FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- In the airport of the future, security may begin even before you enter the terminal.
Among the possible changes: As soon as you buy a ticket, authorities would probe whether you're on an FBI watch list. Pull into the airport garage and imaging machines, similar to those at checkpoints, would scan your car. And motion sensors would sound alarms if an airport perimeter is breached.
As the nation reflects on the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Sun Sentinel asked five prominent security experts how they would redesign airport security systems.
Without exception, they cited the increased use of more sophisticated technology, saying some of it could be implemented within the next decade.
"Through software development, we can get a good idea of a threat and assess it," said Tom Blank, a former acting deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
For example, computer systems using public databases could immediately assess a traveler's background and upgraded programs could detect suspicious behavior once passengers arrive.
Most of the experts agreed that passengers who voluntarily submit to background checks should be allowed to get in express lines and bypass measures such as taking off shoes. That's something the TSA plans to do under an experimental program this fall at the major airports in Miami, Atlanta, Dallas and Detroit.
Despite the anticipated use of futuristic technology, "there will always have to be some significant physical screening of passengers. You're never going to have a situation that relies on just data," said Stephen Heifetz, former deputy assistant secretary for policy development, Department of Homeland Security.
In Blank's airport of the future, car-scanning devices coupled with "intelligent video" -- it automatically analyzes videotape for danger clues -- would track people and their vehicles every step of the way.
The idea, he said, is to determine if a person is carrying a bomb.
"Right now, we have a situation where anybody, with any kind of vehicle, can drive right up to the departure lounge or the arrival lounge," said Blank, who lobbies for a governmental affairs firm.
Once inside terminals, he said, people would be monitored for suspicious behavior, such as loitering. Remote areas also should be equipped with radar sensors and cameras to allow only authorized workers onto ramp areas. Now there is little inspection of who enter the gates, Blank said.
"We don't know what's in their tool box, we don't know what's on their person," he said, adding that even flight crews should be better screened.
Assigning passengers a "risk rating" when they purchase tickets would be his top priority, said Heifetz, the former Homeland Security official.
It would be based on travel habits, financial data and other publicly available information. Foreign passengers would require the most scrutiny, as they hold the most potential to be terrorists, Heifetz said.
"We are able to do a risk rating based on travel history, country of origin. Then we put in a secondary inspection of people who raise concerns," he said.
Although some might consider this profiling, Heifetz said, "If you ask people if we should do a risk rating on people who travel to terrorist nations or have talked to known terrorists, most would say, 'Of course."'
He defended body scanners and other TSA procedures as necessary to ensure travelers don't carry dangerous items onto a plane.
"This isn't an abstract threat," he said. "We know there have been attempts to bring explosives on airliners."
A recent example: On Christmas Day 2009, on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, then 23, an al-Qaida agent, unsuccessfully attempted to detonate plastic explosives in his underwear. The plane, with 290 passengers and crew on board, landed safely.
A new threat: The Department of Homeland Security has intelligence that terrorists might attempt to implant explosives in their bodies. If so, scanners currently in use would probably not detect them.
More emphasis needs to be placed on spotting dangerous people and less on searching for dangerous objects, said Richard Bloom, a security expert based at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
"We have a long way to go in terms of accurately spotting which people might actually be dangerous," he said.
Some passengers already have breached the system. On June 29, Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria, attempted to board a Delta flight in Los Angeles with a boarding pass issued in another person's name and for an earlier flight.
The FBI arrested Noibi, 24, after determining he had successfully done the same thing five days earlier. He wasn't considered a threat but the incident showed a weakness in security, critics said.
Bloom said security procedures should be constantly changed to keep terrorists off-guard.
"There's no harm in being deceptive," he said.
Rafi Ron, former security chief at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport and an aviation consultant based in Washington, said airport security must increasingly depend on nations sharing intelligence.
He noted such intelligence thwarted a terrorist plot to use liquid explosives aboard 10 planes bound from the United Kingdom to the United States in 2006.
"If the terrorists had made it to the airport, there was nothing at the airport that could stop them," he said. "For the last 10 years, whenever the system was put to the test by the real terrorist activity, it failed."
TERRORISTS WILL ATTACK
Because he thinks terrorists will attack again, TSA Administrator John Pistole said in his airport of the future, authorities would learn as much as "legally permissible" about each passenger.
"So those who pose a greater risk get more significant screening," he said.
Pistole said technology already is moving into the future, with advanced body-imaging scanners that will eventually replace all existing scanners. These provide a generic image of a passenger, rather than a fuzzy one that shows specific body parts.
"It's the same machine, but it addresses the privacy issues that a number of people have concerns about," Pistole said.
Even with the most advanced technology, aviation security will never ease, Pistole said.
"There's too many people out there who want to do bad things, just in the U.S., not even considering those who come from overseas," he said.
AIRPORT SECURITY PROCEDURES THEN AND NOW
A look at how U.S. airport security has progressed:
* Early 1960s: There was no real airport security. Airport visitors had free roam of concourses. Passenger gates were commonly in the open air with direct access to the ramp.
* Late 1960s: After several high-profile hijackings, some screening measures were imposed, including metal detectors.
* January 1973: The Federal Aviation Administration required all airlines to screen passengers and their carry-on baggage for metal objects. This was mostly done by private companies.
* September 2001: Following the terrorist attacks, the FAA limited the number of carry-on items and required increased screening for passengers who failed to present a government-issued ID.
* November 2001: The Transportation Security Administration was established and ordered to conduct all passenger screening.
* December 2001: After a man attempted to detonate explosives in his shoes on a Paris-to-Miami flight, passengers were required to remove shoes at checkpoints. Explosive-detection machines became more widely used.
* September 2004: Passengers were required to remove all jackets and visitors were banned from entering secure areas.
* August 2006: After a plot to blow up 10 airliners flying from the United Kingdom to the United States, using liquid explosives, the TSA limited liquids, fluids and gels to 3.4 ounces through checkpoints.
* October 2007: The TSA introduced body imaging scanners, which immediately drew public criticism for creating naked, albeit fuzzy, images of passengers.
* December 2009: After a man attempted to blow up plastic explosives in his underwear on an Amsterdam to Detroit flight, the TSA increasingly employed body-imaging scanners.
* August 2011: TSA implemented an upgraded body scanner that uses generic images of passengers, easing privacy concerns.
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