by Erin Wright
As Belgium begins officially mourning for the 34 people killed Tuesday in the Islamic State’s twin attacks on Brussels’ Zaventem Airport and a metro station in the capital, the second-guessing on security measures is already underway.
Safeguarding a rail system that links so much of Europe has proven tricky historically. The foiling of a gunman last year on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train, for example, can be seen as a fortunate coincidence, with some heroic and capable passengers just happening to be aboard.
Airports were supposed to be easier to protect. Long queues, boarding restrictions and — at least in the U.S. — electronic scanners and the ritual removal of passengers’ shoes have come to be regarded as necessary inconveniences.
But these latest bombings suggest there may be no realistic way to stop a pre-boarding airport siege. Three suspects, two of whom apparently died in the attacks, can be seen in video footage quietly pushing airport luggage carts and successfully blending in with fellow travelers.
Just like that, the I.S., which later claimed responsibility, was able to expand its lead among the terroristic vanguard in identifying soft targets. Last November’s attacks in Paris, which slaughtered 130 concertgoers, diners and pedestrians and critically wounded scores more, remains one of the deadlier examples of this new strategy of hitting areas with zero or minimal defenses.
With airports known to have added layers of security credited with thwarting an unknown number of in-flight attacks or takeover attempts since 9/11, the Brussels bombings could point to a change in jihadist thinking: If they can’t have their way in the air or fly planes into buildings where thousands are employed, they’ll go after airline passengers in terminals and commuters en route to work — marking, perhaps, a new deadly frontier in radical terrorism.