Theodore's World: Obama Could Learn A Lot From Israel Security At Airports

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January 03, 2010

Obama Could Learn A Lot From Israel Security At Airports

What Israel Can Teach Us About Security


While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threats with far less inconvenience.

"It is mind boggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He has worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.
"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for – not for hours – but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, `We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.'"

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Ben Gurion is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security is watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes – which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate – what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with Play-Doh in it and two pens stuck in the Play-Doh. That is `Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Duchesneau, `What would you do?' And he said, `Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, `Oh. My. God.'
"Take (Toronto's) Pearson (airport). Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic – which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, `Two days.'"

A screener at Ben Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.
Second, all the screening areas contain `bomb boxes.' If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.
"This is a very small, simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben Gurion airport shares with Pearson – the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.
"First, it's fast – there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."
The goal at Ben Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in 25 minutes tops
And then there's intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.
"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who allegedly tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day – would not have gotten past Ben Gurion's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive?

Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit – technology, training," Sela said. "But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, `So far, so good.' Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable."


Wild Thing's comment.........

I realize the amount of air travel in Israel and that in the United States differs. But this article is good as well as the video above. I'm sure that the Israeli's could be consulted as to how to expand and use their security operations to our much busier airports. When the choices are blown-up airplanes with lots of dead people or safety, the answer should be...we will do whatever it takes. But even so we are too PC-ified to take the Israeli approach to airport security.

I think one point that could be taken out of this is that the Israelis TRUST their government to protect them. This simple point is paradoxical to the American experience. It is paradoxical in that we distrust the government to protect us yet that is one of the Federal government’s purposes according to the Constitution.

If airport screening was handled by a competent government with the security of the people being its sole concern and sans unions of any type, I believe America would again be one of the safest places in the world. Sadly, we can’t even stop the flood of immigrants over our southern borders, further jeopardizing our safety.

Israelis feel that they have a stake in this, whereas TSA view it as a job. Of course, the average Israeli
working security is in a different league than the average TSA screener. You can’t train for passion, you can only
screen applicants for it.

And sadly, I don’t see any willingness by our Muslim president to be “schooled” by the Israelis on anything.

Our country looks for weapons, Israel looks for terrorists.

Posted by Wild Thing at January 3, 2010 04:47 AM


Had the fumunda-bomber's explosive detonated, do you think Obama would have really cared? Only to the extent that it would have disrupted his vacation. I misplaced my boxcutter at work. I found it when I got to the Anchorage airport after travelling on a Shared Services flight from Prudhoe Bay December 16th. It was in my coat pocket which I carried on the plane with me. The only improvement in security that I can point to is that the security workers now speak better english than they did before 9-11. Thank God there was a brave Dutchman on flight 253.

Posted by: Jim at January 3, 2010 08:00 AM

When you want it done right, call the Israeli's.

I read this morning that CBS news is unhappy because the Christmas bomber cut into Obama's vacation and he might not be able to "recharge his batteries".

Posted by: BobF at January 3, 2010 08:46 AM

If they want to imporve Airline Security get the government out of the business of Airport Security. There is nothing the United States Government can do efficiently. Their list of failures are long and there are no successes.

If they were serious about security they would first take a Pro-active roll in security, like Israel does. No, we react to a situation after it has happened. The Congress then gets involved and that's the end of any sane solution.

If Abama was serious about this he would forget all about the Unions, then fire Napolitano. Subcontract Airport security out to a private company. Who would hire only bonded employees giving them a stake in the overall security of the system. They could copy and learn from the Israeli system and start a real Pro-active program. Instead of one that is dysfunctional with all of its inept bureaucrats who do nothing but take up space and collect a paycheck every week.

But Abama knows better than the Israeli's he will do it his way, and nothing changes or gets worse.

Posted by: Mark at January 3, 2010 09:40 AM

No 1 - don't let muslims fly on anything but Arab flagged airlines. We have to drop the PC human rights BS. We are at war and the enemy respects no one, even his own people. When they are crazy enough to shove explosive and detonators up their own rectums, they should be treated as the crazies and dangers they are.

Posted by: TomR at January 3, 2010 11:32 AM

Mark has it right. Of course, if the security of airports was contracted out to private companies who hired only BONDED employees... We can bet that most of the workers there - at TSA - now, cannot even qualify for bonding. How many have criminal records? How many are illegal?

Just how many examples of government running programs ineffectively and inefficiently do we need? The post office. Medicare/Medicaid [with regard to fraud]. Amtrak. DMV [yes, at a local level]. TSA - which is a joke. And now, we are going to let the government run health care, too.

We. Are. So. Screwed.

Posted by: BT in SA at January 3, 2010 01:01 PM

I flew every week from our airports, for 19 long years, security is there to hassle the flyer, an exercise by embeciles foisted upon the consumer by bureaucrats. Most of the booger picking morons couldn't even speak English, were of doubtful origin, as most were orientals. You can't object or complain or the federal marshals will arrest you. It's goon squad mentality from the word go.
Don't blame the airlines either. It's the fact that the airports are on State, County or Municipal land,(Government Land???) controlled by them and enforced by the feds.
Airlines pay a huge fee for landing and take off at each airport, the slime who control the airports screw the people with unwarranted restrictions, double taxation and piss poor service. It's not about stopping terrorists but all about domesticating we the frigging sheeples to blindly follow orders. The general public isn't the G'damned terrorists, it's the ragheads and our fucked up government. I refuse to fly now that I don't have to.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in Bombay, but educated in England at the United Services College, Westward Ho, Bideford.
In 1881 he returned to India, at 17 to Lahore (in modern-day Pakistan) where his parents now were. He began working as a newspaper editor for a local edition and continued tentative steps into the world of poetry; his first professional sales were in 1883. His insightful poems tell much about the muslim mentality.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.
Rudyard Kipling

Posted by: Jack at January 3, 2010 03:40 PM

Mark, good point!!!

Tom, I agree.
"No 1 - don't let muslims fly on anything but Arab flagged airlines."

Thank you everyone soooo much for your input about this.

Posted by: Wild Thing at January 3, 2010 11:28 PM

Nine years after 9/11 and we're back to the mentality of 9/10. Our government is the true enemy of the people.

Posted by: Eddie (Enemy of the State) at January 4, 2010 11:56 AM