How Safe Are Our Skies? Assessing the Airlines' Response to Terrorism

By Rodney Wallis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Air Terrorism

What is terrorism? “Sheer bloody murder,” according to one noted Scottish academic, Professor Paul Wilkinson, the author of a range of books on global terrorism, and head of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism at Scotland’s St Andrew’s University. He moved from his usual prose style to offer this simplistic but apt definition after years of studying terrorist incidents in many parts of the world. It undoubtedly described how people felt following the Lockerbie disaster in December 1988 and doubtless similarly defined for many people the events that unfolded in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania in September 2001. But is it enough? Lockerbie certainly resulted from the actions of murderers bent on taking the lives of innocent victims. For the aircraft to be destroyed, however, the terrorists had to rely on the failure of Pan Am’s security and the ineffectiveness of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s own enforcement policies. To be successful, the terrorists also needed failures in the German and British aviation security programs. There was no conspiracy involving civil servants of the three nations, merely an understanding on the part of the terrorists that defense mechanisms, defined and mandated by the ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization), were missing.

The September 11th attacks also required ineffective security pro-

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