Trends in criminal acts against civil aviation 1992-2000 (fwd)
Wed, 13 Feb 2002 11:17:50 +0100 (MET)
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 20:53:52 -0500
From: Greg Newby <email@example.com>
Subject: Trends in criminal acts against civil aviation 1992-2000
I came across some interesting reading.
I'm working on a paper about information security and security through
obscurity. Part of my thesis is that tightened airport security in
the US largely misses the mark. My main goal is to identify where
traditional "security through obscurity" is being brought into play in
recent security changes.
I found a good Web site that I wasn't aware of, and wanted to share
FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security
Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation
This is really great reading. Every year (in about July for the
previous year - nothing on 2001 yet), the FAA produces a detailed
analysis of trends in hijacking, explosives, etc. involving civil
aviation. It's intended to be exhaustive, with data from around
As we've all probably noticed, no US-based civil aviation incident
goes unreported in the popular press. Hijackings and airline
bombings, when they occur, are big news.
I was surprised to see that the number of US-registered air carriers
involved in hijackings (and most other acts the FAA considers in these
reports) from 1992 - 2000 is zero.
This stuff happens to non-US airlines, and usually outside
of the US.
Hijacking count by year (all incidents; total for US is 0 in all years):
Bombings and attempted bombings is steady at close to zero across 1992
- 2000, with either 1 or 0 in all years worldwide (except 3 in 1994).
Incidents tend to occur in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East,
with fewer in Europe than might be expected and across the board very
few in North America.
The FAA's categories are:
- "Hijackings of Civil Aviation Aircraft,"
- "Commandeerings of Civil Aviation Aircraft," (when the plane
is on the ground at the start of the incident)
- "Bombings/Attempted Bombings/ Shootings on Civil Aviation Aircraft,"
- "Shootings at In-Flight Aircraft,"
- "Attacks at Airports,"
- "Off-Airport Facility Attacks," and
- "Incidents Involving Charter and General Aviation Aircraft."
They specifically do not include incidents involving military
aircraft, and exclude most incidents that occur in wartorn areas.
(A note to the alert: I don't think TWA 800's explosion in 1996
appears in these reports, as the cause was not determined as of July
1997 when the 1996 report came out. Reports are only available online
1996-2000, and cover a 5-year period -- that's why I don't go back
>From the evidence in these reports, you might form several different
- The world suddenly turned much more dangerous in 2001 (at least the
US part of the world).
- Airport security in the US is truly exceptional, resulting in a
disproportionally small number of reportable incidents.
- For a variety of reasons, the US and US-based airlines have just not
been as attractive to criminals as non-US. (This is at least
partially true: a lot of incidents involve people seeking political
asylum -- people don't get on a jet at JFK to seek asylum in the US
[or on a jet headed towards JFK], as they're already there! The
reports comment on this several times.)
- The US media and government trend of refusing to acknowledge or even
publicize the demands of hijackers has decreased the appeal (other
countries have followed suit with this approach). Remember Tommy Lee
Jones in "The Fugitive?" "I don't negotiate."
Whatever angle you take, there seems to be pretty damned good airline
security in the US and for US-based airlines.
Here's a quote from the 2000 report, in which the number of incidents
overall nearly doubled (to 42) from the prior 3 years:
"During the past few years, the relatively low number of incidents
that were recorded may have been interpreted as an indication that the
threat to civil aviation was decreasing. The fact that the number of
aviation-related incidents in 2000 increased by 75% proves such an
interpretation to be premature. To be sure, the threat to civil
aviation has not significantly decreased. In addition to the
ever-present threat of a terrorist hijacking or bombing, an individual
who hijacks a plane to seek asylum, a guerrilla group that attacks an
airport, or a terrorist group that bombs an airline ticket office,
constitutes a threat as well. The increase in the number of incidents
in 2000 attests to the fact that civil aviation continues to be a
target of terrorists and non-terrorists alike." (p. 47)