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Airport and Aviation Security: U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Age of Global Terrorism

Airport and Aviation Security: U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Age of Global Terrorism. By Bartholomew Elias; published by Taylor & Francis Group/CRC Press,; 439 pages; $82.95.

True to its title, Airport and Aviation Security: U.S. Policy and Strategy in the Age of Global Terrorism is an academic text, not a field manual for the front line officer in the  U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or their counterparts. It’s the book for high-level policy specialists, their bosses, and hopefully those in government and media who need to understand how the intricacies of air travel safety and security interweave.

That so many people in influential positions don’t understand such intricacies is apparent from the 2010 backlash over enhanced “pat down” techniques employed by the TSA. While his book was written before the brouhaha, author Bartholomew Elias is able to describe the policy development behind the practices and the audits the TSA did to validate its work, plus privacy issues and the governmental processes that addressed them.

That discussion comes in the middle of a 400-page book that starts with a concise history of air piracy and bombings. From the almost-forgotten Cuban hijackings of the 1960s to the Palestinian and left-wing ur­ban terrorism of the 1970s, Elias describes what led to today’s air travel security paradigm.

The bulk of the text, however, addresses today’s post-9-11paradigm. No discussion of this event can escape introspection and hand-wringing, but Elias deals with it in its historical context and pushes on to resolution, not recrimination. Chapters include discussions on such diverse topics as risk assessment and passenger wait-times, in-flight security threats and patrolling airport perimeters. It is an ambitious range, and this book handles it with alacrity.

Elias is uniquely qualified to write this text. A specialist in aviation policy for the Congressional Research Service in Washington D.C., he is also a pilot and aircraft accident investigator with a doctorate in engineering psychology.

The table of contents and an equally serviceable index, coupled with the easy-to-follow layout and good diagrams and insets, make this book useful as a spot-check reference. But it’s likely best to read it front-to-back first to get a full understanding of the concept of air travel security as a whole. Lessons learned in this book will help in any security program.

That said, it is not an easy book to read. Elias writes for a discriminating audience that he credits with intelligence and the ability to analyze on the fly. It’s unlikely most readers will find this book entertaining, but they may find it enlightening.

Reviewer: Derek Knights, CPP, PCI, is director of corporate investigations for Sun Life Financial and served as an airport security officer in the 1970s. He is a member of ASIS International’s Physical Security Council.