At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. [Israeli security consultant Rafi] Sela plays devil’s advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?
I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): […] And he said, ‘Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, ‘Oh. My. G-d.’
“Take [Lester] Pearson [Airport, Toronto]. 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.
“This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.
Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.
“But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.
“First, it’s fast — there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”
The Toronto Star asks an obvious rhetorical question, and gets an answer:
So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?
Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.
“We have a saying in Hebrew that it’s much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it’s dark over there. That’s exactly how (North American airport security officials) act,” Sela said. “You can easily do what we do. You don’t have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept.
Or, as a general described the press after Hurricane Katrina: “stuck on stupid”. I can’t help being reminded (leHavdil) of Nazi counterintelligence suspecting that the Allies had cracked the Enigma encryption system, yet it being decided that replacing it with something more cryptographically secure was too difficult and costly…