Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Real Security at the Airport (or anywhere)

Shortly after 09/11/2001, people in the U.S. were looking for security answers. We'd been violated by terrorism in a way we couldn't ignore as we had past events. In that search for solutions, what many of us realized was that El Al Airlines hadn't had a terrorist event on a plane in decades. Not since they started using their eyes and common sense.

USA Today actually did an article on it on 10/01/2001. It may be found here.

It includes this now hilarious quotation:
"American security has been sleeping well for years," says Beni Tal, head of a security consulting firm in Tel Aviv, who has worked on government security. "Now they have woken up forever."
Well, not really, Mr. Tal. It just took us a little longer to lapse back into our lazy, self-righteous and self-destructive patterns.

They get to the key factor: "By El Al's standards, my screening was light — only 10 minutes of questioning by two well-paid officials with full military training."

They also point out where American's might have some difficulty.
Despite their current anxieties, Americans also might balk at El Al-style ethnic profiling. Staff scrutinize the passengers' names, dividing them into low-risk (Israeli or foreign Jews), medium-risk (non-Jewish foreigners) and extremely high-risk travelers (anyone with an Arabic name). These people automatically are taken into a room for body and baggage checks and lengthy interrogation. Single women also are considered high-risk, for fear they might be used by Palestinian lovers to carry bombs.
I believe in egalitarianism. I also believe in brutal pragmatism. If it works, you do it. With regard to security, Israel is more interested in security than in preventing offense. If we were really interested in survival, we would do the same. I don't support the profiling of all Arabs. I do support extra screening for all Muslims, as nearly all hijackings have been done by Muslim extremists. It needs to be recognized that they may be of any racial heritage or ethnic background. The unifying factor is their ideology, not their race. The moment we identify additional commonalities between hijackers and terrorists, I support using those to select for secondary screening as well.

El Al doesn't rely on fancy x-ray machines or having you take off your belt or shoes. They do make sensible use of technology, but that's not their line of defense. They shut down terrorism on their aircraft by proper screening by well-trained professionals unafraid to use their eyes, apply common sense and ask questions.

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