Thursday, April 28, 2011

Skyjacking: A CIA Analysis and History

N.B.- I know that I have promised several of my readers that I was going to cut down on Scribd uploads. I intend to do so. However, I had already scanned this document and Google Documents refuses to accept it. Thus I have no choice.

As for the record itself, it is a July 1982 CIA study on “terrorist skyjacking”. The use of “Skyjacking” to describe airline hijackings makes this report worthwhile by itself because SKYJACKING is a boss word and deserves to be resurrected from its linguistic purgatory.

More seriously, this 24-page CIA report is a statistical study with historical commentary on the rise and prevalence of terrorist skyjackings and presumably garden-variety skyjackings since the first “terrorist skyjacking” took place in 1968 when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) seized an El-Al jet liner.(1) The CIA's statistics reveal a great deal of common wisdom challenging information:

As documented by the CIA, 9% of all terrorist attacks were skyjackings. The 684 skyjackings between 1968 and 1982 resulted in at least 500 deaths and 400 injuries. Of the 684 skyjackings, the CIA ruled 108 of them “terrorist skyjackings” and that these terrorist skyjackings. Among these 108, forty turned violent with the end result being 212 dead and 186 wounded.

So, contrary to popular wisdom, the pre-911 skyjackings were not necessarily safe nor simply affairs to draw media attention to one's cause or to procure the release of one's comrades.

While terrorist skyjackings were done by many groups for both attention and to secure the release of their members, the bulk of the hijackings were done by Palestinians.

Between 1968- July 1982:

Cuba was the most common diversion point. Cuba also granted safe haven to terrorist skyjackers the most often.

Lebanon was the most frequent point of origin for hijacked aircraft as well as the skyjackers' most frequently boarding point

While only 7% of skyjackings occurred in the North America, American aircraft were the most often skyjacked.

So again, the post-911 narrative that Americans had little experience with foreign terrorism is explicitly challenged and even debunked.

Sprinkled throughout the paper are some nifty graphics, one of which reveals a steep and briefly sustain drop-off in terrorist skyjackings in response to new security measures such as metal detectors.

On a final note, some caution is required when reading this report. The CIA itself admits to using “incomplete data” and I know that the CIA is incorrect in describing two incidents listed in this report.

First, only five Croatians were released during the 1972 hijacking in Sweden and secondly, only four Croatians and the American wife of the ringleader hijacked TWA-355 in September 1976.

(1)Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) 67