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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Securing the skies

During and after my US trip this past summer, I told you all exactly what I thought of airline security in the US (and Canada for that matter).
I'm very nervous about being in the US. Maybe not for the reasons you think. You see, the state of security here in the US is such that you are always chasing yesterday's terrorists. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters, so you cannot carry sharp objects onto planes. Richard Reid tried to put explosives in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight to the US a few years back, so now you all dutifully remove your shoes when you get to the security check. Suicide bombers walk around with heavy coats in warm weather, so you all take your coats off at the security check. Some belt buckles set off the metal detectors, so you take off your belts at the security check. Do you really think the terrorists are that stupid? Do you think they aren't thinking of new ways to carry out terror attacks?

In Israel, I was warned to check the toothpaste rather than have it in my carry-on bag, "because they will give you a hard time about it in the US." My 'security check' consisted of a trained guard asking me (before they let me get near the counter to check my bags) where I came from in Jerusalem, what neighborhood, who packed my bags, did anyone give me something to take on the plane (and did I know why he was asking me) and what where the names of my children. I didn't have to take off my shoes nor my belt nor my jacket nor my hat. But the Arabs were invited to a side table where they had to open their suitcases and take every single item out. Then the suitcases were taken away and checked for false bottoms and compartments. And you can bet that they were searched before they left that table. That's why there has never been a successful hijacking from Ben Gurion Airport. Bli ayin hara!

What's worse: if a certain type of terror attack hasn't happened outside of Israel, for the most part, no one is prepared for it. So yes, my Red Sox tickets for next week say "No bags or items larger than 16 x 16 x 8, coolers, cans, bottles, flagpoles, firearms or fireworks will be permitted into the ballpark." (So much for the days of the picnic lunch in the bleachers). And the ticket says that you are subject to search: but they'll search my father and me, and they won't search a 21-year old Muslim because that would be 'profiling'. And I will still walk into shopping malls or large stores tomorrow, and no one will search my bags - or anyone else's - because no American shopping mall has ever been attacked by a suicide bomber. No one will search me on my way into a movie theater until the first time someone with a political agenda shoots up a movie theater. And no one will search me going into Sbarros (which I cannot do here because they are not Kosher) or any other restaurant until a suicide bomber blows up a restaurant. In Israel, you cannot walk into an enclosed public space without being searched.

Moreover, who works in security? At Ben Gurion Airport, the youngest security people are post-army university students, many of them psychology majors. It's one of the toughest security jobs in the country to get (I had a friend who worked there in the early 80's, and I know someone else who worked there in the late 80's). Other security positions in Israel are also filled by post-army people. Until recently, when a plethora of security guards were required as a result of the Oslo War, nearly all of the security guards in Israel had served in combat units. I can no longer tell you for certain that is the case, although most of the ads you see in the papers for security guards still ask for 'bogrei yechidot kraviyot' (combat unit graduates). At least in Israel, the security guards know what they are looking for. Many security guards in North America barely speak English. Many probably never finished high school. And they are told to search people randomly.... That's why I don't feel safe here - my safety is in the hands of high school dropouts who don't speak the language and aren't being told what to look for.

As one person in Toronto said to me today, "once you get on the plane, the passengers are the security guards." That may be true, but let's at least give them a head start. By refusing to profile, by focusing on things rather than terrorists, all of your lives - all of our lives - are being endangered. Are you willing to endanger your life for political correctness?
On Monday, six imams were removed from a Minneapolis - Phoenix US Air flight:

Here are the witnesses' observations taken from the Star Tribune story (minus interpolated commentary):

In a statement to police, a US Airways gate agent wrote that three of the men prayed in Arabic at the gate. "I was suspicious by the way they were praying very loud," the gate agent said.

Said Shahin: "We were never bothering anyone, not saying anything loudly. We were just prostrating ourselves, the normal way we pray."


Before passengers boarded, one became alarmed by an overheard discussion. "They seemed angry," he wrote in a police statement. "Mentioned 'U.S.' and 'killing Saddam.' Two men then swore slightly under their breath/mumbled. They spoke Arabic again. The gate called boarding for the flight. The men then chanted 'Allah, Allah, Allah.'"

Marwan Sadeddin, another of the imams, said, "What bothers me the most is these false statements and lies that we were shouting, 'Allah, Allah.' This never happened."

Another, Ahmad Shqeirat, said, "That is a lie. We were not talking politics. And even if we did, so what? What is suspicious about that?"

Once the six were seated, two in front, two in the middle and two in back, and paid visits to each other to chat, some passengers became alarmed, the police report said. One passed a note to a flight attendant citing the alleged comments about Allah and Saddam.

Flight attendants alerted the pilot, who called airport police and asked them to remove the men from the plane. They left "cooperatively," according to the police report.

A bomb-sniffing dog examined the men, their luggage and the entire airplane and found nothing. The plane left for Phoenix about three hours late after the other 141 passengers reboarded.

After being questioned by agents of the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI, the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Administration, the men were released.

What would you do if you were on that flight? Here's to US Airways for doing the right thing.
But Robert Spencer reports today at Jihad Watch that the left in the US is furious over this incident:
Nonetheless, CAIR announced its intention to file a complaint: “Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airport, and it’s one that we’ve been addressing for some time,” said CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. This gibes with a statement by incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: “Since September 11, many Muslim Americans have been subjected to searches at airports and other locations based upon their religion and national origin. We must make it illegal.” This new incident may give such an initiative the impetus it needs in order to be taken seriously. If legislation were passed outlawing airport searches based on religion or national origin (which are already frowned upon as it is), airport officials would be wary of detaining any Muslim, for fear of facing prosecution on discrimination charges. Such legislation therefore would in effect hand Islamic terrorists a free hand to operate in American airports with impunity. CAIR has made no statement about the potential damage the criminalization of such searches could have on national security.
Spencer correctly points out what the impact on national security would be if 'profiling' were criminalized:
If America is to survive, it is eventually going to have to choose national security over political correctness. Shahin has complained that he was “humiliated” and that the way the imams were treated was “terrible.” Indeed. It is terrible. It is terrible that he and the other imams who were taken off the plane, as well as other Islamic leaders in America, have allowed those who commit violence in the name of their religion to do so unimpeded and unchallenged. It is terrible that these and other Islamic scholars have responded only with vilification when asked about the teachings of their faith that promote violence, instead of with honest dialogue and attempts to reform those teachings. It is terrible that, if they were indeed removed from the plane for praying, they are among those who have allowed their religion to become so associated with violence that American citizens on an airplane become alarmed at the sight of Islamic prayer.

In a sane world, officials would tell the imams that if they’re upset about being taken off the plane, they should redouble their anti-terror efforts in the Muslim community in the U.S. – which are sorely deficient in any case. They would ascribe their inconveniencing to the sacrifices that are incumbent upon all of us during wartime. But instead, they are compared to Rosa Parks, and it is likely that their canonization is just beginning.

Osama bin Laden, who predicted after 9/11 that soon many more planes would be falling out of the skies, is no doubt enjoying the spectacle.
Here's hoping that America wakes up in time, and that Israel stays politically incorrect on airline security (I can just imagine our moonbat 'Supreme Court' deciding that profiling is illegal here too). Read the whole thing.


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