Friday, November 19, 2010


Ever since John Tyler, a California software programmer was thrown out of the San Diego International Airport for refusing a body scan, it has spawned a huge debate about the effectiveness of the TSA and a great deal of controversy about the use of enhanced pat down checks, or the use of high tech X-ray body scanners which some feel are harmful to the passengers' and airline personnel's health. The revealing results are indeed invasive of a person's privacy.

This evening as we watched Juan Williams interview TSA Administrator John Pistole defend the need for airport security, it gave us much to think about.  It is unfortunate that the threat of terrorism has made what was once a pleasurable and rapid method of transportation, turn into a nightmare for many who frequently use air travel as part of their work. It has also forced many of us to plan our trips and vacations by  using different methods of commuting. TSA security personnel have a duty to perform, yet many have, and in many cases rightly so, been accused of abusing their position and of fondling and groping travelers in inappropriate manners.

Four out of five persons surveyed agree that there is a need for the government to insure safe travel for its citizens, but many disagree on the method of security to be employed. When political commentator Juan Williams declared in an interview that he was made uncomfortable when traveling with passengers wearing Muslim garb, he was fired from his job at NPR (National Public Radio.) He was accused of making discriminatory remarks. We must admit that like Juan Williams, we too are uncomfortable when we spot Muslims sitting in the same airport waiting room.

Since it was the actions of extremist Islamic terrorists which have brought us to this point, we would prefer to see racial profiling of Muslims in effect. We do not mean to be discriminatory, we just want to insure the safety of those who choose air travel. It is our opinion that in the interest of safe air travel, Muslims wishing to wear their distinctive clothing for religious reasons should be willing to comply. After all, it was the actions of Muslims, acting in the name of Allah that has caused these security measures to be put in place. Ironic is it not, that backed by C.A.I.R. they now scream "racism" and refuse to acquiesce?

Sister Two cannot walk through a metal detector at an airport checkpoint without setting off all the warning bells because she has a Titanium knee replacement. Sister One recently set off the metal detector by wearing a simple barrette to hold her grandmotherly hair in place.  Both were subjected to a wand check and manual pat down. Even though it was embarrassing, and we'd rather it had not been done at all, we allowed it. Yet Muslim women wearing hijabs or burkas want to be treated differently or as we read in one article, want to perform their own pat down. How dangerously amusing!

Many commentators and writers have proposed that American authorities study the methods that the Israelis use to secure their airports.
Michael J. Totten, has written a very informative article about how Israeli security agents safeguard their airports from terrorists.

"Forget the 'porn machines': How Israelis secure airports"
The New York Post
By Michael J. Totten

Air travelers in the United States are now given two options at the security gate -- be groin-groped by gloved Transportation Security Administration agents, or photographed "naked" in the back-scatter X-ray device that Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic calls "the porn machine."
You can thank failed "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for this one. While armies tragically tend to fight the last war, the TSA looks for the item the most recent terrorist used.

After 9/11, everything sharp -- even tweezers -- was banned. Ever since Richard Reid tried and failed to light his loafers on fire, security agents have forced us to take off our shoes. British authorities rounded up terrorists who planned to bring liquid explosives on board, and we've all been prohibited from carrying shampoo through the gate ever since.

Terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, and the TSA isn't even looking for whatever they'll try to use next. I can think of all sorts of things a person could use to wreak havoc on a plane that aren't banned. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people.

The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world's foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn't care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane. Instead, officials at Ben Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they're even allowed to check in.

And Israeli officials profile. They don't profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport -- almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq -- I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I'm a white, nominally Christian American.

If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They'll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn't possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don't even try. They're highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them.

Because I fit one of their profiles, it takes me 15 or 20 minutes longer to get through the first wave of security than it does for most people. The agents make up for it, though, by escorting me to the front of the line at the metal detector. They don't put anyone into a "porn machine." There's no point. Terrorists can't penetrate that deeply into the airport.

The Israeli experience isn't pleasant, exactly, and there's a lot not to like about it. It can be exasperating for those of us who are interrogated more thoroughly.

The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone's pants. Israelis don't use security theater to make passengers feel like they're safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport.

Michael J. Totten is an independent foreign correspondent. His next book is "The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah and the Iranian War Against Israel."

Read more: Forget the 'porn machine: How Israelis secure airports

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