(NEW YORK) — As Brussels reels from Tuesday’s horrific attacks — bomb blasts that left at least 20 dead in the subway and claimed another 11 lives in the city’s bustling airport — travelers in America remain on edge.
When a bomb-sniffing dog alerted on a bag at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Wednesday morning, screaming passengers scattered, some under the mistaken impression that there was an active shooter in the terminal.
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The airport police later said the suspicious luggage was just medication and posed no threat to passengers.
Like many other airports across the country, Hartsfield-Jackson beefed up its security posture in the hours following the bombings in Brussels. Nationwide, police carrying rifles and leading canine units have been patrolling airport lobbies, like the one in Brussels where the suicide bomber detonated.
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But though the presence of uniformed officers may deter would-be terrorists, areas like ticket counters and lobbies — which are not secured by the TSA — are notoriously difficult to protect.
“That’s always been an area that has been a problem because people congregate, people are carrying their bags, they’re wearing coats. It’s just an area that makes it very hard to know if something is out of whack, if someone doesn’t belong there,” said former FBI special agent Richard Frankel, now an ABC News consultant. “Could something slip through? Yes.”
John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, noted: “For years, we have devoted a lot of attention to what we can do to try and stop people to bring dangerous items into airplanes.”
“We’ve built up checkpoints and screening procedures and screening technology — but the front of the airport is vulnerable. Someone can walk in the door with an explosive device or a firearm and can create a lot of havoc and a lot of injuries for people who are waiting to go into the other part of the airport,” Cohen said.
But even as we mourn those lost in Brussels, “we have to remember there is an extensive security apparatus in place in this country,” Cohen added.
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