September 19, 2002
The Sixth Sense in Security
Even though we've just crossed the first anniversary mark of Sept. 11 without incident, security specialist Dennis Kennedy does not think America should relax just yet.
"I believe that everything we see happening in Jerusalem will happen in Los Angeles in the near future," he said.
Kennedy and his company, Security Operations Group, have fought the war on terrorism by training private citizens, bodyguards and security personnel in counterterrorism and self-defense. Now the Huntington Beach-based group has discovered "da bomb": bomb-sniffing dogs.
"We decided after Sept. 11 that bomb-detecting dogs would be a logical addition to our business," said Kennedy, who counts private corporations, military personnel and movie studios among his canine-carrying clients.
Over a three- to six-month period, Kennedy trains the dogs to detect a roster of red flags, including firearms, ammonium nitrates, plastic explosives, TNT-based explosives and black powders used in pipe bombs. Passive hunting dogs, such as retrievers and border collies, make the best bomb-sniffers, he said.
"They sit down when they find a bomb," Kennedy said. "It's really a game to a dog. We use affection and reward to teach the dog to recognize the smell of various kinds of explosives."
As simple as it sounds, in the battle between nature and technology, nature has the upper hand in counterterrorist sophistication.
"Bomb dogs are the single most effective tool that in detecting explosives," Kennedy said. "They have a success rate in the high 90th percentile. Electronic detectors, such as a handheld device that goes for a few thousand dollars, fall in the 40th percentile."
As a security expert and U.S. Army veteran who trained dogs while serving his country, Kennedy doesn't pull any punches in his assessment of where we've come in the past year.
"I think that virtually nothing has happened," Kennedy said. "Our pilots are not armed. There are very few sky marshals aboard. Most are poorly trained. Airport screening is not working. And we're not taking any proactive steps anywhere -- not at theaters, not at malls. "To me, it seems like Americans are sitting on their hands waiting to see what the terrorists are going to do next."
Kennedy believes that America does not have to go far to take the basic steps of counterterrorism prudence.
"The Americans have learned little from the Israeli model," Kennedy added, "which is the most effective counterterrorist model in the world. We don't need to spend millions of dollars. All we have to do is follow the Israeli model."