Category Archive 'Airport Security'

29 Dec 2009

Underwear Bomb Pictures Released

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Abdulmutallab was concealing a 6″ container of PETN in the crotch of this underwear

As this 2:57 ABC video shows, the quantity of explosive was more than sufficient to destroy an airliner.

All this provokes reflection. They are using underwear to hide bombs, concealing high explosive compounds next to their genitals. What is the government going to do now? Will millions of air travelers be stripped naked electronically or literally?

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Jeff Goldberg, in the Atlantic, discussed airline security policies with Bruce Schneier:

Counter­terrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,” [Schneier] said. “Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” This assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking, or target aviation at all. “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. “Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations, and emergency response.”

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If we were smarter, we’d pay more attention to the Israeli example.

The safest airline in the world, it is widely agreed, is El Al, Israel’s national carrier. The safest airport is Ben Gurion International, in Tel Aviv. No El Al plane has been attacked by terrorists in more than three decades, and no flight leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked. So when US aviation intensified its focus on security after 9/11, it seemed a good bet that the experience of travelers in American airports would increasingly come to resemble that of travelers flying out of Tel Aviv.

But in telling ways, the two experiences remain notably different. For example, passengers in the United States are required to take off their shoes for X-ray screening, while passengers at Ben Gurion are spared that indignity. …

Nearly five years after Sept. 11, 2001, US airport security remains obstinately focused on intercepting bad things — guns, knives, explosives. …

Of course the Israelis check for bombs and weapons too, but always with the understanding that things don’t hijack planes, terrorists do — and that the best way to detect terrorists is to focus on intercepting not bad things, but bad people.

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Wikipedia describes Israeli El Al’s security procedures:

Passengers are asked to report three hours before departure. All El Al terminals around the world are closely monitored for security. There are plain-clothes agents and fully armed police or military personnel who patrol the premises for explosives, suspicious behavior, and other threats. Inside the terminal, passengers and their baggage are checked by a trained team. El Al security procedures require that all passengers be interviewed individually prior to boarding, allowing El Al staff to identify possible security threats. Passengers will be asked questions about where they are coming from, the reason for their trip, their job or occupation, and whether they have packed their bags themselves. The likelihood of potential terrorists remaining calm under such questioning is believed to be low (see microexpression). At the check-in counter the passengers’ passports and tickets are closely examined. A ticket without a sticker from the security checkers will not be accepted. At passport control passengers’ names are checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Scotland Yard, Shin Bet, and Interpol databases. Luggage is screened and sometimes hand searched. In addition, bags are put through a decompression chamber simulating pressures during flight that could trigger explosives. El Al is the only airline in the world that passes all luggage through such a chamber. Even at overseas airports, El Al security agents conduct all luggage searches personally, even if they are supervised by government or private security firms. …

Critics of El Al note that its security checks on passengers include racial profiling and have argued that such profiling is unfair, irrational, and degrading to those subject to such screening.


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