Based on our analysis of terrorist publications such as Rumiyah and observations of terrorism-inspired events worldwide, we believe terrorist organizations overseas have advocated conducting vehicle ramming attacks against crowds, buildings, and other vehicles, using modified or unmodified large-capacity vehicles. Such attacks could target locations where large numbers of people congregate, including sporting events, entertainment venues, shopping centers, or celebratory gatherings such as parades.
Vehicle-ramming attacks are considered unsophisticated, in that a perpetrator could carry out such an attack with minimal planning and training. It is likely that terrorist groups will continue to encourage aspiring attackers to employ unsophisticated tactics such as vehicle-ramming, since these types of attacks minimize the potential for premature detection and could inflict mass fatalities if successful. Furthermore, events that draw large groups of people—and thus present an attractive vehicle ramming target—are usually scheduled and announced in advance, which greatly facilitates attack planning and training activities.
The Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Intelligence (TSA-OI) unclassified annual Freight Rail Threat Assessment addresses the overall threat to the U.S. freight rail industry and presents conclusions regarding likely targets and actors based upon a review of successful attacks against rail systems overseas.
While the SSI designation can protect sensitive information, it is also vulnerable to misuse. Bipartisan concerns about the use of the SSI designation by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), have existed since the promulgation of the SSI regulations in 2004. Through its investigation, the Committee obtained witness testimony and documents that show possible misuse of the SSI designation by TSA. Witnesses detailed instances in which TSA barred the release of SSI documents against the advice of TSA’s SSI Office. TSA also released SSI documents against the advice of career staff in the SSI Office. The Committee’s investigation revealed that coordination challenges exist among the TSA Administrator, TSA’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA), and TSA’s SSI Office.
TSA’s Office of Intelligence (TSA-OI) assesses that although counterterrorism pressure has weakened al-Qa’ida (AQ) and al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), both organizations represent an enduring and evolving threat and remain committed to attacking the Homeland, including the transportation sector. Both organizations have targeted commercial aviation and AQ has repeatedly plotted to attack mass transit. We also remain concerned about the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists (HVE) or lone offenders inspired by AQ’s violent extremist ideology to launch attacks against less secure targets, such as mass transit and passenger bus systems.
TSA informational poster from October 2011 explaining that flood water sensors often resemble improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
TSA poster reminding you to “Be Vigilant” and providing a list of indicators that an individual may be a suicide bomber.
In October 2010, terrorists concealed explosives in cargo bound for the United States. Terrorists continue to pursue such tactics to attack the United States and U.S. interests overseas involving commercial aircraft. The measures described in this Emergency Amendment (EA) are required to detect and deter unauthorized explosives in cargo. When implemented, this EA cancels and supersedes EA 1546-10-07 series. The measures contained in this EA are in addition to the requirements of the foreign air carrier’s TSA-accepted security program and all other EAs currently in effect for its operations.
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) mission includes enhancing the security preparedness of U.S. hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline systems. This TSA Office of Intelligence (TSA-OI) threat assessment primarily addresses the potential for attacks against the pipeline industry in the Homeland and assesses the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used in attacks against pipelines and related infrastructure overseas for their potential use by terrorists in the Homeland.
U.S. hazardous liquids and natural gas pipelines are critical to the nation’s commerce and economy and, as a consequence, they can be attractive targets for terrorists. Before September 11, 2001, safety concerns took precedence over physical and operational security concerns for a majority of pipeline operators. Security matters were mainly limited to prevention of minor theft and vandalism. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 forced a thorough reconsideration of security, especially with respect to critical infrastructure and key resources. Pipeline operators have responded by seeking effective ways to incorporate security practices and programs into overall business operations.
FOUO TSA Office of Intelligence Air Cargo Threat Overview from June 2008.
(U//FOUO) The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mission includes enhancing the security preparedness of our nation’s hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline systems. This 2008 threat assessment addresses terrorist attacks against oil and gas pipeline facilities overseas and considers the potential for attacks against the oil and gas pipeline industry in the United States. Pipelines are a mode of transportation with distinct characteristics and security requirements. Pipelines operate in all 50 states and transport more than two-thirds of all petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, home heating oil, kerosene, and propane. Natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines transport natural gas from sources to residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Hazardous liquid pipelines transport crude oil to refineries and refined oil products to product terminals and airports. America depends daily on its pipelines to meet its oil and gas requirements.
The threat to U.S. civil aviation remains significant. Current credible intelligence indicates Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups continue to develop plans for multiple attacks against targets in the United States, including airports and civil aviation. These terrorist groups continue to pursue a range of targets, tactics, and capabilities to accomplish this objective, including employment in the aviation sector to gain knowledge of aviation operations. Terrorist operatives view attacks on the United States as a priority because of their potentially Significant economic and psychological impacts.
TSA security screening equipment briefing including whole-body imaging equipment, June 27, 2007.
(U//FOUO) The Transportation Suspicious Incident Report (TSIR) provides a weekly comprehensive review of suspicious incident reporting related to transportation. The TSIR includes incident reporting, analyses, images, and graphics on specific incidents. In addition, selected articles focus on security technologies, terrorism, and the persistent challenges of securing the nation’s transportation modes. This product is derived from unclassified incident and law enforcement reporting and does not represent fully evaluated intelligence.
Approximately $266 million in ARRA funds will be used to deploy state-of-the-art checkpoint screening equipment including Advanced Technology (AT) X-ray, Bottled Liquid Scanners (BLS), Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), Chemical Analysis Devices (CADs), and Next-Generation Explosive Trace Detectors (ETD).
(U//FOUO) TSA Female Suicide Bombers History Overview, October 2006.
Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) merges the capability to anticipate, preempt, and deter threats to the homeland whenever possible through its component agencies. Under the guidance of its Screening Coordination Office, DHS directed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to combine the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) Pre-Departure and Secure Flight concepts and systems to provide “One DHS Solution” to the commercial aviation industry consistent with applicable authorities and statutes.
(U//FOUO) TSA Security Technology Challenges Brief, June 11, 2010.
(U//FOUO) The vast majority of suspicious incidents are not terrorism related. Incident reporting continues to reveal most involve members of the traveling public who do not have intent to cause harm. Intoxicated passengers, people traveling without proper identification or with propaganda materials, and persons with mental health needs are generally not considered suspicious and are generally not included in the weekly summary. However, some incidents are more serious and are reported for situational awareness. Incidents involving notable drug or weapons concealment, possible surveillance, laser targeting of aircraft, possible insider collusion, exploitable gaps in security, and some unusual behaviors at transportation venues are discussed as they may involve technologies or tactics which may lend insight to future terrorist tradecraft.
(U//FOUO) The U.S. mass transit and passenger rail systems are vulnerable to terrorist attacks because they are accessible to large numbers of the public and are notoriously difficult to secure.
(U//FOUO) Threats to the U.S. highway system (including tunnels, bridges, long-haul buses, school buses, and commercial trucks) emanate from transnational and domestic terrorist organizations, as well as from insiders and special interest groups. However, the primary threat stems from al-Qa’ida, its affiliates, and other Sunni Muslim extremists, whether foreign or domestic. No reporting indicates a current, credible, and specific terrorist threat to U.S. highway interests. However, since 1993 at least three terrorist plots to bomb tunnels and bridges in the United States have been disrupted, aborted, or abandoned. Further, recurring suspicious incidents involving U.S. highway infrastructure and assets could reflect pre-operational terrorist planning. Thus far, however, no definitive link has been established between any of the suspicious incidents and terrorism.