Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM
BY MICHAEL FICKES
THE LONDON BOMBINGS and the 2004 Madrid train bombings drove home a sobering point: The threat posed by radical Jihadist terrorists has metastasized into something more widespread, and perhaps more lethal, than al Qaeda and other global terrorist organizations developing and managing terror plots. This new threat involves terrorist cells operating on their own, relatively independent of their leaders.
Rafi Ron, president of consulting firm New Age Security Solutions, McLean, Va., recently told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security that the United States-led war on terror has disrupted the global terrorist organizational structure and shifted responsibility for initiating and executing attacks to local terrorist cells like those responsible for attacks in London and Madrid.
While global terrorist organizations may focus on spectacular signature targets, such as the World Trade Center, Ron suspects that independent terrorist cells will likely seek out easily accessible targets like those found in rail and mass transit systems.
Ron also told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the threat to mass transit has increased in conjunction with the success of security measures designed to prevent terrorist attacks on aviation. “The turning of terrorist attention to urban mass transit systems is thus an expected consequence of our success in other domains,” he said.
By and large, existing security at train and mass transit stations has been designed around forensic and investigative models. The London underground is a prime example of forensic security design. With more than 6,000 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras located in trains and at nearly all stations, police officers assigned to the underground can review video after any incident and find out what happened. The theory is that the certainty of being identified by the system deters criminal acts.
The investigative system worked well after the London underground bombings last summer. Within days of each incident, London police had discovered who was responsible and arrested many, if not all, of the perpetrators who remained alive.
The trouble is, investigative law enforcement models use the threat of capture to deter acts of violence and other crime. But suicide terrorists do not care about being caught. Because they plan to die, investigative law enforcement models, no matter how successful, cannot prevent suicide attacks.
Given the sprawling networks and numerous unsecured access points of the mass transit system in the United States, which serves an estimated 14 million people per day, is it even possible to shift the law enforcement model to prevention?
Homeland security and local law enforcement officials believe it is possible to mold new and old technologies, new tactics and new strategies into a security system that can prevent attacks.
SMART NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Three weeks after the London bombings, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority awarded a three-year $212 million contract to Lockheed Martin to manage an upgrade of the Authority’s electronic security technologies. Prevention is a key goal of the Lockheed assignment. “We are starting with prevention,” says Judy Marks, president of Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions, Rockville, Md. “Prevention involves perimeter intrusion detection, access control at entrances, real-time video views of access control and intrusion alarm points and video analytics to alert officers to potential problems.”
Lockheed’s New York City contract is emblematic of mass transit’s shift to prevention strategies since the London underground bombings. “We have seen officials get more aggressive and budgets get looser since the London bombings,” says William Stuntz, CEO of BroadWare Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., provider of networks for conventional and intelligent video analytics applications.
Intelligent video systems have generated lots of excitement among security professionals seeking preventive security designs. “Intelligent video systems are useful in the preventive stage, where (the system) can prompt security officers to investigate and deal with a problem in real-time, instead of after the fact,” says David M. Stone, former assistant secretary with TSA and a member of the board of advisors of Vidient Systems Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., an intelligent video provider.
But how can intelligent video technology prevent a terrorist from setting off a bomb in a subway station or on a train?
Preventive solutions begin with information garnered from investigations of terrorist attacks, explains Mariann McDonagh, vice president of global marketing with Verint Inc., Long Island, N.Y., a video analytics company. “Our solution enables users to tune the rules as new information becomes available,” she says. “Suppose an investigation shows that a suicide bomber carried a package of a particular size and shape. We can now alert the (intelligent video) system to watch for a person carrying this kind of package.”
The Verint product, called Nextiva Transit, can also be programmed to watch for people loitering on transit platforms or people wearing heavy coats on hot summer days. Intelligent video systems look for anomalies as well as images that law enforcement believe may appear prior to a terrorist bombing attack.
In addition, Nextiva Transit can coordinate information collected by the video system with information from access control, motion detection or other security technology.
ALTERNATE IMAGING TECHNOLOGIES
Intelligent video technology can work with conventional video cameras as well as new imaging systems being adapted to mass transit security applications. For example, a millimeter wave imaging system developed by Brijot Imaging Systems Inc., Orlando, Fla., can see through everyday clothing and identify shapes of guns and other kinds of weapons.
Brijot technology identifies people and objects by detecting and analyzing the millimeter waves they give off. To avoid the problem of imaging through clothing, the Brijot system does not build a millimeter wave image. Instead, the system works in conjunction with a conventional video camera. When the millimeter wave side of the system identifies a hidden gun or other weapon, the video side sends a picture of the fully clothed person to an alarm monitor. The system also prints the word gun or knife on the image, next to the spot where the weapon was detected, enabling a security officer to take appropriate preventive action.
Brijot proposes millimeter wave technology to form the core of a new mass transit screening system that would detect weapons and explosives, without slowing down the flow of passengers to and from the transportation platform.
“We suggest using this technology to screen mass transit passengers by setting up a ‘Y-shaped’ traffic flow,” says Ted Humphrey, vice president of technology for DefenderTech, Dayton, Ohio, a distributor that markets Brijot’s millimeter wave imaging technology. “At the bottom of the Y, people might move through a turnstile. This would channel traffic into a single file line and allow the camera to view each one-by-one. At the top of the Y, a security officer could ask a person flagged by the system to veer onto one segment of the “Y”, while everyone else followed the other fork to the boarding platforms. It could all be done quickly without slowing people down.”
Humphrey also notes that the Brijot system can be monitored by intelligent video software systems that would not grow fatigued while watching hundreds of images.
Thermal imaging systems can contribute to preventive security measures necessary around the exterior perimeter of a facility. “Thermal imaging is typically an outside, low light or nighttime solution,” says Sharon Roberts, strategic market and business analyst with L-3 Communications Infrared Products, Dallas. “By detecting heat, these imagers can detect activity at a distance at night as well as through bad weather. Thermal imagers also work very well in conjunction with intelligent video software systems.”
SPECIAL EVENTS, SPECIAL TRANSIT SECURITY
For the most part, local and state transit authorities have been struggling to develop their own strategies for preventing terrorist attacks on train and subway facilities. At the national level, TSA has also put together several programs that address the problem.
At the end of 2004, for example, TSA completed a program called the Transit and Rail Inspection Pilot (TRIP). In developing TRIP, TSA adapted airport explosive screening technologies to mass transit settings.
Technologies studied in the pilot included conventional airport X-ray screening devices and metal detectors. The pilot also studied new explosive detection portals that identify explosive material by shooting a person with a jet of air and analyzing the particles dislodged by the blast of air.
Field tests of checkpoints designed with these technologies took place at subway stops in Maryland and at Union Station in Washington, D.C. “The technology performed very well in this setting,” says Stone, who was at TSA during the TRIP tests.
After the tests, Stone continues, TSA set up mobile teams that would respond whenever the agency received information indicating a threat to a mass transit system. “Of course, transit systems have too many access points to allow this kind of system to be used generally,” Stone says. “But it has been useful for special events. For example, we used pieces of the system during the 2004 Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.”
Both conventions took place in facilities served by urban mass transit and train stations.
GOING TO THE DOGS
Ten transit systems across the United States will each receive three bomb-sniffing dogs under a TSA initiative announced at the end of September.
The program is TSA’s first major security effort related specifically to mass transit. While the effort may seem small in light of the scope of the nation’s mass transportation facilities, it is designed to supplement local and state canine programs. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), for example, currently employs a canine patrol with 10 dogs. The TSA program will provide WMATA with three more patrols.
Do not underestimate the value of canines in explosives detection. “Dogs are mobile, inexpensive, and the best explosive detection technology available today,” says Darrin Kayser, a TSA spokesperson. “Current technology can’t come close to a dog’s snout in detecting explosives.”
PREVENTION BY PEOPLE
In his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Ron urged the senators not to overlook the proven capabilities of human beings in preventing terrorist attacks. “In Israel, the presence of trained security personnel at entrances of public facilities has proven to be a very effective preventive measure against terrorist attacks, including suicide attacks,” he said. “Despite numerous attempts by suicide bombers to enter shopping malls in Israel, none has been successful. The terrorists were forced to carry out their attacks outside the mall. The targets affected have been relatively minor, and the damage sustained was smaller in terms of human life as well as property.”
Ron also recommends that security officers be trained in a preventive technique called behavior pattern recognition. “A person intending to commit an extreme act of violence, in most cases for the first time in his or her life — as well as to terminate his own life — is most likely not going to behave like the ordinary people around him going about their daily routines,” Ron says. “Behavior pattern recognition techniques implemented by trained security and non-security personnel have proven to be a valuable measure in the detection and prevention of terrorist attacks in public facilities.”
Oct 1, 2005 12:00 PM