ICT Views

CTF: at the sharp end

by: (Associate Director, Research and Development) on

The first day back in the office after a holiday is never the best.

It’s good to catch up with your friends & colleagues, but sifting through hundreds of emails trying to decide which need actions and which you can just delete can be more than a little tedious.

Anyway, I’m not going to labour the point.

Whilst it’s fresh in my mind (and it stops me from looking at emails…) I thought I would write a quick blog on my experience at the airport in Bulgaria, when departing back to the UK.

The reason why is simple – it reminded me why counter terrorist financing (CTF) is so important.

Checking In

Just before my family & I left the UK for Bulgaria, I came across a news item relating to Britain requesting the EU apply sanctions to Hezbollah. The reason? “We are calling for Europe to respond collectively and robustly following the atrocious terrorist attack at Burgas airport”.

Hmm. That’ll be the Burgas airport we’re about to fly to.

As it transpired, things went like clockwork on arrival. But on the way back, my interpretation was that the fallout seemed to be evident.

High Security

There was a queue at Departures. They take the searches very seriously. I must admit that at the time, it seemed rather too seriously.

securityThere were hand luggage bags going through the scanner several times. Cosmetics or gels of what seemed to be considerably less than the commonly allowable size were discarded at the behest of a very vigorous (and pretty blunt) security staff.

Items had to be placed in clear bags. At one point, I heard it being said that the item could not be permitted as it was in the ‘wrong type’ of clear plastic bag (is there more than one type?)

Finally, having negotiated our hand luggage scan, I was given a very thorough pat down by a security guard.  

Phew. That was intense. Let’s get a coffee.


Sat in Costas in the Departure area, drinking an extortionately priced latte, my eight year old son asked me why there was all the fuss when all we wanted to do was get on the ‘plane home?

This made me think.

How do you begin to explain the issue of terrorism to an eight year old?

So to be honest, I didn’t. I told him that it was just to make sure everyone was safe. This is still true, if omitting the details.

It Happens

It made me think about the training we provide on CTF – stopping the funding which supports terrorist actions. I work a lot with case studies and scenarios, but this is the impact at the sharp end. It puts it into context. It made me extremely grateful that I’ve never been involved in any sort of real incident.

And it also made me appreciate that the apparently onerous security checks really are important. Just grin and bear it. Try and smile.

Maybe they are being over-zealous in making you throw away a half-used travel-sized 50ml bottle of sun screen. But it may be that one keen individual that makes all the difference next time someone else’s family is flying.

In which case, it’s definitely worth it.


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