Adopting the Israeli Airport Security Model

I’ve been reading a lot recently—like this article on the Israeli airport security model, and how we should adopt more of the Israeli security model here in the U.S. This sums up the problem with that idea nicely:

On the other hand, no matter how safe or how wonderful the flying experience on El Al, it is TINY airline by U.S. standards, with only 38 aircraft, 46 destinations, and fewer than two million passengers in 2008. As near as I can tell, Cairo is their only destination in a majority Muslim country. Delta, before the Northwest merger is included, reported 449 aircraft and 375 destinations.

Ben Gurion Airport is Israel’s primary (not only) international gateway. In 2008, Ben Gurion served 11.1 million international passengers and 470,000 domestic passengers, roughly comparable to the 10 million total served at Sacramento, the airport I use most often. Amsterdam served 47.4 million total, and Detroit served 35.1 million total in 2008.

By American standards, in terms of passengers served, Ben Gurion is a busy regional airport.

Simply put, the Israeli airport security model does not scale.

EDITED TO ADD (1/7): More.

EDITED TO ADD (1/12): Interview with El Al’s former head of security.

Posted on January 5, 2010 at 7:04 AM81 Comments


Michael Ash January 5, 2010 7:37 AM

These ideas have been bounced around a lot in the past few years, both the idea that we should copy Israel’s model, and the idea that we can’t copy Israel’s model because Israel is tiny and the US is not.

What I’ve never seen anyone explain is WHY the Israeli model doesn’t scale. Sure, the US is much larger, which means it would cost more. It also has a much larger tax base to draw from. The Israeli model has some cost per passenger. If they can afford it at that cost per passenger, then the US can afford it at the same cost per passenger, even though the US would be paying much more in total.

If the Israeli model doesn’t scale up to the US, it either means that the Israeli model’s cost per passenger would be significantly greater in the US, or that the US somehow can’t afford to spend as much money on each passenger as Israel can. I’ve never seen anyone even say which one it is, much less explain why it’s the case.

Can anyone elaborate on this?

Clive Robinson January 5, 2010 7:37 AM

@ Bruce,

There are two reasons why El Al’s security model work,

1, Myth
2, Low hanging fruit.

They have been very very carefull to maintain the Myth that El Al’s security model works (although it has had failures as we know).

Also it is not the “low hanging fruit” that other airlines and airports are.

To be quite frank El Al and the Israeli Government are a bunch of zenophobes as many who have tried the flying experiance have found. Some would say they are racist if not religious zelots as well.

From a terorist point of view there is also the question of ROI.

El Al and the Israeli Government would do the best they can to cover up any kind of terrorist activity or even petty vandalism to maintain the myth. Also neither El Al or the Israeli Government are likley to respond to a terrorist attack in a way that gets the terrorists “air time”.

The oposit is true of the US therefore the ROI is many many times higher for the US than it would be for Israel for a terrorist organisation.

If the rest of the world adopted an El Al security model then apart from the fact international travel would be set back 50 years. The terrorist ROI calculation would change.

For El Al that would mean “uping their game” which they could not afford to do without government support.

And lets be honest El Al only survives because it’s the only game in town currently. There is a joke I was told many years ago by the then Israel representative of BA about the Ben Gurion Airport departure lounge they said that “nearly every Israeli citizen with the means will pass through it, as for arivals not so many, which is why El Al only sell return tickets, it’s how they make their money”…

And as has more recently been noted there are more young people with the means taking “one way flights” out of Israel to live in other countries than people in other countries even think about going on holiday to Israel…

I guess I’m tired of people holding El Al up as a paragon of security when they are most definatly not.

But if people want their country and flag carrier to follow the lead of the Israeli Government and El Al they should expect to get the same standard of living as the ordinary Israeli citizen and I don’t think on proper reflection they majority realy want that…

thanksBut January 5, 2010 7:39 AM

When I hear some Americans say, “We must become more like Israel!” I shudder. Since 2001, America has become way TOO much like Israel…

Peter Akkies January 5, 2010 7:50 AM

In response to Michael Ash:

I would also like to hear from Mr. Schneider why the Israeli security doesn’t scale, but I can come up with one factor myself.

Replicating the Israeli model would require massive airport reconstruction–all those blastproof walls will have to be built, the access roads have to be monitored by guards etc. Such an operation would be hugely expensive; in fact, I think it would have to be done at a higher cost per person than in Israel since there are so many (small) airports in the US. While the US has huge airports, there are also many regional ones, and they all have to be at the same security level, or else this method is hardly any better than the current system.

And of course, as others have pointed out, I don’t think many people want to adopt the Israeli “security” model for public life in general.

On a related note: I am always asked who I am, where I’m coming from, why I am traveling and whether anyone else has touched my luggage, when I travel from Amsterdam to the United States. I’ve never perceived this as a helpful security step. Do terrorists always behave abnormally when they plan to attack something?

Joe in Australia January 5, 2010 7:52 AM

Whether the Israeli model would scale or not isn’t the issue. Terrorists don’t need to attack airports or airplanes; there are an infinite number of targets for them to attack. If terrorists find one approach too difficult they’ll try another. And in fact that’s what Israel experiences: no attacks on airplanes, many attacks elsewhere.

Chris January 5, 2010 8:04 AM


I think it’s a very good question.

The only issue I saw was a possible shortage of “trained” personnel. Those who can conduct actual behavioral profiling to a limited extent.

Clive has a good point in that there’s the potential for a lot of toes to get stepped on and people offended were some of these suggestions implimented. The Israeli who was interviewed for the article may be right in that Israeli’s on average have better faith/trust in their security forces, but they’ve been all too willing to trample the rights of others to achieve it. (cue obligatory Ben Franklin quote. =P )

The one thing that did strike me as something that should be investigated was the response to evacuating airports. This happens all to frequently (a major one was evacuated yesterday when a man walked in through the exit door. They never found him. =P ) Having a bomb proof area nearby and quietly whisking the suspicious item away sounds like a great measured response.

Is this really necessary? We live in a dangerous world simply by being alive. We’ll inconvenience millions out of a fear response of somehow having been responsible for letting an attack get through regardless of how likely or potentially damaging it was. I’d be curious to know how many traffic related injuries/deaths resulted in getting said people out of a building because of an unattended bag. =P

Jason January 5, 2010 8:06 AM

“What I’ve never seen anyone explain is WHY the Israeli model doesn’t scale…”

Agreed. What’s so fundamentally different about blast-proof luggage screening and armed guards trained in behavior recognition that it can’t be applied in an airport 5 times bigger?

John January 5, 2010 8:20 AM

ElAl’s security might work in the airport, but I believe that terrorists have been fairly active in other areas of Israel.

This in order to say that Americans seem to focus on airport security at the expense of nearly every other kind of place, a thought I have every time I walk through Penn Station in NY.

Martin Budden January 5, 2010 8:26 AM

Actually, some parts of the Israeli model do scale, like not evacuating the airport because of minor incidents ( ). From the article you linked to:

“I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is ‘Bombs 101’ to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, ‘What would you do?’ And he said, ‘Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, ‘Oh. My. God.’

“Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, ‘Two days.'”

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain ‘bomb boxes’. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.”

CDU January 5, 2010 8:36 AM

“Simply put, the Israeli airport security model does not scale.”

The fact that Israeli style security has not been tried at larger airports is not proof that it does not scale.

Angel One January 5, 2010 8:39 AM

I’ll tell you the real reason the El-Al model won’t work here – it’s because the El-Al model requires human thought and value judgments. American government is all about standardization, and removing human judgment in favor of policies, procedures, and standards. (This is because we have too many lawyers).

When you fly El-Al, you have to show up well in advance of your flight because each person (or group of people if traveling as a family or group) gets screened by a person who asks you questions about who you are, where you’re going, why you’re traveling, etc. They also ask a lot of questions unrelated to the trip to try and gauge your reactions, and see if you look like you’re hiding something. (Common questions I’ve had include “what do you do for a living”, “Who do you work for”, “Do you speak Hebrew”, etc.) They also follow up on the questions – if I say I’m going to visit friends in Tel-Aviv they’ll ask me for names, and then ask how I know them. If I say it’s a college friend, they’ll ask where I went to college and what my major was. If I say I know Hebrew they’ll give me an impromptu quiz. They don’t really care if I pass the Hebrew pop quiz or what my college major was, but they are looking for my reactions. The screeners may seem innocuous but they’re all trained to look for suspicious activities and responses.

Realistic Infidel January 5, 2010 8:39 AM

The principal reason why ElAL security works, is that they assess the person flying, not the materials carried.

Shoes do not have to be taken off, and entire bottles of liquids can be taken in hand luggage, but if someone fits the profile of a terrorist, that person gets checked.

Political Correctness has already cost the Israelis countless lives in concessions with nothing in return, not even a grudging statement of a right to exist. (Returning Gaza, for example.)

Political reality has not allowed this political correctness to interfere with Airline Security.

How many lives must continue to be put at risk before people stop denying that the vast majority of airline terrorists are extremist Muslems, and fit a clearly describable profile.

Derob January 5, 2010 8:40 AM

The point is not that it does not scale. The point is that Israeli airline security is generally perceived as better then other security, probably also by terrorists. Therefore they will not use or attack El Al, but other airlines, and thus El Al is relatively safer then those. It is because that there are so many other travel (and attack) alternatives available that El Al can maintain its safety.

This is also exactly the reason why it does not scale (or at least scales less then linearly), the Israeli security system has the additional benefit of being the safest, which would be lost if every airline would start applying the same system.

But obviously, an enormous investment in an army of interviewers in the airline industry would make it safer indeed, but now the terrorist will simply move away from the airline industry to other targets which cannot afford a similar level of security. This is well demonstrated in Israel internally. They simply blow up a bus or a restaurant.

canuck January 5, 2010 8:41 AM

While I respect Bruce’s opinion, I also am unclear as to “why” the Israeli model wouldn’t scale.

One thing we are prooving right now is that the model we have / are putting in place in NA doesn’t scale…

Furthermore, the new scanners still wouldn’t be able to pick up the underwear bomber when going thru the security.

Given securing perfectly the airport and the flights is impossible, I think it is about picking the security measures that “suck less” and are effective for a broad range of threaths.

The Israeli layered approach seems to strike a balance and is definitively better suited for a bomb threath than our “evacuate in a panic” approach.

Looking forward to more details as to “why” we can’t import the Israeli model.

HJohn January 5, 2010 8:45 AM

@thanksBut: “When I hear some Americans say, “We must become more like Israel!” I shudder. Since 2001, America has become way TOO much like Israel…”

I’m undecided as to whether to or not we should adopt the Israeli model for airport security. The best answer is probably a “maybe,” meaning we should adopt what we can that works in a cost effective manner.

That said, you’re off the topic whopper deserves a response… Israel, though like the US is not perfect, but it remains one of the most humane and decent places on the planet.

Jeremy January 5, 2010 9:00 AM

@Clive: “And as has more recently been noted there are more young people with the means taking “one way flights” out of Israel to live in other countries than people in other countries even think about going on holiday to Israel…”

Not that this has anything to do with airport security, but that’s bull. There are millions of tourists who go to Israel every year, and thousands of Israelis who take one way flights out.

@Clive: “But if people want their country and flag carrier to follow the lead of the Israeli Government and El Al they should expect to get the same standard of living as the ordinary Israeli citizen and I don’t think on proper reflection they majority realy want that…””

Again, unrelated to airport security, but the standard of living in Israel is comparable to many European and other industrialized countries (e.g., Australia, New Zealand).

Perhaps Clive is more interested in slamming Israel as a country than he is in assessing the security of El Al?

R0n January 5, 2010 9:02 AM

There are several reasons why Israeli airport security (and security in general) wouldn’t work in the US, and even more so in Europe:
1. Willingness of travelers to endure scrutiny. While this is changing since 2001, Israelis still do endure the highest level of screening on a day-to-day basis. Having security guards go through your possessions is a daily affair on entrances to any public place, let alone airports.
2. Tolerance to racial profiling. That old pandora’s box. Israelis are willing to accept racial profiling. Its just true. I am an Israeli, I’ve been profiled several times for being darker then average, but I accept it, because while it does sometimes cost me more time, I am aware of the politically incorrect statistics…
3. Government involvement and personnel: In Israel, its just very easy to recruit well-trained security personnel. Also, the government partially subsidizes El-Al’s overseas security.

Erik W January 5, 2010 9:05 AM

In response to the various “but WHY won’t it scale?” comments, I have an anecdote from a friend who has spent time in Israel a several times and flies with ElAl quite often:

It seems he was studying at a particular yeshiva. He stayed in an apartment that was closer to a different yeshiva, because he knew the landlord. Still convenient enough, but if you were just coming there blind, you’d choose something closer.
So on the way out, the screener asks him what he was doing in Israel. He answers that he was studying at so-and-so yeshiva.
The screener immediately starts questioning him quite closely as to why he was staying so far away, details of the yeshiva and of the neighborhood he was staying in…because Israel is so small that all the screeners can know a lot of that sort of information. In their heads.

Now compare that to, say, getting on a plane in Chicago. Tell the screener you were studying at Jubilee State College. Do you think he’s going to question the fact that you lived in Peoria (18 miles away) or even Normal (55 miles)? And those are just examples in the same state; what if you said you were studying at Antioch College in Yellow Springs OH? Where would it be reasonable to commute to there from? The US is just too damned big to know as well as ElAl screeners know Israel.

Clive Robinson January 5, 2010 9:07 AM

@ “why does it not scale?”

There are many reasons but you first need to consider at what point the system starts right through to where it ends.

As a person not born to Israel and not holding one of their travel documents start with the “how do I get to fly El Al?” question and work your way right through to take off.

Then compare it to what you used to have to do for your own “flag carrier” and state/country Capitol Airport prior to 9/11.

Then ask a citizen of an adjacent country to Israel how they get to Israel on business and what’s involved.

It is not just blast walls, guns and better bagage screening at the airport…

I used to work in the oil industry (Intrinsic safety/t-lem/comms) and I know many people who had upto five pasports just to work East Med, Arabian Gulf and Africa. And some of the stories would make your eyes pop with disbelife if you had not heard similar from others or had first hand experiance.

reinkefj January 5, 2010 9:10 AM

I too don’t understand the “won’t scale” opinion. The current TSA doesn’t scale because it doesn’t work and how much does it cost? First it has to work, then we can chat about scale. TSA will destroy air travel. Handing victory to the terrorists!

RSaunders January 5, 2010 9:20 AM

The Israeli solution seems very scalable. It takes a large numbers of people, we have +300M people in the US. The screeners need a good command of the traveler’s language and some training in psychology, we have lots of folks in college studying liberal arts that could learn those things.

Though scalable, the Israeli solution is fantastically expensive. I couldn’t google up a total budget, but I’ve seen hundreds of security folks at Ben-Gurion. Let’s say they have 1000 people on security duty mid-day, normal three-shift coverage means they spend 2000 person-years per year on security for 10M passengers.

The US has 600M passengers/year, so that would be 120K person-years. These are not $10/hour folks like we have now, but $60K/year professionals (estimated with the salary of a police detective). That’s $7.2B for screeners, much more than the total TSA budget of $5B, and you still need to spend money on xray machines and magnetometers.

The reason it doesn’t scale is that it’s too darn expensive. There are lots of things that work well on a small scale, because the relative cost doesn’t break the bank. I don’t want more effective security, I want more cost effective security. The Israeli solution isn’t more cost effective, unless you’re in a really bad neighborhood (like Israel).

Michael Ash January 5, 2010 10:11 AM

My little question has sparked a lot of interesting discussion. Good!

@Peter Akkies: The fact that there are a lot of small airports which would all have to be at the same standard is a good point. Certainly there are a lot which just have a few flights a day, often enough to need people there all the time, but not often enough to keep them busy most of the time. Training and employing Israeli-level screeners for these airports would definitely be more expensive on a per-passenger basis at those airports.

@Erik W: That’s a nice point as well, but I don’t think it works. El Al doesn’t just screen people in Israel, but also in their overseas destinations for flights back to Israel. I underwent El Al screening both in Tel Aviv and in New York. If these techniques work on an American in New York for El Al, they ought to work for anybody.

@RSaunders: Your analysis of the costs is valuable to have. I don’t think anyone disputes that doing this would be more expensive. However, it doesn’t make sense to say that it’s affordable for a small country but not a large one, if those two countries have similar levels of per-person GDP, which the US and Israel do. If Israel can afford X% of their GDP for this, then so can the US. Certainly it would cost a lot more than what the US is spending now, but the US can afford it if it costs the same per passenger.

And I also want to emphasize that the question of why Israeli-style airport security doesn’t scale to the US is completely separate from the question of whether we’d want it in the US at all. I tend to agree with the other posters who have said that we ought to take the good parts, and the general attitude (like not evacuating an entire terminal every time any little slip-up occurs) to build a cheaper and more cost-effective system. However, even though I don’t want an Israeli copycat system for the US, I’m still interested in the question of why it’s thought to be impractical.

Matt from CT January 5, 2010 10:18 AM

(On El-Al not being scaleable)

Can anyone elaborate on this?


In the U.S. there’s been a persistent problem with a diminishing recruiting pool for police & fire recruits for at least the past ten years.

While our economy is larger then Israel, that also means folks have many other options on how to earn a living.

Pay isn’t the issue; it’s improved (at least in unionized states) quite a bit over the last 20 years, and entry level salaries quoted as $32K often work out to taking home $80K+ within five years plus exceptional benefits.

With the fire service community, many of us are shocked when we look at the the applications turned in / civil service tests taken — I’ve seen several times where folks have reported receiving 1/5th the number of applicants they did 20 years ago. Fortunately those who apply tend to make really good candidates, but the pool is becoming dangerously shallow.

For a variety of reasons, folks aren’t as attracted to and qualified for this work as before. Part is lifestyle changes; part is rising standards (requirements for at least some college, credit checks, etc). touches on some of these issues, and things have not improved since ’06.

If we can’t fill municipal police officer jobs, how are we going to fill enough positions to make El-Al security measures practical?

Let’s figure on 2 million airline passengers per day.

At 15 minute interview per passenger we need 500,000 man-hours/day to screen them. At 7 hours a day of actual work (taking out lunch & breaks), that’s 71,428 officers per day.

To cover 7 days, we 99,999 officers.

Each officer will need 1/8th of his time dedicated to on-going training, re-certification, etc. Sick time, vacation time, other paid time off, etc we can budget another 1/8th. Normal span of control calls for a supervisor for every 3-7 employees. Let’s call it 5 (1/5th). We also need training officers, professional standards staff, civilian staff to process payroll, communications, and file reports and that will add about 1/5th. Those add up to a factor of 0.65 over the baseline front line staff.

So we’re up to 164,000 officers needed to implement El-Al style security by my estimation — talking or inspecting just 15 minutes per passenger.

When we’re having a hard time recruiting enough qualified, capable candidates to maintain the 500,000 municipal and state police officers we currently have.

Not going to happen.

Harry January 5, 2010 10:29 AM

I, too, think Michael’s question is an excellent one. As long as El Al is considered the gold standard we need to be able to explain why the model doesn’t suit everyone.

RSaunders lists some of the reasons why the model doesn’t scale up well. Here are some others:

1) Larger organizations need larger bureaucracies, which drive up costs, slow down processes, and reduce flexibility.

Here’s an example. If you work for a company of 10 persons, you don’t need much in the way of formal policies; we all know who’s really sick, a sense of community helps enforce the group norms, and processing payroll takes one person a couple hours per period. But as the company gets larger, it needs formal policies; the small-group community feeling evaporates, incidents happen often enough to require actual policies (such as whether political discussions are suitable for the office), then you need groups to create the policies, and payroll takes a full time person, and… Soon you have a whole department of people who don’t do whatever the company actually does, but instead takes care of the other employees. You need more managers to manage the increased number of people. If you get enough of those managers, then you need people to manage the managers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

2) To use the Israeli model you need a group of people who are intelligent and sufficiently dedicated to the job that they pay attention all day long (which is hard to do). There will be a group of people who can do that, but if you want to enlarge your security service beyond that, you’ll have to employ people who aren’t quite so intelligent and noticing. Effectiveness will decrease.

3) Israeli airport security piggy-backs off Israeli military training. Israel still has the draft and many of their personnel get at least basic security/anti-terrorist type training. So El Al, Ben Gurion, etc., have a large trained pool of employees to pick from. The US does not have this.

4) Don’t believe the hype about “fast and convenient for the traveller.” Flying on El Al and out of Ben Gurion is a big fat pain. Back in the early 1970s when US passengers were just learning how to walk through metal detectors, Ben Gurion passengers had to arrive 3 hours before their international flights. I don’t imagine it’s gotten any more convenient.

Matt from CT January 5, 2010 10:40 AM

Ben Gurion passengers had to arrive 3
hours before their international flights. I
don’t imagine it’s gotten any more

Four hours is what I heard on the radio (NPR?) this week.

HJohn January 5, 2010 10:52 AM

@Matt from CT at January 5, 2010 10:18 AM

Good analysis. I think the difficulty of implementing it on the scale needed would be difficult to overstate.

Henning Schulzrinne January 5, 2010 11:30 AM

Having flown to Israel (a while ago) a few times, it is clear that there’s a fair amount of religious profiling going on. It’s hard to imagine TSA getting away with “and where do you go to church?” questions.

Also, it’s unclear what would happen if somebody ‘flunks’ the oral exam, given that a normal pat-down isn’t going to discover underwear bombs. Do we deny boarding to somebody because they are “hiking the Appalachian trail” and are somewhat nervous about fessing up to their extracurricular activities? Given the 1-in-a-hundred-million chance of a real terrorist, any reasonable interview will have a non-trivial false positive rate, with thousands of people likely to be either denied boarding or subjected to a body cavity exam. I’d be curious as to how many passengers ElAl rejects after the interview and what, if any, recourse they have.

Petréa Mitchell January 5, 2010 11:34 AM

I also run across a more generalized statement of “We should outsource our security to Israelis because they’re the only ones who know how to do it right.”

To which it should be pointed out that the security at Schipol airport which our underwear bomber passed right through is, um, outsourced to an Israeli company.

Mailman January 5, 2010 11:36 AM

@Clive: “neither El Al or the Israeli Government are likley to respond to a terrorist attack in a way that gets the terrorists “air time”.”

I agree with you on El Al’s security being overstated. I think it’s essentially the Israeli officials bragging with incomplete indicators.
However, I think that the strategy of NOT responding to a terrorist attack in a way that gets the terrorists air time is key in winning the “war on terrorism”

Mailman January 5, 2010 11:38 AM

I’ll add this to my previous comment:

The failed underwear attack is receiving more air time than a successful terrorist attack on Israeli or Iraqi territory. The media is quick to describe the attack as a failure, but one goal of the terrorists in that attack has been very much achieved: they are getting a lot of exposure and are maintaining the fear alive.

If terrorists were to plant bombs in major American airports in a way that security officials will discover them and defuse them all, it would still be profitable for the terrorists’ agenda. With the media giving them such broad exposure, the terrorists don’t even need to pass through security to be successful, at least partially.

Eventually, they’ll have to actually make a bomb explode to prove that they still can do it, but just proving that they’re trying is all they need right now.

mcb January 5, 2010 11:55 AM

@ HJohn

This gem from
“Abdulmutallab’s name was in the U.S. database of about 550,000 suspected terrorists, but was not on a list that would have subjected him to additional security screening or kept him from boarding the flight altogether.”

I’d love to see the decision tree that resulted in a “Suspected Terrorist But Don’t Screening Him and He’s Still Allowed To Fly” category.

Clive Robinson January 5, 2010 12:12 PM

@ Jeremy,

With regards to young people leaving and visiting Israel. Your comment,

“Not that this has anything to do with airport security, but that’s bull.”

Actually has a lot to do with the state of mind that is also responsible for the Israeli Governments view and hence El Al’s security arangments. As others on this thread seem only to aware.

With regards your,

“There are millions of tourists who go to Israel every year”

Actually that is far from true. In 2002 some 780,000 people visited Israel by air the lowest for twenty years. A further 80,000 visited by other means.

However the numbers visiting other nations around Israel are in the millions and have been rising quite dramaticaly untill the recent banking crissis brought countries like Dubi to near financial ruin.

The 32% increase over 2008 visitor numbers is seen as being in response to the change of US President. However it appears that well over a third of visitors are from old CCCP countries mainly Russia. Certainly out numbering those from the US.

However the bulk of visitors are those visiting have family or friends or are visiting for the purposes of faith.

Very very few are “young people with the means” and are not visiting family or for the purposes of faith or on busines.

The days of gap years at the Kibbutz ended in the 90’s such young people are now visiting counties that they consider considerably more worthy of their assistance, time or money.

With regards,

“and thousands of Israelis who take one way flights out.”

The number who are leaving is difficult to find out accuratly but Israel like many other countries has a history of exporting their youth. However imigration figures from other countries suggest there has been a significant increase since 2002 with significantly less returning after education/training has finished. Also the age range suggests a desire not to be conscripted.

With regards “standard of living” your comment,

“Again, unrelated to airport security”

Is again incorrect it has a great deal to do with it (more of which later).

With regards your statment,

“but the standard of living in Israel is comparable to many European and other industrialized countries (e.g., Australia, New Zealand).…”

Oh dear oh dear. The standard of living is not just some narrow economic indicator such as the “Retail Price Index” or the “Big Mac economic indicator”. It involves many many things

For instance do the youth of Austrilasia face compulsory enrolment in war?

Do people in Austrilasia see their military walking around their streets wearing side arms or carrying sub machine guns?

Do people in Europe see daily deaths of violence on the streets and on transport?

What about such things as the right to a private home life without let or hinderance, the right to practice a faith without let or hinderance, the right to basic amenities, health and education, the right of equality of citizens in politics, and civil and national authorities (police military etc) the right of freedom to live where your means allow, the right to equality in oportunity of employment, equality in freedom to travel?

Can you point to any of those countries on your “economic indicator listing” that have the same social/political asspects of Israel?

But I think we get to the main point of your argument,

“Perhaps Clive is more interested in slamming Israel as a country than he is in assessing the security of El Al?”

The old “accuse em of being anti Israel/Jew/zionist/whatever” to try and take the “moral high ground” rather than have sudstantive points of argument.

Finally your repeated,

“Again, unrelated to airport security”

The security of a Nation at it’s points of ingress and egress is very much related to the Political view point of those in charge of a country (it’s Government) who are usually representatives of various factions in a nation normaly voted for by all it’s citizens.

Thus the state of mind of the citizens can be seen in reflection in the nations security.

It is a failure to comprehend this basic fact that has caused a senior US officer to bring down significant approbation on the heads of CIA and other Intel staff and their inefectual and invalid situational and Intel reports just a nation or so away from Israel in the past twenty four hours…

HJohn January 5, 2010 12:13 PM

@mcb: “I’d love to see the decision tree that resulted in a “Suspected Terrorist But Don’t Screening Him and He’s Still Allowed To Fly” category.”

It’s a leaf on the “if we just be nice to people who want to kill us they’ll change their minds” branch.

HJohn January 5, 2010 12:16 PM

@Steve Parker: ” Israel is not smaller than Chicago. Scale for the area that the airport serves. ”

Doesn’t work as well as it sounds. They’ll just breeze through lax security at Springfield or Bloomington to bypass the security at Chicago. Unless we want to screen everyone every time they change planes, it has to be across the board. Locking the door doesn’t work if the windows are open.

Andrew January 5, 2010 12:21 PM

@Matt from CT

Screeners, even interviewers, need not be peace officer or fire cadets. The work is very different from conventional law enforcement or emergency response. Screening is tedious and boring at a level most police officers simply will not tolerate. (I’ve woken up enough sleeping cops to not buy into the myth of police infallibility.) A good screener often would not make good fire crew, either because they can’t pass the physical requirements (as with most of the people reading this!) or because their personality would not mesh well with a small group doing technically skilled dangerous work. I don’t want to imagine a screener on the fireground, although they might eventually make a passable if despised safety officer if they stick with it long enough.

Otherwise your analysis of recruitment issues for the protective professions is spot on. One of the arguments in favor of TSA is higher pay and civil service protection. What TSA employees have gotten instead is mind-numbing bureaucracy and even harsher working environments than necessary. One counter-argument is that there are many more employees than jobs floating around right now.

Private contractors can and have done a great job doing security screening. Just don’t nickel and dime them to death. Prior to 2001, too many checkpoints were being run with minimum wage (or even lower!) screeners and $10/hour “supervisors.”

Not everyone has the overheads of the fire service. A checkpoint can be run using mostly entry level personnel, if your procedures are sufficiently robust. You do need supervisors, interviewers, trainers and support staff, but not nearly as many as you might think. You need management level personnel in the hiring, training and quality assurance processes. These people are actually harder to find than cops even when the pay is good, which usually it is not compared to what they could be making elsewhere.

Thinking out of the box, and allowing for procedural safeguards, there is no reason why screening positions should not be available to volunteers, police cadets, etc. on a limited basis. Making this work is a complex variant of the “french fry theorem” — when two children disagree over how to evenly divide french fries, one child divides and the other chooses.

I wonder how many vetted airline passengers would be willing to spend a few hours working as an auxiliary screener when they travel. The training for the entry-level positions is not that hard and can even be open source. Anything requiring sensitive knowledge should be booted to a supervisor anyway.

@ Martin, who points out blast-resistant glass and bomb boxes at Israeli airports.

Until we install these at TSA checkpoints, it’s all just security theater. As with the Doberman chasing the fire truck — what is the poor mutt to do if he catches it?

RSaunders January 5, 2010 12:31 PM

@Michael Ash

Israel is smaller than Maryland. International air travel is a much smaller part of the US air transport workload. In Israel you drive from town to town. The US is much larger, and domestic air travel is a major consideration.

Israeli taxpayers are willing to spend a bigger % GDP on international air travel than American taxpayers for three reasons:
1) International air travel is air travel in their country.
2) International relations are really important in a country that relies on $1B/year in foreign aide.
3) Their country gets invaded much more frequently by it’s neighbors (the “bad neighborhood” I referred to).

I’m not saying we couldn’t afford it, just that even the current terrorism hyperbole doesn’t approach what would be needed to justify it.

RSaunders January 5, 2010 12:32 PM

@Michael Ash

Israel is smaller than Maryland. International air travel is a much smaller part of the US air transport workload. In Israel you drive from town to town. The US is much larger, and domestic air travel is a major consideration.

Israeli taxpayers are willing to spend a bigger % GDP on international air travel than American taxpayers for xx reasons:
1) International air travel is air travel in their country.
2) International relations are really important in a country that relies on $1B/year in foreign aide.
3) Their country gets invaded much more frequently by it’s neighbors (the “bad neighborhood” I referred to).

I’m not saying we couldn’t afford it, just that even the current terrorism hyperbole doesn’t approach what would be needed to justify it.

Ian McKellar January 5, 2010 12:36 PM

Actually, I just flew El Al from Cairo to Tel Aviv last month. Flying in we had to wait in a sequence eight different lines where either travel documents or identification was checked before we were on the plane. First an Egyptian security guard as we entered the check-in area. Then an interview with an El Al security checker (where are you from? have you been to Israel before? who do you know there? how long are you staying? etc). Then everything in our checked bag was tested for explosives while the tester gave us an even longer but more informal seeming interview about our identity. He seemed surprised that we enjoyed our time in Egypt and told us that they fly in on every El Al flight to do the security for the return flight – he’s probably never left the airport. Then there was a line to check in, a line to talk to Egyptian border control, a line to enter the departures area are, a line to enter the El Al gate waiting area, a life for the bus and finally a line to get on the plane.

There’s no way that you could subject the mass volume of world travel to that level of scrutiny and bureaucracy. On the other hand they don’t mind people bringing their bottled water on the plane.

HJohn January 5, 2010 12:38 PM

@RSaunders at January 5, 2010 12:32 PM

I think you make some good points. Most US air travel is in fact domestic whereas smaller nations are international. And, we are very fortunate that our continent is a peaceful neighborhood, so to speak.

Mike M January 5, 2010 12:42 PM


I agree. The question of whether the Israeli model would scale is only part of the issue. Even if it could scale, I would argue that it’s not worth doing. You add a huge amount of expense and annoyance for passengers for little benefit.

We shouldn’t just be concerned about protecting airplanes, but the populace in general. Even if we had perfect airline security, there are plenty of other places that terrorists could kill large numbers of people. Hell, even today, it’s probably easier to kill a crowd at a ballgame or in a mall than it is on a plane. The only reason terrorists even consider targeting planes with all the protections we have in place is because we are so scared of that happening. Get a grip.

And as we hail Israel for their airline security, just remember that even with that their populace is attacked by terrorists far more often than ours is.

Mike M January 5, 2010 12:45 PM

@Martin Budden

Every time I hear about a large airport being evacuated like that I want to smack my head on the desk. It’s absurd that we are doing this to ourselves through our “security” measures. Now to terrorize us, you don’t even have to do anything illegal. You just have to do something that will cause a panicked official to evacuate the airport.

derf January 5, 2010 1:55 PM

You can strip search and anal probe the passengers and flight crews all you like, but the ground crews still have unmonitored access to the cargo hold. They aren’t searched…ever.

kangaroo January 5, 2010 2:15 PM

Another reason for lack of scaling is the inherent lack of scaling for anything that is intensely “human”.

If the primary product is a customized human activity (security, medical care..), then it depends on the intelligence and skill of the practitioner. When you try to scale that, you need management. For someone to manage another effectively, they need to be more competent or experienced.

The size of management is at least linear to the size of the group, and the height of the pyramid increases sub-linearly. That means you need smarter and smarter people to manage the managers… which also means you need smarter and smarter recruiters to find the smarter and smarter top managers.

The difference in competence, experience and intelligence among humans isn’t that deep. You quickly exhaust your possible pool, and performance degrades.

This is a general organizational problem, and I’ve never seen it properly recognized. You can make factories larger and larger, because the workers just do a stereotyped motion. You can scale very simple software development for the same reason — button monkeys. But universities can only be so big or so centralized, as well as medical care and security implementation.

Bruce Monk January 5, 2010 4:01 PM

Next time you fly into Ben Gurion look for commonality amongst the Entry personnel. Do the same at the outgoing interrogation points.

Notice that 18-23 (or so) age women are in the majority. It turns out they are the most sensitive by far in detecting deception. Perhaps this is a built in trait. In any case their pay scale is far below estimates.

Behavioral profiling is the center piece of the personal screening process. Many of the responses to the screener’s questions can be interpreted with today’s voice input technology and automatically analyzed for credibility and consistency.

The main problem with any human inspection based process is human weaknesses. Boredom, distraction, hangovers, frustration/anger, job dissatisfaction, bribery, blackmail, etc. all lead to degraded performance. Automating of tasks and auditing of all activities will compensate for some frailties and detect others for remedial action. A 100% consistent process tree is also a must.

Automation is the key to scalability!

It is not enough to keep airplanes from being blown up. We need to keep criminals/terrorists from entering the country! Identity needs to be verified since it is very unlikely that veteran criminals or terrorists that are likely to be on a watch list will travel under their own identites. In this case we had a dumb one who did enter under his own identity, probably not anticipating that his father had caused him to be put on a list.

Had profiling been used in tracking the Detroit incident from “cash purchase” to “no luggage” and “travel itinerary: Yemen to … to U.S.” then the father’s alert and the presence of a name on a “watch list” would not have mattered.

There are ways of verifying identity and automatically checking many “watch” lists to evaluate the need for closer inspection. We are more focused on the “Security Theater” that Bruce Schneier defines.

Matt from CT January 5, 2010 5:33 PM

Screeners, even interviewers, need
not be peace officer or fire cadets.
The work is very different from
conventional law enforcement

No, it’s not.

Most police work is about asking people questions, detecting when you believe they’re lying, and working to unravel that lie.

Good police officers can engage many different folks in conversation and win their trust.

Good salesman do that, too — but we don’t necessarily want the salesman personality for our screeners. Good police officers also respect rules very well and don’t act in their self-interest; good sales man personas enjoy seeing if they can get someone to do something to benefit the salesman.

Physical health may be the exception between security screener and police officer; but even there I’m not sure — looking good in a uniform is a bit of effective theater that tends to gain social compliance.

Screening is tedious and boring at a
level most police officers simply will
not tolerate.

Actually, I’ve seen those traits (toleration of tedious and boring assignments) as part of the selection process for police officers.

Granted looking forward to 30 years of such tedium as screening is worse then tolerating the occasional boring shift or a year in some tedious job like reviewing gun permits, but that reinforces the recruiting problem you have.

You need screeners with exceptional people skills, who would be willing to work in a very tedious job for decades.

That’s a real tall order to fill.

As for overhead, I don’t see how you run a security screening operation with any less overhead then any other large police organization.

Bottom line: Massive organization, very little marginal improvement in security, real economic costs with additional delays imposed.

If you could actually afford and recruit 165,000 people for El-Al type security, we’d be far safer and with a positive economic impact deploying those folks instead into standard police work whether it’s highway patrol for dangerous drivers or intense community policing efforts against drug and gang violence situations.

Matt from CT January 5, 2010 5:36 PM

Notice that 18-23 (or so) age women
are in the majority. It turns out they are
the most sensitive by far in detecting

Is it that, or simply it’s a good job to place women fulfilling a national service requirement into?

Lee January 6, 2010 1:54 AM

One thing that impacts airport security is consistency. This is what the Israelis have and the rest of the world does not have.

From the TSA-audited airport which permitted the underpants bomber to begin his journey to other airports, there is a lack of consistency and I believe this is being fuelled by fear. The people simply are not trained well enough and have different interpretations of what to do.

An example: travelling though Manchester, UK, I had a small-form-factor PC in my backpack.

“Do you have a laptop?” I was asked at the first check.
“No but I have a desktop computer in there,” I replied.
“Just put the bag on the belt.”

So I did and it passed through the machine.

“What’s this?” was the next challenge.
“It’s a PC.”
“Why did you not take it out?”
“I offered that to your colleague over there but he said put it on the belt.”

So we go through the scan (out of the bag of course) and the swabbing for explosives. I also offered to take the lid off but, assuming by the look on his face, it might’ve exploded at that point…!!

The issue really is that the bar is consistently low as many people, most of whom I am sure are on low wages, execute the controls. And believe what they’re doing is meeting the control objectives.

Maybe it needs some work – but I would have flown on December 26th and felt safe …… even if no changes in the security checks had been ordered.

Right now, I’d rather not fly and I’d rather not fly to the US. Not for fear of the terrorists but because of the War on Tourism that’s being fought.

Clive Robinson January 6, 2010 2:41 AM

@ Lee,

“I also offered to take the lid off but, assuming by the look on his face, it might’ve exploded at that point…!!”

Sorry I’m not clear if you mean your PC, his face or both 8)

Personaly I think a remake of the film “scanners” using Airport Screeners might well make a new “cult movie” or “cult game” that might go world viral 😉

Any bored game writer out there want to have a go, I give the idea for free just for the chance to make a few “Virtual Screeners” heads go pop with glorious sound effects and truly yukie visuales (think the Monty Python “just another waffer thin mint monsure” 8*)

I think it might just be the next big “time sink” for bored people sitting in pre-pre-pre-departure lounges 8)

hwKeitel January 6, 2010 3:07 AM

the Israeli airport security model is interesting. not everything is portable to the USA and Europe (Armed guards), but this system seems intelligent and our systems don’t. the chief difference is, that the Israeli don’t change their model, they trust their own decisions, and they provide confidence. In the US and in Europe we call for the miracle healer.

Edwin January 6, 2010 5:48 AM

Ok, a few facts (from Israel) to help with the discussion:‎

Almost all the air travel security screening personnel in Israel are ‎University students doing it part time. Their pay is above minimum wage, ‎but nothing to write home about – certainly not “professional salaries” like ‎policeman or government employees. The management core are civil ‎servants.‎

Currently, you are advised to arrive 2 hrs before a flight, but that is ‎mainly to ensure you will have enough time to spend money in the ‎terminal shops and duty free. 90 minutes is more than enough in my ‎experience. On airlines where I have “fast track” type priveleges, 60 ‎minutes is enough too.‎

There are 4 layers that I know of (I am not involved in any way)‎
‎- vehicle checkpoint at airport entrance: typical processing time 10 secs ‎per vehicle; gross profiling; they ask one or more passengers a random ‎question like “where did you just come from?”, and are just listening to ‎accent and nervousness. Any doubt and your vehicle (all Arabs from ‎occupied territories, some Israeli Arabs, occasional tourist, …) are sent to ‎a secondary processing line. Judging by the position of cameras, I believe ‎that car registration numbers are also checked automatically.‎
‎ – personnel observing streams of passengers: both on the terminal floor ‎and from concealed vantage points and cameras. This observation takes ‎place at natural chokepoints, like the queue for security processing, ‎arriving and departing jetways, entrance doors to terminal etc. Rather ‎discrete, unless you happen to see someone being approached and asked ‎to step aside for a few questions on the spot.‎
‎- Selectors: These are the young people who talk to each passenger. ‎There are separate streams for Israeli citizens and all the others (as much ‎as to simplify language issues as for profiling – Israeli arabs will go ‎through the Israeli stream, even though they are definitely profiled, and ‎often have a hard time. The selectors can specify several levels of ‎additional screening – I am usually passed through without even ‎screening my checked luggage, others may have simple or intense ‎screening, or be sent for secondary screening in private rooms. Note that ‎the checked bags for most people are screened, and anything flagged ‎suspicious has the photo of the screen (and the passenger and his bag) ‎sent to a secondary station, equipped with ultrasound, MRI? and of course ‎patient selectors who will discuss the finding. I have told selectors that I ‎have objects belonging to others, and had just that bag sent for screening ‎and then secondary, where they pointed it out to me on the photo ‎‎(multiple images in different colors – probably x-ray + u/s + ??) and then ‎cleared without opening it. (off topic note – I was just in China, where ‎checked bags are screened at check-in counter, machine behind each 2-3 ‎counters, on conveyor belt, and check-in won’t give you boarding pass or ‎id back until bag has cleared. Central government decided to screen ‎‎100%, it just happens. USA/TSA seems unable to manage, breaks locks, ‎screens only a fraction, ….)‎
‎- Hand bag screening: Fairly straightforward, standard to my eye, but ‎without regard to liquids, no removal of shoes, notebooks separately, but ‎apparently using sensitive equipment. They have found small corkscrews ‎‎(allowed through) and other small items that have not been noticed in ‎USA. Numerous items I have had confiscated in USA (e.g. Kensington ‎notebook locks) etc have never caused me trouble at Ben Gurion.‎

I can’t say how many people are employed, but it is certainly not ‎thousands as suggested above. They advertise every 3 or 6 months for ‎people, specifically stating that it is shift work and very suitable for ‎university students. 6 weeks training – I doubt the TSA spends less time ‎training people to be robots.‎

Edwin January 6, 2010 5:53 AM

And of course, behind the scenes are powerful computer systems, where every name and passport in/out of the country is checked. I don’t know how this is linked to the above – when Israeli security is working overseas, they hold printed lists for each flight, assigning passengers various risk codes. In Israel this is invisible, and must be happening behind the scenes somewhere.

thanksBut January 6, 2010 7:07 AM

@HJohn My post was very short and very relevant here, I believe. I won’t go off topic, but anyone wishing to evaluate Israeli security should be sure to get the facts from Israelis on the ground. Like for example

David January 6, 2010 10:04 AM

El Al security works perfectly; terrorists target buses.

How about we stop wasting my time and let me take a reasonable risk – much less a risk than getting to the airport in the first place, I might add, particularly on icy Michigan roads.

amir b January 7, 2010 2:56 AM

the bottomline is : the U.S’s airport security does NOT work. the israeli one does. the Nigirian guy’s case proved we NEED to’s stands to reason that the U.S.can/ needs to
learns from the israelis re. airport security. just like they can learn from others about other issues, such as (universal) health care, etc. keeping an open mind is always a good thing when it comes to improving one’s affairs/ lot in the world.

stevelaudig January 7, 2010 4:46 AM

Wolf “I lost on Celebrity Jeopardy” Blitzer did a butt-tonguing interview with the Israeli ambassador on CNN yesterday and mentioned how great Israeli security for flights were. He never mentioned the tinyness of El Al. But as he proved on Jeopardy, there’s a lot he didn’t know…. like Christ’s birthplace.

AF January 8, 2010 2:24 AM

The number crunching done by RSaunders is flawed –
The Security screeners in Israel are paid a lot less then $60K/year. The salary is less the $10/hour. Bare in mind that most are fresh out of the army and either before or in the middle of university studies and this is a good way to earn some money. In Israeli standards, the pay is fair.
This is also not a full time job for them-
A typical screener will hold that position for about 2 years and leave for a ‘real’ career. This actually adds to security since you have fresh and alert (if you consider it – the longer in the job, the less alert you become) people.
So, the calculations for the cost are far lower. If you wish to scale this model of screening personnel, you would need to use college students. But since they lack the army experience (which all screeners have, in various levels) it would cost more to train then. My guess is that the training costs will be too high in such a case.

From my experience with TSA people, they are trained to follow procedures, and they don’t have any judgement. That’s a big difference- if you need to follow procedures, you only know specific cases (no shows, no liquids, no getting up, no blankets). Any other irregularity will break the security because the screener is not given the basic ‘expect the unexpected’ instruction.

Mover January 14, 2010 1:50 PM

I believe the TSA is already monitoring behavior of, or profiling, passengers.

My 28 year old daughter worked for TSA screening passengers at a security check point as recently as last year. She said that the TSA was training some personnel at each airport in observing the behavior of passengers to look for suspicious people for the wand and the explosives sniffer or more. She would not go into details on the program (she’s smart and responsible adult).

Jim January 15, 2010 9:03 AM

I always wonder about America’s obsession with airport security, when other forms of terrorism can be more effective. For example, in the small town where I live, there is both an interstate highway and a coast to coast rail line. The rail line has tank cars filled with gasoline, diesel fuel, etc. A single rocket propelled grenade smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico (easily done) fired into a gasoline filled tank car underneath an interstate highway overpass would effectively shut down both the railway and highway for a long time, resulting in severe disruption of coast to coast commerce. If this were done to the three main coast to coast rail lines at the same time, the results to our nation’s economy would be catastrophic. As for air traffic, the Somalian adventure (ie Blackhawk Down) demonstrated the vulnerability of aircraft to RPG fire if fired straight on at incoming or outgoing aircraft. A good terrorist does not have to put a bomb on an airplane to destroy it. Considering the amount of illegal drugs entering this country in ton lots, I am surprised that various mosques around the nation are not storage sites for smuggled RPG’s and automatic weapons. The best protection against terrorism is to keep terrorists out of the country. If that requires racial profiling, so be it.

voirdire January 15, 2010 11:27 AM

All this Israel bashing is tedious. It also doesn’t change the fact that whenever I fly, almost nobody ever really looks at me. The answer surely cannot be to put yet another type of machine between the security personnel and me.

Clive Robinson January 15, 2010 1:27 PM

@ voirdire,

“All this Israel bashing is tedious.”

Hmm not realy Israel bashing.

The simple fact is that El Al have a myth of security. Not an actuality of security. They have had security breaches they just don’t talk about it (it spoils the myth).

One thing they have benifited from is the “low hanging fruit” principle. That is it is a little harder to get on their aircraft, and if an incident does happen it won’t be publisised.

Thus for a terrorist on this alone the return on investment is not worth it. However if other airlines started doing the same then El Al would just be one of many and the low hanging fruit principle would not work in their favour any longer.

The other thing to consider is that it is the US and not Israel the terrorists target.

One reason is that the US have set up military bases in Muslim countries that they have little or no intention of leaving any time soon one place in particular (Saudi) was it appears the primary cause of Osama bin Laden financing the 9/11 attacks and other anti US attacks.

From a terrorist point of view Israel has a significnt “bunker mentality” they are entrenched in, they are institutionaly at a point where terrorism as such is not going to effect them. Israel knows it’s on the losing end of the argument and the world is turning against it as it’s propergander is increasingly been seen through as journolists have footage etc that shows their military spokes persons are at best incorrectly informed of events by the military command (and are very probably lying as in the UN compound issue).

Steve January 17, 2010 4:33 AM

Wasn’t an Israeli company responsible for security at Schiphol airport when the “underpants bomber” boarded?

As it was for the US airports that the 9/11 terrorists departed from, as it was for the London underground 7/7 bombing and the Spanish metro rail?

Not forgetting the security of the WTC?

ICTS I believe.

Chris K January 28, 2010 6:53 AM

The most likely reason El Al’s security model won’t scale was in the Sept 2005 crypto-gram. To summarise Shachar Shemesh:

“90% of the people flying El Al are Jewish Israeli citizens. And it would be nearly impossible for anyone else to pretend to be a Jewish Israeli without being spotted.”

The rest of us can’t safely assume any adult is safe.

But we could copy some ideas, such as blast walls round the baggage screening areas.

Sean S. July 19, 2010 3:18 PM

“The best protection against terrorism is to keep terrorists out of the country. If that requires racial profiling, so be it.”

Yes, I remember when that crazy Muslim Timothy McVeigh blew up the Okalaholma Federal building with his superior explosives supplied to him by al-Qaeda. I also remember when those faithful Muslims, the Hutaree, were planning to kill police officers in order to start a war with law enforcement.

Andrew November 7, 2010 11:55 PM

To Clive,

Why is it a myth if it is still working? Do you know something we don’t?
From your posts, you talk a lot about Israel but seem to be entrenched in your cliches a bit like they are in their bunker mentality.


Clive Robinson November 8, 2010 7:13 AM

@ Andrew,

“Why is it a myth if it is still working? Do you know something we don’t?”

With regards these questions the first I have answered above in my response to voirdire, but I will answer it again from a different view point in a moment.

As for your second question the answer is I don’t know if I do or I don’t. My knowledge of the subject is based on information that is available if you go looking for it. Also my experiance in other related fields of endevor and a study of history which sets the information in a particular context that may not be the same as others.

Back to the first question of myth -v- actuality of security.

You make an assumption that because El Al has not had a published incident they have good security.

That is the “my magic rock” assumption as to why you have not been bitten by a poisonous spider and died.

As I have said many times before defence spending is never enough because it is an untestable assumption. What is testable is if you are spending to little (you get attacked).

If a person decided they where going to attack El Al they could do it there is nothing in their security set up that could actually stop a determined attacker who has the right resources.

This is true of any security system because of the available resources and how you deploy them.

Also importantly because it is an “alow” not “deny” system. That is it alows an untrusted and trusted persons access as opposed to denying all persons trusted or otherwise access.

What they try to do is take an untrusted person and by various processes make them more trusted both as a person and by limiting their potential to do known harms in both the long and short terms.

The question is balance and cost. El Al has a captive market (those wishing to fly to or from Israel) this is a monopolistic position thus they can impose some of their wishes on passengers and also pass on some of the costs.

This model will not work in a competative environment unless the actions are mandated on all players.

The question is then who picks up the bill the Israeli government picks up a very disproportionate part of the cost either directly (subsidy) or indirectly (through use of IDF personnel) because it knows it needs air transportation available to it’s citizens and others if it is to survive economicaly.

Much of this cost could not be supported in a country the size of the US and Israel can only afford it due to it’s small size the limited number of passengers the fact it gets considerable subsadies from the US it can use to offest some of these costs and also that most of the jewish citizens are also part of the IDF.

That is the actuality of the El Al system is not secure and it cannot scale to a country of the size and type of the US.

However some of what they do can be used in the US but a lot cannot. But of that usable part how much are people prepared to put up with in a democratic nation of the type of the US?

And if not what are the alternatives available?

How about using busses?

Perhaps you should go and examine Israel’s record on people blowing up bombs on bussess and in public places and ask questions relating to the security measures they use on those and their effectivness…

AL November 15, 2010 9:46 PM

It would be politicalli incorrect in the USA, the media would be all over the racial profilling that the Israely model would tend to create… by having to impose the same kind of scrutiny in everybody, in order to search the potential terrorist for weapons you have to search the old lady… this is the result of the political posture that the goverment assumes..
If the terrorist are mostly musslims, well is only natural that mussilims would be more scrutiniced that non musslims.. You can’t be effective and efficient and not profile what is the target of your search..

Traveler November 15, 2010 10:52 PM

All you (and the article you linked to) do is point out that Ben Gurion is a relatively small airport. This doesn’t prove that the Israeli security model doesn’t scale, it just shows that in order to work in the US it would have to scale.

The bigger issue, in my mind, is that Israel is a relatively homogenous society. They say that the profiling is behavioral (and in part it is) but never been stopped at the the initial car check and I’m sure if I looked like an Arab this wouldn’t be true.

Lawrence Cher November 15, 2010 11:46 PM

I have flown to the US and Israel quite a few times. The time taken to interview people that the Israelis do is not usually long – and is not intrusive – it is done as part of the check in process while waiting in line anyway, so does not add to a lot of the time required. While the training of those doing the testing is probably high, it would seem to me to be teachable. I have found it much more intrusive coming into the US and flying out overall. Certainly not keen on the scanners particularly for people who frequently fly. And the pat downs don’t sound like fun.

Clive Robinson November 16, 2010 6:15 AM

@ AL,

“If the terrorist are mostly musslims, well is only natural that mussilims would be more scrutiniced natural that mussilims would be more scrutiniced that non musslims.”

Tell me what does a Muslim look like?

The problem with profiling unknown people is stereo-types and that is just another form of racism or as it used to be called in the UK “Paki Bashing”.

And when you examine racism you find it is another form of bullying, which in many cases is caused by inadequacy in the bully.

And this is what it boils down to. Israel is in a position to bully air pasengers and get away with it because it has no claim to multiculturism. The US on the otherhand does have (still) multiculturism and cann’t bully in the same way.

Which country would you rather live in given the choice? the US where terrorist activities are very very few and far apart or Israel where terrorist activities happen on an almost daily basis and the neighboring countries treat you as a pariah state and want to excise you from the face of the planet?

Assuming you as most people do prefer a quite life without being bullied how do you stop your own nation becoming a pariah state?

Simple answer is to stop them bullying those who are seen to be different (I know easy to say difficult to do).

dozenz November 16, 2010 12:55 PM

I think it’s ridiculous that some of you can say that the Isreal security model can be applied to the US.

I see comments which trivialize the training, education, resource, and cost of security. Scaling this to fit the US, is not realistic, and as has been stated, you cannot just pick and choose.

Ignoring all the logistical impossibilities to impliment this to avoid the use of the X-ray scanners/pat-downs people are so fearful of, will make armed military, 4+ hour security lines, multiple checks, and racial profiling a guarantee.

People got so up in arms when racial profiling was brought up after 9/11, proclaiming it the “slippery slope” to losing our freedoms. And you think this will be acceptable by people? Looking like we live in a war-torn country with bombs going off left and right?

Jon February 8, 2011 12:04 AM

I am a BPR (behavior pattern recognition) Officer working for a private security firm. I protect a high profile geographical target in the US. My supervisor once worked at Ben Gurion doing the same thing that I now do, bpr, and he was the one who taught me. Trust me guys, this stuff works (feel free to ask questions). However, it is BEHAVIOR that must be profiled, not race, religion or ethnic background. This article will clearly explain why (and how the Israelis left themselves vulnerable with disastrous results):
If you do read the entire article, pay close attention to the last two sections, “Facing the Human Factor” and “Racial Profiling vs. Behavior Pattern Recognition.”

Look up the story of Kozo Okamoto and what he did at Ben Gurion Airport in 1972. It really was the “turning point” of security for the Israelis, and what brought about a complete paradigm shift and a refinement of behavior detection theory.

Also worth mentioning–the underwear bomber was not supposed to fly out of Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. A BPR officer screened and security questioned him and determined that something was not right. Do some research and see if you can find out: why he DID fly, and also what company (and its history/background) provides security for Schiphol.

I find it very, very interesting how the media fails to report on the above, and focuses now on “what technology should we adopt?” I think that we are placing too much focus on technology. The focus should be placed on people and behavior. As my L.E.O. friends all say, “watch the hands!” Cheers.

Rob March 8, 2012 2:51 AM

@ Clive,

I’m not sure you pretended to be objective, but to the average reader, it’s quite obvious you have some prejudices and racial bias towards Israel.

To be quite frank El Al and the Israeli Government are a bunch of zenophobes as many who have tried the flying experiance have found. Some would say they are racist if not religious zelots as well.

At first I thought it was just one post that substantiated my opinion, but fortunately for me, you managed to post several times which really does highlight your disdain and constant put-down of Israel. You and your fellow “freedom-fighters” do well to point out how Timothy and some of the other extremist organizations here in the states are not Muslim. They also did NOT get on an airplane and drive it into the WTC. Keep it in context. I do not understand why you and your cohorts have issues with using various other information resources to allow a closer look at someone based on their race, where they are from, organizations they may belong to etc. If it meant one incident deterred, does that not justify it?
@ Sean – you can continue to state completely out of context garbage like McVey, which has NOTHING to do with this article, or you can face the facts. There were Muslims hijacking and driving those planes into WTC, the Pentagon, and into a field in PA. Like it or not gentlemen, that is a fact. Why do you insist on denying that one critical piece of information. Certainly I don’t believe every single Muslim is a terrorist, to do so is foolish, but to ignore that the terrorist of 9/11, the botched underwear bomber and if we group together the individuals that hate America and her way of life, and her citizens – what do you think will be the common denominator? Are you that naive or did you really drink all of the Kool-aid???
The funny thing is, as biased against Muslims as I may seem, I still think you win the prize at least by sheer number of posts that blatantly display your disrespect and total disdain for Israel.
Also to confirm your suspicions, I am totally in love with my country. I gave 2 decades of my life to defend her and her way of life, and her citizens. Yes, I realize that I defended American-Muslims. I would do so again today. I’ve seen firsthand the blood of my friends, my leaders, and my soldiers spilled. But more horrifying than that was the massive bloodshed at 9/11. If we can implement processes and procedures that happen to piss a few people, or a lot of people off and thwart an attack like that again, then you can bet your 3 dollar bill that I will sign up for it, support it and evangelize it. That’s how I value AMERICAN lives.
Continue to place the conveniences of a culture that has historically hated AMERICA above the safety of her citizens. Continue to do that because you have absolutely every right to do that. I can assure you those whose lives who have allowed you to express yourself, no matter how biased and subjective, would lay it all down to give an avenue for that grog to flow down. But they would also support racial/cultural profiling too. As I said, that’s how we value an AMERICAN life
Oh, one last comment directed at Clive. You really are full of yourself!. I mean it. 100% Full.
I was going to say that you were full of something else that we find out in our cow pastures, but I believe I just said it without saying it.

Clive Robinson March 8, 2012 4:32 AM

@ Rob,

If indeed that is your nicely anonymous name.

Firstly why have you taken so long to reply, I’ve seen this “delay posting so they won’t see it” tactic a number of times and it realy does not wash the dirty laundry those doing it have put on public display.

As for you comments well…

What sort of stupid comment is,

“and racial bias towards Israel”

You cannot by definition have a racial bias twords a country, so don’t try and conflate things to start a strawman argument it won’t wash.

Secondly I very clearly deliniated my comment as to who I was talking about which is the Israeli Government (people) and El Al run by people following a line set by the Israeli Government. So don’t try expanding to imply I’m a racist against those living in Israel.

This sort of attack by a well organised collection of people who for whatever believe “my country right or wrong” about Israel is very frequently seen on the Internet and usually it starts with a “delay posting so they won’t see it” opening gambit.

You then go on to make a bunch of other very silly comments including calling me a “freedom fighter” without stating what you think I’m “fighting for”. So I’ll just ignore that bumshious bovine excreta, as I suspect will most others unless the are pretending to be “morraly outraged”.

Oh one technical detail you dont “drive” a plane a person or an auto pilot pilot it or fly it, drive is almost universaly reserved for land vehicles.

As for,

“I do not understand why you and your cohorts have issues with using various other information resources to allow a closer look at someone based on their race, where they are from, organizations they may belong to etc. If it meant one incident deterred, does that not justify it?”

I cannot realy beleive you are stupid enough to have said that. You have just falsly accused me of being racist to the population of a whole country (Israel) and then go on to say it’s OK to use discrimination by race if it achives a political end.

So to answer your question that sort of excuse to discriminate against people has frequently been used in the 19th and 20th century with the likes of the “Kluckers” and you appear like a number of others to want to continue it well into the 21st century, this “end justifies the means” argument has been used by the likes of Ayn Rand to justify the compleatly unacceptable. What makes it worse is usually the “end” is actually a false premise that is chosen because it cannot be argued against with formal logic.

That is you cannot argue a negative with such questions because you cannot arge against the open ended “iit might”, it’s the trick the defence industries use to extract disproportionate to requirments amounts of the tax take.

I would sugest before you go around accusing people of racism you take a long hard look in the mirror and then go and seriously study 19th-21st centuries history.

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