• 9/11 attacksSaudi government funded a “dry run” for 9/11: Court documents

    The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. paid two Saudis to conduct a “dry run” of the 9/11 attacks, documents submitted by lawyers for plaintiffs in a terrorism case against the Saudi government show. The complaint stated that the Saudi government paid two nationals, posing as students in the United States, to take a flight from Phoenix to Washington in November 1999 in order to test out flight deck security. The two Saudi nationals, whose tickets were paid for by the Saudi embassy, took a flight from Phoenix to Washington, but their persistent questions of the crew about cockpit security, and their several attempts to enter the cockpit, led the pilots to make an emergency landing in Ohio, and the two Saudis were escorted off the plane by FBI agents. The two men were released after an initial interrogation by the FBI.

  • Airport securityGetting past security without a plane ticket

    Starting Tuesday, 5 September, Pittsburgh International Airport has become the first U.S. airport to allow non-fliers regular access into its gate-side terminal areas since security measures changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The airport has won approval from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for non-ticketed customers to pass through security, though they will still have to go through the same screening as those catching flights. They will also be required to show ID so they can be vetted against no-fly lists.

  • Airport securityTouch-free fingerprint scanners

    Balancing speed and security at the airport is essential to ensuring safe, reliable travel. DHS S&T and TSA are evaluating new identity verification technology that can reduce the time it takes for travelers to pass through security. The touch-free scanners allow a traveler’s fingerprints to serve as their boarding pass and identity document.

  • Security kiosksAutomated security kiosk to shorten lines at airports, border crossings

    Researchers have developed a next-generation automated screening kiosk which uses an algorithm of “yes” or “no” questions delivered by a computer-generated avatar, quickly and efficiently to assess the potential threats passengers may pose to others. the screening can be completed in less than four minutes with a 90 percent success rate.

  • AviationRising temperatures may limit aircraft takeoffs globally

    Global temperatures have gone up nearly 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 Fahrenheit) since about 1980, and this may already be having an effect. In late June, American Airlines canceled more than 40 flights out of Phoenix, Ariz., when daytime highs of nearly 120 degrees made it too hot for smaller regional jets to take off. Rising temperatures due to global warming will make it harder for many aircraft around the world to take off in coming decades, says a new study. During the hottest parts of the day, 10 to 30 percent of fully loaded planes may have to remove some fuel, cargo or passengers, or else wait for cooler hours to fly, a new study shows.

  • Radiation risksLab mistakenly ships radioactive material aboard commercial plane

    Employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have been fired and disciplinary action against other personnel was taken after small amounts of radioactive material were mistakenly shipped aboard a commercial cargo plane. Nuclear experts say the mishap could have led to serious consequences. The rapid pressure changes during flights could have damaged the packaging, causing radiation to escape.

  • Security screeningWhat air travelers will tolerate for non-discriminatory security screening

    Mounting anti-terrorism security procedures and the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) screening processes have launched numerous debates about the protection of civil liberties and equal treatment of passengers. A new study has successfully quantified how much potential air passengers value equal protection when measured against sacrifices in safety, cost, wait time, and convenience.

  • AviationU.S. imposes enhanced security measures on U.S.-bound flights from 105 countries

    The United States will impose tough new security measures on all international flights bound for the United States. DHS officials said 280 airports in 105 countries would be affected by the tightened security, affecting around 2,000 flights a day. Airlines have been warned that a failure to comply with these enhanced security measures would carry consequences, including banning laptops altogether on the airlines’ U.S.-bound flights.

  • CybersecurityCybersecurity on the fly

    When we think of cybersecurity, we think of applying protection measures to our desktop computers such as installing antivirus programs and using passcodes and pin numbers. Just like our computers, aircraft systems are vulnerable and are not exempt from a cyber-attack. If hacked, some examples of possible cyber effects on aircraft systems can be anything from breakdowns in communication and navigation systems to the more critical systems such as collision avoidance and life support systems.

  • AviationMannequin enhances training, accessibility for TSA officers

    Every day, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens more than two million passengers at airports nationwide. To get people to their destinations securely, TSA officers use a combination of technological and manual procedures, including pat-downs. Manual procedures are a key component of the screening process, and are part of various security measures both seen and unseen. Pat-down procedures are used to determine whether prohibited items or other threats to transportation security are concealed on a person. DHS S&T, in collaboration with the TSA Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis , is working to develop the Pat-down Accuracy Training Tool, also known as PATT.

  • Aviation securityWhy banning laptops from airplane cabins doesn’t make sense

    By Cassandra Burke Robertson and Irina D. Manta

    Recent reports suggest that terrorists can now create bombs so thin that they cannot be detected by the current X-ray screening that our carry-on bags undergo. In an effort to protect against such threats, the U.S is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices in the passenger cabins of airplanes flying between Europe and the United States. This would extend a ban already in place on flights from eight Middle Eastern countries. It is tempting to think that any level of cost and inconvenience is sensible if it reduces the risk of an attack even a little. But risks, inherent in flying and even driving, can never be avoided entirely. So when weighing policies that are designed to make us safer, it is important to consider both their costs and potential effectiveness. Unfortunately, whether the benefits justify the costs is too often not the yardstick used by officials determining whether to pursue these types of policies. Instead, it is more likely that political considerations motivate the adoption of restrictive policies, which in the end actually do little to protect citizens’ security.

  • ScreeningLawsuits filed about electronic privacy, profiling abuses at borders, airports

    Earlier this week, two lawsuits were filed in federal court to demand that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) release information about how federal officials have treated travelers who are Muslim or who are perceived to be Muslim at United States borders, including airports. The lawsuits highlight the numerous recent reports of individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim having their electronic devices searched while traveling or having their trusted traveler status revoked without explanation.

  • AviationU.S. considering extending electronic-device flight ban to European travelers

    Passengers flying from the United Kingdom to the United States may soon be barred from carrying their laptops with them, U.K. government officials said Monday. U.K. government sources said they were advised by American security officials that the Trump administration is planning on enforce the electronic device ban on flights from several European countries. The ban, if implemented, will go into effect before the busy summer travel season begins.

  • Explosives detectionDHS S&T opens new explosives detection lab

    DHS S&T officially opened a new Test & Evaluation Laboratory building at the Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) on Wednesday. Located at the William J. Hughes FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, the new building expands TSL’s reinforced laboratory space for conducting tests of explosives detection systems. TSL is the only laboratory authorized to provide certification and qualification testing of explosives detection systems for the TSA.

  • Airport securityNew training system improves airport screening efficiency, accuracy

    Among the many tasks assigned to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officers (TSOs), they must screen every bag boarding commercial aircraft within the United States. Visual search of X-ray images is a repetitive task for the approximately 50,000 screeners employed by TSA, with an often low probability of encountering a threat. TSOs are trained to use perceptual cues such as color, orientation and spatial location of individual items to identify potential threats and differentiate them from non-threat items in the X-ray images of scanned bags. DHS S&T’s Office for Public Safety Research (OPS-R) developed a training system that not only makes TSOs more efficient, but also maintains their accuracy.