Nov 20, 2010

The Path to Safer Air Travel

Douglas J. HagmannBy Douglas J. Hagmann
Northeast Intelligence Network

The national “opt out” day next Wednesday was created to protest body scanners and enhanced TSA pat downs at airports. While it illustrates passenger dissatisfaction about the intrusive and humiliating security procedures and constitutional issues, it does nothing to fix the gaping security holes we have at our airports.

Amid the outcries and protests, it is rarely pointed out that there has never been a instance where the Transportation Security Administration has ever stopped or thwarted a potential terror attack against our airlines. Not one. Furthermore, most security analysts agree that the so-called naked body scanners “would probably have not” detected the explosives carried aboard flight 253 by the would be Christmas Day 2009 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

It might surprise some people to learn that it takes travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel less than 30 minutes on average to get from the parking lot, through screening and to the boarding area, all without the use of full body scanners or needless groping. Their system of security is arguably the most effective in the world. They have not had a security breach since 2002 when a passenger mistakenly boarded a flight with a stowed handgun. Even then, that situation ended without incident.

I’ve heard and read all of the arguments that the Israeli security model could not be effectively implemented in the U.S. and Canada due to a wide range of factors, including area and demographics. Baloney. These contentions are merely excuses by people with little or no security experience who are afraid of being accused of bigotry and intolerance, or who stand to make fortunes through the sale and deployment of high tech x-ray devices.

So how do we fix this mess without inconveniencing passengers, trampling the Constitution or bankrupting airlines? I submit that air travel can be made much more secure and even more efficient by implementing three steps. Well, four, if you count depoliticizing the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA. That step would involve the removal of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Director John Pistole. Both are national embarrassments who continue to defend their ineffective security procedures. They excel at political pandering while being woefully deficient in matters of actual security. They need to be replaced by individuals with real world security and intelligence experience who are willing to get the job done.

First, “layered security” must be implemented at every airport. Potential threats must be stopped as far away from the aircraft, boarding area and crowded terminal as possible. With layered security, it is possible to stop potential threats upon arrival on airport property, well before they even reach the airport terminal. Much like the Israeli model, additional layers would exist inside the terminal and at every step through boarding.

Secondly, behavioral and ethnic profiling must be implemented, despite the senseless aversion to the word or the idea. In a 2009 interview with CNN, Rafi Seli, former chief of security at the Israel Airport Authority, stated that “the word ‘profiling’ is a political invention by people who don’t want to do security.” Indeed. It is also the result of American leadership, or the lack thereof, to identify and treat them as our enemies. It is to our peril that most politicians refuse to acknowledge that we are fighting Islamic terrorists. Until our political leadership sheds the constraints of political correctness and stops allowing their supporters and enablers to shape policy, including the policy that affects air travel, the safety and security of our air passengers will remain perilously compromised.

Third, security agents at every airport must undergo better and more comprehensive training to identify and handle threats, rather than acting like they are assembly line workers. The performance standards of TSA agents must be increased, and every agent should be selected and retained for their ability to perform their duties.

Published reports in 2006 revealed that TSA agents routinely failed tests of security procedures conducted by undercover agents approximately 70% of the time. In other words, undercover agents testing the system succeeded in getting weapons, explosives and other contraband through security an average of seven out of ten times. Since the initial reports of these pathetic findings were published, subsequent testing results have been classified or shielded from public view. Instead of employing more capable and better trained agents, millions of dollars have been spent on radiological hazards of dubious efficiency.

In conjunction with the above measures, security in related areas must be revamped or increased. One such area lies within the U.S. State Department Visa program. It has been well documented that known Islamic terrorists have been issued visas, despite being identified as terrorists or potential threats. The aforementioned Abdulmutallab is just one example.

Until our political leaders get serious about winning the war that has waged upon us, expect the physical and Constitutional violations to continue, before, during and after the national “opt out day.” If we want to travel unmolested and without fear, we have to move from being reactionary in our security to being proactive, not only in air security, but all of homeland security.

Related Links

The Answer to Airport Security - Family Security Matters
TSA: An Exercise in Totalitarianism - BPB (Todd Strandberg)
Use Israel's air security approach - St. George Daily Spectrum
Enough Is Enough! - Ron Paul
TSA 'Opt-Out' day - American Thinker (Rick Moran)