airline

According to the departing TSA chief of the agency charged with protecting transportation, Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda still remain fixated on U.S. airlines and continue to hone their bomb-making skills.

In spite of more than thirteen years since the last successful terrorist attack on a U.S. aircraft – the hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001 – the highest threat is still someone sneaking a bomb onto a plane bound for the U.S., said John Pistole, head of Transportation Security Administration. “The threats continue,” Pistole, said in an interview at the agency’s Arlington, Virginia office. “They are steadfast and the terrorists are innovative in their design, construction and concealment of devices.”

The TSA, most known for its airport passenger screenings, has become more proficient at intelligence gathering, adding together layers of protection and concentrating resources on the highest risk travelers, Pistole said. His four-year tenure included a move to split the flying public into groups that get traditional screening and those who opt for an advance background check so they get a less- invasive examination at the airport.

During his tenure, at least two attempted attacks were thwarted. One was a 2010 plot to hide bombs in computer printers sent as cargo and a 2012 plot which was a scheme to smuggle a bomb aboard an airliner. Both were thwarted before they could be carried out as a result of intelligence.

Pistole, who will leave the TSA at the end of the year to become president of Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, has faced controversy. Civil rights groups opposed to assertive pat-downs ordered in 2010, and he had to reverse a decision last year to allow pocket knives in airplane cabins after flight attendants and members of Congress questioned the policy change, citing still-fresh recollections of Sept. 11th.

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