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Friday, January 01, 2010

More on Israel's airport security

David Harris adds some interesting tidbits about Israel's airport security system.
Apropos, in a similar vein, after 9/11, when, on American flights, we were being handed plastic cutlery, flights from Israel continued to use stainless steel. Israel was less concerned with the symbols of apparent security - the "Mickey-Mouse stuff," as someone called it - and more focused on what constituted its real elements.

And even after successfully passing the security line, there's more to come, right up to the plane's interior, at least if it's El Al, where air marshals are deployed on every flight.

In fact, speaking of marshals, in 2001, Richard Reid, who was later to become the notorious shoe bomber, flew on El Al. According to a CBS news report, while the Israelis didn't have enough on him at the time to keep him off the plane, they were suspicious. They examined everything before he boarded and then, for good measure, placed a marshal in the adjoining seat. If he was on a scouting mission, he got the point and looked elsewhere.

To those who have never visited Israel, this may all sound as if it requires a full day, if not a week, before the actual flight. Not true. For the average passenger, the whole process moves quickly and with a minimum of personal inconvenience.

Of course, for travelers who have multiple visas from Yemen or Pakistan in their passports, look fidgety or distracted, become unnerved after the second question, try to buy a one-way ticket at the last minute with cash, show up with no luggage for an intercontinental journey, are wearing a heavy coat in summer, or display "attitude," it's likely to be a rather different story.

And this is the key. Israel understands that you need a security system that carefully scrutinizes everyone, as you can never tell who might be involved. Recall, for instance, the case of Anne Mary Murphy, the pregnant Irishwoman who, in 1986, planned to fly on El Al from London to Tel Aviv, thinking she was to meet her fiancé's Palestinian parents. Unbeknownst to her, he placed explosives in her suitcases, plotting the mid-air destruction of the plane carrying her and their unborn child. An alert El Al agent prevented disaster.


It's clear, even to the casual observer, that those responsible for security at Ben-Gurion Airport (and, no less importantly, for El Al flights traveling to Israel from airports around the world) see themselves on the front lines in the country's defense. It is a job, of course, but it's much more.

Each security official understands that the safety of the traveling public depends on the alertness and judgment exercised at every step of the elaborate process. Each recognizes that all this is not an abstraction, a distant prospect, but something very immediate.

Thus, as Israel has shown, it requires ongoing training and the capacity to anticipate the terrorists' next moves. Too often, we tend to employ an "after-the-fact' strategy, otherwise known as fighting the last war. That means a permanent effort to probe the potential vulnerabilities - and plug them up fast.
Read the whole thing.


At 4:41 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Airline security cannot be reactive. Terrorists constantly probe for weaknesses. And they need to be successful only once.

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read numerous posts about what the US should do with regard to the recently averted incident. I have one comment and one question. First, unfortunately in America constitutional rights, religious freedom and political correctness have outstripped any hope of common sense with those that have the power to alleviate these problems. As has been alluded to in numerous posts Israel realizes they are at war trying to survive, but we Americans just don’t get it. IMHO we won’t get it until it may be too late. Now my question: Does El Al allow Muslims to be employed as part of their security processes?


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