The anniversary of 9/11 has historically been not only a time to mourn those we lost on that day, but also a time to reflect on the extent to which we’ve made meaningful progress on stopping the next catastrophic attack. That reflection has included assessing the present state of transportation security, with aviation security understandably foremost on experts’ minds. On the heels of the recent discovery of five explosive devices at an Elizabeth, New Jersey train station, and with the attack on a Brussels rail station last March still resonating, the safety of rail transportation has also been a prominent feature of that discussion in recent weeks, as it ought to be.
Against this backdrop, is another anniversary — the October 12th sixteenth anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole, during which Al Qaeda operatives rammed an explosives-laden motorboat into the Navy vessel, which at the time was docked for refueling in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed. On that day, terrorists acted on their interest and capability to attack a significant maritime target using asymmetric tactics – that, and their record for targeting the transportation sector, should be taken as indicators that they remain interested in maritime attacks, likely now with a view to domestic targets including civilian ships and the ports servicing both passengers and freight.