UK vows to review air freight security in wake of bomb plot

By JONNY PAUL
November 1, 2010 04:05

Lord Carlile, gov't’s independent reviewer of terror legislation, says would be unfeasible to check each of thousands of parcels that fly through UK airports.

3 minute read.



An UPS airplane isolated as it is searched

311_UPS airplane. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LONDON – British Home Secretary Theresa May vowed to review air freight security on Sunday after bombs were found on two cargo jets in the UK and Dubai.

May said that security of all international air cargo arriving in Britain was being reviewed after a bomb sent from Yemen and addressed to a Chicago synagogue was found aboard an aircraft at East Midlands Airport.

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In a BBC interview on Sunday, May said: “Certainly, we have to look at our processes of searching and how we detect these devices.”

Acknowledging the massive economic and financial implications of much tighter international air cargo security regulations, May stopped short of saying a much more rigorous system of checks was being planned either unilaterally or globally.

“We are looking at the screening of freight. We will be looking at the processes we use. We’ll be talking with the [aviation] industry about these issues,” she told BBC television.

Responding to reports that the device was not found until a second search, and despite an alleged six-hour search, May said the “crucial thing” was it was discovered.

After a six-hour sweep of cargo at the East Midlands Airport, Leicestershire Police came up empty and removed the security perimeter they had set up, British aviation safety consultant Chris Yates said on Sunday.

“The crucial thing is we did find it and we were able to take action on it,” May said.

“What we have done is taken action in relation to future unaccompanied freight from the Yemen, which would either be coming into the UK or through the UK, and banned that freight.”

The home secretary said it could not be determined whether the bombers had planned to blow up the planes over the UK or US.

“As I understand it, with these freight flights, sometimes the routing can change at the last minute so it is difficult for those who are planning the detonation to know exactly where the aircraft would be,” she said.

May said that terrorists were always looking at new methods of attack.

“It is a constant battle for us against the terrorists and we should be clear about that,” she said.

“We’re constantly looking at how we can ensure that we’re improving our multi-layered approach. It’s important to say yes, we have an approach which is about physical security at airports, but obviously also police work and intelligence.”

A Downing Street spokesman said British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the attempted terrorist plot with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is currently on a two-day visit to the UK, with both pledging to maintain their “close and effective” counter-terrorism cooperation.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) said there should be a review of all air cargo procedures, but warned against a knee-jerk reaction.

“The issue requires attention to look at systems and procedures – though it must be stressed that there are already well established, in depth and organized processes there,” Peter Quantrill, director-general of the BIFA told the BBC.

“It was a very serious issue, but it would be wrong to suggest that air freight security is not treated in the same way as passengers when it comes to security.”

Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of terror legislation, said it would be unfeasible to check each of the thousands of parcels that fly in and out of UK airports.

“To search every parcel is a physical impossibility; the technology is good but we can’t rely on technology alone,” he said.

“We have to rely on a combination of technology and human resources and that is why the intelligence effort which has worked pretty well on this occasion, is so important as part of the picture.”


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