Search This Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How Israelis secure airports ???

Forget the 'porn machines' How Israelis secure airports

Air travelers in the United States are now given two options at the security gate -- be groin-groped by gloved Transportation Security Administration agents, or photographed "naked" in the back-scatter X-ray device that Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic calls "the porn machine."

You can thank failed "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for this one. While armies tragically tend to fight the last war, the TSA looks for the item the most recent terrorist used.

After 9/11, everything sharp -- even tweezers -- was banned. Ever since Richard Reid tried and failed to light his loafers on fire, security agents have forced us to take off our shoes. British authorities rounded up terrorists who planned to bring liquid explosives on board, and we've all been prohibited from carrying shampoo through the gate ever since.

Terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, and the TSA isn't even looking for whatever they'll try to use next. I can think of all sorts of things a person could use to wreak havoc on a plane that aren't banned. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people.

The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world's foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn't care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane. Instead, officials at Ben Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they're even allowed to check in.

And Israeli officials profile. They don't profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport -- almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq -- I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I'm a white, nominally Christian American.

If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They'll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn't possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don't even try. They're highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them.

Because I fit one of their profiles, it takes me 15 or 20 minutes longer to get through the first wave of security than it does for most people. The agents make up for it, though, by escorting me to the front of the line at the metal detector. They don't put anyone into a "porn machine." There's no point. Terrorists can't penetrate that deeply into the airport.

The Israeli experience isn't pleasant, exactly, and there's a lot not to like about it. It can be exasperating for those of us who are interrogated more thoroughly.

The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone's pants. Israelis don't use security theater to make passengers feel like they're safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport.

Michael J. Totten is an indepen dent foreign correspondent. His next book is "The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah and the Iranian War Against Israel."


  1. The problems are twofold.
    1. Scale, Israel has a more existential threat but a more manageable problem.
    2. Staffing, can the US get the right people trained to do a job as intellectually demanding as the Israelis do?

  2. We live in a very crazy world. I used to enjoy traveling by air. Now I hate it. It is very time consuming, and humiliating, but unfortunately, at times, it is the only option.
    I hate the security, but, unfortunately, the gemeral public just doesn't know how effective that security is, if It can save the lives of loved ones, it is well worth it.
    That said, I can think of a lot of ways to speed things up, by having a profile on every passenger in advance.
    Profiling seems more sensible than what we are currently doing.
    Also, there are a lot of retired policemen with excellent records, would it not make sense to have a few of them on every flight as part of flight security?

  3. Well I say let the Airlines handle their own security. Maybe they would adopt the Israeli security measures. I see all this security bull trying to take away our freedom. I would rather be free than secured to death. We can defend our selves get the government out of my life. If Congress would of been doing their jobs in the past we would not have all this bull on our shores. Our boarders should of been under full guard years ago and illegals stopped at the borders. So I say let the airlines adopt their security for they have more to loose if one of these ye who's get aboard.
    Government can't do anything right compared to the private sector. Mercy. All this security is and excuse to take our freedoms away from us. Internet, cell phones you name it they want to eye you all the time. Now they want to control the news media. What bull..

  4. Interestingly, Richard "shoe bomber" Reid was allowed to board an El Al flight during one of his earlier trips, but raised enough suspicion to be intentionally seated next to a security agent on the flight.

  5. Ben Gurion Airport is the most tightly controlled and thoroughly screened airport that I have ever traveled through, and my experience with Israeli security occurred back in the late 1980's. My personal physical being was in no way violated while being thoroughly screened on the way in, as well as on the way out, of Israel. As an American I have been saying for two decades now that we could take a lesson or two from Israel regarding how we deal with terror and security. In my opinion, there is no excuse for the intrusive and nonsensical way that American airports screen for security, and now this TSA mess is precisely that; a mess. It is clumsy at best, invasive at the least, and concentrates entirely on the wrong things. As Joe so aptly states, people profiling is necessary in lieu of concentrating on objects. I just don't know what it is going to take for us to get it!