Transportation Security

It was billed as a Transportation Security and Technology Forum with the goal of applying Canadian and global solutions. And it didn’t disappoint. Kicked off by a refreshingly candid analysis of maritime security ­vulnerabilities by Defense Minister Peter MacKay, the Conference Board of Canada’s November 2007 Transportation Security Conference ­featured an impressive array of speakers with detailed ­presentations and a series of ­specific recommendations for improvements.

Minister MacKay is well briefed on maritime security and the former Crown Prosecutor has been a leading advocate for an enhanced public marine security presence since the abolition of the Ports Police in the late 90’s by the former Liberal government. Following a question from the floor, the Minister also agreed to bring the message of urgency of solving the pre-border clearance impasse back to the Department of Justice whose position on fingerprinting persons suspected of conducting border security surveillance has caused an impasse with U.S. officials.  

Panels throughout the two-day event featured Canadian, American and international perspectives on all transportation sectors with presentations focused on mass transit, seaport security, rail and air transport. Of particular note, were the intriguing engineering design perspectives ­presented by Professors Roshdy Hafez and Halim Abd el Halim of Carleton University that mirrored a security-based analysis of transit infrastructure. On the same subject, Carl Desrosiers, Executive Director of Société de Transport de Montréal provided a detailed operational overview of STM’s security approach including its recently deployed state of the art command and control communications system.

Delegates were repeatedly invited to challenge status quo assumptions and to think ‘outside the box’ by both Superintendent Phillip Trendall of the British Transport Police and Israeli security expert Rafi Sela of AR Challenges. A lively discussion regarding the nature of law enforcement (and intelligence) presence required at seaports was provided over the two days from industry and U.S. and international law enforcement. This revealed that Canada’s unique status in not having seaport dedicated public policing. Gary Gilbert, Senior VP of Hutchison Port Holdings delivered a pragmatic and expert look at the challenges posed by concurrent security and business priorities for a global port operator.

Mark Camillo of Lockheed Martin put transportation security into a special events context by analysing the transportation security planning considerations for the 2010 Olympics, which was eye opening to say the least. It no doubt caused reflection on just how soon 2010 will be upon us. Information sharing, or the lack thereof, was also raised as a recurring theme and delegates were given a detailed overview of how industry based information sharing can work from EWA Information Infrastructure Tech­nologies President and CEO John Lindquist. The highly controversial US request for over-flying passenger information sharing was a part of an update on U.S. Trans­porta­tion security priorities, provided by TSA/s Assistant Adminis­tra­tor, John Sammon.

The Conference Board event, once again, was a valuable forum for discussion of important transportation related security issues. FrontLine Security has assembled some of the specific insights and recommendations emerging from the discussions. We present them here in the text box at right for your convenience.

Conference Insights & Assessments

  • Operators and law enforcement providers must learn objectively from past events (London) to identify what worked and what didn’t in all future planning.
  • Train front-line responders through exercises to the extent possible, including and especially, where interagency cooperation must be involved.
  • National and local law enforcement/intelligence remains uncoordinated in so far as local transit operator information sharing is concerned. Formalized, industry-led, with concrete government participation, information sharing entities are essential for providing effective transportation security.
  • Command and Control (C2) and Common Operating Picture (COP) communi­­-cations are essential for transportation security in all domains.
  • Effectiveness of specialized subway police is being lauded where in effect (note TransLink’s police unit and special transit municipal detail in Montreal).
  • Better to have security included at the outset in full capacity system design and deployment than to rely on “add-ons” or retrofits after the fact. This is becoming more widely accepted as an engineering principle and for system ­enhancement (note broad need for CCTV deployment on transit as an example).
  • Transit security needs to focus not only on ‘things’ but also on people. Name-based “no fly” or lookout systems are dangerously inefficient and deceivingly ­ineffective when such technologies as face recognition biometrics are available.
  • Sophisticated technology requires properly trained/qualified personnel to operate and to respond effectively.
  • Find ways to maximize incentive for third party financial contribution to ­security at Critical Infrastructure (as examples, Ben Gurion airport duty free advertising and revenues and the TTC Onestop passenger information and security systems provide ­revenue generating advertising opportunities).
  • Avoid “security” systems that cause delays/line-ups and thus targets.
  • Architecture modification to meet security requirements should be considered where possible and justified by proper risk analysis.
  • E-seals for cargo containers are deemed very desirable to encourage expedited clearance at ports and at subsequent inland borders.
  • Better-standardized freight descriptions are also deemed desirable to expedite secure clearance.
  • Onsite public marine port enforcement presence is highly desirable.
  • Pre-border clearance procedures are essential, including a definite focus on ­expediting clearance through low risk identification programs.
  • Risk also creates opportunity for learning and enhancement.
  • More security is not necessarily better security: terror-related threats require ­intelligence-led efforts and a broad common awareness security network.
  • Success is measured in terms of prevention not prosecution.
  • There are no 100% guarantees, but that is not justification for inaction.

Scott Newark was an Alberta Crown Prosecutor, Executive Director of the Canadian Police Association and Director of Operations for the D.C. based Investigative Project on Terrorism. He has also served as a Security Policy Advisor to both the Ontario and Federal Government and is currently the Vice Chair/Operations of the National Security Group in Ottawa.
© FrontLine Security 2008