Neighborhood Watch of the skies?

Ok, with the recent attempt to blow up an airliner I have a radical idea. Why not set up a voluntary program for Federal government travelers that lets us act as eyes and ears for the TSA. There will never be enough Federal Air Marshals for every flight but I bet there are thousands of Federal government employees in DHS alone that would agree to be “airline watch” volunteers.

What do you think?

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John C. Heinley, P.E.

It would seem we already have a de-facto program – one that involves every passenger that gets on a flight. Sorta like the question one is asked if you’re sitting next to an exit-door. Abdul is lucky the passengers didn’t kill him. I wonder what TSA will do now. We already have to take our shoes off, will we all have to wear kilts now?

Susan Womack

There does seem to be a problem with our security, however I do not believe it falls on the security procedures at the airport. I believe it is time to stop worrying about liberties and start worrying about passengers getting to their destination safely. Yes, I work for TSA and we are only following procedures. It is the policies that need to change so the procedures can be enhanced. There is a need for more air marshalls, however, would this have done anything in this instance? Nobody was aware of this passengers intentions.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Interesting concept. When I worked at the Graduate School, I worked for a year with a guy who is trying to establish precisely what you are talking about – he calls it the Community Anti-Terrorism Training Institute (or C.A.T. Eyes for short). He developed the program while standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 as an Air Force National Guard volunteer. He’s been going to communities around the country, one-by-one, training citizens and municipal employees to spot the signs of terrorism in an way that is not discriminatory based on racial or ethnic profiling…rather, it’s behavior-based surveillance by volunteers.

The other great part is that he ties it to FEMA’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) course, which originally came from forest fire response units, I believe. I went through the one-day training with a group of municipal employees in a small town in Virginia and we worked through a table-top exercise of a water tower breach. Pretty interesting and highly practical….and includes a certification at the conclusion.

Let me know if you want an introduction to COL Licata.

Benjamin Strong

Susan, I have the utmost respect for the folks at the TSA. I know Blogger Bog and one of my good friends is a lead BAO at a major international airport. I agree there needs to be a balance struck in favor or security rather than privacy. The full body scanners would probably do the trick.

I also believe the CLEAR program should be brought back in some form. I was a CLEAR member and found it helped me get through security faster and I was treated- well not “better” but “different”.

Andrew’s suggestion seems interesting. I think we could empower government travelers with some basics that would enhance safety. While John rightly states most passengers have become defacto air marshals they may not work in a coordinated manner. A training course for government employees might help put some of the coordination in the response. It’s time to take back control of our skies.

Thanks for all the feedback!

John C. Heinley, P.E.

Benjamin, quite right – passengers won’t have a way to work together – at least not very well. The better idea they have of what is a bonafide threat then the better they (or Federal employees who are traveling, etc.) can raise an alarm or take action.
I guess I’m still wondering how this guy got an explosive device on board, even if in his underwear. Is it only the baggage scanner that can scan for such chemicals? I believe I read somewhere that one of his battle-buddies was dispatched to Saudi Arabia and took out a few people with the same concept (except that he tripped and set it off prematurely?).
By the way, I say ‘battle-buddies’ for a reason. They’re not criminals, they’re soldiers without uniforms who are at war with us. I people are trained to spot them, they’ve got to remember that.

Susan Womack

Can someone explain the I people to me? If they are trained to spot them, we need more of them in the skys and possibly at the airports. Maybe they should be training the BDO’s so they can spot them as well. We need to combine some of these different specialities and get everyone on the same page so there are more eyes on travelers.

I do believe every airport should have the full body scanners, but I also believe every passenger should go through additional screening and the bags checked even if it is believed there is nothing in the luggage. There is another problem I see everday.

The screeners need to have some form of education in the field. There are a lot of screeners that do not realize the seriousness of their position, which is going to cause more vulnerabilities. I believe the leads, supervisors, and manager promotions should also include related education. An example, we have supervisors and managers who have no clue how, why, where, when, and who terrorists are. They only operate on what they are told. If they would have upper management who had a degree in Homeland Seucity, Terrorism, National Security, etc. I guess my thing is, education in the field will make the awareness higher and will put everyone on higher alert so these people will not get through.

Susan Womack

Those programs you suggested are awesome and would work for the screeners who have no formal training in terrorism. I put a suggestion in with the training program. These screeners already do online learning that is required and this would be easy to implement.