The latest high-profile terrorist plot, which was aimed at the United States and was foiled by the effective use of intelligence, has increased the spotlight on what is being done to prevent future attacks. Questions about what we are doing and how far we have progressed on various programs are once again receiving prominent attention from the media. Other interests involve publicly traded companies that might benefit if this attention turns into increased or accelerated spending in the area of security.
An important element in defending against extremist threats is that the global terrorists continue to evolve and adapt their techniques to overcome our countermeasures. So in turn we must invest in ever-improving systems. The recently foiled plot by AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), based in Yemen, was an improved version of the device used by the underwear bomber a few years ago.
Another issue is the approach taken by other countries. For example at this time, short of strip searches or extremely invasive pat-downs, the best way to detect non-metallic explosives is by using advanced imaging technology (AIT). But use of AIT, often referred to as body-scanning, is very controversial worldwide and is not used much by other countries. So airports that will probably be the departure point for suicide bombers targeting the U.S. will most likely not be using AIT.
Improved intelligence has so far been the most successful preventer of terrorist attacks. According to reports, the person chosen to carry the sophisticated PETN-based device in the latest attempted attack, apparently made by a man called al-Asiri or one of his students, was a double agent who served both AQAP and American ally Saudi Arabia. It’s likely that our ability to take action before any explosive, biological, or nuclear device gets near enough to a target to do damage will always be a key component for thwarting attacks before they get underway.
But intelligence must be supplemented by other methods to detect dangerous substances that can be transported by or in persons, containers, cargo, baggage, and packages among other things. Also, identifying a known terrorist trying to enter the country even without carrying dangerous materials could prove important. Given the large number of dangerous materials and modes of transportation, the providers of a wide range of products and services could benefit. A partial list includes:
- Explosives detection systems
- X-ray inspection equipment
- Biometric systems to identify individuals
- Radiation detection systems
- Anti-bio-warfare systems for detection of biothreats
- Explosives disposal – products and services
- Biohazard cleaning – products and services
- Thermal imaging and infrared camera systems
- Electronic security and surveillance
- Digital signal and image processing systems
- Computerized security systems
- Reconnaissance capabilities – electronic and other
- Attack resistant glass
So if fear of terrorism prompts increased spending on homeland security, a wide spectrum of companies could benefit.