A TSA security area reflected in a mirror at Los Angeles International Airport.
The United States government has spent billions of dollars revising the airport security system and installing gizmos that cause major delays, public annoyance, possible rights violations and stories about elderly and children being detained and harassed.
Meanwhile, there's an alternative that, if done right, can save a great deal of that money. The alternative is no surprise to anyone who's taken an El Al flight.
The drill is familiar. When you get to the airport, an El Al agent asks whether you've packed your own bags, kept an eye on them and so forth.
But the agent is looking for more than your answers. He or she watches your behavior and body language. By the time you get to the airport, that agent and other El Al employees already know about you — who you are, what you do and who you're connected with. They are trained to do so.
Invasion of privacy? No more, and probably a lot less, than going through a machine that can see through you — or being groped by a Transportation Security Administration agent who sees more than your doctor does.
Those who argue against TSA adopting El Al methods say it amounts to profiling, which has been challenged for its constitutionality. Of course, they're arguing about what is publicly known of El Al's methods, which isn't the whole story.
In fact, not much is officially known beyond passengers' experiences. That means many who say El Al's tactics are "unconstitutional" may not know for sure.
Others argue that what El Al does with its small fleet cannot be done across the United States because of cost.
Compared to what's being done now?
There are cheaper and less invasive ways to catch terrorists than what TSA is currently doing. Making sure TSA agents know the psychology of people — and terrorists — is one.
The agency is starting to catch up, after much public criticism. Recently, TSA announced it would give passengers a choice: Either go through the full body scan procedure, electronic or human, or be asked some personal questions. The agency has also indicated it is studying the procedures used by other countries. El Al wasn't mentioned by name, but it would be a surprise if TSA wasn't taking a few tips.
If the change in tactic is combined with quality training and hiring, it could take TSA — and millions of airport passengers across the United States — to a security system that's cheaper, more efficient, more constitutionally sound — and most important, safer — than what exists now.