Promoting an understanding of individual criminal, organized trafficker, and terrorist group utilization of near-the-body and in-the-body techniques to smuggle illicit narcotics and weapons though security checkpoints and then highlighting responses to such activities was the focus of a recent international conference. At its heart, much of this gathering drew upon red teaming, alternative analysis, and practical lessons learned. These were utilized in order to characterize adversarial actions and behaviors that could then be creatively approached in order to generate mitigation and response strategies.
The conference was held 10–11 June 2015 in London at the Riverside Venue by Heathrow Airport. This extremely important and first of its kind event was attended by 105 participants and delegates primarily from government, academia, law enforcement, private security, and private industry. International conference participation included representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Belarus, Russian Federation, Israel, and Japan.
The conference was organized by Green Light, Ltd., a UK aviation and security training and consultancy company. Serving as major sponsors were ADANI, an international R&D company focusing on security x-ray equipment, and OD Security, a company focusing on security applications for body scanning. The conference prospectus summarized the event as follows:
A two-day conference addressing issues relating to screening people for entry to (or potentially exit from) areas requiring security controls. Topics to be addressed include: infiltration techniques, concealment methodologies, detection technologies, search protocols, suicidal terrorism, drug trafficking and discrimination and ethical concerns.
The conference was divided into eight sections with approximately thirty speakers addressing the following topics:
- Terrorism, Trafficking, and Crime;
- The Body as a Receptacle;
- Behavioural Indicators;
- Sociological Issues;
- Detection Concerns;
- Understanding Existing Detection Technologies;
- Animal Olfaction;
- Understanding Futuristic Detection Technologies; and
- The Body Search.
A vendor exhibit hall featuring detection technologies and training and consultancy services also ran concurrent with the conference. Additionally, during the breaks, Quelltex, Ltd., staff conducted workshops addressing best practices in physical body search techniques.
Noted speakers included
- Prof. Coral J. Dando, University of Wolverhampton, UK;
- Prof. John Tyrer, Loughborough University, UK;
- Dr. Ferco Berger, VU University Medical Centre, NL;
- Dr. Marta Jezierska-Switala, TNO Defence, Security and Safety, NL;
- Dr. Oleg Grigoriev, Federal Medical Biological Agency of Russia, RF;
- Dr. John Harrison, Senior Analyst Cyberpoint, USA (formerly at the National Defense University);
- Dr. Robert J. Bunker, Futurist in Residence, FBI Academy, USA;
- Paul Brenda, CTO GSIS, USA (former Director US HSARPA);
- Andrew Thompson, Border Force Higher Officer, Home Office, UK;
- Nick Glenn, Inspector, College of Policing, UK;
- Paul Behan, Director, APCS Division, International Air Transportation Association (IATA);
- Philip Baum, Green Light, Ltd., UK;
- Steve Wolff, Wolff Consulting Services, USA;
- Andrew McClumpha, McClumpha Associates, UK;
- Konstantin Sosenko, ADANI, Belarus;
- Steve Smith, TEK84, USA;
- Omer Laviv, CEO, Athena GS3 Security Implementations Ltd., IL;
- Dakar Eilat, CEO, Initiative Defense Solutions, IL; and
- Steve Collins, PS5, UK.
Some of the main conference themes and highlights were:
- The ongoing use of drug mules (swallowers) on commercial flights utilized by transnational trafficking groups. These mules typically carry anywhere from 50 to 150 cocaine or heroin pellets inside of their digestive tracks. In past instances from Jamaica, more than twenty-five passengers on a single flight going into the UK were carrying illicit narcotics inside of them. High grade marijuana and, in one instance, large quantities of cash have also been interdicted. A partial shift from solid to liquid cocaine has since taken place, initially causing contraband detection failures that have been overcome. Still, except when airport checkpoint screening sophistication levels are high, to this day drug mules readily penetrate the majority of governmental security systems set up to interdict them.
- Concerns and analysis focused on the threat of internal body cavity bombs being utilized against commercial airliners and other high value targets such as secure facilities and governmental VIPs. Such devices have been utilized twice now against Saudi Arabian and Afghani governmental counter-terrorism officials in August 2009 and December 2012, respectively, with the later targeted VIP suffering major injuries. Fortunately such bare charge cavity secreted IEDs are viewed as typically having limited blast effects. Still, while such devices have not as of yet been directed at commercial airliners, this represents a still-maturing threat with probable significant international airline industry disruptive effects.
- The inefficiency of mobile and choke point contacts. Presently, a large percentage of mobile and choke point contacts are inefficient. In fact, they often provide absolutely no security benefits at all, while at the same time many of those contacts may even be detrimental in that they also create negative public goodwill. To overcome such dilemmas, empirical measures need to be further developed and refined. Both stop search on the high street (mobile contacts) and in controlled environments (choke point contacts) require the scientific method to be applied. Such application is based on the utilization of behavioral indicator assessments and physical and virtual (overt and covert standoff) body searches via human, animal, and machine-derived capabilities. This will ultimately translate into increased operational effectiveness related to detecting contraband and weapons smuggling activities.
- Insurance-industry efforts. Various sectors of the security industry—both public and private—are working independently on the same basic body search screening problems. This transcends venues such as border control, large scale international events, prison environments, and transportation modes and has resulted in not only “islands of technology” use that do not connect with one another across venues/facilities but within venues/facilities themselves. Great potentials exist to link these disparate “islands” together to better create integrated security processes. Of course, with such increases in security efficiencies, democratic expectations and rights to privacy (even to some extent even within custodial scenarios) must also be taken into consideration.
- “Smart security.” How to synthesize elements of what is known as “smart security” in airport operations derived from security effectiveness, operational efficiency, and passenger experience was discussed. These elements draw upon principles of risk-based security in a checkpoint environment in combination with advanced technology and are required to balance stakeholders’ needs from the perspective of the airlines, airports, regulators, and passengers.
- The need for systems analysis. A systems analysis approach should be taken in making determinations of the strengths and weaknesses of current and emerging airline passenger screening technologies across the electromagnetic spectrum (EM). This analysis should include the effectiveness of detecting close-to-the-body and internal contraband, scanning times, health-risk dosages, system costs and maintenance, and training and use requirements. A basic consensus among security practitioners is that no one EM technology should be relied on but rather multi-energy imaging across the spectrum should be drawn upon. This would allow for screening technology use to be layered and/or even randomized in order to defeat criminal and opposing force countermeasure attempts.
The conference generated quite a few synergies with in depth interactions between social science academics, governmental regulators, technology developers, industry representatives, and law enforcement and private security practitioners taking place. For example, discussions related to red teaming and operational considerations were extremely useful to the technologists working on hidden weapons and contraband sensing systems, as they are generally isolated from such considerations. To find out more about this conference and to obtain information on when this event may be held again in the future, see the Body Search 2015 website or directly email the organizer.
The views expressed in this conference report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Army War College, or the U.S. Government.