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Secure Transportation System Against Global Terror Essay

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Updated: Mar 21st, 2022

The need to secure the global transportation system stems from the threat of global terrorism. Terrorists especially those linked to extremist groups are not only highly motivated but also have access to funds that allow them to strike anywhere. Aside from that, it is their mode of operation and organization that makes them extremely difficult to detect and monitor. By the time they decide to attack it may well be too late. The good news is that cooperation, coordination, and new technology can be used to secure the global transportation system and halt the activities of terror groups.

Background Information

September 11, 2001, a date that will never be forgotten because of the destruction and terror it has brought to the U.S. mainland and its people. It will always be a reminder as to the kind of enemy Americans will face in the 21st century. It is an army composed of a different breed of soldier – a religious fanatic dedicated to the task, creative, and almost invisible. They are difficult to track and monitor because they use guerrilla tactics, blending in with the people as if they are ordinary tourists, exchange students, businessmen, or even migrants who came to the U.S. a long time ago waiting for the opportune time to strike. When they receive a command to sabotage, blow up or hijack a facility they will do so with speed and audacity and therefore sow terror and disrupt the American way of life.

The Al-Qaeda terror group and other organizations with the same burning hatred against the West are driven by a twisted religious fervor; they are convinced that it is their religious duty to rid the world of infidels – those who oppose their religion and show contempt against Islam. As a result, they are more than willing to give their lives for their cause and that makes them unpredictable. This is the reason why everything must be done to protect the country’s transportation system because it has been made clear that terrorists can access these facilities and use them to paralyze society with fear.

Security experts call extremist groups an “evolving threat” meaning they are always changing and always looking for weaknesses in the system so they can exploit them (Carafano & Sauter, p.129). Aside from that, “the modern domestic terrorist threat has adopted advanced organizational and operational techniques that make it increasingly insidious” (Carafano & Sauter, p.129). The reason behind this is their ability to work by themselves or work in small groups or cells (Carafano & Sauter, p.129). Furthermore, terror groups can function as “leaderless resistance, operating from general instructions or directive, perhaps spread via websites” (Carafano & Sauter, p.130). One can just imagine how they can stay underground and their friends and neighbors may not even know their true intentions.

Finally, terrorists are well connected and well-financed. If Al-Qaeda is the gold standard then one simply has to look at the leadership and conclude that religious fanatics with money are financing the terror attacks. This means that they have access to information as well as to sophisticated weapons and materials that can be used to create weapons of mass destruction. Faced with this kind of enemy it is easy to see the global transportation system as an organism with many weak spots and easy to exploit.

Global Transportation System

There are various reasons why security experts are advocating for a global coordinated effort to protect the global transportation system from terrorists. First of all commercial aviation and ports can be used to transport terrorists into the United States as well as to smuggle weapons and dangerous materials into the country (Bragdon, p.6). Secondly, seaports, airports, bus stations are located near heavily populated areas.

Finally, the goal of the terror group is not only to destroy life but also to inflict major economic losses to the U.S. (Bragdon, p.158). For instance, a coordinated sinking of ships “in the Houston Ship Canal and the Lower Mississippi Waterway would block the ability to receive about 50% of U.S. oil imports, causing significant short and medium-term impacts on the U.S. economy and, therefore, the world economy” (Bragdon, p.158). This simply means that there is too much at stake there is a need to use every available tool to combat the terror threat.

Efficient Use of Technology

There are at least three ways to secure airports while there are at least two major ways to secure seaports, specifically cargo shipments. When it comes to airports, the first layer of defense is the use of physical barriers such as fences and walls which by the way is enhanced by security patrols as well as surveillance cameras. The second way is to use scanners and detectors to verify the items carried by passengers.

The third method is to verify the identity of the passengers and this procedure includes the use of biometrics technology such as fingerprint and retinal scans and the use of computers to identify facial patterns (Tyson & Grabianowski, p.1). In addition, there is also the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System or CAPPS. This is a computer database that gathers and stores passenger information that can help security personnel assist risk (Tyson & Grabianowski, p.1). A computer can efficiently sift through a great deal of information in just a matter of minutes which may take days for a human worker days to accomplish.

The 9/11 Commission submitted a report that states that Mohammed Atta – one of the terrorists who hijacked a plane and drove it straight to the World Trade Center – was identified by the CAPPS as a possible threat (The 9/11 Commission, p.1). Airport officials did not arrest him because they did not have enough information and after they held his bags before take-off to determine if he did not carry any weapon or bomb they allowed him to board the flight (The 9/11 Commission, p.2). Although this story tells of the failure of the intelligence community it nevertheless highlighted the importance of technology as an effective defense against the terror threat.

In the case of cargo shipments use of screening technology such as x-ray screening, x-ray based explosive detection systems as well as chemical trace detection systems, will greatly increase efficiency in detecting weapons and bombs (Elias, p.25). Technology is needed because as of 2007 there are already 65,354 steel shipping containers “lost in transit to Iraq and Afghanistan while in the U.S. Central Command logistics transit system (Bragdon, p.269). No one really knows the number of munitions and weapons that were lost in transit. Combine this with the fact that there are 361 seaports in this country; there is a real threat that these same weapons can be shipped back into the hands of terrorists.


Terrorists are mobile, well-financed and highly motivated. They can attack anywhere and originate from different parts of the globe. It is almost impossible to guard and protect vital facilities such as airports, seaports, bus terminals, railway stations etc.

There is therefore a need to use technology to increase the efficiency of security personnel and to increase the chance of apprehending terrorists before they can strike.


Bragdon, Clifford. Transportation Security. MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008.

Carafano, J. & M. Sauter, Homeland Security. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Elias, B. (2007). “” Congressional Research Service. Web.

Tyson, J. & E. Grabianowski. (2010). “”. Web.

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