down effect of when, after 9/11, the NYPD expanded its own intelligence efforts, deciding that the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security were simply not good enough. They had to project their own presence.”
Despite the Islamic State’s rise in calls for attacks on softer targets, airports remain uniquely targeted by terrorists. Brussel’s airport’s check-in lounge was targeted by three suicide bombers in March, 2016. A gunman, who seems to have harbored delusions about his connections to ISIS, killed multiple passengers Friday at Fort Lauderdale airport with a gun.
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