America’s Airports: the Threat from Within

Monday, September 23, 2019

The recent indictment of American Airlines mechanic Ahmed Alani on charges of “willfully attempting to damage, destroy, disable and wreck a civil aircraft”, and his alleged ISIS connections, shines a spotlight on a major risk exposure in our airports: employee screening.

Ahmed Alani, American Airlines mechanic accused of tampering with an aircraft, appears in court

“Should people be worried? Hell, yeah,” says Doron Pely, a former aviation security consultant in Israel. “This doesn’t require a suicide bomber. It requires access to an airframe, an aircraft and motivation.”

900,000 people work in the 450 airports under US federal supervision and control, and many are able to bypass traditional screening requirements that passengers must endure.  At the same time, airports, airlines and cargo handlers are under pressure to hire personnel in a tight job market, especially during seasonal peaks, putting pressure on authorities to expedite employee screening.

A House Homeland Security Committee report issued in February, 2017, can be found here.  Since that time, major US airports and air cargo hubs have taken measures to expedite and improve screening procedures, but the threat remains.

Alani entered a “Not Guilty” plea in Miami, FL Federal Court on Friday.