• United States



TSA Security Director Reacts to Foiled Plot

Sep 01, 20063 mins
Identity Management SolutionsInvestigation and ForensicsPhysical Security

On Aug. 10, British authorities announced they had foiled a terrorist plot to blow up passenger airplanes en route to the United States from Britain. George Naccara, the Transportation Security Administration’s director of security at Logan International Airport in Boston, talks to CSO’s Scott Berinato about how the thwarted plot affects the future of airport security. The full audio version is available at

CSO: You are a proponent of behavioral profiling. How does the alleged terrorist plot support your case for that security technique?

George Naccara: The intelligence says the terrorists are working in teams, probably of three or four. Each has something that I don’t believe would raise suspicion at the checkpoint but, when combined on the plane with some igniting device, can cause an explosion. These people are under stress because each of them is deceiving the government, they’ve got to get through for the team to succeed and they’re fearful of capture. So they’re definitely going to be giving off those involuntary behavioral characteristics.

It seems like no matter what defense we throw up, the risk just shifts to something new with flying.

How do you break that cycle?

That is what’s happening, and we see that. We’re still in a more reactive posture than a preemptive one, but as the intelligence sharing on a global level increases and improves, then perhaps we will become more preemptive and certainly more effective. Of course we’ve got to be agile, flexible and adaptable. That’s something we’re learning. I think the events (in August) showed we’re making progress there. I was encouraged. Also, every time we harden up some part of our airport, that creates a little disincentive [for terrorists] to try. Because [they] want to have an 80 or 90 percent opportunity for success.

The events in August prompted talk of moving passenger screening from contractors back to the

TSA. Good idea?

It’s a good idea in some form. My idea would be to have an airline ticket checker supplemented by our behavioral-profiling-trained people. That way we wouldn’t be consumed with fulfilling some of the requirements that are the responsibility of the airlines. And we’d also have a chance to look at the people in line as they approached a checkpoint and do our behavior analysis at that time. In our [preliminary] tests with behavioral profiling we produced some unanticipated benefits with spotting fraudulent identification and documents.

How do we fix this seemingly intractable problem of carry-on item prohibitions?

I can see some great logic in having no carry-ons at all. Someone needs to sit down with some enterprising carrier and say, Come up with a scheme where people come on board with maybe just their IDs and maybe a wallet or small purse and nothing else and then when they disembark they could be handed their roller bag.