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How Israel handles airport security (thestar.com)
550 points by epo on Nov 15, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 162 comments



I have dual Israeli citizenship and have flown to and from Tel Aviv quite a few times.

* The line interviewers are smart people, and it's seen as a good first job after military service. In other places this might be seen as a dead-end or undesirable job.

* The atmosphere in Ben Gurion is very calm because everyone feels safe (or at least I do).

* The only time I've seen any mild panic was due to my (late) great-aunt. She was a neurosurgeon, but could be alarmingly absent-minded in daily life. She'd taken my sister and I to the airport for our flight back to London, back when we were both in our teens. For some reason, my great aunt had a kind of small suitcase on wheels with her that day, and when my sister and I stood in the queue, she left it next to us and went off to find the bathroom. The line moved forwards and the suitcase didn't. The security guards spotted this fact within about 30 seconds, and started asking whose the bag was. We didn't realise it was my aunt's, and after nobody claimed it they started ushering us all back and making radio calls. When my aunt came back we all got an earful from the security staff.


When we were flying from SFO last year, we spotted an unattended suitcase in the check-in desk queue. Naturally, we told the nearest TSA agent. Imagine how shocked we were when he seemed totally disinterested. He told us someone had probably left it for a minute, and had we asked the people around? After some encouragement, he asked the people around and after finding no owner, picked it up and moved it out of the queue to the side, still in the main terminal.


If you were an Israeli Arab, do you think you'd feel the same way about the situation at Ben Gurion?


What situation? The one where everyone flies safely?

You might get a bit more attention as an Israeli Arab, or as a foreign national, but the profiling is mostly behavioural. They might have a look through your things, but then again they they gave my dad's luggage a load of attention on a recent trip and he's an air force veteran.

It's also more or less impossible to distinguish (visually) Israeli Arabs and Sephardim/Mizrahim. You're not going to get hassle for having darker skin. I've got a hunch you haven't been to Ben Gurion or Israel, but if you did and had a hard time then that's a shame and I hope you have a better trip at some point in the future.

(And siculars I'm not an Israeli Arab, but valid question. I don't want to clog this place up by discussing politics, so I'm leaving it here.)


BS. Rebuttal follows.

The screeners have no problem distinguishing Israeli Arabs and Sephardic Jews. 30 seconds of conversation -- if not simpler cues such as clothing -- will resolve any ambiguity.

Israeli Arabs might not always be hassled, but they are certainly lined up for "increased scrutiny" more often. A lot more often. I have enough friends who can attest to this experience.

I cannot count the number of times I've flown via TLV -- let's say that I've departed a few hundred times over the course of my life. How many times have I been taken aside for any kind of additional screening?

Zero. Never. Ever. Every time I have flown, I've received the abbreviated white-jew-boy questioning about my bags and whether they've been out of my sight. That's it. Nothing about me, ever. Obviously, they deem me to be inherently safe, else it would be wise to randomly subject me to extra screening once in a while.

Without getting into the advisability or ethics of racial profiling, we do it unabashedly in Israel, and that's a fact. Unlike the US, the threat profile is relatively narrow: Arabs and/or Muslims, and the one-time Japanese freelancers. Ergo, it makes practical sense to invest the majority of your screening resources in one place.

As harmless-looking, pasty-white, computer-geek Israeli Jews, we feel the touch of the security apparatus more lightly than everybody else. Don't let that fool you into thinking that everybody has it as good as we do.


Idan, I don't think you're really contradicting what I've written (especially with the Sephardic thing). I didn't deny that racial profiling took place at all, nor did I debate its merits or ethical status, I was asserting that it's not in any way the only factor. About your friends, it could be partly self-fulfilling. If they think they're going to be given extra treatment they might understandably act in a more nervous fasion, and as a result get flagged. However I'm just speculating here.

As a fellow pasty white computer geek I've had my bags looked at on a number of occasions and some equipment swabbed, same goes for relatives who live in Israel. A British-Asian friend of mine went on holiday to Israel this year and didn't get any hassle at the airport. This is all the data I have to go on. I'm not doubting your account at all, but neither is mine "BS".

(Anyway, didn't mean for that to sound so aggressive. Drop me an email and we can get a beer next time I visit and talk airports and code.)


As a brit I'd be more worried about them stealing my passport then giving me hassle directly :-)

(For those not aware: Israel got caught cloning passports of Brits travelling through their airports for identity theft purposes, despite the fact they had made an earlier promise not to do this again)


It beggars belief that the EU is allowing the transfer of it's citizens sensitive personal data there. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2010/1112/12242831...


Am I am saddened that I am no longer surprised that this is happening.


Don't get me wrong. I have no personal beef with you :)

Specific statements which I am refuting:

"but the profiling is mostly behavioural" - behavioral profiling is secondary to the racial stuff. At the end of the day, a screener here is more likely to forgive some quirky behavior on my part because I am white and Jewish. Obviously, I have no hard science with which to back up this claim. My anecdotal sampling of friends indicates that their skin color and racial origin played a pretty immediate part in their scrutiny, since they tend to be geeky and harmless just like me.

"It's also more or less impossible to distinguish (visually) Israeli Arabs and Sephardim/Mizrahim." - As I said in the post, this isn't true. Even if it were true strictly on a visual basis, there are other cues to go by beyond skin color. And regardless, the screeners know the difference as soon as a conversation begins -- so what's the point of this statement?

"You're not going to get hassle for having darker skin." - again, no way to directly prove/disprove, but my anecdotal friend-experience says otherwise.

You are correct about the self-fulfilling aspect; if I was an Israeli Arab flying out of TLV, I'd probably be worried that they're gonna gestapo me in a closed room. Particularly so if I know that I'm not any kind of terrorist, and have no fondness for interrogations.


"Gestapo me", "BS" - you seem pretty decisive. are you basing your comments on actual knowledge of the process or anecdotal evidence?

My personal impression from countless times of passing via TLV is that the profiling is mostly itinerary based. That is, Israeli citizen going off to a 3 day business trip to Europe is less suspect than an American tourist with a very short length of stay.

I know a middle aged WASP lady (pasty white, dignified, looks like someone who might be related to the Kennedys) who had to endure questioning because she fit the latter profile. Not really "gestapo", though - from what she told me it sounded better than the normal treatment non-US citizens get at Newark. Many of my Israeli family & friends are dark skinned, never had any trouble.

I'm not saying I know better, just that my anecdotal evidence doesn't match yours.

In any case, this isn't really applicable for the US. TLV gets much fewer visitors than JFK, and they tend to fit certain trip profiles - few people just go for a weekend in Tel Aviv, for example. Also, many in Israel itself are unhappy with the breach of their privacy, and my impression is that security procedure are actually moving to more reliance on machines than humans.


As another anecdote, I was questioned heavily going into Israel for the Birthright program (flying out of Miami on El Al). They actually confiscated my Nintendo DS because I didn't have a game to play for it in my bag. I also got a full physical pat down in a back office.

That said, the people were truly polite. If TSA employees were more tactful and friendly, that unpleasant potion might at least go down a little easier.


As far as i remember from another article. TSA personal is trained to be unfriendly, mainly to push you out of your comfort zone and see how you react to this kind of treatment.


Well, then, the TSA is doing an excellent job.


How was the pat-down compared to what the TSA has started doing? More or less thorough?


As thorough I'd say.

I don't think they really suspected me of anything, as a white Jewish kid, but I'm not very religious and maybe my answers to their religious questions while claiming Judaism as a religion was a red flag.


Isn't that how it is supposed to be, though?

I mean, apply some bayesian reasoning about the probability of someone being a terrorist _given that_ he looks like an Arab and/or is Muslim — and you won't be surprised some people are screened more thoroughly. Had the world evolved differently, they might be paying increased attention to white males with freckles and red hair.

The US for some reason likes to pretend that everyone is a terrorist with equal probability and avoids "racial profiling". This is kind of like sticking fingers in your ears and shouting loudly "can't hear you!".


Statistical reasoning and Bayesian in particular, is frequently misunderstood in spite of its simplicity. It is also preferred that Bayes be spelled in caps. Just for arguments sake, let us assume that an Arab lookalike is more likely to blow up a plane. (digression: I also amuse myself by trying to look like one before flying, at least to the TSO.)

The short answer to the source of the misunderstanding is that one usually forgets to take into account that there are far less Arab lookalikes than non Arab lookalikes. A common mistake is to go with the conditional probability rather than the posterior.

The probability that an Arab is a terrorist, strictly speaking, the empirical conditional probability is the number of Arab with an intent to blow up the plane divided by the total number of Arab in the population under consideration. For arguments sake let me agree with you that this is higher than the corresponding conditional probability for a non-Arab. Lets represent these quantities by pa and pb respectively.

The likelihood ratio that an Arab lookalike will blow up a plane is then (pa * Pa) / (pb * Pb) where Pa and Pb are the probabilities that a random sample from the population is an Arab vs non-Arab. What are known as the priors. Here we have Pb >> Pa.

In order to justify that Arabs be selectively screened it is necessary that

   pa > ( pb * Pb )/(Pa). 
This becomes equivalent to the condition pa > pb when Pb = Pa.

So I suspect that if anyone is sticking fingers in your ears and shouting loudly "can't hear you!". isnt quite, as you put it, "The US".

There are other issues:

It is hard to argue that pa is indeed greater than pb, i.e. for random samples of equal size there would be more terrorists in the Arab sample than not. Its quite a radical statement and justifications should have been mandatory.

Also I disagree with your assertion that "Had the world evolved differently,..." things would have been different. My counterexample is that the Irish or the Catholics in US were not subjected to any of this on flights to Britain when the IRA were bombing away innocent civilians there. BTW this is not the only counterexample.(I also suspect that O'reilly's over the top assertion that terrorist = Muslim is a compensatory mechanism, conscious or unconscious I do not know.)

The logical explanation for the way the security response is playing out in the field of travel seems to be that people are afraid of unfamiliar people and all it takes to tone down that fear is just some superficial familiarity (such as skin tone).

So I am hopeful that this stage too will pass. Sooner the better, and I hope with no permanent scars.


I think you're missing something. The fact that you fly so frequently probably means you require less security. They've dealt with you so many times already and probably know a lot about you. Before you even get to the airport all these things are evaluated. Your digital profile plays a big role, it's not jst about what you look like.


How do you know s/he is not an Israeli Arab?


I also have dual citizenship and lived in Israel for 6 years.

The point about smart people & this being an attractive first job is a key one. It's also well-compensated and looks good on people's CV's. No one is looking at this as a career.

The other thing is that Israelis have more common sense about security than Americans do. We're used to having our bags checked at the movie theater and the mall and no one grumbles about it. We also don't leave bags unattended and report the ones we do see.


Article leaves out the very real and very big catch:

"Israel values its security, and pays for it. According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, Israel spends around 10 times more per passenger than the United States does."

A little more on that:

"[An analyst] estimated El Al's security bill at $100 million a year, which amounts to $76.92 per trip by its 1.3 million passengers. Half is paid by the Israeli government," Peter Robison wrote. The United States, in comparison, spent in 2008 $5.74 billion to monitor and protect 735,297,000 enplanements, or around $7.80 a passenger."

The TSA system is a production line - hire cheap unskilled labor, and train around a process and manuals.

In the USA the Israeli version would be very difficult in addition to very costly.

That doesn't even take into account the question of the uproar the system would cause with the suggestion of racial profiling.

References via:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a...

and

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/01/07/would_you_pay...


The TSA system is a production line - hire cheap unskilled labor, and train around a process and manuals.

This is the big thing that popped out at me from reading the article. The personnel described sound highly experienced and trained. I wonder how long and how much it would cost to bring your standard TSA screener up to that level.


It sounds from the article that the Israeli airport security personal are all ex-IDF. It's a job they naturally matriculate into after serving their required 2yrs in the IDF.

I am not an expert, but I imagine that given the primary mission of the IDF in dealing with Palestine, they probably receive training and some experience (depending on where they are assigned) in how to spot potential terrorists using behavioral profiling. So when they leave and join airport security, they hit the ground running.

US soldiers on the other hand probably aren't given much behavioral profiling training. We seem to specialize in blowing stuff up, steamrolling it with tanks, then randomly throwing money at it afterwards. If any military or ex-military know differently, please correct me.

Gen. Petraeus may be slowly improving that SOP, in Iraq and Afghanistan at least, but I'm not sure how much his work there is getting rebased to general boot camp and officer training programs. Eg, are these kinds of soft skills percolating throughout the US military, or are only the Special Forces and other groups specifically tasked with winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan getting this training?

So the question remains, would filling the TSA ranks with military veterans and paying them higher wages provide a more Israeli-like airport security force? Dunno. Certainly worth considering, but there are some significant differences.


The IDF is more specialized in counterterrorism than the US military, but that's because counterterrorism is 70-80% of the IDF's mission--the other 20-30% being defense against comparatively feeble Arab armies. The IDF also only has to defend itself.

The US military has much, much wider requirements--it has obligations to South Korea, Japan, NATO, and the entire Western hemisphere, which demand a strong conventional warfighting ability.


Check out the book "Imperial Grunts" by Robert Kaplan. The US military also has forces in Kenya, Yemen, the Philippines, Mongolia, and Columbia.


To be even more specific, the US military has a presence in over 150 countries.


People quote that statistic all the time. Suspiciously, the US also has over 150 embassies, and each of them is guarded by a small detachment of Marines. I wonder what the number really is when you stop counting embassy guard details.


>It sounds from the article that the Israeli airport security personal are all ex-IDF.

Every Israeli adult is ex-IDF, except for those adults who are still in the IDF.


Not true. About a quarter of men and a third of women do not enlist: http://www.haaretz.com/news/idf-nearly-28-of-israeli-males-a...


Thanks for the correction. I assumed my general statement wouldn't be universally correct, but I didn't expect the number of exemptions to be nearly that high.


"Every Israeli adult is ex-IDF"

I wish it were true, but it's not. Many people are exempt from service on racial, religious or just ideological reasons. Mind you, it's not always easy to be exempt, but some sectors of the population have an automatic "pass".


3 years for men, 2 years for women. And such security jobs are more easily gained by people who served a bit longer (i.e. signed up for another year or two of paid service, after the compulsory one ended)


How do they justify the longer service for men?


How does the US military justify the draft excluding women?


With all the bloody mishaps and atrocities considered, your military is still better at winning hearts and minds than about anyone. Overall record for armies of the world in treating civilians is pretty abysmal, and IDF does not particularly shine there either.


There is definitely soft skills training in the US military. This was an interesting read: http://www.amazon.com/Interrogators-War-Breaking-Al-Qaeda-Af... It's a military interrogator's account of the techniques used in Afghanistan.


Don't forget that Israel has conscription, requiring 2 or 3 years of military service for all Israelis over 18. Given Israel's somewhat unique security situation this policy is likely more of an asset than a waste, but it's not obvious that it could be successfully generalized to larger or more diverse countries, where the benefits to the state might conflict more sharply with individual freedoms.


I think this is outside the realm of possibility for many current TSOs.


"Israel values its security, and pays for it. According to an analysis by Bloomberg News, Israel spends around 10 times more per passenger than the United States does."

I'll bet those numbers change if you include the cost of a pair of world trade center towers and the associated expenses of that incident.

"Cheap and ineffective" != "inexpensive"


More comprehensive pre-flight screening could not have stopped the Sept. 11 attacks, because they did not involve sneaking contraband onto the plane. The cardboard box cutters that were used in the attack were allowed at the time.


Yeah but the Israeli style behavioural profiling very well might have flushed their intentions out.


Exactly. This is a perfect argument for the Israeli style of behavioral profiling as opposed to the American style of trying to imagine every possible way to hijack a plane.


It might have, but surely not to the level of certainty that your GP suggested.


That's why, apart from pre-flight screening, they have a policy of having plainclothes air marshals on every flight and locking the cabin door.


I disagree on both counts.

1. Costs: I think the value of preventing a terrorist attack greatly outweighs the $76/passenger cost of screening. Besides, it contributes a lot of value to the economy by (a) reducing the long lines we have in our airports today and (b) eliminating the unnecessary intrusive procedures

2. Racial profiling: Behavioral profiling is not the same as racial profiling. Besides do you really think that the low-paid unskilled TSA workers don't currently do any racial profiling ?


Can I ask how are you comparing costs here?

76 dollars per passenger is an obscene amount of money: look at the dollar totals. In terms of lives saved, the TSA is already a gigantic waste of money. You could save a lot more lives per dollar by doing hundreds of other different things.


There about 620 million passengers in the US per year (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/), which comes out to $47 billion. In government terms, not that enormous.

In terms of lives saved, the TSA is already a gigantic waste of money. You could save a lot more lives per dollar by doing hundreds of other different things.

No question. In fact, TSA has probably on balance killed people by encouraging marginal travelers to drive rather than fly. But on the assumption that the general public isn't going to be receptive to a rational cost/benefit analysis, I'd rather pay more for security that (1) might actually be effective, and (2) doesn't involve naked photographs or sexual assault.


I'd prefer to use the opportunity to highlight the fact the TSA security is ineffective and that we don't need this level of security, even if it did work. Raise awareness and spend the money properly.


$77 per passenger is a huge amount, especially compared to the cost of a cheap domestic flight. But what is the hidden cost of the clusterfuck that American airports are becoming?

I would gladly pay an extra $38 per flight if it meant going through a sane, competent, and, if not pleasant, at least not overtly hostile system.


Why not even make it opt in?

Ticket price plus a 38 dollar "treat me like a human being" tax.

I'd pay it.


What has it come to when we have to pay more, just to be treated as humans?


Capitalism?


I'm pretty sure that is the idea behind the clear pass http://www.clearme.com/


do you really think that the low-paid unskilled TSA workers don't currently do any racial profiling

I think they don't do much racial profiling. As a young guy of middle eastern descent with an obvious arabic surname, I've only rarely gotten extra screening. If the TSA were serious about racial profiling, I'd expect to get extra screening more than half the time I fly rather than on only 5-10% of trips.


On 1), the average person's wage is about $21/hour. Even if the average airline passenger's hourly wage is double that, such a system will still need to reduce wait times by almost 2 hours to be cost effective.

(Yes, I am making the dubious assumption that all time saved will be spent working. The economic benefits drop even further if you don't assume this.)


Half the people at the airport are working and the other half are buying things that are overpriced. If you think the economy isn't wringing the full value out of idle airport time, I have a Delta credit card application and a rental DVD player for you.


I don't think the average airport taveler and the average american line up that well. Someone making 7$ an hour is going to fly far less than someone making 70$ an hour.


That's why I doubled the average wage.


Yea, but I don't think doubling would be enough. Also the economic value of someone’s time is more than what they are paid. I get billed out 40 hours a week @ over 100$ an hour, but that does not end up in my paycheck.

Granted reducing wait times is not going to get directly translated into extra working hours, but the current system also cost travelers more than just their time spent in line.


Flights from TLV are minimum hundreds of dollars to Europe, over a thousand to virtually anywhere else. So $76 (or $38) per passenger isn't a huge factor, compared to domestic-heavy bargain-biased U.S. airports. (Source: http://www.kayak.com/explore/#/TLV?a=any&d=any&fb=90..., which only shows one domestic choice, TLV to Eilat for $90 minimum)


Economy of scale? Israel has far fewer people, far fewer flights and far fewer airports than the US.


It may not work that way though. This reminds me of mom-and-pop restaurant (Israel) vs. chain (USA)- the chain, while benefiting from economy of scale, can never manage to retain the mom-and-pop feel and quality.


The security is also in place in a modified fashion at flights returning to Israel from other countries. They hire and train and house their security overseas - another reason the job is so attractive to young people.


If you were a member of Congress or a lobbyist for a security equipment manufacturer, you'd see high costs as a benefit, not a problem. As long as the cost would result in profits for a (relative) few. I think our government would gladly pay Israeli-level security costs - if it could spend it on machinery made in the USA, rather than on salaries and training.

It sounds to me like the Israelis are the ones that have a process and who are devoted to their manuals. Every horror story we hear about the TSA seems to involve TSA agents not having a clue how to behave like civilized people, let alone effective security officers, in even the most mundane situations.


"To be fair, this compares per-passenger costs for El Al, Israel's national carrier, to the costs for the TSA, the U.S. agency responsible for air safety. Ideally, we'd want to compare the airport security costs for Shin Bet, a Israeli security agency."

I think it's a bit disingenuous to quote the previous statement without this one.


The other thing it omits is the difference in treatment between Arabs and non-Arabs.

Profiling is inevitable. If you don't know who is threatening you and pay special attention to those people then you are a fool. But most of those people aren't threatening you and will feel aggrieved, this is how resentments grow and fester. EDIT choosing who you pay attention to is obviously key, casting your net too widely is what ticks people off.

These are not easy problems to solve without removing the cause of the discontent which is making people threaten you in the first place.


That probably underestimates what it would cost us to have Israeli style security.

In the US, we would need to pay market rates for airport security personnel. In Israel, they can pay far less since much of Israel's domestic security is provided by forced labor.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription#Countries_with_and...


Uh, soldiers are paid.

And airport security work is not by soldiers anyway, it's regular employment.


Forced labor wages < market wages. If they were not, there would be no need for forced labor.

As for airport security not being done by soldiers, my mistake. I only visited Israel once, but I was under the impression the airport guys were IDF. I guess I'm misremembering the uniforms. Thanks for the correction.


It's only sort of forced -- conscription is there for cultural reasons, not out of necessity. From what I understand (which could be wrong), pretty much anyone can get out of the army there if they want. But people like the symbolism of "everyone serves".

Certainly it doesn't behave according to standard "market" rules though, even in a situation where they abolished the "forced" part and left it to culture to enforce service from 18-21.


"It's only sort of forced -- conscription is there for cultural reasons, not out of necessity."

That's not exactly true. Conscription is necessary (consider that Israel is a tiny country, but has a lot of enemies.) The symbolism is important too, but it's not the root cause, it's just a nice added benefit (there are a lot of other benefits to this, by the way.)

That said, I don't think you can consider it forced labor. Soldiers are paid a salary, which is tiny, but they get a large amount of money at the end of their service. Plus, they theoretically get every expense paid for by the army (theoretical because most soldiers do go home to their family, either every day or every few weekends.) Soldiers who do have a hard time economically (no family, or a family with a hard time supporting them) get a lot of other benefits, which range from higher salaries, paid-for living quarters, and having lots of time off to go work at a second job and make more money, if they need it.


I'm not sure why the fact that only offload some of the costs of this onto your family makes it something other than forced labor.

Unless the salary they pay you is sufficient to induce you to join the army regardless of other penalties, it's forced labor. You are forced to perform labor you would not otherwise perform.


I don't mean to start a terminology debate. But when I hear "forced labor", it has extremely bad connotations to me, which is why I would hesitate to call it that. If you mean "forced labor" in the literal sense of the word, then of course you're right.

Just to back up my version slightly, here are the first two definitions when you Google "define: forced labor":

"[...] a generic or collective term for those work relations, especially in modern or early modern history, in which people are employed against their will by the threat of destitution, detention, violence (including death), or other extreme hardship to themselves, or to members of their families"

"Work which one is compelled to perform against one's will, especially in a condition of involuntary servitude as a prisoner or slave"

[Emphasis mine in both cases.]

Neither of these really fit when talking about Israel's army conscription. There are some societal problems with not serving in the army (people look down on not serving, and sometimes people who haven't served have a harder time finding jobs,) but there's nothing approaching the level of what's talked about in those definitions I quoted.


Labour can only be "forced" with respect to some arbitrarily chosen zero of labour.

Libertarianism (for example) argues for a particular zero, communism for a different one.

Different governments disagree on where it is appropriate to set this zero. Israel has chosen its position, and although somewhat unfortunate for Israelis, I don't believe this is a terrible choice.


There probably were soldiers there too, so you are probably remembering them.

As for the wages for soldiers, the soldiers actually get a lot of economic benefit from it. People with previous military experience are far more desirable to employers, and there is a very large income boost from it. You can think of it as a form of internship.


I don't think airport security officials in Israel are doing their national service stint, though I could be wrong.


You are not wrong.


The upkeep on soldiers is almost certainly more than the upkeep on these minimum wage TSA contractors.


TSA screeners are federal employees, not contractors, and they are paid considerably more than minimum wage (not to mention generous federal benefits and locality pay).

http://www.tsa.gov/join/careers/pay_scales.shtm


For anyone wondering, the low end of the lowest range listed there is $1/hour above federal minimum wage, and roughly equal to the highest state minimum wages in the country.


Perusing the jobs on that page, it's pretty clear that airport inspectors don't start at the lowest range.


I am a dual citizen (IL/USA), have flown in/out of many airports around the world, know my way around a security apparatus.

Every time the TSA pulls another ridiculous stunt in the name of "security", these Israeli airport security consultants get interviewed to death. Here we go again!

As before, every article on the subject stops short of highlighting the uncomfortable truth which precludes the TSA adopting the Israeli model: a lack of brainpower among TSA screeners.

The article correctly points out that the Israeli model is more about evaluating the person and less about evaluating their luggage. Problem is, evaluation implies good judgment -- a quality demonstrably lacking in enough TSA agents as to make a generalization accurate. The TSA does not employ the quality of manpower that it needs to in order to base its operations on subjective character evaluations.

Even if the TSA were able to foot the bill and hire/train such manpower, it would still be unpalatable to enough people in the US that such a system would fail. Evaluation is inherently subjective and discriminatory. There is no impartial way to say "I'm deciding whether or not you represent a threat." Some agents will let their personal views influence their judgment. Some passengers will inevitably feel persecuted for their skin color, rightly or wrongly. Several lawsuits later, the system would be neutered to the point where agents are no longer free to exercise their judgment, and we're back to square one.

Finally, it's worth noting that the security expert in the article is spinning a rose-tinted tale of airport efficiency experienced mainly by Jewish passengers. Ask an Israeli Arab and you'll likely hear a tale of exasperating interrogations and adversarial, dumb agents -- much like the TSA.

I wrote more on the subject a few months ago, in a comment for a similar article: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1025173

Feel free to ask me questions, I'll answer to the best of my knowledge.


Another way of looking at things: implementing the Israeli security approach in US airports is like trying to switch a large enterprise (say, IBM-large) from classical waterfall software development to agile methodologies. It's an almost impossible task because not every team can handle the flexibility, ambiguity and self-responsibility of agile.


While many of the Israel procedures might be kinda hard to implement in the States or Canada (or elsewhere), there's really a few that really should be looked at. Like the whole containment thing.

"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."

I mean... you gotta admit. That just makes so much sense.


Consider how many bottles of liquid the TSA confiscates in a day because they might be explosives. Now imagine actually treating each of those as if the agent really believed it was a threat in the style described in the article.

Does this still make sense?


In fairness, I get the feeling the TSA doesn't actually think any of these bottles of liquid are explosives, since they just throw them in the public terminal trash cans.

If they did treat every water bottle as an explosive, then yes, this procedure would make a lot more sense than evacuating the terminal.


I remember reading the TSA manager IAmA on Reddit recently where the guy said that they don't consider all the liquids they confiscate as being dangerous. They do it with the expectation that if they throw away all these liquids as a matter of course then no one will bother trying to bring in any liquids of sufficient mass that are actually explosive.


Exactly - if they don't really think they are explosives, then why are they confiscating them in the first place? Either dispose of them properly or just let people on the plane with bottled water.


They don't think they are explosives. They think they might be precursors to explosives.


It's more subtle than that. They don't think they are explosives. They are merely ensuring that no liquids are taken through security. If no liquids are taken through security then no liquid precursors to explosives are taken through security. What's more, if it is known that no liquids can be taken through security then the bad guys won't even bother to take liquid precursors to explosives through security. This begs a number of questions but, in the meantime, security personnel can throw confiscated liquids into the trash without worrying too much about it.


> What's more, if it is known that no liquids can be taken through security then the bad guys won't even bother to take liquid precursors to explosives through security.

So the bad guys will just find another way to get their precursors through security. TSA's focus on things just forces the bad guys to adapt; instead, it should focus on the bad guys themselves.

> This begs a number of questions

No, it doesn't. It may raise a number of questions, but that's very different than "begging the question", which is a philosophical term for a circular argument. Please stop misusing this phrase and contributing to the general decline in modern English usage.


Language changes and evolves naturally over time, but that doesn't necessarily imply a decline. There's a point at which enough people use a word or phrase incorrectly that it becomes the correct usage (see can vs may). I'd argue that point has definitely been reached when the "incorrect" usage makes it into the dictionary. But the bigger point is that it seems completely ridiculous to think that your particular style of English is somehow the canonical one, and any variance from that standard constitutes a decline. English is composed of so many former errors, bastardizations, and amalgamations of other languages that I don't see how anyone can get too worked up this issue.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/beg


Language exists for communication. I consider it a decline when perfectly good idioms must be laid to rest and replaced with newer phrases because widespread misunderstanding and misuse have led to inevitable confusion when the idiom is used in its historically consistent sense.

I know it's fashionable to profess a relativist/descriptivist approach to grammar, but when people use words and idioms in ways inconsistent with their historical meanings, the language is degraded: it becomes more difficult to express ideas that could formerly be expressed quite simply and clearly. When I'm forced to say "That argument assumes as a premise the conclusion it intends to prove" instead of "That begs the question" communication efficiency and accuracy are diminished, and we all suffer for it.

We do not apply a descriptivist approach to our children's language use. If they misuse a word or phrase, we correct them, because we know that their misuse will disadvantage them in pursuing the goal of language, communication. We use a prescriptive approach in elementary school, in middle school, in high school, and in college. There is absolutely no reason why that same prescriptive approach, the one that preserves the utility of language and respects its goal, cannot continue to be used by the world at large. Fashion be damned! Leave your descriptivist ideology in the linguistics department. I care for communication, not ideology.


A fair point. I think it's safe to say that's not the case - they really think it's just water, but let's just say they do treat them as bomb ingredients. Even though binary explosives are inert when separate that still doesn't mean you can just throw them away.


You had it right when you said "They don't think." Should've stopped there.


It would make sense if they actually put some thought into identifying threats, rather than simply confiscating items previously used in thwarted attacks.


This is the part that disappoints me the most, especially after the toner ban. I would expect this from the third world country I came from, where actors win elections because they play likable characters in movies, but not here in the US.


> I would expect this from the third world country I came from, where actors win elections because they play likable characters in movies, but not here in the US.

In that case, I'm going to have to disappoint you about American politics by mentioning Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Springer, Clint Eastwood, Howard Stern, Shirley Temple, Al Franken & co. were all both. I guess I'm less sure about the "likable characters" part, and at least one of those failed to actually get elected (but became an ambassador instead), but even so, I'm only mentioning the more famous ones.

There are quite a few more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:American_actor-politic...


I cannot believe people bring up Israeli airport security as an example of a system the U.S. should model. The security agents are neither intelligent, nor well trained, nor polite. The entire system is based on racism and I would take TSA security over the Israeli model any day. People were complaining here about a pat down search in public by a TSA agent equaling sexual harassment. I was actually taken to a public bathroom by an El Al agent and strip searched, purely because my last name "sounds Turkish".

From my anecdotal experience, El Al has security personnel that appears trained to a naked eye, but in reality is extremely ineffective, flawed, and unethical. I had the misfortune to go through El Al security four times. These all occurred in a span of two weeks, roughly in the same circumstances (I had to fly into Israel, fly out, fly back in, and fly back out). I can tell you that the outcome of their screening is heavily inconsistent and highly dependent on the prejudices of the particular agent doing the interview, and not necessarily on advanced training procedures.

I had the same answers for their questions every time. Two of the times the agents were Israeli jews who immigrated from Russia. Since we share a common background, both let me pass after very few questions because my trip details seemed perfectly reasonable to them. The other two times, I was interviewed by jews of clearly middle-eastern descent - both had no understanding of my cultural background, and both thought my trip details were extremely suspicious, subjecting me to a detailed search. So the outcome of the interviews was effectively random, which means they might as well perform random searches.

The interviews were highly unethical, inappropriate, and degrading. Even more importantly, they were completely ineffective, resulting in a random outcome highly dependent on each agent's personal prejudices. I don't know what good security looks like, but I can tell you that this most certainly isn't it.


It may have been uncomfortable and inconvenient for you, but that doesn't mean it wasn't effective. For a few (perhaps inaccurate) reasons, you were flagged as a greater-than-average risk. You were searched thoroughly and found to be safe, and you were then allowed to fly. That sounds pretty sensible to me and makes a lot more sense than the US policy.


"...but in reality is extremely ineffective, flawed,..."

Well, the data disagrees with you.


You are just one data point.


That's only true in this very limited set here. Add me as a second one:

I'm white, male, as uninteresting as it can get (heh..). A little geeky perhaps, but I'm > 30 and every now and then have to prove that I'm > 18 for purchases or contracts. You know - the "Ohhh, you are really an adolescent?" type of guy. I shave every ~2 weeks and you probably cannot tell if I'm one week into the routine if we meet.

Still: Every single trip to IL ended with me being on the list of the suspicious people.

* I only did business trips and had a letter of the company that expected me (already crap on its own, but.. different thing)

* I travelled there several times and I'm sure they are good enough to correlate travelers from our german branch to our headquarter as being "probably genuine"

So.. A guy, plain as can be, fitting none of the discussed racial profiles (and no, I'm not shitting my pants during interviews either, so don't start the "you behaved erratic" thing), being targeted everytime: Another datapoint for the problems of the system.

I don't know _why_ I was targeted. I can only confirm that for me, every time I fly to Israel, these guys do waste time and money on me (and annoy me in the process, but let's ignore that for now), producing no result. Efficient? Not for me..


That security system is obviously designed with an acceptance of quite a few false positives. (Are you a political extremist?)

Maybe harassing you is white noise? (Pun mostly intended.) That is, to throw off attempts to analyze the security?


>>I don't know what good security looks like, but I can tell you that this most certainly isn't it.

I don't know much about airport security either.

What I do know is that there exists lots of well financed organizations that want to blow up Israeli airports and airplanes -- with a bad track record during the last few decades.

So something is done right, which might be kept a secret. If not the interviews, what?


Yeah, we have the best airport security in Israel ;)

I witnessed a case, when a guy, who joked with the "profiling" girl, was escorted to his jet by security guard.

I second, that profiling is not by race, but behavior (and maybe accent). Their questions can be funny and sometimes even rude.

Still it's better than removing your shoes, posing naked and getting radiation.


You get the feeling, going through Ben Gurion, that these are professionals working the security line. They're efficient, polite but terse, and thorough.

They definitely do behavioral profiling, but racial profiling they do not: Arabs and Americans and Israelis, etc, could go through without minimal questioning, but there were obviously people security paid more attention to than others.

I also didn't feel like a criminal going through their airport, which, in stark contrast, I did as soon as I got back to the US and went through customs and then TSA again.


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.

Or we can take naked pictures of children and grope people, taking hours to board planes, and evacuating the entire terminal at the first indication of trouble.

I really don't like my own tone of voice -- it sounds like I am ranting. But I'm not. At least I don't think I am. This is just common sense. Small, agile decentralized systems with an emphasis on layers and innovation are going to beat treating people like they were F-15s passing down the assembly line at a defense plant. This factory, top-down mentality has got to go.

I guess I'm just still amazed that we gotten this far out of whack. If you had told me we would be doing this, even right after 9-11, I wouldn't have believed you. Body scans? Invasive searches? Sure thing. Not a problem. Sign me up -- as long as its rare and happens on an ad-hoc basis. But what we have now? It's a total travesty. The lunatics are truly running the asylum.

(Ok, maybe I am ranting)


I had a first hand experience flying out of Israel with the questioning side. For various accidental and benign reasons I got a little extra questioning, which was on the topics of: do I speak Hebrew?, what synagogue do I go to in the US?, and why didn't I have any checked luggage?

In the end I gave the guards the phone number of my relatives, and they talked to them, and that's how I got through the checkpoint.

So anyway, they do seem to focus on the person and their circumstances, and not on what that person is or is not carrying. Also, the guards were not the typical process-following types that you'd see at the TSA. Their job is to engage you in conversation, and make decisions without following a flowchart.


Despite the overwhelming possibility of being downvoted it needs mention that the Israeli model as practiced may not be that good an example for US to follow. It has been documented by several respected human rights organizations and UN that Israel's security measures are often used as a proxy for punishment and harassment for disagreeing with the official govt line.

In spite of some erosion of liberties in US in the last decade or so, the American society continues to be orders of magnitude more open and free. I can confidently say that the way I will be treated by the American authorities does not depend on whether I or any of my family members were critical of American policy, neither is it dependent on places in US that are on my itinerary. Mention anything that remotely leans towards the UN view of the occupation to the Israeli security, or that you intend to visit any place in the occupied territories your experience will diverge dramatically (in its defense, personal anecdotal indicates that this may be regardless of whether you are Jewish or not).

It still would have been acceptable had that selective part of the treatment made the airport, the flight or Israel any safer. But it is not clear to me that the specialization based on the views of a traveller does. I am wary of copying a model that has a tendency for abuse unless I see convincing counterweights in place. All depends on the implementation details and the operational processes.



Did you even read the article?


Why wouldnt I ? Predictably enough, it seems the downvotes have started ringing in.


This article is from 2009 and was submitted back to HN then - and had some insightful comments.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1024850


"Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?"

Because L-3 / Lockheed Martin / Haliburton / etc. don't sell training in behavior tracking / FACS? Isn't it all just a money-grab by the usual suspects?


The biggest problem with adopting the Israeli model IMO is with resources. You would have to spend a lot of money training and hiring people who would be good at behavioral profiling.

The other problem is that Israel is a tiny country, they only have two international airports -- so they can focus all of their resources on those two airports. That's not the case here in the US.



I don't think resources are the problem. You can decentralize TSA jobs. San Francisco area just needs to monitor one airport or three bay area airports. So, I think decentralization is the key and saying that US has too many airports is not an excuse.


You can enter any major airport securely by flying in from a smaller, regional airport. So you need to secure those.

But you can get into a smaller, regional airport securely by flying in from an even smaller airport. So you need to secure those too.

We have a lot of airports in the US that need to be secured.

The better response is to tell Americans that airplanes are a terrorist target, just like busses (which are bombed all the time in Israel, thanks to their stellar airport security making airlines a harder target), and to remain vigilant.

That is all. Taking off our shoes, submitting to naked photographs and (just for fun) radiation is beyond laughable. It seems people would rather be demeaned than live in (an irrational) fear. Sad.

Even sadder: more Americans will die by choosing to drive rather than fly. Somehow, I doubt Big Sis sheds a tear.


Although it was fairly explicitly pointed in the article (by Rafi Sela), I'm not seeing much of it discussed here. I think a big part of it is cultural. Americans may object to this but I believe that, by virtue of having been shielded from any major aggression on its territory outside of 9/11, they don't know how to react to threats in a reasonable way. Most of what has been done by the government since then resembles more knee-jerk, fear-tainted overreaction than a sensible response to a grave, but also well documented abroad, problem. Mr Sela uses the "Americans-take-too-much-shit-from their government" line but I believe this is simply out of inexperience in dealing with these issues.


I was once late to the airport (in Israel) where I was scheduled to pick up my mother. I parked the car and ran towards the gate.

A guard was standing at the entrance with her hands crossed doing nothing by observing. When she saw me coming she made a few quick steps towards me and signaled me to stop and stand aside for questioning. I felt a bit uncomfortable, first because it was abrupt and I was being singled out, but also because she was behaving like a shepherd dog trying to seize my eyes (which I later understood why). She was very polite and dismissed me after presenting my ID and answering a few short questions.

This got me thinking about the silent perimeters, and how smart it is they were only engaged when triggered. The take home lesson for me was: smart earns respect. They were a step ahead of me and I was responding, not them.


The TSA has already attempted the behavior profiling..

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/06/behavioral_pro...


This solution is all well and good (i will disregard issues of legal liberties afforded in this country for the moment)

But it doesn't scale,Israel has one single main airport, the US has dozens of points for international entry, and many more domestic. It is easy and fairly cost effective when you have one location you have to worry about.


"But it doesn't scale,Israel has one single main airport, the US has dozens of points for international entry, and many more domestic. It is easy and fairly cost effective when you have one location you have to worry about."

People say this, but it makes little sense to me. Compare having one factory that makes a product, vs having a hundred factories that make that same product. The latter is much more cost efficient per factory.


So, I have been to this airport traveling as a press photographer, which means you have an interesting itinerary and lots of interesting bits of kit in your luggage.I can add a little human aspect to this article. Last time the guy in front of me at the for mentioned first shielded baggage screening was suspected of having an explosive prompting the entire security machine to life and an evacuation. A false alarm and 30 odd minutes later I am again standing in line, pretty wasted at 5 in the morning. During the whole process the staff stayed very polite and very efficient, making the process quite painless.

Every time I get treated rude and unpleasant by security staff/goons in my own home-country airport for really no good reason what so ever, I think about this. I feel that a little manners & humanity would go a long way in getting support for security measures.


There are two notions of directing people, named after German words: Auftragstaktik and Befehlstaktik.

Auftragstaktik: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission-type_tactics Befehlstaktik stands for "detailed order control".

It looks like Auftragstaktik is used in Israeli airports and TSA employ Befehlstaktik.

To quote an article about Auftragstaktik: "Ironically, since WW2, only the Israeli Defence Force seem to have come close to matching the Wehrmacht of WW2 in the exercise of command in this style".

So, they just use their military training and applied it to another field. And people from military works as screening officers at airports, for that being very good first job after military. Very clever.


What I hear is the Israeli border guards have juvenile, petty behavior. What comes to mind is denying Noam Chomsky entry into Israel back in May. Also the border guards who put 3 rifle rounds through Lily Sussman's MacBook. 21 year old Lily had Arab letters stuck on her MacBook's keyboard. Before anyone tells me I haven't been to an Israel airport, I haven't been to the moon either but I still know it is mostly rock. Link to shot MacBook incident: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/12/video-interview-with-...


Just because it's runs more efficiently doesn't make it more desirable, it is after all - a militarised society, I don't particularly want to go to the US at the moment as it's moving that way.


Doesn't Israel also destroy the homes of any bomber's family? (seriously, google it)

That is more likely the deterrent. So should the USA do that too for all our domestic terrorists?


I don't know why you were downvoted because house demolitions are indeed official policy in response to terrorist bombings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Defense_Forces#House_dem...


Just one reason from many: because it doesn't deter anyone without a house in Israel.


Nah, you just invade their country.

[Joking, to point out how stupid such generalizations can be]


I'm not sure if I'd really feel better when surrounded by armed soldiers and being questioned a couple of times on my way to the plane (also inside the bus that takes me to the airport as I understand) than if I would just have to go through a security gate, eventually take off my shoes and get my baggage scanned by x-ray. I mean, I was a couple of times questioned at the airport, with the usual questions ("did anyone other than you have access to your baggage?", etc.) and once they ordered me to open my baggage - and that didn't make me feel more safe or anything like that, rather uncomfortable and a bit pissed of, in a "wtf? do you seriously think I'm gonna explode the plane or what?" way. Shortly speaking, I prefer to go through all those gates, have my baggage checked by security guys themselves ("go ahead, there's nothing there") than being bothered by some questions and be "under suspicion". Don't know, maybe it's just that I'm from Europe and we don't care.


The current system in the US strictly follows a flowchart. It has no preparation for anything other than "generic terrorism".

With an infinite set of previously unthought of plans, this is a system terrorists can game to their advantage. The Israeli system requires competent individuals trained to adapt to any scenario.


"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

Sorry but what do heavy metals have to do with airport security? is this just typo or have I completely lost my understanding of basic explosives chemistry and other terror related topics?


I'd though that, for example, guns are quite often made of heavy metals, don't they?


I don't think you have a real understanding of terror related topics as it applies to Israel. In an area of the world where getting ak47's is easy as heck - you can go a few countries away from Israel and buy them at open air markets - it makes a lot of sense to make sure no one is carrying guns and other weapons made with heavy metals into your airport.

The security is made of layers - just because they are checking for heavy metals doesn't mean that they don't know anything about (or are ignoring) plastic explosives or ceramic guns.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_metal_(chemistry)

I've always though that heavy metals mean stuff like uranium and lead...


Exactly nosse! I meant "heavy metals" versus "metal". The latter makes sense. The former doesn't. I am sure you can hurt people with manganese for instance, but a gun would make more sense, no?


This is a check for knives/guns/bullets, right?


I've always wondered re knives - couldn't you just take on carefully pre-fractured plastic that you snapped once on board?


No, you'd take a ceramic knife most likely. Much sharper, and still wouldn't be detected. I suspect the test is more for guns than knives.


Unless you take a homemade* ceramic knife through security, it would be spotted just like any other metal object [1].

* Good luck with that.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFnT5INymiY#t=6m40s


Haven't planes been hijacked with Stanley knives (or box cutters or whatever Americans call them)? And if the response to that is locking the cockpit, then what will guns do differently? (Shoot the windows? Could they get the exit row and open the emergency door?) Surely, now, the response to either would be to rush the assailant?


This kind of analysis has a major flaw: these two countries are apples and oranges, by sheer size. We've seen this before: when pundits comment on relative outperformance of infrastructure, education, etc., they forget that the US is a really, really, big place-- and things may not scale as well.

Israel has 2 international airports. The US has quite a few more. So the solutions presented here may not scale well as there is no true "funnel."


The same article was commented by Bruce Scheiner on his blog. http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/01/adopting_the_i...

Very interesting comments, bottom line "Israel model does not scale well".


True but no one is suggesting that the USA should mimic the Israeli system slavishly, they should however learn from it and devise their own system with the intention to detect and deal with the potential bad guys as early as possible while disrupting every one else as little as possible.

Henry Ford did not invent car manufacturing nor did MacDonalds invent the beefburger, they just made mass manufacturing scale well. The USA needs a transport security system which works at American scales and doesn't tick people off.


It all sounds absolutely reasonable (and dare I say pleasant) but how well does something like this scale? I am thinking Heathrow with 5 terminals with, I guess, 10 different entrances each where people arrive from.


Published On Wed Dec 30 2009

Wow, this is an old article. Interesting how the idea seemed to get completely ignored by the MSM and government for the past year, while things just get worse at the airports.



Flew there with my girl friend. We were very happy to be there 2 days only after sudden invitation to see a prospect. So when we handed our passports to the interviewer to get the Israel (Holy land!) visa Stamp, we were laughing of sheer joy to be there. Interviewer glared at us and asked abruptly: "what makes you laugh?!"


Hey guys who downvote: we were happy(!!) to arrive in Israel where friends of mine (who did Aliyah) where waiting for us all rejoicing themselves. That should be a ok/secure reason and attitude when arriving landing at the desired airport! (It turned out to be one of the greatest trip of our life: TelAviv, Jerusalem, the Dead See and the most fantastic En Gedi kibboutz).


Perhaps it was a rather boring anecdote and seemed almost off-topic.


Here's a Facebook approach to airport security:

http://www.google.com/buzz/amichail/TgPjwEJCJup/A-simple-sol...


or.. we look at the number of people who have been killed in terrorist attacks, and compare it to _everything_else_. Then spend the money on the more important stuff first.


Maybe we should look at the number of times the US has been invaded by a foreign army, and conclude a military is not necessary...


Half a dozen? Do tell, how often is too often?


I love it.

"Can anybody share an invite for today's AA510 to DFW? KTHXBYE!"


I want to chime in here as well.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I plan to relocate to Tel Aviv soon (from Germany), the company I'm working for has its headquarter there. I like the country, try to learn the language etc.. But:

Every time I do the flight I'm nervous about the problems that _will_ come up. Coworker needed to strip to his underwear. Another one had his bag completely devastated several times. My (german, local branch) boss has probably more stamps from IL in his passport than anything else and does the trip routinely: I've never seen him getting through without problems, taking apart the hand luggage and asking lots of weird questions, sometimes for hours.

There are some procedures in place to make this easier in the future. For a while companies can now announce guests/coworkers etc. in advance and make their life easier by providing names, passport numbers and dates of arrival/departure in written form. But that takes time and sucks if you need to fly over "now".

Regarding the "safe" feeling: Nope, cannot confirm that. In Frankfurt the normal check-in is like this:

* Check in and get your ticket

* Pass the boarding pass control

* Pass the security (think ~TSA) control

* Move to the gate and board

For El Al it's like this:

* Talk to a "Security officer" about your plans to stay and your luggage. Who packed it? Where? Did you leave it for a second? Did someone ask you to bring something to IL? etc..

* Get a ticket and a token with cryptic (probably: "Search this one, Yes/No") markers

* Pass boarding pass control

* Pass security (~TSA) control

* Go to the gate

* Pass IL security, taking that token (and, every single time I traveled) sit down and wait for an officer.

* Answer lots of questions, let them check your luggage (again)

* Move to the gate, guarded by security officers with submachine guns (remember: We're still in FFM, Germany at this point...)

In Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion, it's the same. The most upvoted post was from someone with an Israeli citizenship. Yeah - right. There are two lanes in Ben Gurion, Israeli and "Other". The latter is crap, takes ages, needs you to be there while they x-ray all your luggage (this is before you get a ticket, so you are present with your check-in luggage as well). Lots of questions. And, from experience, you end up at a desk where someone tells you to open your (check-in) luggage, to search your underwear and private possessions in front of you.

Seriously: This is _not_ better than anything you US guys are currently complaining about. And no, this does _not_ make me feel safe, at all.

Edit: Something I completely missed to mention: The article actually tries to tell you that the process is quick and effective. Maybe (not sure) it is for people with an IL passport. For me it means being at the airport 3 hours in advance, instead of 45-60 minutes. Otherwise I'm just not able to make it. My next trip is schedule to depart at ~3 am, I know that I'll be on the _german_ airport at 0:00 - for the sake of this efficient process. Same on the route back. What an improvement..


have flown out of israel dozens of times.

before you get anywhere near the terminal you are stopped and men with uzi submachine guns look in the car and ask a couple of questions.

these guys are razor sharp and know exactly what they're looking for.

you feel safe and nervous at the same time


After reading this discussion, I'd be sorely disappointed if I ever flew in/out if Israel and wasn't checked out carefully. :-)

But they are probably good at profiling curious tourists too.

Reminds me of when me and a few friends bicycled around Northern Ireland once in the 90s. If I made a querying hand gesture to military at checkpoints if we should get over for questioning, they laughed, without even hearing my non-native English... ("More stupid tourists that just want to get close looks at our bullpups.")




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