Thursday, July 12, 2007

Security at Denver International Airport

Airport Security at DIA
Since the recent attempt to blow up the fuel depot and airport in New York last month I have been pondering whether I should make this post and now, with ding-bat DHS Secretary Chertoff's recent statement about his "gut feeling" that terrorists will try and attack the USA again during this summer, I have decided to go ahead with this information about Denver International Airports' serious lack of security.

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Perimeter Security
I have worked out at DIA for over a year and the lack of security at one of America's major airports is appalling. First off, the morons running DIA decided to let un-armed hospital security guard all the main gates leading onto the airfield. This security company, known as HSS, employs a large number of elderly, foreign, and female security guards who can be easily overwhelmed without anyone knowing about it. Heck, they don't even make hourly checks by radio or phone to see if the guard shack has been attacked and taken over by terrorists. Secondly, many of these guards do not speak English very well; sometimes not at all. This is apparently an effort to fulfill some kind of quota system within the security company. Also, these guards are known to be bribable: many take food and other items from people asking to get onto the airfield. I have seem them to this many times and heard of it from other security guards as a standard practice, even though the company has now apparently banned such "gifts". Also, large passenger buses enter the airport runways without being inspected. The process is automated, with bus drivers swiping a card to gain access. It would be exceptionally easy to take one of these bus drivers hostage and drive a large passenger bus right into the side of a fully-loaded airplane. Also, just standing outside Gate 1 it would be easy to fire guns and even throw Molotov cocktails into taxiing airplanes, which would surely be destroyed by such an action.

Additionally, the area near the cargo ramp where large numbers of FedEx and UPS airplanes load and unload has no fence; you can just walk right onto the airfield. This site is located right next to the yard where the company I used to work for is located. After 9/11 it is shocking that airport security at DIA is so poor that anyone could just walk right onto the airfield. The cargo ramp area has numerous cargo planes just sitting on the tarmac and one of my greatest fears is for terrorists to grab one of these cargo planes and ram them into nuclear power plants. Such an attack would could massive fear all across the country, especially if the containment building was breached by the cargo airplane (a very real possibility) and highly radioactive debris were carried downwind from the facility.

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Tank Farm
The main tank farm for DIA is located just to the north of the airport and is only secured by a few cameras. I do not know if the fuel lines to the tank farm are actually connected to DIA by running in underground pipes, but destroying this facility could be easily done by throwing Molotov cocktails out of your vehicle as you drive down the adjacent road. The fear of igniting the fuel farm in New York and having it spread to the main airport was what caused the biggest amount of fear to those that worked there.

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DIA has very poor security at the ends of the runways. Anyone with a hand-held surface-to-air missile(SAM) or even a handgun or rifle could bring down plane after plane as they took off, especially from the runway that points north of DIA proper. The only thing warning people away from the area is a sign saying that the region was restricted.

Overall, Denver International Airport is not a secured facility. Anyone can drive up to the curb-side baggage area and detonate a car bomb, which would certainly bring down the entire five-story section of that area. The gate guards and un-armed and mostly elderly, easily overcome by an half-hearted attempt to attack the airport. The cargo planes are easily accessible to anyone who wants to just walk onto the airfield. Buses can be used to ram airplanes loaded with people. The complete picture of DIA shows a real lack in security, with most of the efforts taking place inside the terminal itself. Hopefully DIA has a SWAT team on emergency stand-by but I have never seen such training in the one and a half years I was out there, working on the runways. When traveling, it might be best to avoid DIA and go help us all of the terrorists ever get their hands on a few cargo airplanes. While security at most nuclear reactors is tight, trying to stop a 100 ton airplane moving at 500mph is almost impossible in the last few seconds before impact.

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No Fly Zones in USA (nuclear reactors)
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U.S. Nukes In Europe Going, But Not Gone
Without any official announcement, the United States appears to have reduced its once enormous nuclear weapons stockpile still further. An administrative document showing that there would no longer be nuclear weapons inspections at Ramstein airbase, means that the U.S. no longer stores nuclear weapons there. These bombs were intended for the use by German aircraft, in the event of a major war with, well, there don’t seem to be any suitably scary enemies available any more. There are still apparently about 300 American nuclear weapons stored in Europe, all of them believed to be 1960s era B61 nuclear weapons, configured as a half ton bomb that can be carried by most U.S., and some European, fighter-bombers.

Some 3,200 B61s were built since the design went into service in the mid-1960s, and about half of those remain available for use. Some are being refurbished, so they will good for another two decades. The basic B61 nuclear bomb weighs 700 pounds, is 330mm in diameter and about twelve feet long. Those stored in Europe, and these are not being refurbished, meaning that those withdrawn are probably approaching the end of their shelf life. Without the refurb, all these older warheads will be useless in less than a decade. Most B61 warheads were variable yield, and could be set to provide an explosion ranging from less than a kiloton, to over 300 kilotons.

During the early 1970s, the United States had over 7,000 nuclear warheads stored in Europe, most of them 8 inch and 155mm artillery shells. This was in the belief that, if the Russians, and their Warsaw Pact allies, invaded Western Europe, they would do so using these “tactical” (a yield of under 100 kilotons) nuclear weapons. Plans were drawn up to use hundreds of these warheads in battles with the invading Russians. But eventually, it was realized that such use would destroy Western Europe, and probably lead to a full scale nuclear war that would devastate the planet. So, by the end of the Cold War in 1990, there were only about 4,000 U.S. nukes left in Europe. By the end of the 1990s, there were only about 500 left. Most of these were for the use of NATO allies. During the Cold War, European nations were to be provided with American nuclear weapons, in the event of a major war. Most of these agreements are still in effect.

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Taiwan Finally Buys P-3s
After six years of political maneuvering, the Taiwanese legislature has approved the purchase of twelve U.S. P-3C maritime patrol (and anti-submarine) aircraft, as well as updates for its Patriot anti-missile systems. Since 2001, the United States has been offering Taiwan an $18 billion package of weapons, including 66 F-16s. But Taiwanese politics has prevented the legislature from accepting the offer. The problem is that, in the last ten years, the native Taiwanese have dethroned the Nationalist Party, which took control of Taiwan in 1948, after losing control of China to the communists. The Nationalists were always a minority on Taiwan, and the native Taiwanese resented it, even though many joined the Nationalist party. But in the 1990s, they lost their absolute control of the government, as the Nationalists allowed democracy to take over completely.

The Taiwanese politicians were for independence from China, and in response, the Nationalists called for eventual merger with China. For half a century the Nationalists had planned for eventually for retaking control of China, but for most of that period, no one seriously believed the communists would be ousted. Some Nationalists now believe that democracy will eventually depose the Chinese Communists. At that point, a merger of Taiwan and China would make the Nationalists a major player in Chinese politics once more. Many Taiwanese will accept this as a suitable Plan B, but for the moment, most Taiwanese want to remain independent. Taiwanese also do not want to provoke China into attacking Taiwan. As part of that policy, the Nationalists have used their control of the legislature to block buying the U.S. weapons. But the pro-independence politicians, including the president of Taiwan, made the P-3C purchase appear as a purely defensive move, to insure China does not try to blockade Taiwan (whose prosperity, and very survival, is dependent on access to the sea.)

Japan vs China

In an effort to underscore its claim to a larger exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, Japan has begun to transplant coral to a disputed cluster of rocks in the body of water. The Times of London reports that Japan has already spent more that $300 million to build huge cement barriers encircling the geological formation, which is cumulatively known as the Okinotorishima, or "remote bird islands." China, however, disputes the Japanese claim - not because of conflicting territorial assertions, but because it claims that the Okinotorishima are merely rocks, not islands.

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The difference matters a great deal. Exclusive economic zones
typically extend 200 miles from a country’s territorial waters, and provide that nation with preferential access to minerals, energy and fishing rights there. If the formation is deemed to be islands, therefore, Japan would be in a preferential position to exploit resources and prevent Chinese exploration over a wider swath of the Sea. Beijing, for its part, is interested in constricting Japan’s control for its own reasons. "China wants freely to investigate its seabed for submarine operations in case of military conflict involving Taiwan," says international relations scholar Yukie Yoshikawa.

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