The perpetrators of the next 9/11 terrorist attack are likely to avoid airport terminal security altogether by instead infiltrating airports and planes parked on the tarmac, said Minnesota Representative Chip Cravaack.
Testifying at a Wednesday hearing, Cravaack told the Transportation Security Administration that he has received calls from individuals concerned there is not enough security along airport perimeters.
I'm going to tell you right now: The next incident will come from the ground; it's going to come from the shadow of the aircraft. It's not going to go through the passenger terminal, Cravaack told John Sammon, assistant administrator of TSA's Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, reported Politico.
Cravaack, a Republican who has been a commercial airline pilot for 17 years, said his aviation background has prompted complaints directed to him about security away from passenger check points and screenings. Would it surprise you, sir, if I told you that several people - both pilots and ground personnel - have told me the security around the aircraft, coming from outside sources, is a joke? said Cravaack.
While security measures since the 2001 attacks were bolstered, a Homeland Security Inspector General report this month suggests airport terminal checkpoints remain porous, and security staff does not have a universal definition for what constitutes a security breach.
Newark Liberty airport, for example, took corrective action on 42 percent of all of its reported security breaches between Jan. 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011, said the report. The number of actual breaches reported was redacted from the report. Newark Liberty was one of the airports from which a 9/11 plane was hijacked.
More concerning is how TSA does not, the report found, have a comprehensive mechanism in place to gather and track all security breaches in the nation's airports.
Cravaack's comments come days after U.S. government officials said they had foiled a plot to bomb a U.S. bound plane. The terrorist, it later turned out, was an agent working for the CIA, British and Saudi intelligence agencies.
Micah Zenko, a fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, however, in a recent piece in Foreign Affairs, said the U.S. has never been safer, and that Al-Qaeda is not likely be able to repeat what it had accomplished with the 9/11 attacks, because it has essentially lost whatever ability it once had to seriously threaten the United States.
Cravaack's office in Washington did not return a request for further comment.