examine transportation security operations, both overtly and covertly, to find weaknesses that can be exploited.1

With hundreds of commercial airports, thousands of commercial aircraft, tens of thousands of daily flights, and millions of passengers using the system daily, providing security to the nation’s commercial aviation system is clearly a daunting challenge. Figure 1-1 illustrates some of the threat vectors that may exist in the nation’s largest airports. At the security checkpoint,2 different kinds of screening are used for passengers and for carry-on luggage.

FIGURE 1-1 Generic airport diagram showing various airport spaces and some likely sites for attacks. Certain locations are particularly vulnerable to a terrorist attack by explosion or release of chemical and biological agents; these are shown by the explosion symbol and the type of threat in boldface type near that symbol.

Prior to the terrorist bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, the focus of airline passenger security checkpoints was the detection and interdiction of metallic weapons, either carried on the person or concealed


Al Qaeda Training Manual. Available at http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/manualpart1.html. Accessed June 25, 2006.


“Security checkpoint” is the term that the Transportation Security Administration uses to describe the point at which passengers and their carry-on baggage are checked.

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