Beyond the Cusp

November 20, 2010

TSA and the El Al Myth

Filed under: Uncategorized — qwertster @ 2:34 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Our ever-friendly Transportation Safety Administration sure has smacked a hornet’s nest with their new see-through body scanners and overtly invasive body inspections that border on criminal groping if done unofficially. The anger this has raised has once again brought to the front the example of the Israeli method of clearing people through questioning rather than all the hi-tech gadgetry. Some will always criticize the Israeli method due to the fact that it is a form of profiling. This is a mute and unsubstantiated complaint as the Israelis profile not by race, religion, or other physical traits, but profile by the answers, body language, conflicting information given at different points and other time proven methods. Though it would be wonderful if we could train and utilize a similar method in the United States, there are many reasons that make the Israeli method pretty much workable for their unique situations.

I have often heard people make the argument that following the Israeli methods here in the United States would be difficult due to the vast number of passengers that would need to be passed through the system each day. That, for the most part, is a valid point, which could be overcome with sufficient numbers of well-trained interviewers. Another point is that nobody would take such a momentous job requiring a large skill-set unless the salary was commensurate with the level of expectation and responsibility. Again, true but not insurmountable. But most of these arguments miss the most important differences between the United States and Israel.

In Israel, somebody getting onto a plane is definitely leaving the country. Nobody flies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Part of leaving the country you have to present a passport. Passports list all your previous international travel destinations and thus present some very important information about the traveler. This is not true for most flights in the United States. Israel has one, and only one, airport. This airport was designed to suit the Israeli method of staged interviews as the means of identifying potential risks. Most American airports would require significant remodeling to facilitate this method. In Israel, there is one major carrier that accommodates the majority of those flying. This is not the case in any major metropolitan airport in the United States. Add to that the number of local carriers who service a smaller subset of airports and the problem gets that much more complex. America also has many small airports that may only see half dozen or so flights on an average day. With only Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, with approximately the same volume of flights per day, planning is far easier to tailor to the needs.

So, what could we do differently that would allow us to use a more efficient and less intrusive system. The answer is to take one of two routes. We could have each airline company be responsible for their own security.

By going this route, the airlines would all take different approaches and could learn from each other to iron out the method best suited to each. The other route would be to have each airport be responsible for security. This would make sense as then the airports with the least traffic would not require the mega-million dollar scanners and could use a system more suited to a small town where the passengers are mostly visiting relatives. With each airport using their own systems, once again they could learn from each other.

Something different has to be done, as the government method is obviously not working out. As usual, the Federal Government is, true to form, trying to hammer the nail with a jackhammer, not a normal hammer. As long as we leave this problem in the less than capable hands of the Federal Government, we can expect a continuing elevation of one overkill idea after another. My prediction is sooner or later the government will issue sheer pajamas or equally skimpy and embarrassing approved clothing for all air travelers.

Beyond the Cusp

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