The Washington Post reports that German police evacuated a Munich terminal because a guy’s PC set off a bomb detector. At least in this case, there was at least some indication of a threat, but as we’ve seen no bomb actually went off. While some people might believe it is better to be safe than sorry, again the risk is whether we should be sorry or sorrier.
So now I’ve ranted about just how awful the TSA is. A friend says that we should throw them away and start doing airport security the way the Israelis do it. CNN recently carried an interview with Isaac Yeffet, the former chief of security for El Al. In the interview, Mr. Yeffet points out any number of failures, and he is particularly damning when it comes to Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber, because our security system missed many warning signs that Mr. Reid wasn’t planning to come home, and he wasn’t planning to stay in America. In those circumstances, either you’re having a very short visit, or you don’t plan on landing. He goes on to point out how making people take off their shoes is “a patch on top of a patch.” He’s 100% right. Mr. Yeffet goes on to describe his view of strong security, the key message simply being: you have to have smart and observant people scrutinizing travelers. Of course this model could work in America, but would we get the exact same results?
Possibly, but the length of the interviews will vary. For one, while Mr. Yeffet claims that they can easily determine a “bona fide” in a few minutes, the truth is that there is a clearer profile of what such a person is in Israel. Israel is a small country. They don’t need to profile Arabs or other muslims or anyone else, because they have profiled the small number of types of legitimate travelers. America is far more diverse, and hence far more difficult to determine who is a legitimate traveler.
As an example, the last time I traveled on El Al, I was asked point blank why I was going to Israel, and if I am Jewish. I was going on business, I am Jewish, and I could name my temple. I think I produced a business card. That was the end of my interview. I can also say it wasn’t so easy for others who spent quite a bit more time being interviewed.
What do you think?
And so in answer to my friend, yes. I agree with should disband the TSA and start again, with properly trained professionals who are able to better manage threats. But I do not believe that simply applying Israel’s approach will yield perfect results. The law of numbers is playing against us.