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GSN interviews int’l security and terrorism expert Bob Liscouski on crash of Russian jet
By Adrian Courtenay
New York, November 5 - As evidence mounted in recent days that the Russian jet which fell to the ground shortly after take-off from el-Shiekh Airport in Egypt was brought down by a bomb, GSN had the opportunity to conduct an interview with security and terrorism expert Bob Liscouski at the Harvard Club in New York to get his views on the subject - before he had to leave to catch a plane for Washington, where he would appear on “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer a few hours later.
Mr. Liscouski was appointed by President George W. Bush after 9-11 as the Department of Homeland Security’s first Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure protection. He worked closely with the White House and other federal agencies to design, develop and implement the framework to protect the nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure. He also served as a special agent for the Diplomatic Security Service, living for a number of years in Europe. He is now president of Implant Sciences Corporation in Wilmington, MA.
In answer to the obvious question as to whether he agreed with the President and the growing consensus in other countries that the cause of the Russian air disaster was terrorism, and specifically a bomb, Liscouski pointed out “My background is as an investigator, so I always want to look at the evidence before I make a judgement. It’s still too early to collect and inspect sufficient evidence, since the tragedy only occurred a week ago. But I can tell you” he added, “that the intelligence services of the United States and Britain are outstanding, and the President’s comments are clearly based on their input.”
“Middle East politics are very complicated,” Mr. Liscouski continued. “ISIS and the Russians do not have the same objectives regarding the Assad regime in Syria. And of course airlines are good publicity for terrorists, who want to kill many people at one time. ISIS terrorists know how to build a device to bring down a plane to cause fear and chaos and get what they consider to be favorable publicity for their cause.”
If it was a bomb that brought down the plane, how could they have gotten aboard, GSN asked.
“There are many ways,” said Liscouski. “A device could have been in a checked suitcase, cargo or carry-ons. Right now, while there is much speculation, no one knows for sure. Investigators will look at all of these possibilities, and more. They’ll be rigorous in checking out those with legitimate access to the plane – food handlers and other service personnel, the guy who fuels the plane, van drivers. They’ll examine everyone who had access, their backgrounds, connections, phone calls, text messages, and every conceivable angle possible. Investigators are going to be very busy.”
What is the point of the terror? How does it further the goals of ISIS?
“The point of terror as practiced by radical groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and others is to influence a country and its citizens so that they will pressure political leaders to take or change their policies. Terrorist tactics are intended to be shocking and dramatic, whether it is blowing up a passenger plane or televise beheadings. Aircraft are an attractive target because they capture the news for days and weeks. We see twisted metal, children’s flip-flops, even bodies. Of course it can backfire. In the case of the 9/11 terrorists, they greatly underestimated the courage and will of the American people. Instead of terrifying us, it brought us together.
“Nevertheless, terrorists are a reality and we need to be vigilant and always on our guard.”
Bob, What effect will the tens of thousands of Middle East refugees have on terrorist activities in the West?
“I believe it will have a dramatic effect. The Germans are understandably proud of their embrace of the refugees, but they are now realizing they have a tough road ahead, as does all of Europe. A significant proportion of the refugees are young men age 15 to 20. Most want a better life. Some are committed to ISIS, Al Qaeda and other radical organizations. It’s virtually impossible to determine which is which. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to know anything about each and every one of them. Economies and authorities are being overwhelmed. I think we’ll eventually experience more terror, not less.”
Besides the refugees, Bob, there is great concern about home grown terrorists, young men born in the West who have served ISIS in Syria and Iraq and returned home with skills in bomb making and other terror tactics. What do we do about them?
“Yes, they present a potentially deadly threat because as a citizen of their country of birth, they easily blend in. However, most are known in their communities. Good intelligence makes it easier to track them than the nameless refugees who are flooding into Europe.”
Implant Sciences, of which Mr. Liscouski is president, designs, manufactures and sells explosive trace detection (ETD) and drugs trace detection solutions for many applications including aviation, transportation, customs, air cargo, critical infrastructure protection, ports and borders, force protection, public safety and emergency responders.
The TSA has selected Implant’s QS-B220 next generation explosive trace detection system to replace existing ETD systems in airports throughout the U. S. Installation is scheduled to begin this month.
The company introduced its first handheld explosive trace detection products in 2003 and has sold thousands of ETD systems in more than 50 countries. In 2008 the company restructured to a single business focus and is now a pure play in Security, Safety and Defense (SS&D) markets. The QS-H150 has been designated aa “Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology by the Department of Homeland Security and the QS-B220 has passed multiple international test and certification processes including those of TSA (United States), ECAC (Europe) and CACC (China). It has been Designated a Qualified Ant-Terrorism Technology by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pursuant to 6 U.S.C. 441-444 (the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, or “SAFETY Act) and 6 C.F.R. Part 25 (Regulations to Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies).