MANPADS – No specific threat?

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2003

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security the Bush Administration has moved swiftly to realign priorities and strengthen overall security with excellent results.

Federal law enforcement agencies are aligned together, Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been formed and state governments have established Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support teams. Locally, Suffolk residents have seen an increased emphasis on responses to potential weapons of mass destruction, greater security requirements for trucks, chemicals and scrutiny of possible illegal aliens. A more secure America has resulted.

However, there are still gaps.


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A short time ago federal authorities executed a near perfect arrest foiling an arms smuggling event that could have been disastrous. This was police work at its finest. An undercover FBI agent posed as a Muslim extremist and sought to buy a missile to shoot down an aircraft. The missile, which in reality was a dud, was brought into the country, a meeting was arranged which led to arrests. Score one for the good guys!

Even though this was a public victory in the on-going war on terrorism it underscores a serious issue.

The missiles involved in this event are similar to the U.S.-made Stinger. As a group they are called Man Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS, weigh as little as 34 pounds and can be easily fired. These types of missiles seek out heat signatures, like those from a jet engine and travel extremely fast. Defense experts estimate that over 650,000 MANPADS were built worldwide since the late 1970s.

What is most troubling to this paper is the reaction after the arrests occurred. Authorities have stressed that there was no specific, credible threat to shoot down an airliner in the United States. Yet at the same time authorities stated that MANPADs are known to be in the hands of terrorist groups. The whole issue revolves back to the term &uot;credible threat&uot;. If terrorists have them doesn’t that result in a threat, which has credibility? Think about it.