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Corruption behind Domodedovo attack

Thursday - 1/27/2011, 4:19pm  ET

News stories about the attack in the airport that killed 35 and injured 160 flooded my Smartphone on Monday as I was walking through New York's Penn Station. Arriving for a series of discussions about terrorists, I was staggered by the news for a couple of reasons. Something a friend told me recently was ringing true. He said security in Russia depends on how much money you have.

I fired off an email to a Russian security and intelligence expert. I asked how such an attack could happen inside the airport -- a major airport. I also asked what kind of security they have in the pre-screening areas.

The response was tragic, true and simple.

"I think they do have something like behavior detection officers in Russia, but total corruption at all levels of the Russian society inevitably brings criminal negligence. According to the Russian mass media, the airport security were too busy taking bribes from passengers arriving from Central Asia (former Soviet Republics) for bringing merchandise to Moscow, and also racketeering cabdrivers waiting for potential clients in the arrival area. They didn't have time to look for suspicious activity. And another thing: in Russia they rely upon technical devices more than upon human observation and judgment."

This is not surprising, but extremely disappointing, because the question that an event like this leaves is if this kind of event can take place in the airport, what's to say the pay-offs don't extend to the baggage checkers and cargo handlers?

A bigger question is are security officials distracted enough to allow a sophisticated terrorist get on a plane and into the travel system -- perhaps changing planes and getting into the U.S. or some other country before detonating a device.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has vowed revenge and re-organization will take place and fix the security problem, but we have yet to hear what will be done to address the corruption problem which drives many of Russia's problems.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)