Date: September 4, 2011
Abstract: U.S. officials say terrorists could try to use small aircraft in attacks, but have no specific information that such a plot is in the works, according to a new notice distributed by federal officials.
"Violent extremists with knowledge of general aviation and access to small planes pose a significant potential threat to the Homeland," according to an intelligence bulletin issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
But according to the alert, U.S. officials "do not have current, credible information or intelligence of an imminent attack being planned against aviation" by al Qaeda or its affiliates.
In the alert, which was obtained by CNN, officials say as recently as early 2011, al Qaeda was considering options for targeting aviation "possibly believing such operations would have a greater impact than other types of attacks." Among the strategies al Qaeda members have discussed are using a private aircraft to carry explosives, finding a Western operative who could easily travel to the United States or Europe to get flight training or renting private planes for attacks, "believing supervision would be lax due to the large number of private aircraft."
The bulletin was issued to state and local law enforcement agencies on Friday, a little over a week before the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Al Qaeda operatives killed nearly 3,000 people in those attacks by hijacking four commercial airliners and turning them into missiles, and some of the terrorists had received flight training in the United States.
Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said although there is no specific intelligence about a plot, alerts are regularly shared with law enforcement partners on "evolving tactics that could be used by violent extremists to carry out attacks against the United States." He noted al Qaeda and others have targeted aviation since the 1990s and persist in seeking aviation training.Chandler said the bulletin is intended to "highlight the need for continued awareness and vigilance" (CNN, 2011).
Title: Officials Watch For Terrorists With Body Bombs On US-Bound Planes
Date: April 30, 2012
Source: ABC News
Abstract: With the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death looming, American and European authorities told ABC News today that they fear al Qaeda may soon try to explode U.S.-bound aircraft with explosives hidden inside the bodies of terrorists.
As a result, security at several airports in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East has been substantially stepped up, with a focus on U.S. carriers.
Additional federal air marshals have also been shifted overseas in advance of the anniversary. A year ago Tuesday night, President Obama announced on live television that bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. raid on a compound in Pakistan.
Medical experts say there is plenty of room in the stomach area of the body for surgically implanted explosives. "The surgeon would open the abdominal cavity and literally implant the explosive device in amongst the internal organs," explained Dr. Mark Melrose, a New York emergency medicine specialist.
For the last year, U.S. and European authorities have publicly warned that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, and its master bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, have been designing body bombs with no metal parts to get past airport security.
"We are treating the information seriously," John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, told ABC News in 2011.
Asiri placed a bomb inside the rectal cavity of his own brother for a suicide mission aimed at Saudi Arabian intelligence chief Prince Muhammad bin Nayef in 2009. That bomb exploded prematurely, officials said, and the only casualty was Asiri's brother 23-yearold brother Abdullah. Asiri is also believed responsible for the "underwear bomb" with which Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to take down Northwest flight 253 on Christmas 2009, and for the printer bombs in the failed cargo bomb plot of 2010.
In public, U.S. officials say there is no credible information of an impending attack. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard released a statement Monday evening saying, "We have no indication of any specific, credible threats or plots against the U.S. tied to the one-year anniversary of bin Laden's death."
But earlier Monday, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan called the al Qaeda group in Yemen the greatest threat to the U.S.
"AQAP continues to be al Qaeda's most active affiliate, and it continues to seek the opportunity to strike our homeland," said Brennan during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C.
Brennan said bin Laden admitted al Qaeda had lost its way, agreeing that "a large portion" of Muslims around the world "have lost their trust" in al Qaeda.
Confessing to "disaster after disaster" in al Qaeda plots, Brennan said, bin Laden urged leaders to feel to places "away from aircraft photography and bombardment" (ABC News, 2012).
Onion Sparks Ire With Image Of Plane, Building
Date: August 3, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: The satirical newspaper The Onion is attracting some public ire for an image that shows an airliner about to crash into Chicago's Willis Tower, the tallest building in the country.
The image, in a video on The Onion's website showcasing its stories, shows an airplane emblazoned with the company name Sears flying toward the iconic black skyscraper, which for decades was named Sears Tower and headquarters to the retail chain. A narrator intones, "Sears extremists fly a plane into Willis Tower."
The image generated more than 3,200 responses on The Onion's Facebook page by Friday evening, many denouncing the use of an image reminiscent of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
In response to questions about the criticism and using such an image, The Onion marketing director Grant Jones stuck with the newspaper's tone. He wrote in an email that, "9-11 must never be the fodder for jokes. Perhaps you didn't see the news that humor died after 9-11."
Jones called the blurb "a very important story," then added: "We're surprised other major news sources are not giving it the coverage it deserves."
People in New York weren't taking the image as lightly.
"That's not funny," said Christina Lopez, 36, who was living on New York's Long Island on Sept. 11, 2001. She said she can't foresee a time when such a gag would be appropriate, adding: "It's not OK. Ever."
Bill Hylen, a Philadelphian who was visiting lower Manhattan on Friday, also didn't find the image amusing. The 45-year-old said there may be a time when a lighthearted allusion to 9/11 won't hit such a nerve in the nation, but "it's not coming up any time soon."
It isn't the first time The Onion has generated angst with its satire.
Last September, Washington Capitol Police released a statement refuting tweets and an article claiming members of Congress had taken a group of school children hostage. It included a doctored picture of Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner holding a gun to a child's head.
The story came a day after the FBI arrested a man accused of planning to bomb the Pentagon and the Capitol with explosive-filled model airplanes.
The Chicago-based publication was founded in 1988 by two students in Madison from the University of Wisconsin. Starting as a local college newspaper, it became a national comedy institution and went online in 1996, and has since developed a television news parody. The publication is distributed weekly in cities, but it has also embraced Twitter and on has an app for the iPad and other tablets.The Onion's editorial staff has been based in New York City with other offices in Madison, Wis., but is relocating to Chicago (Fox News, 2012).
Hello, It’s Your Pilot Speaking. I Am About To Go Unconscious…
Date: November 18, 2012
Abstract: Two weeks ago Captain Tristan Loraine, a former British Airways pilot who retired on medical grounds in 2006, sat at his computer to type the email he had been hoping to send for years. He and fellow medically-retired air crew he had spent the past few years trying to expose what they believe is one of the great global scandals of our times: that the air on passenger jets is not always safe.
Then last month Professor Clement Furlong, an expert in biochemistry and organophosphates at the University of Washington in Seattle, gave them their Eureka moment. His research showed there are more potentially dangerous toxins in jet engine oil than previously thought, poisons which can contribute to nausea, dizziness and long-term physiological damage.
For Mr Loraine and the Global Cabin Air Quality Executive, a coalition he assembled from crew unions, the findings are “exceedingly significant” because oil leaks can contaminate cabin air.
Mr Loraine, a former official in British Airline Pilots’ Association, which he accuses of cowardly keeping quiet on the matter, said: “On May 1, 2001, I got a call that changed my life. A colleague told me he had been exposed to contaminated air and collapsed, would lose his job and asked me to investigate. I was a union rep and so I did.
“With the support of many unions and individuals, today, 11 years after my telephone call, here we have a new major victory.”
The issue is one of the most controversial but least publicised in the airline industry, which dismisses Mr Loraine and others as conspiracy theorists. Largely unknown to passengers, pilots don oxygen masks mid-flight at least once a month after being affected by fumes entering the cockpit and cabin. In some cases, Mayday calls have been sent, emergency landings made and crews ferried to hospital.
The episodes, recorded by the Civil Aviation Authority as “fume events”, are caused by what many believe is a fundamental design flaw . In almost all jets, unfiltered air is circulated via a “bleed” system . Air is sucked in through the engines, into a compressor unit then into a pipe to the cabin.
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That air is recycled every few minutes but problems occur when small amounts of oil leak during the bleeding process. Worn or faulty bearing seals can make the leaks worse. To withstand the high temperatures of jet engines, lubricants are made of synthetic compounds such as the organophosphate TCP . At high temperatures and pressures, the chemical make-up can change to produce potentially dangerous toxins.
Professor Furlong has found more harmful toxins in the oil than previously thought .
Mr Loraine and Dr Susan Michaelis, a former pilot who researched her PhD on the issue after having to retire on medical grounds, say it further validates Aerotoxic Syndrome, a chronic condition resulting from exposure to “fume events” which is not yet recognised by doctors.
They say pilots and cabin crew are more vulnerable than passengers because they fly far more but even single exposures can be harmful depending on the genetic make-up of the individual.
The Sunday Express has seen footage of one episode during a flight in the US, while two years ago, American television filmed a pilot being stretchered off a plane. Both he and his co-pilot lost their medical licences to fly and four of the cabin crew have still not returned to work.
Airlines insist they comply with air quality standards but two settlements have been secured by former cabin crew in the US and Australia. In both cases airlines and manufacturers refused to admit general liability. Such an admission could see exceedingly expensive litigation. Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, however, does not use a bleed air system.
Professor Furlong said : “Airlines never let the passengers know they have been exposed to anything, so if they experience symptoms following a flight, their doctors would not have a clue what might be wrong.” However, Professor Michael Bagshaw, a former head of health at BA, highlights a study by Cranfield University in Buckinghamshire last year . It found no dangers.
Professor Bagshaw, listed as an adviser to Airbus, has his own theory about why pilots often rely on oxygen masks. He says in many cases they are exhibiting the “classic” symptoms of hyperventilation due to stress. They smell the fumes, they become fearful and panic.
Mr Loraine said: “When I had my emergency landings in Heathrow and stood and watched passengers getting off, some coughing, some with paper up their noses due to the fumes, were they all mass hyperventilating ?” He hopes the airlines will move away from bleed air systems but for now wants them to use safer lubricants.
When the Sunday Express asked Virgin and BA for written assurances that inhaling heated jet engine oil fumes is totally safe, neither would answer directly.
Virgin replied: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is our top priority. As with all British airlines we operate to the strict regulations and standards set out by the CAA and the European Aviation Safety Industry.”
BA said: “We would not operate an aircraft if we believed it posed a health or safety risk to our customers or crew.
“The cockpit/cabin is the normal place of work of more than 13,000 cabin crew members and 3,000 pilots employed by British Airways and we see no trends in sickness rates which would indicate a link with cabin air issues.”
Dr Rob Hunter, a former pilot and head of safety and security at Balpa, said: “The cabin is vulnerable to engine fume contamination because there is no filter. It is a problem [but] it is a problem of how the argument is presented.
“It is a very odd thing about this debate how much is put forward by people other than toxicologists.”A CAA spokesman said: “We will continue to work closely with the airline industry to maintain safety standards on board UK aircraft” (Express, 2012).