Scale is an issue, but nobody in the thread has touched on why. The Israeli security model is (as noted in the article) more about the passenger than their baggage. This approach is both effective, time-consuming, and "racist": the profilers have a conversation with each passenger; as I'm an Israeli Jew, I always get the abbreviated treatment -- focusing more on where my bags have been since I've packed them. As a foreigner, you get a much more in-depth grilling. As a Muslim? They want to know your shoe size, and then a whole 'nother screener comes over and asks you everything all over again, just to see that you keep your story straight. Like they say in the article, the conversations they have are not so much about what you say as how you say it. The screeners are taught to iterate a few levels deep into your story and see that it doesn't break down under scrutiny.
Naturally, this process supposes that A) the threat is foreign and mostly limited to one ethnic/religious group, and B) screeners have this sort of time.
In the US, racial profiling is... unpalatable, and if each passenger / family got even a perfunctory 1-minute Q&A session with a TSA security officer, the system would crash. The US is dealing with a larger threat profile, and a whole different order-of-magnitude of traffic.
2. The security screener's job: manpower, training, history
Normally these are intelligent men and women, usually students or twentysomethings, who pass a series of exams and then pass a several-month course. The hours are craptastic but the pay is decent, and a lot of students prefer it to shiftwork or waitressing. Passing the course is difficult but not arduous, and in the end you are really being taught guidelines on interrogation and then set loose to use your judgment -- if you have a red flag to raise, then you just call over a senior screener who has more years of experience.
The reality is that there are few enough openings that the program can be selective. I'd say, as a generalization, screeners here possess above-average intelligence, whereas your average TSA screener seems to be a working stiff, blindly following some not-too-complex screening algorithm in a three-ring binder. The number of screeners requisite for staffing all of the US airports precludes the TSA from exclusively employing screeners with the ability to make "judgment calls". There just aren't enough smart people with the desire to work a screener's job in the US.
Also of note: screeners here can be idiot asses just like anywhere. I've heard stories from many business colleagues who traveled to Israel on business in the last decade. During the rougher periods of disquiet, they suffered from overzealous screeners who couldn't believe that despite "the situation," there were some businesspeople who had to come here with equipment to demonstrate. Just like the TSA, if a screener decides to make your life unpleasant, it is unpleasant, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Past "experience" in the army is completely meaningless for this job. Despite myths about the Israeli army, we are not all super-mossad-spies with extensive training in terrorism and interrogation techniques. Even combat soldiers aren't taught how to perform interrogations; they're taught tactics of battle. The generally security-oriented mindset is fostered at a much younger age with PSA's about unattended bags aimed at schoolchildren.
In the end, the system here relies on quality manpower, trained to employ their judgment of whether or not a given person constitutes a risk. In the US, "subjective" is merely a synonym for "pending lawsuit".
Amusingly, I don't think the system here would be as compromised by a "procedure document" leak like the recently-infamous TSA docs. Like any good security, it works just as well if you know how it works than if you don't.
The Israeli security ring is built around human credibility, while the US focuses on the physical aspect of security.
From the article:
"the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight."
The handgun would have been detected on a US flight because screening would be done more thoroughly. The person forgot about the handgun, and thus came out completely credible to Israeli security. This is just like undergoing a polygraph.
And if you think about it, it makes sense in a way. This particular person wouldn't use the handgun, so why bother screening it?
What a quote, Chapeaux!
I think this would change quickly if you advertise effectively and increase the pay.
great comments btw, both your's and parent's (I have to post this b/c my upvotes aren't being counted).