Friday, November 19, 2010

On being "politically correct"


Stupid or Arrogant?

As the holiday travel season gets underway, airline passengers can expect longer and longer lines as the clerks of the U.S.' Transportation Security Administration (TSA) either ogle passengers as they pirouette in a machine designed to undress them before the clerk's eyes or play grab and grope with the would be passenger's privacy.

In an article on the New York Post's Web site (, correspondent Michael J. Totten explains how it's done in Israel. Totten's bottom line is that "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."

I have been going back-and-forth between the U.S. and Israel since 1975. I've flown El Al, KLM, Northwest/Air France, and most recently US Airways.

On my first trip to Israel, I boarded an El Al plane with two full size duffle bags. The El Al (read Israeli) security guy asked me the standard questions and the bags went on board. This was before the baggage xray machines were installed. Coming back, I dragged my luggage to the security guy at Lod - the airport's name at the time and the one I prefer - who chatted with me for a minute or so, the let me and my luggage move on.

The first time my gear was inspected LEAVING Israel was in 2009. It went through the xray machine . . . and was flagged. I had two bottles of maheyah (arak) in a suitcase and the security people wanted to see it "up close and personal."

A few weeks ago I followed another American through the xray check point. He had a jar or can of some Israeli something in honey that the xray machine caught. The security guy asked the fellow what was in the container and suggested some common souvenir. No, the visitor said, and told the security guy what it was. The bag continued unopened.

On the other hand, I did watch as El Al security insisted that an elderly couple going to Israel from JFK unpack everything from one of their suitcases. Why? I don't have a clue. Perhaps, as Totten suggests in his article, their passports had too many visas to enemy states - at that time this included Egypt and Jordan.

Israeli security depends heavily on profiling.

Totten claims it is not racial or ethnic. Given the senior citizens whose luggage was emptied, I suspect that is true.

We in the U.S., are denied the luxury of profiling.

We can't do it at the airports.

We can't allow our police to do it on the highways and byways - although at least one Florida State Highway Patrol officer had an excellent record of apprehending drug couriers, mules, until a defense attorney discovered his success was based on his profiling skills.

Totten makes a point that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA are looking for terrorists who might be using a tactic that already was discovered.

If you try something and you fail, will you try the same thing again? Not likely.

Profiling is a legitimate security tool.

We need to use it.

We need to follow Israel's lead - as we finally did with "sky marshals" who are too few.

For many years I have been a consultant and mentor. When someone recognized that I had expertise their organization could use, they contacted me to "rent" my wisdom.

DHS and TSA ought to admit to their masters in Congress that they need help; they need to engage Israeli security experts - people with actual experience in preventing terrorism in the air - to train U.S. personnel and the courts need to choose human life over political correctness and allow profiling.

Anything less eiteher is stupid or arrogant, a waste of time and money, and an insult to the air traveler. .