The Human Factor Represents the Highest Risks for Air Freight Security
Lufthansa Cargo is the only air freight carrier worldwide to organize and host successive security conferences at biennial intervals where experts together with industry representatives, high ranking members of administrative bodies and leading politicians deliver an insight into relevant security issues and trends affecting this sector. With regard to current developments, the carrier’s 6th security conference held last Thursday in Frankfurt highlighted the increasing threat coming from radical Islamists on air freight and aviation in general. In this rundown, we present the main aspects of the discussion.
Harald warns of sinister trend
In his introductory remarks, LH Cargo’s security figurehead Harald Zielinski sounded the alarm, pointing out that a new type of perpetrator has recently emerged, becoming an increasing threat to the industry: the internal offender. Security checked employees with full access to security sectors at airports or warehouses that become radicalized Jihadists without anybody noticing it because of their inconspicuous behavior. “We are not talking about a common thief but a potential terrorist that can do much harm to our industry,” Harald illustrated this newly emerged source of threat. The lone Jihadi wolf is becoming a real danger to aviation. It requires new observation and reconnaissance activities to detect converted intruders before they can do any harm, he asked the 130 attendees to take action in order to safeguard their business.
In his remarks Herr Zielinski also delivered another less worrisome but nonetheless problematic message, announcing that the upcoming air safety law to be introduced by the German Federal Government will cost the air freight industry €32.74 million. It’s a new cost avalanche cargo companies will have to shoulder.
Bosbach refutes Fukuyama
In his keynote address, Wolfgang Bosbach, member of the German Parliament and until 2015 long-time Chairman of the Committee on Internal Affairs of the German Bundestag referred to Francis Fukuyama, the author of ‘The End of History and the Last Man’. In his book, the Chicago-born political scientist assumed that ideological struggles will end after the Soviet system imploded and the Berlin wall crumbled. Fukuyama predicted a global trend to liberal democracy and the universalization of economic and ethical values practiced in Western countries.
“That was our hope 25 years ago,” Bosbach stated. However, today’s security situation isn’t any less dramatic than it was during the Cold War. What’s most frightening is the change in terrorism with suicide bombers trying to kill as many people as possible, regardless their ethnics, religion or nationality. In contrast, ‘traditional’ perpetrators selected target persons, trying not to be caught by police or military forces after their attacks. In Germany, Bosbach said, 40,000 Islamists are living, among them 8,200 radical Salafists. “We should practice a policy of zero tolerance because they don’t hate us for what we are doing but for what we are!” Freedom and security are two sides of the same coin, said the politician who pleaded for more vigilance.
Bosbach’s appeal was strongly supported by Professor Wolfgang Bock, a judge at the German Federal Agency for Security Policy. He referred to a long-term study between 2008 and 2012 conducted by a U.S. institute and based on 38,000 interviews with Muslims living in North America, Europe and Africa, with Saudi Arabia, Iran and China excluded from the survey because of political reasons. The findings are highly alarming, with 53 percent being in favour of abolishing western democratic systems and introducing the Sharia law instead. This includes strict laws against insulting the Prophet, the consumption of alcohol, punishments such as the severing of limbs for property crimes (cutting off hands), and the death penalty, by stoning for adultery and homosexuality. Professor Bock said: “27 percent of those that support the Sharia are in favour of introducing the death penalty in the countries they live in.” While 61 percent of the interviewees objected to any suicide attacks in the name of Allah, 39 percent expressed some sympathy or even affirm this repugnant practice.
According to Bock, the majority of Muslims don’t have a deeper understanding of their religion. This, however, doesn’t make them less susceptible to radicalization and extremism. Even more frightening is the fact that among Islamic terrorist there are always well-educated people, which seemed to be well integrated in western societies. His conclusion: The pulling-out of Western armed forces from crisis regions will strengthen Islamism, thus fostering terror, increasing security threats and weaken the Western world. Best would be to support local liberal movements in appropriate ways instead of taking military action, Judge Bock recommended.
Loga announced tougher measures to close security loopholes
Birgit Loga, Head of Aviation Security at national regulator Luftfahrt-Bundesamt (LBA) announced plans for introducing a new security program in air freight. The scheme’s main point is that all participants of the supply chain in air freight will need an official approval for being allowed to conduct cargo transports, including trucking companies and their subcontractors. Therefore, it can be expected that in addition to the LBA admitted 1,717 Regulated Agents including production sites, their number will steeply increase once the security program passed legislation. Loga admitted that her agency doesn’t exactly know how many transport companies are part of the supply chain in air freight. “This we intend to change to get precise data and exercise inspections to control the performance, workflows and the company’s compliance with statutory requirements,” she stated.
Hauke talks straight
Chief Superintendent Hauke Blohm of Germany’s Federal Police Headquarters warned in his presentation of a rapidly increasing threat level in air freight security. “I severely doubt the effectiveness of existing measures to minimize risks,” he stated. It needs a completely new threat analysis highlighting the human factor instead of bureaucratic and technocratic precautions and defensive measures as done today.
A group of police specialists together with scholars of the University Hamburg-Harburg have developed a risk-based scenario in a three-year study, recognizing that humans are the weak point in air freight security. It’s not so much new scanner technology, more efficient X-ray machines and other devices to prevent explosives to be loaded on board of aircraft. They surely are indispensable to detecting loopholes but much more important is having a close eye on those that pack consignments, load them on board an aircraft or transit shipments from warehouses to the stands of the jetliners, the police expert indicated where the industry and the authorities should put their security focus on.
By wrapping up Lufthansa Cargo’s 6th security conference, Hauke reminded the 130 participants that the best way of protecting air freight and preventing attacks is to create a cooperative climate within a given company which all employees feel comfortable with, be it ground handlers, forwarders, truckers, shippers or carriers. He concluded his thoughtful remarks by pointing out that the emotional hurdle to smuggle a bomb aboard an aircraft is relatively low in case the person concerned hates the economic and social system he lives in. Once converted from a liberal Muslim to a Jihadist these fanatics are capable of anything, the police expert exclaimed.