BOSTON, Nov. 21, 2011 — “The recent arrest of alleged New York bomber Jose Pimenthal underscores the need for all of us to be vigilant during the Thanksgiving travel rush,” warns antiterrorism expert Todd McGhee who pioneered new security measures at Logan Airport, post 9/11 and later co-founded Protecting the Homeland Innovations, LLC in Braintree, Mass.
“Warning signs of a lone-wolf terrorist include hanging back when everyone is in a rush, appearing trancelike or spouting ideology. Tune into your surroundings instead of your iPod to pick up on out-of-step behaviors that could mean trouble,” says McGhee.
On Sunday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the arrest of Jose Pimentel of Manhattan, “a 27-year-old Al Qaeda sympathizer” who he said was motivated by propaganda and planned to harm returning U.S. troops.
“If a stranger has to think about answering a simple questions like, ‘Are you visiting your family?’ it’s a sign of trouble,” says McGhee, adding, “This is what we teach security professionals to look for – subconscious responses people cannot hide. It’s a like a tell in a poker player.”
“Airport security is getting better, but the public must be aware of what to watch for and how to respond,” says McGhee. McGhee’s PHI (www.phitraining.com) provides antiterrorist training to security professionals at TSA, AMTRAK, NYPD and other agencies as well as public awareness campaigns.
“Pay attention to the ebb and flow of human activity in airports, rail stations and bus terminals to become more aware of behaviors that are out of step with the crowd. If you sense a threat go with your instincts. Move away and alert the nearest security professional or a gate agent. Do not try to detain the individual yourself. Your safety comes first,” says McGhee.
McGhee adds, “Outside the boarding gates, airports are as public as city streets where anybody up to no good can hang out. Situational awareness helps to keep us safe from belligerent drunks, sexual predators, scammers and other troublemakers as well as terrorists.”