How Do You Allow Security to Slip?
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- May 01, 2016
It is no secret that terrorism is part of today’s
landscape. Governments are responsible for
providing a secure and safe environment almost
anywhere the public might go. This consists of every
major airport and railway station in the world, including
After the most recent attacks in Brussels, now come
the allegations that the Belgium government failed to
address security lapses, or prepare for a potential attack.
What is worse, if this is true, that the European
Union told government employees there were security
issues and that they needed to be remedied. Obviously
the issues were not fixed. Thirty-one people died in
the attacks at the Brussels airport and metro station;
270 others were injured.
Once again, extremism has awakened the security
world, and those who must implement the solutions.
Following the Belgian bombings, the city’s subway
and airport was closed. Belgian officials closed their
borders halting all cross-border traffic. Security was
increased in the U.K. at Heathrow and Gatwick airports,
and across the world major cities saw an increase
of police presence at their stations of mass
The incident at the airport took place before passengers
crossed through security. The explosion occurred
in the ticketing and booking area where people
are free to come and go as they please. At this point,
even luggage had not yet been screened.
All this mayhem and destruction points to the
concept of where security should begin, while not affecting
the traveling public. It also highlights the far
reaching role video surveillance plays, unfortunately,
in the aftermath of this attack. In many ways it has
mirrored the 2005 London terror attacks.
Technology has improved since 2005 and I’m sure
police are looking at video files that are made available
to them. What we have seen in videos uploaded
to YouTube and provided by Belgian authorities are
people terrified for their lives, running outside of the
building for safety. The airport security cameras were
also able to catch footage of the three men suspected
in the bombing.
Four video cameras are—or were—in place in
the ticketing and booking area. Remember, this area
is in the forefront of security; however, security officials
watch the video carefully, and covertly. The real
problem at this point at the airport is identifying unscreened
luggage that may contain a bomb. It is all
If you have traveled overseas, you have seen wellarmed
police in most transportation hubs. They are
joined by plainclothes officers who roam the public
areas of the airport, as well as other mass transit areas.
How do you know who is carrying a bomb, and
Part of the solution is listening to the chatter that
intelligence forces hear. It would be necessary to
implement new security procedures if a higher alert
is called for. Belgium officials, unfortunately, missed
that call although it was given to them.
The EU engaged Belgian officials, telling them
to “enhance situational awareness at airports, and
to further combat irregular migration as well as the
phenomena of forging fighters.” The country was
also told to intensify checks on people arriving in the
country from “high-risk areas.”
It is easy to point fingers today, but Belgium has
one of the largest Muslim communities in Europe,
and the government said that as many as, or more
than, 500 Belgians have been recruited to fight for
ISIS. This should have been a red flag without disrupting
the lives of law-abiding citizens.
Security officials in Turkey deported one of the
bombers, Ibrahim El Bakraious, last year because
of suspicions that he was a militant. They also said
that Belgium did not take its concerns seriously. Perhaps
Belgium’s security network is bogged down by
a fractured bureaucracy. There are numerous police
jurisdictions that overlap in Brussels, and it is a wellknown
fact that the French and Flemish-speaking
areas tend to not speak to each other. It seems that
Belgium appears to have a capacity and competency
problem when it comes to counterterrorism.
One thing security experts can be absolutely certain
of is that more terrorist attacks are being planned.
State officials have been searching for others who
might have been involved in this attack or planning
for others. They have found a cache of weapons, even
heavy weapons in the first investigation, signifying the
preparedness of another attack. Now is not the time
to be complacent about security. Now is the time to
call these acts of violence what they are: International
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Security Today.