The Israeli firm, ICTS, and two of its subsidiaries are at the crux of an international investigation in recent days, as experts try to pinpoint the reasons for the security failure that enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board Northwest flight 253 and attempt to set alight explosives hidden in his underwear.
A Haaretz investigation has learned that the security officers and their supervisor should have suspected the passenger, even without having early intelligence available to them.
At this time, ICTS and the Dutch security firm G4S are hurling recriminations at each other, as are the authorities at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the Federal Aviation Authority and U.S. intelligence officials.
The failure was a twin flop: An intelligence failure, which U.S. President Barack Obama has already stated, in the poor handling of information that arrived at the State Department and probably also the CIA from both the father of the would-be bomber and the British security service; and a failure within the security system, including that of the Israeli firm ICTS.
The ICTS daughter company, I-SEC, has another daughter company - called PI (Pro-Check International). The firms provide security services to airports: consultation, instruction, training, inspection and supervision.
Two decades ago, ICTS adopted the system used in Israel, namely of profiling and assessing the degree to which a passenger is a potential threat on the basis of a number indicators (including age, name, origin and behavior during questioning). At the same time, a decade ago, the company developed a technological system called APS (Advanced Passenger Screening).
This system is based on a computerized algorithm, and is fed passenger information from the airline company. The system was offered to the Israel Airports Authority and the Shin Bet in the past, but rejected. According to the company’s Web site, most of the large airlines in the United States use the system.
However - in real time - the system of ICTS failed. Even if U.S. intelligence failed and the name of the Nigerian passenger was not pinpointed as a suspect for the airline, he should have stirred the suspicion of the security officers. His age, name, illogical travel route, high-priced ticket purchased at the last minute, his boarding without luggage (only a carry on) and many other signs should have been sufficient to alert the security officers and warrant further examination of the suspect.
However, the security supervisor representing I-SEC and PI allowed him to get on the flight.
ICTS was established in 1982 by former members of the Shin Bet and El Al security. Menachem Atzmon, who has been chairman of the board of directors since 2004, holds the controlling shares in the firm.
The ICTS headquarters are in the Netherlands and the company is traded in the New York Stock Exchange. Some senior managers are Israeli, including the joint managing director Ran Langer.
Another important figure is Doron Zicher, general manager of I-SEC. Zicher has been in charge of operations in the Netherlands for more than two decades and has served as adviser to the Dutch Justice Ministry, which is responsible for setting guidelines for airport security.
The company prides itself on employing 1,300 persons and providing security services to airports in 11 countries including France, Britain, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Russia.