Look For the Bad Guys

The TSA controversy at the airports concerning whether to give full-body screening X-rays or full-body pat-downs to passengers is all based on a false premise: that all citizens are possible terrorists. Nonsense! Most citizens are not terrorists and shouldn’t be treated as if they are. The other stupid thing is that our government security is focusing on finding things instead of focusing on finding bad guys. TSA should be scrutinizing people, not looking for nail files and hair gel.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal appeared on Meet the Press and criticized the federal government for playing defense and relying on luck to protect the nation from terrorists.

“Well, we got lucky with the underwear bomber; we got lucky with the Times Square bomber. We got lucky with the packages. Luck is not a strategy,” he said.

He went to say that the administration has “focused on treating terrorists like citizens and citizens like suspects. They worry so much about the rights of the terrorists. Where are the rights for the average American? They need to move away from political correctness.”

Jindal is right. Political correctness has taken the place of common sense in our airport security. Airport security uses an egalitarian mentality based on the principle that everyone is equal. What hogwash! Well, guess what? Not everyone is equally a terrorist. As if to say to the world, “Look how evenhanded we are. We don’t care what you look like, we pat down everybody!” How utterly stupid.

The entire screening process needs a large dose of common sense, starting with the kind of people that are hired as screeners. Since everyone agrees that screening for terrorists is a matter of life or death I’d like to know why we are employing low level, security guard, postal worker type workers to do this important job. No offense to these workers, but they are simply not trained in how to scrutinize between a terrorist and a little girl.

The TSA workers are given a low-level task; they perform simple assembly line duties. They are not required to make value judgments on the people waiting in line. Why the hell not? They should be looking at faces, attitudes, and demeanor. They should be especially suspicious of dark, Mediterranean men in their twenties and early thirties. They should be asking questions, not looking at driver’s licenses and having 80 year olds taking their shoes off. Most of the terrorists that took part in the September 11 attack had valid US driver’s licenses, by the way.

In Israel the airport security screeners are all ex-military who have been trained in spotting terrorists. They know who to look for, they know the right questions to ask and yes, they profile. That is how you catch the bad guys, not by confiscating toenail clippers. Israel Airlines El Al is considered the most secure airline in the world, and has experienced only one hijacking in all its history. Isaac Yeffet was security chief for El Al, which required every passenger to be interviewed by a well-trained agent before check-in. Agents then perform electronic body scans or searches only on those who arouse suspicions during the interview.

Yeffet says that the American airlines need to take the same measures. They should use “exactly the same system” as El Al.

“Yes, profiling,” he said. “Every passenger has to be interviewed by security. We have to be polite. We know how to ask questions. Technology in general can never replace a qualified and well-trained human being.”

Yeffet said it is unnecessary to search “innocent people,” and security should instead focus on determining if a passenger is suspicious by careful observation and intensively interviewing them.

Of course America has many more passengers going through its airports than does a little country like Israel, but I’m sure the security procedures and techniques that Israel employs can be learned from and adapted for use here. All it takes is common sense and the guts to do away with stupid political correctness. Profiling works. Having well-trained security agents screening people, looking for terrorists and not shampoo bottles and key chain files is the only way to stop another 9/11 from happening.

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