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Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism
ordinary crimes in public places such as transit stations.12 Such opportunities must be sought out systematically, recognizing as well that multiuse, multibenefit systems have a greater chance of being maintained and improved over time.
The potential cost and magnitude of the security task in the evolving and expansive transportation sector means that it must be approached not only systematically but resourcefully. Making a long-term commitment to costly security technologies developed and deployed outside a systems context runs the risk of early and prolonged obsolescence as technologies, transportation operations, and security threats change. A more efficient, adaptable, and system-oriented approach might suggest such tactics as the randomization of security screening, the setting of traps, and the masking of detection capabilities—all to allocate security resources most effectively and to create layers of uncertainty that can inhibit terrorist activity through what have been called “curtains of mystery.” To minimize costly disruptions to transportation services, it may be desirable to narrow the security task to target the highest-risk actors and activities. To do so will require a better understanding of normal patterns of behavior and activity, allowing for the preidentification and filtering out of legitimate and low-risk travelers and shippers, so as to devote more security resources to the scrutiny of anomalies.
It makes sense, for example, to integrate information gleaned from computerized airline reservations systems with passenger and baggage screening procedures, rather than treating each as a discrete and unconnected process.13 Information from ticketing that suggests an air traveler poses a risk could be conveyed to personnel at all security checkpoints—guards at the entries to secure concourses, baggage screeners, and airline gate attendants who examine and collect boarding passes.14 In more open transportation systems, where it can be difficult to identify and track high-risk traffic, information and communications tools may offer a means to create a “virtual” closed system. Large trucks, for instance, may be required to have an identifier tag affixed to the windshield and scanned at critical points along the highway. The tracking information could be used to ensure that higher-risk trucks—that is, those without tag identifiers or with unusual routings—are scrutinized more carefully at border crossings, tunnels, and major bridges down the road. As an added layer of deterrence and protection, trucks may be subjected to random checks of the validity of the tag, as well as the legality of the driver, vehicle, and cargo.
As another example of collateral benefits, when London Transport instituted counterterrorism measures on its rail-transit system, crime and vandalism fell throughout the system even as crime rates increased citywide (Jenkins, 2001).
The need for such integration of security capabilities was observed in the 1997 report of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.
This information could also be used to process individuals through all other exits from the secure area.