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'Israelification' of Airports: High Security, Little Bother

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'Israelification' of Airports: High Security, Little Bother

Old 3rd Jan 2010, 05:24
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'Israelification' of Airports: High Security, Little Bother

The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother - thestar.com
The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother
Cathal Kelly Staff Reporter
Published On Wed Dec 30 2009.

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.
Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, 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. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.
Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.
You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener.. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.
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.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.
"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela.

"Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.
This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

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

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training.. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.
"Do you know why Israelis are so calm ? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies.

They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say,... ' So far, so good...' Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different."
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 06:09
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Sadly the technique involves Profiling, and some minority group will declare it Racist, and hence, we will be doomed to 5 hr checkin in western society.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 06:29
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This would never work in Canada because it requires a minimal level of intelligence.

And as we well know, there is not a single person in the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) or the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) with an IQ greater than that of a turnip.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 06:49
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Thank you for posting this.
Now, how do we get this in the faces of politicians, security agencies and airport administrators in the UK?
How quickly can we reset the system in line with what the Israeli's do so that common sense and a lack of hysteria will once again prevail?
The one thing that government must face up to is the fact that several thousand 'otherwise unemployable' will be back on the dole queue.
Are they prepared to accept that or will they avoid common sense at all costs and continue to make long suffering and completely innocent passengers (and crews) bear the brunt of their current lunacy.
Trouble is, it requires positive action on the part of the passengers and crews themselves to stand up and shout 'enough is enough'. Until this happens the politicians will ignore it, the airports will push it further back on the back burner, the security agencies will fight it tooth and nail because it's likely to detract from their (perceived) power base and the airlines will stay out of it because, already worried sick about passenger figures and the health of their businesses, they don't want to add anything that might make things worse.
The Israeli model is obviously the right way to go about it but I'm not holding my breath to see if the Brits will follow suit.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 07:01
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Perhaps by greybeard posting this here those wonderful people in the media (auntie beeb?) Will see, read and ask the questions. Yes it will take a large change in a collective mindset but wouldn't it be wonderful if that mindset was changed. I for one have no problem with security as an employee, as a passenger I would be happier if this system was introduced. It would stop my wife wingeing at me when we fly anywhere. Would also make me more agreeable to visiting her pal and family in the USA.
Ah well, here's hoping

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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 07:41
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I hope to God someone in the 'media' does pick up on this.
The Daily Telegraph did a good job on politicians expenses last year. Perhaps here is a new subject for them to get their teeth into for 2010 - or the Times, Guardian, Independent, the Beeb - whoever.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 08:02
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We have had similar here. As crew, I regularly went through Belfast Aldergrove at the height of the troubles, and found security to be fast and pleasant. They seemed to know who to target and caused minimum fuss for the majority, including crew. Unlike Luton, where once when a group of us were going through security on our annual training, my collegue was carrying two sticks of mock dynamite in his hand, and despite the usual body search and verbal grief, they were not noticed, in fact we were through before my pal realised the significance of what he had done!
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 08:17
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I flew out of Tel Aviv a few year ago and the secuirty was excellent and had no queues!!

At Abu Dhabi my baggage was screened before i got to the check-in desk.

If you manage the extra secuirty measures right there should be no further delays....But most UK Airports can't manage that.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 08:31
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The profiling system used on many U.S. bound flights on U.S. registered carriers, has been in existence for years, at least since 1990. It is entirely based on the Israeli system and is practiced by Israeli based companies.
This system has caused few delays, and has been honed to be as pax friendly as possible.
What IMHO is the problem is that there are too many agencies becoming involved, and they are not talking to each other eg The UK department of transport refused for many years to recognise, or indeed understand, the profiling system. In other countries police/ customs etc have felt their roles diminished by this profiling system and interfered with it.
What the answer is I don't know, but I do know it needs to be coordinated and people need to talk to one another.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 08:53
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I think the one big problem in the Israeli process is the fact that you will require a fairly high level of training in personal skills to be able to achieve this level of security; given the calibre of many of those working for the TSA and other security organisations (the phrase "marine corps wannabes" comes to mind), hired at fairly low wages - and not even (initially) allowed to become unionised, would they be able to carry out this level of security? Experience has shown that many security personnel take a confrontational approach, which of course antagonises even the most relaxed of passengers, so the opportunity to observe behaviour is effectively ruined.

Not everyone is going to be capable of carrying out this kind of "behavioural recognition" and it's unlikely to be people on minimum wages, so will the TSA and others be willing to consider this expenditure?

And reading through the article provided by Graybeard, it occurs to me that too much emphasis is being placed on profiling; if everyone is asked the same questions and treated the same way (subject of course to their responses), then profiling should not be as big an issue as is being suggested?
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 09:24
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As someone who frequently went through Ben Gurion, for a non-Israeli, it is a complete nightmare (I'm white British).

Other check-points through into Israel (the Jordanian and Egyptian Boarders) are better but these are car/walk-ins.

If you fly on El Al then it is even worse.

I would anticipate something in the region of 45-90 mins of questioning - if flying non El Al. If I flew on El Al I would expect 90-120 mins of their 'screening' procedures. This started before I even got to the airport, as once they even called me at home before I left asking if I was going to be on the flight! Always the same questions, asked over and over again, with 2-4 people getting involved; the nature of the questioning could only be done by the Israelis! As soon as they phoned someone who I know who spoke Hebrew, and could vouch for me, then I was let on my way. The most bizarre thing was that leaving the country was far harder than entering it.

The length of time at Ben Gurion could be longer than necessary because my understanding was that it is a training centre, so perhaps they were using me as guinea pig. Anyway, I hated going through their security.

I can assure you that you really don't want to have Ben Gurion questioning tactics for passengers, unless racial profiling was very efficient (and accurate).
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 09:49
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I am not certain just the sheer scale of the operation would swamp any Major Airport. Figures(rounded) from Wikki for 2008 show.

Heathrow 478.000 a/c movements 67,000,000 paxs + Transfers airside
O'Hare 881.000 a/c movements 69.000.000 paxs
Ben Gurion 94.000 a/c movements 11.500.000 paxs
Birmingham 112.000 a/c movements 10,000,000 paxs.

Add to this that the vast majority of Paxs passing thru Ben Gurion are either Israeli citizens or Jewish and compare that to the passenger profile at LHR. Few if any Paxs at BG are transit passengers to destinations outside of Israel.

It is nigh impossible to get all the paxs into LHR's five terminals 7 am to 10 am let alone stop the transport of all the resident and transient staff for profiling. FC and CC are moaning away on other threads about being stopped already. Or are people suggestion that any vehicle with BA written on be exempt from a stop at is enters what ever the controlled zone is.

I am no against profiling and have always thought it to be the way forward but to compare Ben Gurion with LHR or O'Hare is chalk and cheese.

When Pax searches first started with El Al, Lufthansa and SAA at LHR in 1972/3 both full hand baggage, body search and profiling was conducted. No electronic equipment was available and it took a long time to load a 747 with paxs.


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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 09:52
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Profiling would logically concentrate on the young, mostly muslims, however much the PC bleeding hearts bleat. Security is of far more importance than the injured feelings of the idealistic and naive.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 10:02
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Angry Usual twaddle

Well done Superpilot. The first to start attacking Israel and it's apartheid policies, moving on to West Bank issues, etc. Racist theme to your diatribe, I think you'll agree if you examine what you've written. There will be more like this in the thread, as the word Israel precipitates a Pavlovian response to those many sensitized by today's media. Including clever pilots.

This is a security theme, not a political one.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 10:04
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With experience of multiple trips to Gaza via Tel Aviv and vice versa, may I advise people not to think for one moment that the Israeli process is (a) no bother, or (b) done by intelligent people.

As an elderly Caucasian consultant, I was routinely pulled over on departure for a fatuous interrogation by an idiot, but only if the word Gaza was mentioned. And please, please don't tell me that I just didn't realise that this is part of the process and that the interviewer was not really stupid, but a skilled intelligence officer. I can tell the difference.

The same process happens on arrival at Tel Aviv, if you are travelling in that direction. Immigration gives your passport to a team of teenage cretins, who usher you off to a quiet spot.

TC1; "Why do you want to go to Gaza?" "It's in my contract."

TC2; "Where will you live?" "At the Beach."

TC3; "Who will you meet?" "Ali bin Falaan and his brother Ahmad".

All TCs write down this rubbish carefully in their exercise books.

The Israeli system is a huge amount of hassle, and achieves little. You may argue that the result is no successful attempts on Israeli aircraft or indeed on other aircraft operating to/from Israel. But that's the same fallacious argument as the one about elephant powder.

The best defence that El Al has is that an El Al aircraft is not a particularly significant target in terms of the impact on the West of knocking one out of the sky. Some superficial hand-wringing for a day or two, maybe, but little more. That's why there are very few or no attempts, successful or otherwise.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 10:48
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Before we start praising Israel and El Al for doing efficient security, I want to get the raw data right. One side says 25 minutes (including check-in) while others say 90 minutes (or more). Another question I have is whether the security rules can be abused to frustrate legitimate trade with the "Palestine regions"... (and whether that abuse already has happened.)

On the other hand, Israel has some very good points that would be good to introduce on all airports. Saying "please" instead of shouting makes a difference. Employing well-trained personnel. Thought about how all the pieces of security fit together. If Mr. Pants-on-fire was on a security watchlist, why didn't the gate check in Amsterdam get a notification of that?
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 11:07
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whether the security rules can be abused to frustrate legitimate trade with the "Palestine regions".
Well, yes; laptops are routinely taken away for examination "for security purposes" and if you won't hand over your password(s) you don't get it back. After a client in Europe was contacted cold by an Israeli company shortly after such an examination we took to deleting all data from laptops apart from a text file on the desktop saying "Dear Security Person, there's nothing on this laptop's hard disc for you to steal. Please return it in good condition". Most business travellers to and from Israel take similar precautions, or would if they have any sense.

If you are trading with the Occupied Territories and Gaza it often seems that your travel via Tel Aviv is made as difficult as possible.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 12:14
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Give Security contract to Israeli company

If the contract for all western security was given to a high profile Israeli company, and was blatently Israeli, perhaps the number of suspects (ie suspect looking chaps), would reduce.


ps not going to Yemin for a while, either.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 12:33
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As a caucasian, non-israeli and non-jew, who travels to Israel through Ben Gurion around 1-3 times a year, let me add my experiences.

There are always lines, fairly long ones, leading up to the first check and x-raying of belongings. While you're slowly making your way to the x-ray machine, this is when you'll get your first interview. This process of standing in line and being interviewed will take from 10 to 30 minutes, if all goes well and you don't ring any bells.

After x-ray, there's another check of your hand luggage accompanied by the second interview, checking your answers from the first one; this will take 5 to 10 minutes, again provided all goes well.

Then you'll walk over to check-in, which are always chaotic since your average passenger leaving Ben Gurion has no concept of the idea of keeping an orderly que - but that happens in many other airports too. There'll be a bit of an interview, but it's the same as in most places around the world (did you pack your luggage yourself etc). Say 10 to 30 minutes, depending on class of travel.

Now you move off to have your passport checked, and a few more questions asked by the immigration officer. Add 5 to 15 minutes depending on length of ques.

Then it's off to have your carry-ons x-rayed, but before that there'll be another check of documents and perhaps a question or two. 10 to 20 minutes.

And, finally, you've passed security at Ben Gurion.

All times above reflect reality, but only if everything goes smoothly and you don't attract anything more than normal attention. It will take from 40 to 105 minutes. It's not for nothing you're requested to be at the airport 3 hours prior to STD!

My personal best, but only because I work for someone who knows someone and thus am able to apply for security pre-screening (it's just a document you fill out) AND is being escorted through the whole ordeal by someone who'll vouch for me, is 20 minutes.

If someone tells you it can be done, on average, in 20 to 30 minutes they're feeding you porkies.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 13:45
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Basic intelligence would dictate, profiling is a must.

The Israelis are pretty good at this, so they could teach us a thing or two.

However the imbeciles who run the security don't seem to have any smarts.

To hell with the EU human rights agreement, as human rights doesn't feature very high on the terrorist’s agenda.

Last edited by doubleu-anker; 3rd Jan 2010 at 13:55.
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