Laptop Bombs and Civil Aviation: Terrorism Potentials and Carry On Travel Bans
Published on: 03/07/2017
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This TRENDS Working Paper represents a more in depth analysis of a prior Insights essay from the Terrorism Futures Series. It remains focused on the heightened concerns expressed over the smuggling of explosives hidden in laptops by Al Qaeda, and now Islamic State/Daesh, operatives for civil aviation bombing purposes. It also, however, provides a more detailed look into ongoing radical Islamist airliner explosive device targeting approaches and activities. These are broken down and tabled per four identified approaches, that is, via checked baggage (or parcel cargo), close to the body, internal body (animal), or carry on item devices being characterized. Imagery and information derived from radical Islamist English language magazines—specifically, Inspire (an AQAP; Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula publication) and Dabiq (a Daesh publication)—is also utilized. In addition, a more detailed red team analysis of the terrorism potentials related to the laptop bombing mode of attack is made and more information related to the laptop (as well as similar sized electronic device) travel bans that have been enacted and are now being considered is provided. This area of threat concern is extremely important to a global airline industry that generates in excess of $700 billion dollars of revenues each year. If radical Islamist terrorists are able to effectively target passenger airliners with laptop (and related consumer electronics) bombs by bypassing current screening technologies and protocols, they will detrimentally impact consumer confidence related to the safety of this mode of travel. Should such a scenario develop, laptop and related device travel bans—although economically costly and disruptive to business travelers—may be required as a stopgap measure to restore passenger confidence until adequate countermeasures have been put into place.