Border and security authorities would be “doing a lot of soul searching” following revelations that a bomb kit was allegedly mailed to by the Islamic State and probably couldn’t be sure that more explosive devices had not come into the country, a leading expert has said.
After the n Federal Police revealed that the bomb at the centre of the alleged Sydney plane terror plot had been sent by air cargo from Turkey, a spokeswoman from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said that the scale of mail and air cargo “presents a unique challenge”.
John Coyne, a former AFP transnational crime specialist now with the n Strategic Policy Institute, said that it was impossible to check all items of cargo and mail coming into . Authorities would not know whether other such devices had been sent to .
“A question now will be what other devices were sent through, how many, who to?” Dr Coyne said. “That will be a worrying issue in many people’s minds in domestic and international security. Is this the first time this has happened? How many times has it happened? There is no way of telling.”
He said the explosives used in the Manchester attack on an Ariana Grande concert could just have easily been sent by mail.
“My experience is, let me assure you, there’ll be a lot of soul-searching around targeting at borders. Can we use big-data analytics, explosive detection, can we make it more affordable? What are the cost and time implications? There will be a range of questions government will be going through.”
AFP deputy commissioner Mike Phelan said agencies had put in place “extra measures” since discovering the disassembled “improvised explosive device” – the favoured weapon of jihadists – had been sent from Turkey.
Dr Coyne said had “depth” to its national security apparatus so that even if items slipped into the country, agencies could pick up on plots to use them.
The department spokeswoman said more than 500,000 pieces of mail and air cargo arrived in every day.
The department had “ongoing operations around detection of articles of this type and those operations continue and will be enhanced where needed”, she said.
She did not address questions about whether permanent changes had been made or whether other packages might have been sent by terrorists.
She said the n Border Force works in international mail centres and air cargo depots to screen and examine high-risk items based on intelligence and using technology such as X-rays, sniffer dogs and trace detection equipment.
“We work with our partners internationally and domestically to identify, detect and combat threats. We risk assess and clear more than 40 million individual air cargo consignments and inspect over 60 million international mail items each year,” she said.
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