As the latest attempt to destroy a commercial airliner using an IED comes into focus, here is some context, which is detailed in my most recent book on air security and in a recent news interview.
Blowing up airliners is nothing new. It can be traced to the origins of commercial air travel.
Whether it is terrorists or criminals, each have always sought to destroy airliners.
The first bombing of a commercial airliner occurred in 1933. It was a United Airlines flight and the bomb was propelled by nitroglycerin. No suspect or motive were ever found.
Pan Am 103 was destroyed in 1988 by an IED hidden in a piece of checked-baggage.
Pablo Escobar, the most infamous terrorist before Osama Bin Laden, blew up an Avianca airliner in 1989 with an IED, killing 107 passengers and crew.
In 1995, Operation Bojinka was nearly pulled off by Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 WTC attack. The plan was to detonate 2 IEDs on separate flights, and hijack five others.
In the post-9/11 era, Al Qaeda operatives have tried to detonate IEDs hidden in shoes, underwear, wallets, and toner cartridges to destroy airliners.
It is a fact of life that airliners will always be the prime targets of choice.
Our fervent hope should be that the TSA does not over-react and deploy more intrusive, expensive, and poorly effective security measures simply in the name of "making us feel safer".
This has already happened with pat-downs, shoe removal, liquid prohibition, and most recently the use naked x-ray machines.
None of these have reduced or will reduce the risk to passengers and the system from the next generation of IEDs. They are security theater and nothing else.
We should truly fear that by trying to "protect" the air transport system, TSA ultimately ends up causing it irreparable harm.