Domodedovo bombing: It’s not about airport security

Domodedovo bombing: It’s not about airport security

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he’s troubled by the security lapses that led to yesterday’s Moscow airport bombing: 

“What occurred shows that there were violations in providing security,” Mr. Medvedev said in comments released by the Kremlin. “Such a quantity of explosive material that was carried in or brought in — that’s not so easy to do. We must hold responsible those who have ties to the company that makes decisions, the management of the airport.”

Russia’s investigative committee has piled on, finding that "the terrorist had no difficulties entering the arrival hall where the blast occurred as there was not an adequate control." An anonymous police source told RIA-Novosti that airport security "turned a blind eye to the presence of unauthorized persons." 

A full investigation of the events should certainly be carried out, including whether there was anyone working on the inside, helping the bombers. But it doesn’t sound to me like there was much out of the ordinary in the airport’s security arrangements. (Nor do I detect some sort of latent Russian death-wish in the lax security arrangements.)  The arrivals areas at most U.S. airports are unsecured as well. According to the New York Times, there were only "sporadic" metal detector checks at the entrance to the hall, but spot checks don’t seem entirely inappropriate for the country’s busiest international airport. 

If anything, the attacks reflect how difficult it’s become to carry out terrorist attacks on planes, as Chechen militants did from the same airport in 2004. As former DHS official Stephen Baker told the Times, “They’d like to be bombing planes and they can’t, so they’re bombing airports,” he said. And even if authorities were able to turn all three of Moscow’s major airports into impenetrable fortresses, Russia’s terrorist groups have proven perfectly willing to target subways and passenger trains. 

Every public space and soft target can’t be secured and the root cause of the problem seems to be getting underplayed in both Russian official statements and international media coverage: As long as there’s an ongoing low-grade insurgency festering in the North Caucasus, militant groups be able to find soft targets.