After Istanbul Attack, US Airports May Look at New Security Measures

Four cities say they are beefing up airport security after the attack.

ByABC News
June 29, 2016, 3:41 PM

— -- Airports across the country are seeing an increased security presence inside and outside their terminals as Istanbul reels from an attack that left at least 41 people dead and 239 others injured.

According to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, three armed attackers opened fire last night before blowing themselves up at Turkey’s biggest airport, where travelers are screened before even entering the terminal.

The procedures at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport are similar to those across the Middle East and unlike those in the United States.

Airports in New York, Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco told ABC News today they will have an increased police presence in the wake of the attack, but at no American airport will you find screening of passengers before they enter terminals.

Aviation security in the United States has focused its efforts on checkpoints after the ticket counters, where the Transportation Security Administration screens all passengers and carry-on luggage before they may proceed to the gates.

In the United States, local law enforcement agencies take the lead on any security before these checkpoints and do not screen travelers as they arrive at airports.

Someone going to a major airport in the Middle East, however, would likely see enhanced safety efforts before the terminals.

Security for a flight out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport begins before passengers even leave for the airport.

When people purchase tickets out of Israel’s flagship airport, their names are run through a database, and their identities are vetted before they arrive for their flights.

On the way to Ben Gurion, security checkpoints may be on the roads leading to it. At these locations, vehicles are checked for explosives and behavioral detection officers may ask the occupants questions, looking for any number of signs indicating nefarious intentions.

PHOTO: Security officials patrol outside Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, June 29, 2016.
Security officials patrol outside Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, June 29, 2016. Suicide attackers killed dozens and wounded more than 140 people at Istanbul's busy Ataturk Airport on June 28th, the latest in a series of bombings to strike Turkey in recent months.

As passengers approach major Middle Eastern terminals, more behavioral detection officers look for any physical or behavioral signs inconsistent with the regular traveling process.

Any travelers may show signs of nervousness, but how are they walking? Officers look to determine whether people’s pace or gait is consistent with carrying an awkward or heavy hidden object.

Are they dressed appropriately for the weather? A person wearing a long coat on a hot day in the Middle East is likely to be asked a few questions.

The officers carefully watch passengers’ eye movements and arm placement. People carrying something hidden around their waist may subconsciously place an arm there.

These are just a few examples of the many things security officers at airports not only in the Middle East but elsewhere around the world scrutinize, hoping to prevent the next devastating attack.

The focus in the United States will now be on increasing highly visible security personnel on the perimeter of the terminals, according to John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and now an ABC News consultant.

“These current events demonstrate that we have to look at the threat environment more broadly to include parts of the airport prior to security checkpoint,” he said. “All of these instances show that we need to look at how we can expand security to areas that include entry and exit of the airports.”

ABC News consultant John Cohen contributed to this report.