Needlepoint Class - Chuck Poulsen  

Israel air security gold standard

Like Howard Beale in the movie Network, the flying public is mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

The tipping point over the bureaucratic madness at our airports came when San Diego software programmer John Tyner gave the beleaguered and abused flying public a battle cry.

Tyner objected to an airport security pat-down by saying: "If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested."

The U.S. originally insisted that pilots get patted down.

The pilot runs the plane. He/she can crash it anytime without the need for a bomb.

Are the politicians and bureaucrats nuts? Answer: Yes, they are nuts.

Canada is also fining strange ways to invade privacy. Travellers have an almost impossible task in learning all the rules. Canadians can’t take liquids aboard. But it's okay to take a gold fish aboard in a liquid, hopefully in a baggy filled with water. But maybe it's not water. Maybe it's a liquid that could be turned into a bomb. Suicide goldfish, no less.

Canada's border guards may soon be able to strip-search employees in airports to crack down on the smuggling of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine. I don't know how much marijuana someone could secret on their body, but who cares?

I'm not worried about body scans. We've all been in locker rooms.

But pat downs and body scans to find bombs in shoes or underwear are a reaction to what has happened, not what's going to happen.

Did you know that Israel's El Al Air allows passengers to take liquids on board?

How then could El Al have been named the most secure airline in the world by Global Traveler magazine?

Israel uses technology and physical screening, but that's only a small part of their security system.

I've been through Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

I wasn't searched or scanned. I was talked to.

The El Al security people are highly trained interrogators. They know what to ask and what to look for in passengers who pose a risk. And they make it all sound like friendly chit-chat.

El Al profiles passengers. That's not necessarily profiling in the racial sense but Muslims do get extra attention.

In some cases, people who raise suspicions are allowed to fly, but only after a body search and then they fly with an armed escort.

Shoe bomber Richard Reid was one of those who raised suspicions and eventually flew into Ben Gurion escorted on the flight by a marshal.

In a later interview, he said he never flew on El Al again because, "too many people asking questions."

Says a former Israeli security expert: "Current airport security is focused too much on the means, and not enough on the terrorist. Don't look for bombs, look for bombers."

Luggage is screened by El Al and sometimes hand searched. Bags are put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives. El Al is the only airline in the world that passes all luggage through the chamber.

Armed undercover agents sit among the passengers on every international El Al flight.

All El Al pilots are former Israeli air force pilots. There are reinforced steel floors separating the passenger cabin from the baggage hold. No one gets past the reinforced door on the cockpit without a code.

All aircraft in the fleet have been equipped with an infrared system to defend against anti-aircraft missiles.

Meanwhile, Canadians and Americans work on reinventing the wheel by making it square.

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