House chairman: Russian plane is 'whole new chapter in terrorism'

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday warned that the downing of a Russian airplane in Egypt could represent “a whole new chapter in terrorism.”

Early indications are that the Metrojet Airbus A321 was blown apart by a bomb planted by an affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulOvernight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference MORE (R-Texas) said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

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“I again have a high degree of confidence this was an ISIS attack getting a bomb on an airplane, and the question is how did it get on the airplane,” he said.

If the bomb was planted by someone working inside the airport, “that's a very hard thing to stop.”

“That is the biggest vulnerability in the aviation sector that I see with respect to aircraft,” McCaul said.

“Now that ISIS has demonstrated [that ability] — if this in fact is the case — that’s a whole new chapter in terrorism.”

The Department of Homeland Security is “cognizant” of the need to screen airport workers in the U.S., he added, to ensure that airports are protected from a similar threat.

“I think moving forward in a proactive way we need to screen them better,” McCaul said.

Last week, the department announced additional security precautions that it would take in the wake of the crash. Among other steps, the government will conduct additional screening of planes and lend assistance to some foreign airports. 

U.S. officials have appeared to grow increasingly confident that terrorists were behind the Oct. 31 plane crash, which killed all 224 people onboard.

The Russia-bound flight had taken off from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, presenting an opportunity for a “two-pronged attack” against both nations, McCaul said.

The airplane’s crash has devastated Egypt’s tourism sector and sent a shockwave to Russia, which claims to be fighting ISIS as part of a military foray into Syria.