Body scanners being installed at major US airports

In a bid to ensure aviation security in the US, full body scanners are being installed at America’s 10 busiest airports, even as the step has sparked a controversy over the issue of privacy.

Full body scanning machines that work similar to X-rays, showing images of people underneath their clothing are being installed at 10 of the nation’s busiest airports, including Houston’s William P Hobby Airport.

However, these screening devices at passenger screening checkpoints have stirred a lot of controversy over privacy.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced yesterday that 20 additional airports will be receiving the advanced imaging technology devices this summer.

A total of 58 of the so-called “Advanced Imaging Technology’ (AIT) units are already deployed at 24 airports nationwide.

“Deploying advanced imaging technology at these airports strengthens our ability to protect the traveling public in the face of evolving threats to aviation security,” Napolitano said.

Federal spending through USD 787 billion, two-year economic stimulus package enacted last year enables the department of homeland security to continue “accelerated deployment of enhanced technology as part of our layered approach to security at airports nationwide,” Napolitano said.

The screening devices are designed to check passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats such as weapons and explosives concealed beneath their clothing.

The devices are being programmed with “the latest security enhancements to detect new and evolving threats” such as liquid explosives, officials said.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, has purchased 450 of such devices.

Authorities said TSA ensures passenger privacy through the anonymity of the images.

A privacy filter is applied to blur the images.

The images are permanently deleted immediately after they are viewed by a TSA screener.

And the officer viewing the images is stationed in a remote location at the airport so that the screener does not to come into personal contact with passengers who are being screened with the equipment.

“Many factors are taken into consideration before AIT units are deployed including airport readiness, checkpoint infrastructure and capacity to ensure privacy protections –including a separate, remotely located room for viewing images,” Napolitano’s office said in a statement.

US undermined British investigation into al-Qaeda airline bomb plot

London, Sep. 8 (ANI): British police were forced to cut short their investigation into the 2006 al-Qaeda airline bomb plot after the US pressurised Pakistan to arrest the suspected mastermind Rashid Rauf.

According to The Telegraph, American intelligence officials, who were briefed about the police investigation, became frustrated at British reluctance to arrest the suspects.

They urged the Pakistanis to swoop for Rauf to force the hand of the Metropolitan Police, who wanted more time to gather evidence.

“It probably was the case that something happened between the Americans and Pakistani authorities that precipitated the arrest,” former Met Police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman told BBC.

As a result the police were forced to arrest all the British-based suspects straight away, rather than in co-ordinated night time raids as had been planned.

“To go right from a standing start was a difficult challenge in itself. You would ideally want to be in much more control,” he added.

Three British Muslims were yesterday convicted of planning a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks on airlines flying from the UK to US, which could have killed up to 10,000 people.

According to the paper, Abdullah Ahmed, Tanvir Hussain and Assad Sarwar plotted to cause mass murder by detonating home-made liquid explosives on board at least seven passenger flights bound for the US and Canada.

The plot had the potential to be three times as deadly as the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

The men made suicide videos, and they were bugged by MI5, which revealed how they discussed details of the plot. They were also filmed in their bomb factory in east London where they had practised making bombs from household goods, including soft drink bottles, batteries and disposable cameras.

All three men convicted on Monday had been found guilty at an earlier trial last year of conspiracy to murder, but prosecutors said it was vital to secure a conviction on another charge of conspiring to blow up the aircraft in order to prove that the threat to air traffic was genuine.

Their arrests in 2006 resulted in immediate worldwide restrictions on passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage.

A ban on containers larger than 100ml is still in place.

When the men were arrested, one of the plotters, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, had a computer memory stick in his pocket which highlighted seven flights from London to six cities in the US and Canada, each carrying between 241 and 286 passengers and crew.

The flights all departed within 2 hours and 35 minutes of each other, to Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington and New York and police believed there would have been no chance of stopping the attacks once all the aircraft were in the air.

Investigators also believed that the men were considering an even larger attack after they were bugged discussing plans for as many as 18 suicide bombers, which could have led to 5,000 deaths in the air and as many again on the ground.

The case has also led to a review of visa restrictions on Britons travelling to the US, and yesterday’s convictions, which came during the diplomatic row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, focused yet more attention in the US on how Britain deals with terrorists.

MI5 believed the plotters were linked to the highest levels of al-Qaeda through a British man called Rashid Rauf, who was also involved in the build-up to the attacks of July 7 and July 21 2005.

The Crown Prosecution Service must now decide whether those men, who were also tried last year, should face a third trial.(ANI)

UK court told Al Qaeda terrorists had planned to blow up 10,000 peopl

London, Sep.8 (ANI): A British court has been told that Al Qaeda terrorists planned to blow up at least 10,000 people, 5000 of them in four hours through a series of co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks on transatlantic airliners in 2006.

With the court convicting three Muslims in connection with the case, the plans are now coming out into the open, The Telegraph reports.

According to the paper, Abdullah Ahmed, Tanvir Hussain and Assad Sarwar plotted to cause mass murder by detonating home-made liquid explosives on board at least seven passenger flights bound for the US and Canada.

The plot had the potential to be three times as deadly as the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

The men made suicide videos, and they were bugged by MI5, which revealed how they discussed details of the plot. They were also filmed in their bomb factory in east London where they had practised making bombs from household goods, including soft drink bottles, batteries and disposable cameras.

All three men convicted on Monday had been found guilty at an earlier trial last year of conspiracy to murder, but prosecutors said it was vital to secure a conviction on another charge of conspiring to blow up the aircraft in order to prove that the threat to air traffic was genuine.

Their arrests in 2006 resulted in immediate worldwide restrictions on passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage.

A ban on containers larger than 100ml is still in place.

When the men were arrested, one of the plotters, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, had a computer memory stick in his pocket which highlighted seven flights from London to six cities in the US and Canada, each carrying between 241 and 286 passengers and crew.

The flights all departed within 2 hours and 35 minutes of each other, to Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington and New York and police believed there would have been no chance of stopping the attacks once all the aircraft were in the air.

Investigators also believed that the men were considering an even larger attack after they were bugged discussing plans for as many as 18 suicide bombers, which could have led to 5,000 deaths in the air and as many again on the ground.

The case has also led to a review of visa restrictions on Britons travelling to the US, and yesterday’s convictions, which came during the diplomatic row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, focused yet more attention in the US on how Britain deals with terrorists.

MI5 believed the plotters were linked to the highest levels of al-Qaeda through a British man called Rashid Rauf, who was also involved in the build-up to the attacks of July 7 and July 21 2005.

The Crown Prosecution Service must now decide whether those men, who were also tried last year, should face a third trial. (ANI)

Bombs easily sneaked past government guards at high security US buildings: Report

Washington, July 9 (ANI): An investigative arm of the US Congress has revealed that bomb parts were sneaked past guards and assembled inside several US government buildings by undercover agents.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that these undercover agents carried liquid explosives and detonators, and were able to pass undetected through security checkpoints at 10 buildings in the past year.

The report also said that the officials assembled the bombs and walked freely around the premises with the devices in a briefcase, Sky News reports.

Though, GAO did not provide specific information citing security concerns, it said that “level 4″ buildings were randomly selected, which house more than 450 federal employees.

Several buildings including the office of a US senator as well as the departments of state, justice, and homeland security were tested.

Meanwhile, numerous leaders were startled over the shocking security lapses at such high level buildings in the country.

“It is simply unacceptable that federal employees working within buildings under FPS’ protection, and the visitors who pass through them, are so utterly exposed to potential attack by terrorists and other enemies,” said independent senator Joseph Lieberman.

While, Republican senator Susan Collins articulated the security lapses as stunning and unacceptable, saying that: “In post-9/11 America, I cannot fathom how security breaches of this magnitude were allowed to occur.”

According to reports, more than one million US government employees work at 9,000 FPS-protected sites around the country, including 350,000 in and around Washington DC. (ANI)

Pak official admits US drone attacks have become more accurate

Washington, Jan 16 (ANI): Pakistan has admitted that US drone attacks on its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan have become more accurate in past few months, leading to the death of eight ai Qaeda militants and decline in civilian casualties.

Among those killed was the mastermind of a 2006 plot to detonate liquid explosives aboard planes flying across the Atlantic, and the man thought to have planned the Septembr 20 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, that killed 53 people, including two members of the US military.

“The strikes have become increasingly accurate,” The Washington Times quoted a senior Pakistani official, as saying on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

The official, who has worked closely with US authorities, also said fighting was escalating between the foreign militants and members of native Pakistani tribes in the area along the Afghan border. As a result, he said, Arab al Qaeda members “are increasingly isolated.”

Though al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden apparently remains at large, officials from the outgoing Bush Administration said they have scored significant hits.

“Within the last year or so we’ve had a very significant impact on senior al Qaeda leadership,” Vice President Dick Cheney told PBS’ “NewsHour” on Wednesday.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told reporters on Thursday that al Qaeda is feeling a backlash from Pakistani tribes and is under strain because of the loss of senior leaders.

Pakistan’s tribal region, which was once a safe haven for the group, is not “safe nor a haven” anymore, Hayden said.

The issue of US air strikes on Pakistan has lately rocked the ties between the two countries, with Islamabad making repeated requests to Washington to stop them saying that they were an attack on its sovereignty.

Pakistan officials have also often said that the US attacks were generating anti-US sentiments making it difficult for the federal government to convince its citizens. (ANI)