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  • Beleaguered Yemen Raises Screening vs Intel Question
    Posted by Robert Wall 3:51 PM on Oct 31, 2010

    It has been a difficult period for Yemen and its aviation industry, with the October 29 bomb threat from explosive packages originating in the country only the latest turn of events.

    Last year, the country's national airline, Yemenia, suffered a crash off the Comoros Islands. French government officials blasted the airline and its safety record. It was left to other Gulf states to come to the defense of Yemen, who felt the French representatives had gone too far.

    Yemen was again in the cross hairs over the December failed bombing attempt of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit -- the bomber had links to Yemen.

    Now, Yemen is once more in the middle of a major crisis. And, as in the case of Yemenia, neighbors again feel the need to come to the defense of Yemen's aviation sector.

    Today, a Yemeni official says the government is conducting an aviation security review.

    Civil aviation officials from several Gulf states rallied to the defense of their Yemenese counterparts during the Doha Aviation Summit. They express confidence in Yemeni processes, and argue Yemen shouldn't be blamed. One official argues this incident could have occurred anywhere. Despite their defense, the collective CAA representatives felt the need to offer any help their neighbor may require, although there has been no indication any has been asked for.

    The issue is a bit trickier for Qatar Airways, which transported at least one of the packages from Sana'a via Doha to Dubai; the device was carried on a passenger aircraft. Airline CEO Akbar Al-Baker stresses that it was the responsibility of the originating country, not the airline or Qatari authorities to examine the shipment. 

    None of the Gulf states has followed the lead of the U.S. and U.K. to bar air freight originating in Yemen.

    But in their defense of Yemen, the CAA officials raised an interesting topic: is the way to deal with the latest threat more screening or better intelligence sharing?

    Most argue that screening is useful, but the real key is in intelligence sharing. They note that it was an intelligence tip off, not screening technology, that led to the explosive packages to be detected -- at least one of which was designed to explore in flight, according to British prime minister David Cameron.

    There is little doubt that in the wake of the incident, more rigorous screening will be on the international agenda, but the collective CAA officials raise a valuable point in noting that much is to be gained by more effective and coordinated intelligence gathering efforts.

    Tags: tw99, terrorism, Yemen, security

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