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19 Jul, 2012

Tour Buses Now Set to Face Higher Costs of Providing Security

Having penetrated the aviation sector, security companies are moving quickly to take advantage of the attack on the bus in Bulgaria to target the tour-bus and public transport sector as a new revenue-source that could generate billions of dollars in windfall profits.

A media release by the Mineta Transportation Institute, named after its founder, Norman Mineta, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, issued on July 18, says, the attacks “have underscored the fact that public transportation is still a seriously vulnerable target for terrorism.”

The press release flags two studies which cite the example of the many attacks in Israel and elsewhere to highlight the dangers now faced by bus transport coupled with advice from security consultants, including at least two Israelis, on how to fix it.

The attacks on the Israeli tourists comes just barely a week after the Israeli government, continuing its efforts to wipe Palestine off the map, approved another 20,000 units of settlements in occupied Jerusalem, in total defiance of international resolutions and agreements.

In his famous June 9, 2009, Cairo speech on heralding “A New Beginning” in relations with the Islamic world, U.S. president Barack Obama called the settlement expansion “unacceptable.” These are his very words: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Since then, Israel has added hundreds more settlements, while the U.S. government has done nothing except issue the perfunctory statements of “concern” or “denunciation.”

While the Israeli government continues to blame Palestinians for the lack of movement in the Middle East peace process, Israeli and Western security companies and consultants are making a fortune providing “solutions” to the violence spawned by underlying root-cause frustrations their own governments are causing.

The virtuous circle spins smoothly, thanks to the never-ending barrage of propaganda that apportions blame squarely on Iran, Arabs, the Palestinians, Islamists, jihadists, etc as the “bad guys” who have to be confronted by the “superhero good guys,” the Israeli and Western security contractors.

The dangers of this lethal nexus was unequivocally pointed out in a study by the New York-based Global Policy Forum, entitled, Dangerous Partnership: Private Military & Security Companies and the UN.” The report blew the whistle on how these companies are making millions of dollars providing security to the U.N., an organisation that is supposed to be promoting global peace and stability but often finds itself the target of attacks. All the concluding warnings contained in that report could equally be applied to the travel & tourism industry.

Recent reports have also rued the increasing “militarisation” of the London Olympics, where thousands of US security officials have been deployed. The security coordinator is G4S, a private security company accused of numerous alleged human rights violations.

Now, in what appeared to be an uncanny coincidence timing-wise, a tourist bus carrying Israeli tourists came under attack in Bulgaria, giving the security companies the marketing angle they need to promote their products and services to the thousands of global road and railway stations and terminals worldwide.

Like in the aviation sector, the security issue will now be avidly and unquestioningly discussed at international road and rail transport forums. Resolutions will be passed calling for improved security, which will be followed by security audits to assess the state of play and identify “weak spots” to be plugged. Then, the security contractors will move in. The travelling public will be skimmed off millions of dollars.

The press release by the Mineta Transportation Institute clearly identifies the game plan.

It quotes Brian Michael Jenkins, an international terrorism expert and director of MTI’s National Transportation Security Center of Excellence, as saying: “Tourists move through airports safely because of all the strict measures in place. But this attack took place on a bus chartered for a hotel. Although most attacks are directed against regularly scheduled bus lines, attacks on these chartered tour buses enable terrorists to target specific foreign nationalities – in this case, Israelis.”

It says that Mr. Jenkins, in testimony before the U.S. Senate earlier this month, noted that, while “terrorists apparently consider airliners to be their gold medal target, public service transportation offers easier access and a concentration of people in confined environments.”

The release added, “In the same testimony, he pointed to the resurgence of Iranian-sponsored attacks. This particular attack has not yet been officially tied to any nation, but some speculation points to Iran as the origin. “We have seen similar plots uncovered in Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Kenya, Cyprus, and Thailand,” Mr. Jenkins said.

One of the MTI research reports, published earlier this year, presents 16 case studies of attacks against Israeli bus targets between 2000 and 2005, along with detailed statistical data. This report is designed to “help increase understanding of what can happen and of what can deter, prevent, and/or mitigate terrorist attacks against bus transit.”

The second report covers attacks on buses, bus stations, and bus stops. It includes data about how often buses are attacked relative to other surface transportation targets, first with all weapons and then with only explosive and incendiary devices; the relative lethality of bus attacks; and the distribution of those attacks.

The studies have come up with a “unique database” providing detailed information on targets, attack methods, and the ways in which bombs and incendiaries are placed to kill passengers on public trains and buses and to destroy transportation infrastructure.

According to the release, “It helps government policy makers and transportation managers develop more secure systems by understanding not only what and how terrorists most often attack, but more important, which of their attacks are most deadly, and where their “return on investment” is greatest.”

“The United States, like many other developed countries, has not experienced successful terrorist attacks against public bus transportation,” Mr. Jenkins is quoted as saying. “It may be that terrorists in the U.S. are not as capable or determined as those in other countries, their plots may have been interrupted by police and intelligence officials, they may not have chosen bus targets for lethal attacks, or they may not have focused extensively on public surface transportation.”

He said that “Israel faces, and has faced, a host of determined, constantly improving terrorist foes who have benefited from a relatively fast tempo of operations and a restive populace apparently willing to provide bombers and material support.”

Mr. Jenkins’ biodata identifies him as a senior advisor to the president of RAND and a former deputy chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND’s Political Science Department.

Another security expert on the team is Lt. Col. Shalom Dolev, identified as “an expert in security methodologies and in developing security strategies, with special emphasis on countering improvised explosive device (IED) threats.” He retired recently after a 32-year career in the Israeli military, including seven years in the Israeli Defense Forces combat-engineering special forces.

In turn, the Mineta Transportation Institute was founded by Norman Mineta who served as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation between 2001-06. With funds from the US Congress and the Department of Transportation, it conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer, focusing on multimodal surface transportation policy and management issues, especially as they relate to transit, the release says.