I never have written down this nightmare scenario before because who would want to give ideas to terrorists? But now the nightmare has been given an unavoidable real life demonstration at the airport in Moscow. The suicide bomber at Domodedovo Airport killed 35 and injured 168. That would be seen as catastrophic even in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is unknown in recent European experience.
Very simply, a new door to terror has been opened. It leads right into the waiting areas of air terminals. Not the areas where passengers go after they have been checked by security, but the areas where people gather to meet arriving passengers or to queue up for ticketing. Sometimes there are hundreds of people in such spaces, more people than fly on a large airplane. They may have surveillance, but no baggage checks.
In the US right after 9/11 there were checks of incoming cars before they reached an air terminal. There were police inside the terminals. In Baghdad—at least when I visited there a few years ago—you were checked a mile from the airport—everything—then again when you came into the terminal, and then again before you boarded the plane. It seemed a huge, but necessary, hassle.
This attack in Moscow is setting off bells at Homeland Security and in the halls of Congress, I’m sure. No airport in the U.S. or Europe is safe from this kind of attack right now. Ultimately, the best protection against terrorists is police and FBI detective work that finds terrorists before they find their targets.
UPDATE: Yuri Mamchur, at our Real Russia Blog, describes a similar reaction. And consider: There were metal detectors at the Domodedovo Airport’s waiting area, but they weren’t being used. That will cause widespread questioning in Moscow. But one might question back, when it’s 9 degrees Fahrenheit out, how do you get hundreds of people to queue up for the metal detectors outdoors? If they do line up, what’s the keep the bomber from attacking the line?