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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting it right on airport security

The Washington Times pretty much gets it right on airport security in the US, although its headline - which blames the entire set of scandalous security practices on President Obama's refusal to acknowledge a Muslim problem with terrorism - only gets it half right.
The Transportation Security Administration's demeaning new "enhanced pat-down" procedures are a direct result of the Obama administration's willful blindness to the threat from Islamic radicals. While better tools are available to keep air travelers safe, they would involve recognizing the threat for what it is, which is something the White House will never do.

El Al, Israel's national airline, employs a smarter approach. Any airline representing the state of Israel is a natural - some might say preeminent - target for terrorist attacks. Yet El Al has one of the best security records in the world and doesn't resort to wide-scale use of methods that would under other circumstances constitute sexual assault. The Israelis have achieved this track record of safety by employing sophisticated intelligence analysis which allows them to predict which travelers constitute a possible threat and which do not. Resources are then focused on the more probable threats with minimal intrusion on those who are likely not to be terrorists.

Here in the United States, these sophisticated techniques have roundly been denounced as discriminatory "profiling." Allegedly postracial America has been unable to come to grips with the difference between immoral and illegal racial discrimination and the prudent use of the types of techniques that police on the beat use every day, which is similar to practices the customs service applies to assessing which packages being sent into the country are licit and which were sent by smugglers. TSA believes an 80-year-old grandmother deserves the same level of scrutiny at an airport terminal checkpoint as a 19-year-old male exchange student from Yemen. This policy not only is a waste of time and resources, it denies reality.
That's true. But I was shocked to hear from one of the videos I posted on Tuesday that 81% of Americans believe the full-body scanners are a good idea. That's absurd. What that indicates is not only that President Obama isn't willing to acknowledge that terrorism is a Muslim problem, but that the American people are too caught up in political correctness to require that steps that are not the lowest common denominator be taken.

Is the full body scanner the fastest method for finding someone carrying a weapon? Well, it sure
looks like it. But it probably would not have exposed Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and it won't expose terrorists with the latest technology al-Qaeda is rumored to have like explosive breast implants and butt bombs. The scanner is like fast food - it's convenient but it's not the best thing for you. It (might be) an answer to yesterday's terrorists. But it's not an answer to tomorrow's terrorists and tomorrow's terrorists are what we should be trying to find. And the scanner can be every bit as embarrassing as being groped, if not quite as physically uncomfortable (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

I've seen every excuse in the book for not implementing the Israeli methods. I even saw an article in one of the newspapers here in Israel last week that claimed that profiling works in Israel where we have 50,000 passengers per day, but would not work at London Heathrow (which has horrendous security that I have written about in the past), which has 250,000 passengers per day. That's nonsense. It's just a question of manpower. (With so many highly educated people out of work, it might also be better for the economy to spend $1 billion hiring and training people to do profiling than spending that money buying full body scanners). But first, the American people have to decide that they're willing to take a little longer to do security right and that they're willing to drop - or modify - their political correctness.

The Washington Times is right that there's a fundamental problem with the fact that President Obama refuses to acknowledge that terrorism is specifically and almost entirely a Muslim problem. Are the American people willing to stand for a longer (yes, profiling takes longer than running through a body scanner), less politically correct process in order to be safer and more dignified? That's the question that the current scandal over strip or grope presents. Personally, I'd rather be asked a few questions about where I came from and why I'm flying than to have some lout squeezing my private parts. And my rabbi has already said not to go through the full body scanner (although if the current situation persists, I may re-ask the question before my next US trip).

Read the whole thing.

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