So – What’s So Wrong With Profiling?

English: Malpensa New Check-In Area

Israeli Arab journalist switches airline after ‘humiliating’ El Al security check

Nazareth-based women’s magazine editor Yara Mashour tells Haaretz she felt as if she was ‘raped’ by airport security agents in Milan airport.

From an article by Jack Khoury ( Ha’aretz  headline today)

Now this young lady’s profession indicates that she is good with words – so her description of the incident is very graphic. It may well be that the events unfolded exactly as she described them – there is no reason to doubt her. The response from El Al security is also predictable;  El Al said it operates “in accordance with the instructions of Israeli security agencies,”
Of course, this is not the first time that there have been complaints about treatment by security staff, and for sure it will not be the last. For those on the receiving end, the security clearance experience can be humiliating, degrading, insulting, or just plain tedious. But the questions that must be asked are:  who is to blame, and how did we arrive at this situation?
The answer is, regrettably, simple, and can be summed up in the aphorism:
” Whilst it is true that not all Muslims are terrorists, it is also true that most terrorists are Muslim.”  
From this basis arises the necessity of profiling. The logic is so obvious that all the screaming about human rights abuses won’t change it. In the ” Politically Correct”  atmosphere of the Western World, the security agencies are seeking a technological solution; machines that will replace people. In this scenario, everyone will be screened by the machines, thus ensuring that everyone is inconvenienced equally.
The reaction of the security agencies – outside of Israel – to each new attempt to ” beat the system” would  be laughable if the circumstances were not so potentially tragic. The paranoia that gripped America after 9/11 resulted in the introduction of new levels of airline security – presumably the thinking was ” better late than never.”  But the obsession with personal rights and freedoms prevented, and is still preventing, the systems from operating  efficiently. How can they, if they don’t adopt fully the Israeli system? Their actions are always re-active, rather than pro-active. Three examples:
A mugshot of shoebomber Richard Reid

The shoe bomber

In December 2001, Richard Reid, a British Muslim,  flying from Paris to Miami, attempted to set off explosives concealed in his shoes. As result, all future passengers were obliged to remove their shoes for inspection at check in. (in America I think even to this day)

In August 2006, British police uncovered a plot by other British Muslims to blow up 10 aircraft using a sophisticated mixture of liquid chemicals. Immediately people were prevented from taking liquids on board – even the mineral water they had just purchased in the airport was confiscated. (It happened to me)

English: Photo 2 of Umar Mutallab

the underwear bomber

In December 2009 (on Christmas Day!), Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian Muslim, on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, attempted to detonate explosives concealed in his underwear. Surprisingly, in this case, the agencies did not respond with a demand that passengers submit to an inspection of their underwear – while they were still wearing it! On the other hand, external body “patting down” became more intrusive, giving rise to the phenomenon known as ” Groin Groping” by the security staff.

The Israeli system operates from a different perspective – more psychological than physical. Much reliance is placed on intelligence, meaning advance knowledge of as many personal details of each passenger as possible. Also there are many “rings of observation and studies of the individual” starting from the moment of entering the terminal to the moment of being seated on the plane. And, after that, there are still the Sky Marshals travelling on every flight.

English: Transportation Security Administratio...
seeking to adopt the Israeli system

In May 2008, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it would adopt many of the Israeli measures. A number of US domestic airports have already done so – but they are still hung up on the profiling issue.

The fact is that no plane departing from Ben Gurion Airport has ever been hijacked. The attack inside the terminal in 1972 by Japanese terrorists which killed 24 people, and the attack in 1985 on the EL AL ticket counters in Rome and Vienna Airports which killed 19, led to an upgrade and rethinking by Israeli security agencies. Who knows how many other attempts have been thwarted by the application of procedures that unashamedly include profiling?

English: The entrance to Eilat's Airport

You can still get hassled here.......

And the complaint that Israelis don’t suffer in the same way is not totally true, although the degree might be different. Maybe it’s because I’m a “New Immigrant” (of 25 years and counting) but I still get hassled almost every week by security when I’m flying domestically. Only last week in Eilat airport – after my (Israeli!) ID card had been taken to a supervisor for inspection, and the details checked against his handheld computer, was I given an ultimatum by the young officer checking me. If I would not agree to have my small hand luggage checked in for storage in the hold of the plane, it would have to be opened. For me this was no problem, and certainly better than waiting at the baggage carousel  in Tel Aviv. Thus it was subject to a chemical inspection and the contents displayed for all who might be interested. This after the regular plethora of questions about who packed the bag, did anyone give me anything to deliver, was it all my own stuff, where had it been since I packed it, did I understand why I was being asked these questions etc.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my Hebrew is still so bad. But it does seem to contradict everything that I have said, and believe, about profiling. After all, I’m a grandfather with a son and a daughter and grandchildren all living in Israel. My daughter is even in the Air Force!

Maybe the profile now includes Anglo-Saxon septuagenarians? Who knows?

One benefit of not being in the first flush of youth is that I can still remember the days when there was no such thing as airport security. I suspect that not too many people have had the experience of just turning up at the airport and getting on a plane, as if it were a bus. No hassle, no questions. no three hour pre-checkin time. Can you believe that life was once like that?

Those were the days before ” the cousins” created the hijacking threat. They have much to answer for!

Andyboy – Telling it as it is!

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Update 17th February 2012

Umar Farouk Abdulmutalla sentenced to life imprisonment in America after pleading guilty to all charges. He showed no remorse and said he would do the same thing again, given the opportunity. Truly deserving of this front page:

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