The Department of Homeland Security is taking immediate steps to increase security measures in the aviation sector in coordination with heightened security precautions in the United Kingdom. Over the last few hours, British authorities have arrested a significant number of extremists engaged in a substantial plot to destroy multiple passenger aircraft flying from the United Kingdom to the United States. Currently, there is no indication, however, of plotting within the United States. We believe that these arrests have significantly disrupted the threat, but we cannot be sure that the threat has been entirely eliminated or the plot completely thwarted.
For that reason, the United States Government has raised the nation’s threat level to Severe, or Red, for commercial flights originating in the United Kingdom bound for the United States. This adjustment reflects the Critical, or highest, alert level that has been implemented in the United Kingdom.
The nature of the imminent threat and the Operational Risks associated with keeping the investigation under cover any longer prompted authorities to "Go Public" with the plot early today. While only 21 individuals have been arrested at this point in time, the weeks ahead will tell a more detailed story about links to Pakistan and possibly al-Qaida.
The era of suicide bombers is extending month by month and year by year. Vigilance in our thinking about what is possible and how effective their strategy can be, is imperative.
Terrorists have used suicide bombs for decades. As the suicide attacks in New York and London have demonstrated, this tactic has now become a threat to parts of the world previously untouched by suicide terrorism.
Suicide bombers may use a lorry, plane or other kind of vehicle as a bomb - either carrying explosives or using the fuel aboard the vehicle as a makeshift explosive - or may conceal explosives on their persons. Both kinds of attack are generally perpetrated without warning. The most likely targets are symbolic locations, key installations, VIPs or mass-casualty 'soft' targets.
When considering protective measures against suicide bombers, think in terms of:
* Denying access to anyone or anything that has not been thoroughly searched. Ensure that no one visits your protected area without your being sure of his or her identity or without proper authority. Seek further advice through your local police force's CTSA.
* Establishing your search area at a distance from the protected site, setting up regular patrols and briefing staff to look out for anyone behaving suspiciously; many bomb attacks are preceded by reconnaissance or trial runs. Ensure that such incidents are reported to the police
* Effective CCTV systems can help prevent or even deter hostile reconnaissance, and can provide crucial evidence in court
* There is no definitive physical profile for a suicide bomber, so remain vigilant and report anyone suspicious to the police.