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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Israel dumbs down its airline security

US Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff gave an interview to ABC News today, in which he discussed for the first time some of the details of the terror plot affecting US-bound planes from London that was uncovered last summer:
"I think that the plot, in terms of its intent, was looking at devastation on a scale that would have rivaled 9/11," Chertoff told ABC's Pierre Thomas. "If they had succeeded in bringing liquid explosives on seven or eight aircraft, there could have been thousands of lives lost and an enormous economic impact with devastating consequences for international air travel."

Sources tell ABC News that after studying the plot, government officials have concluded that without the tip to British authorities, the suspects could have likely smuggled the bomb components onboard using sports drinks.

The components of that explosives mixture can be bought at any drugstore or supermarket; however, there is some question whether the potential terrorists would have had the skill to properly mix and detonate their explosive cocktails in-flight.

But they can work — scientists at Sandia National Laboratory conducted a test using the formula, and when a small amount of liquid in a container was hit with a tiny burst of electrical current, a large explosion followed. (Click on [this link] to view the video.)

The test results were reviewed today by ABC terrorism consultant Richard Clarke, who said that while frequent travelers are upset by the current limits on liquids in carry-on baggage, "when they see this film, they ought to know it's worth going through those problems."

One official who briefed ABC News said explosives and security experts who examined the plot were "stunned at the extent that the suspects had gamed the system to exploit its weaknesses."

"There's no question that they had given a lot of thought to how they might smuggle containers with liquid explosives onto airplanes," Chertoff said. "Without getting into things that are still classified, they obviously paid attention to the ways in which they thought they might be able to disguise these explosives as very innocent types of everyday articles."
The rest of the article goes on to describe how Homeland Security managed to change travelers' behavior in the space of twelve hours so that liquids are now severely restricted in carry-on bags on flights originating in North America and Europe. But I'll skip that part because that's not my point.

I traveled to Boston (via Vienna and Toronto on the way there and via Toronto on the way back) last summer just after this plot was uncovered. Here's part of a post I wrote on my arrival in Boston:
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.
For the record, we now do remove coats and hats while going through security at Ben Gurion. But note that part I bolded in the quote about how the Arabs are searched separately. What makes security work in Israel is exactly what the US won't allow its security people to do: profiling.

Last January, the moonbats at Machsom Watch complained that Arabs were being treated 'differently' than Jews at Ben Gurion Airport:

Machsom Watch, a group of moonbat women that harasses Israeli soldiers looking for terrorists at checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria is upset that Arabs have been getting 'special attention' at the check-in lines at Ben Gurion Airport.
Together with the New Israel Fund [a group that bills itself as "safeguarding civil and human rights, bridging social and economic gaps, and fostering tolerance and religious pluralism," and which is actually the fund-raising arm for every moonbat organization in Israel. CiJ], the group sent a joint letter Monday to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and the head of the Israel Airport Authority, Gaby Ofir, in which they declared their desire to supervise security checks and offered to coach airport staff as to appropriate behavior.

On December 4, 2006, the Arab Association for Human Rights and the Center Against Racism, both affiliated with the NIF, published a report on security checks at the airport. The report came after many complaints were sent to the office by Arab citizens about demeaning experiences during the checks. They were a victim of discriminatory behavior by security officials based solely on their outer appearance, accent, or place of residence, they said.

The report concluded that Arabs are treated differently than Jewish passengers.
And to this I can only say "no kidding."
I then went on to describe for those of you who have never been here what security is like at Ben Gurion Airport:
From the moment you enter Ben Gurion Airport (literally - from the checkpoint when you get off the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway at the main entrance), they are filtering out the Arabs for special scrutiny. When you drive up to the security barrier at the entrance to the airport, all the guard wants is to hear you speak enough Hebrew (or some other language) to make sure that you don't have an Arabic accent.

When you get to the line for security, Israeli Jews go the right, tourists go in a different line, and Arabs go in a third line. There are lovely hostesses who 'suggest' which line you should use after they see your passport and ticket. Israeli Jews generally (but not always, in my experience) have their bags x-rayed. Tourists will have their bags x-rayed. Arabs will have every item removed from their bags, and if necessary will have their bags taken to a separate room, taken apart, and searched for false bottoms. Given the number of Israeli Jews who have committed terror attacks, the number of tourists who have committed terror attacks and the number of Arabs who have committed terror attacks, the approach is entirely justified. Everyone here knows that a 9/11-type attack originating out of here, God forbid, would not only be a tragedy - it would be the end of Israel's tourist economy.
Today, Israel's Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz announced that he has caved in to Machsom Watch and is dumbing down the security.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced Tuesday that Jewish and Arab citizens traveling abroad will receive the same color stickers for their luggage during security checks at the airport.

Prior to the decision, security personnel at Ben Gurion Airport used different color stickers for each population sector, each color indicating a different security level. From now on, all citizens traveling abroad will receive a white sticker, indicating that they have already gone through the security check.

According to Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia, the use of different color stickers left non-Jewish passengers feeling humiliated and discriminated against. The decision to use a single color for all citizens was made in an effort to bridge the gap between different sectors in Israel.
I have to tell you that the stickers were applied discretely enough that I never noticed that anyone else had a color other than pink (after you go through security you rejoin the line together for check-in). I wonder who called it to the Arabs' attention.
Arab Knesset members welcomed Mofaz’s announcement, but nevertheless expressed doubts that the decision would bring about real change.

“If this leads to equality in security checks, it is a step in the right direction. However, if it is only symbolic, it is a small step,” said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al).

“This step shows that Minister Mofaz is aware of the distress and discrimination of Arab citizens during security checks at Ben Gurion Airport – checks that border on prolonged humiliation. At this stage I’m skeptical of these moves. It’s hard for me to believe that the Shin Bet will change its conception of Arab citizens,” Tibi added.

MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) called for further steps to be taken towards ending discrimination during security checks. “It’s wonderful that discrimination through the colored stickers has finally been canceled, but it is sad that it took 60 years for a country which calls itself democratic to take this step,” he said.

“I congratulate Minister Mofaz for leading to this move, but we have to see what actually happens, and whether Arab citizens continue to be held up and sent to separate security check lines.”
The day those separate lines stop is the day we need to consider taking a boat to Cyprus and boarding planes there. I'm deadly serious about that. Hamas, Hezbullah, Fatah, al-Qaeda etc. would like nothing more than to God forbid bring down a plane departing from this country.


At 11:26 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Good, let the secular kapos fly with the arabs, maybe that will be the last we hear of those kastner/peace now dreck.


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