Osama bin Laden's Death Sparks Reprisal Fears

Even in death, Osama bin Laden is affecting airport security.

As people are celebrating the death of the man who was driving force behind Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal departments are on alert for potential threats from groups seeking retaliation for the death of a person whose life and activities carried so much symbolism.

The State Department issued this worldwide warning Monday: "Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations."

And within the country, airports are tightening security. Though DHS has yet to make any specific changes to security procedures – though those are doubtless coming – TSA and airport employees have been told to be on extra-high alert for anything suspicious. This especially applies for anything that could portend a hastily arranged attack, as retaliatory groups would have only a few days to put an operation together.

This comes at an interesting time: DHS recently implemented a new terrorism advisory system, replacing the old color-coded threat levels with a plan under which the department issues specific alerts when it receives intelligence about threats. An elevated threat warns of a credible terrorist threat, whereas an imminent threat indicates a credible, specific, and impending terrorist threat.

DHS has said it will not issue an alert related to bin Laden’s death: "I have been clear since announcing NTAS in January that we will only issue alerts when we have specific or credible information to convey to the American public," DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday morning. Indeed, the department has yet to issue any alerts about any credible threats since it implemented the system.

How do you think this will play out? Will we have to add another step to the litany of procedures when we fly? Or will everything go back to normal once the high spirits surrounding bin Laden’s death abate?

Posted by Laura Williams on May 02, 2011

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