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Brad Harrington

TSA "Security": Yet Another Federal Disaster

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TSA "SECURITY": YET ANOTHER FEDERAL DISASTER

By Bradley Harrington

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” - Rita Mae Brown, “Sudden Death,” 1983 -

With the anniversary of 9/11 upon us, you’d think the primary responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would be the prevention of any such occurrences from ever happening again.

So, what is the TSA currently doing to achieve that end? Check this out:

“3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. 3.4 ounce (100 ml) container size is a security measure.” (“Make your trip better using 3-1-1,” tsa.gov, Sept. 3rd.)

I’ll bet you feel safer already. Unless, of course, you remember American Airlines Flight 63, when Richard Reid tried to ignite plastic explosives in the soles of his shoes two months after 9/11. Or Northwest Airlines Flight 253, when Umar Abdulmutallab attempted to set off plastics explosives hidden in his underwear last year.

In view of the fact that we just can’t seem to get away from terrorists bent on blowing us to smithereens, perhaps we should ask ourselves: what is the safest airline in the world to travel, and the safest airport in the world to travel out of? If we can answer these questions, and study what those people do, perhaps we can learn how to do it ourselves.

And those answers are: “The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked.” (“What Israeli security could teach us,” Boston Globe, Aug. 23rd, 2006.)

What do the Israelis do that we are obviously missing? Because a record like that - when you consider that both El Al and Ben Gurion International are the most sought-after targets for Islamic terrorists - is nothing short of astounding.

To begin with, Israeli security begins long before you even step up to the airplane ticket counter. It starts the minute you buy your ticket, when Israeli intelligence and Interpol run your name and passport number.

Then, upon arrival at the airport, all vehicles undergo a visual inspection by armed guards at the security gates. And more armed guards, nearly invisible to the untrained eye as they are not wearing uniforms, are checking people out thoroughly as they approach the terminal doors.

CBS News correspondent Bob Simon summed up the Israeli approach nicely: “Three checks, and you haven’t even entered the terminal yet - which is where the real security begins.” (“The safest airline,” cbsnews.com, Aug. 21st, 2002.)

The real clincher for the Israelis, and a point we miss completely, are the “personal interviews”: every passenger is questioned and observed closely by trained intelligence agents. What are they looking for? “Anything out of the ordinary, anything that does not fit,” said one agent. “People who seem to be lying, to be hiding something from us.” Pass the two-minute test and you’re good to go; stand out for some reason and you’ve got other issues to worry about.

Then, and only then, are you allowed to check in at the airport counter. And before boarding, your luggage will be X-rayed and you will need to pass through a metal detector. But you can keep your shoes on, and no one really cares whether your bottle of mouthwash is larger than “3.4 ounce (100 ml).” The Israelis are focused, like a laser beam, on looking for terrorists - and, while there are sky marshals on every flight as a final defense, they haven’t been needed in a while.

And “profiling,” a dirty word here in America? Rafi Ron, former director of security at Ben Gurion, said: “We believe that profiling is a very important concept in aviation security. Finding a bomb is not such an easy thing. That’s why it’s so important to find the terrorist before he gets on the plane.” And the Israelis, the article continues, “say they cannot do that without profiling, or selecting, passengers who meet certain profiles.”

And the final proof of the pudding? After 9/11, what did Israeli security change in relation to their procedures? Nothing. They already had a proper system in place.

How many more close-call federal disasters, or worse, do you think we’ll have here in America before we follow suit?

--

Bradley Harrington is a former U.S. Marine and a writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming; he can be reached at timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com.

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Right on target, Brad. Your first quote says it all.

Thanks, Brian. As someone who has acted in that fashion many times before in my own personal life, I'm pretty familiar with it! I wouldn't expect the TSA to have much of a clue, however. :)

With Regards,

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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Does anyone here know why the TSA sends airlines the names but not the descriptions of terrorists? You've all seen the stories about children who aren't allowed on planes because their names supposedly match those on the list. And, naturally, any terrorist with half a brain will use a phony name in any case.

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Does anyone here know why the TSA sends airlines the names but not the descriptions of terrorists? You've all seen the stories about children who aren't allowed on planes because their names supposedly match those on the list. And, naturally, any terrorist with half a brain will use a phony name in any case.

Why, JJ, that would be profiling. Can't do that! So we'll just get blown up instead. :)

With Regards,

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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Does anyone here know why the TSA sends airlines the names but not the descriptions of terrorists? You've all seen the stories about children who aren't allowed on planes because their names supposedly match those on the list. And, naturally, any terrorist with half a brain will use a phony name in any case.

Why, JJ, that would be profiling. Can't do that! So we'll just get blown up instead. :)

With Regards,

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

But if the very same people were bank robbers or rapists, you'd see them on wanted posters. Wouldn't you think the authorities would want to go after them, instead of waiting for them to show up at an airport?

The funny thing is, I have yet to find a case where the news media asked the same question, although I think the TSA has made a general statement that to release any information other than the names would threaten national security! This makes me worry that the watch list might be a scam. What people call "security theater."

Remember when there was a move in Florida to remove convicted felons from the voter rolls? Only their approach was to purge every "Joe Smith" if any Joe Smith anywhere in the country had been convicted (The actual directive for this was once shown on 60 Minutes).

In New York City, there's been an outcry against thousands of people (mostly black and Hispanic) being randomly stopped and frisked and their names put into a criminal database, even though few of them had actually done anything. There was a recent exposé about one precinct where there was actually a quota for stopping and frisking people (like the infamous quotas for parking tickets), whereas in the very same precinct the cops often refused to investigate actual crimes reported by victims of same in order to keep the crime statistics down.

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