Israelification

Today’s TSA video features a terrified three-year-old girl being felt up by a TSA agent.

The oldest cliche in the pundit arsenal is to say “let’s do it like the Israelis do it”, and it is true that the Israelis do an excellent job with airport security. They use a combination of profiling and screening implemented by multiple layers of highly-trained security personnel to implement a high-quality, fast security process. That’s because they take it seriously. We don’t.

If we took airport security seriously, the Democrats wouldn’t have used it as an opportunity to hire an army of low-paid, soon-to-be-unionized federal employees who are more likely to vote Democratic. The Republicans wouldn’t use every terrorist scare as an opportunity for a big contract for some donor that makes screening equipment of dubious value.

If by some miracle we decided to start taking airport security seriously, we’d have to perform an massive unfucking of a decade of bad decisions. We’d have to fire some of the TSA agents we’ve hired, because they can’t be trained to the level of skill required by the Israeli model. We’d also have to throw away a lot of the useless equipment we’ve purchased, and cancel lucrative contracts for upgrades. That kind of change is far too risky, so instead we just have to listen to snotty Israelis telling us how fucking dumb we are:

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.

(via)






62 replies
  1. 1
    Anya says:

    Israel also has one airport only, while we have hundreds and they’ve been at it longer.

  2. 2
    homerhk says:

    have you ever travelled to Israel? the security checks at Heathrow airport alone made me regret the decision to go, even before getting on the plane. God help the US if it co-opts their security measures.

    On the other hand, just got back from a trip to DC where the only question I was really asked on the way in was whether I had brought any food over (from the UK) and although was expecting a full on TSA grope on the way out, was whisked through with relatively little drama.

  3. 3

    This is precisely why I don’t fly anymore. Fortunately I will never have a reason that would require me to fly.

    Now that the Don’t Tread On Me crowd has a grip on the House maybe they will undo the damage the previous GOP cabal did to this country. I’ll hold my breath …

  4. 4

    At least it gives me an excuse never to return to the states for xmas again. The pitched singular atheist vs. large catholic family xmas eve battle was getting really really old.

  5. 5
    Chris says:

    I remember being stuck in a security line to get out of a fed building a few years ago, with a foreign-accented woman who spent the entire line complaining about how much trouble the process was for such a useless result.

    I finally asked her where she was from; turns out she was Israeli. Quite something when even God’s Chosen People think your security measures are ridiculous and overblown.

  6. 6
    Corner Stone says:

    But this is what Forever War was always about. As long as Terrorism exists in any nook or any cranny anywhere in the world, no politician can ever be seen to back down.
    Removing equipment or reducing certain levels of procedure would be a tacit admittance that not only is there less to fear now, but there was little or nothing to fear before.
    And we all know the best way to sell no bid crony contracts with no questions asked is to keep the fear ratcheted up.

  7. 7
    Corner Stone says:

    I thought a couple years ago when they arrested a few people for making jokes when asked the standard, “Have these bags been under your control at all time? Has anyone asked you to carry a bag for them?” we had gone too far.
    And that was a couple order of magnitudes from where we are now.

  8. 8
    Jose Padilla says:

    The Republicans wanted low-paid security guards. The Democrats wanted decently paid federal employees.

  9. 9
    debit says:

    The Enhanced Groping isn’t the only reason I’ll never fly again, but it’s a big one and I can’t be the only person who feels this way. I really wonder how business is going for the airlines.

  10. 10
    Barry says:

    “If we took airport security seriously, the Democrats wouldn’t have used it as an opportunity to hire an army of low-paid, soon-to-be-unionized federal employees who are more likely to vote Democratic”

    Only in Teabagger World were the Democrats in charge back then; in Real World this was a strictly GOP job.

  11. 11
    Jane2 says:

    @Jose Padilla: Really. Then how come employees low paid and under-trained today, and run by a bureaucracy run amok? Can’t blame it all on Republicans.

    It’s taken nine years of security theatre, but it seems the bureaucrats have finally taken it too far, or at least I hope so. On the upside, I’ve rediscovered the road trip, and it’s a wonderful thing. You get to see all the parts of America that aren’t full of the screaming left/right pundits and angry, unable-to-spell voters that make up most of the 24/7 cable news wurlitzer.

  12. 12
    Chris says:

    @Jose Padilla: ]

    Yeah.

    Reminds me of how the “parasites,” e.g. the unions wanted to install secure cockpit doors on all the airplanes before 9/11, and the bean-counters at the top e.g. the “productive class” decided it was a bad business decision. Needless to say their business got a lot worse after 9/11 scared all their customers away.

    Fucking idiots. Object lesson # 22,690,928,626 why SOME THINGS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY.

  13. 13
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Anya:

    This is a pretty key comment. Israel doesn’t have an entire network of airports to secure. One does not travel by air to go from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and vice versa.

    The logistical aspect alone, if one bothers to think about it (therefore the likes of the deserting coward and Darth Cheney are excluded) precludes adopting the Israeli model for the US.

  14. 14
    David Fud says:

    Could you provide the correct link to this:

    The Republicans wouldn’t use every terrorist scare as an opportunity for a big contract for some donor that makes screening equipment of dubious value.

    Pretty please?

  15. 15
    PeakVT says:

    I though this would be a post about the House of Representatives. But that’s old news, I suppose.

  16. 16
    PurpleGirl says:

    Via Brilliant at Breakfast: Tattooed foodie gets pulled off plane (although allowed back on) because he has “Atom Bomb” tattooed across his fingers.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.co.....omb-tattoo

    Fellow passenger thought he was “acting suspiciously”.

  17. 17
    Scott P. says:

    Why the gratuitous swipe at unions?

  18. 18
    Svensker says:

    @PeakVT:

    I though this would be a post about the House of Representatives. But that’s old news, I suppose.

    LOL. Or should I say, COL.

    As for Israel having great security — they should, we pay them enough for it.

  19. 19
    mistermix says:

    @David Fud: Here it is:

    http://www.washingtonexaminer......48388.html

    I fixed the post, too. Thanks.

  20. 20
    cursorial says:

    @Corner Stone: Side effect of reading some terry pratchett this weekend (I think there are a few pratchett fans here?) but the first thing your comment made me picture is a “Have these bags been under your control at all times?” t-shirt with a picture of the Luggage charging through a security checkpoint.

    If such a thing exists, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  21. 21
    Tim I says:

    What a bullshit post. You attack and insult TSA employees – who I have always found to be competent and polite. You then attack labor unions.

    And you heap praise on the Israelis for relying on racial profiling as the basis for their totalitarian approach to airport security.

  22. 22
    Barry says:

    @Scott P.: “Why the gratuitous swipe at unions? ”

    Standard GOP practice – destroy unions, and then blame the results on unions. Otherwise known as the Big Lie principle.

  23. 23
    Mr Furious says:

    I’ve personally never had a problem with the way any TSA employee performs their job. They’ve all been polite and professional. The airports I’ve dealt with since 9/11 are for the mosrt part a mix of large (Detroit, NY (LAG), and Orlando) and small (Hartford and Asheville).

    The ridiculous theater they are required to put us through is a whole other matter. Fucking absurd. I have a three year old and an eight year old, so I know all about the bullshit of dealing with strollers and baby bottles and dont get my wife started on her traveling alone with the two kids. One time we were forced to remove the shoes from my sleeping daughter being carried by me in a sling.

    REMOVE THE FUCKING SHOES OF A SLEEPING INFANT!

    WHY?

    What fucking weapon is being smuggled in a two inch long soleless bootie?

    Needless to say, everyone in line paid the price for that bullshit decision.

  24. 24
    Mr Furious says:

    Nobody handled this topic better than Lewis Black.

    (Definitely NSFW)

  25. 25
    Jman says:

    the Democrats wouldn’t have used it as an opportunity to hire an army of low-paid, soon-to-be-unionized federal employees who are more likely to vote Democratic

    WTF is your problem?

  26. 26
    Hubertus Bigend says:

    A good friend of mine is a Palestinian American. Every time she visits family in Ramallah she experiences that fast, high-quality, Israeli profiling you praise. It’s not fast for her.

  27. 27
    Hubertus Bigend says:

    A good friend of mine is a Palestinian American. Every time she visits family in Ramallah she experiences that fast, high-quality Israeli profiling you praise. It’s not fast for her.

  28. 28
    aimai says:

    @Barry:
    I agree, this was a weird comment by mistermix. In addition to all this security theater beginning on Republican Watch, there’s zero evidence that the Democrats in Congress are capable of imagining creating or nurturing a democratic union base. We wouldn’t be in the trouble we are right now if the Democrats actively fought to increase their voters rather than stood by and hoped the Republican ones would get tired of showing up to vote.

    aimai

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    @Hubertus Bigend:

    I’m sure she already told you this, but for those who might not know, that’s the whole purpose of the Israeli checkpoints (and especially of “the security fence” which rather than separate Palestinian from Israeli territory, cuts deeply into Palestinian land in many spots, thus separating Arab families, friends, and separating people’s homes from their workplaces).

    The idea, like most of the West Bank occupation, is to make life so unlivable for the Palestinians that they’ll simply pick up and leave.

  30. 30

    @Tim I:

    really?
    every time I’ve dealt with them at Philadelphia international, it’s been a fucking joke. they make inappropriate comments, they harass people, and they make the entire process a nightmare.

    if i didn’t have a kid in another country who flies in, i’d never fly. I hate it.

  31. 31
    Tancrudo says:

    @Jane2: You can’t blame it all on Republicans. Democrats and Independents have been complicit in this inevitable end of airport security. People of both parties should accept this as true. The relevant legislation wasn’t passed by Republicans alone, and Republicans alone haven’t profited from it.

    The ball (the ball being a security equipment contracting gold rush) was started rolling during the Bush administration, and instead of stopping it picked up speed during the Obama administration. But instead of trying to lay this to psychological reasons (e.g. Obama got suckered), let’s look at the simpler explanation: cui bono?

    The corporations that manufacture this equipment – some of truly dubious if not outright ridiculous function – are making a fortune on it. The bureaucrats involved in the new agency are making a career and a good pension out of it. Government contracting is insanely profitable (don’t ask me how I know). There are millions, billions of dollars being thrown around, and the cumulative effect of all the people chasing them is a oneupmanship race toward ever more invasive screening (without any necessary improvement in actual security – as illustrated by the underwear bomber and the ass bomber, there is a corresponding oneupmanship race on the other side). Sooner or later, you end up at a place where your choice is between having naked pictures taken of your child or having your child sexually molested by a stranger. Because how much farther can you go?

  32. 32
    Ol'Froth says:

    The sad thing is that it is all unneccesary. 9/11 wasn’t a security failure, it was an imagination failure. Security checkpoints prior to 9/11 often found small knives/box cutters, etc. So long as the blade was 3″ long or less, it was passed through. When the decision, post 9/11 was made to ban all cutting instruments, the checkpoints, pre TSA, started confiscating them.

    Many of the people hired by TSA post-9/11 were the very same people who were doing the job prior to the creation of the TSA.

  33. 33
    Keith G says:

    To me, it seems that there is a critical mass of these stories popping up.

    I am a bit worried that this may turn into another of those no win situations that Obama has to deal with, made worse by his people taking a long time to figure out how to approach it.

  34. 34
    mindthegap says:

    Airport ‘patdowns’: What I don’t get is the inconsistency. Two days after the Yemeni bomb scare, I was on a flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam – perfunctory ‘who packed your bag?’, saunter through the scanner. Change flight at Schiphol for NY: shoes and jewelry off, little plastic bottles scrutinized, then the most thorough ‘pat down’ you could have without completely disrobing – my frisker certainly knows that I do wear an underwire bra, don’t wear Spanx, and do wash behind my ears – airport security as theatre, definitely.

  35. 35
    Remember November says:

    @Chris:

    Not to Republicons. They worship at the Temple of the Almighty Dollah.

  36. 36
    JG says:

    Good to know that the solution to security problems is to racially profile, cut the U.S. down to 1 single airport, and blame policy decisions on the lowest-paid employees who are only obligated to implement the shitty policies. Brilliant. Obviously the icing on the cake is that this is apparently the Unions’ fault (even though the TSA is not unionized (yet). Dumbass.

    What is your next brilliant post going to be: how the old lunch ladies who serve the food are to blame for the obesity crisis facing America’s youth (or maybe the checkout guy at the Mickey D’s)? Or perhaps we can blame the custodians at the WTC for the inability to safely evacuate? I’m sure some of them might have been unionized. And it is, of course, always the Democrats’ fault.

    Jeebus. BJ – I expect better. Different viewpoints are all well and good, but maybe frontpagers could at least have a small shred of good argument that inspires thoughtful consideration of their positions?

  37. 37
    Remember November says:

    @Tancrudo:
    Oh I’m sure they’ll bombard us with some heretofore untested amount of gamma rays that will sterilize half the population ( unfortunately the smarter ones) and give us an Idiocracy 400 years sooner than expected.

  38. 38
    salacious crumb says:

    yeah we will also have to do a LOT of racial profiling if we follow the israeli model. If you are are Arab or have even .01% Arab blood in you/or if you are non white, you will be subject to a host of interrogations. if america is comfortable doing that then yeah israeli model works

  39. 39
    jaime says:

    @Keith G

    If Obama put a halt to this and we got hit, you know for a fact that the same people outraged by this intrusion would be screaming about how Obama didnt do enough to protect us.

    It’s all just a political opportunity. I mean take a look at Drudge this morning. “THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON” with a pic of a Muslim woman patting down a nun.

    Where were these assholes outrage when we had to take off our shoes or dump our mouthwash?

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Jane2:

    Then how come employees low paid and under-trained today, and run by a bureaucracy run amok? Can’t blame it all on Republicans.

    The Giant Evil Corporation I work for had an entrenched marketing department that was screwing up all of our releases. The CEO decided that he needed to get rid of them and get a new team in there.

    Four years later, the process is almost complete. Fixing an entrenched bureaucracy — which is what the TSA is at this point — is not nearly as simple and easy as you seem to think, especially since you can’t go, “Well, we don’t need airport security at all,” and shut the whole thing down.

  41. 41
    SBG says:

    israeli airport security arent any smarter or better than TSA agents. they are just much much meaner and have essentially unchecked power to do whatever they want like randomly detaining and searching anyone whenever they feel like it or just not letting them fly. i doubt anybody touting israeli airport security has actually flown to israel and dealt with their airport security.

  42. 42
    Keith G says:

    @jaime: Halting is only one option. There are many, many more.

  43. 43
    Stefan says:

    We’d have to fire some of the TSA agents we’ve hired, because they can’t be trained to the level of skill required by the Israeli model.

    I’ve gone through a five hour security check at Ben-Gurion airport, being questioned over and over again by teams of Israeli security personnel. The Israeli security personnel were all young, intelligent, and dedicated, and I could tell that they were very, very good at what they did and prided themselves on it.

    By contrast, whenever I’ve encountered TSA personnel I get the feeling that they are, for want of a better word, morons. If we wanted to do what they Israelis do we’d have to fire most and not just some of the TSA agents we’ve hired.

  44. 44
    Comrade Dread says:

    The moral of the story is that if sick pedophiles wish to grope kids without consequence or sanction, they should apply to work at the TSA.

    If that had been my daughter, I would have needed someone to restrain me from punching the living crap out that screener.

  45. 45
    Brachiator says:

    People would bitch even if Israeli style security measures were adopted. They would bitch even if security checks lasted 3 seconds. Profiling? Can’t do it, because even if done intelligently (which is doubtful), the ACLU would be all up in your behind in a nanosecond. In our pseudo-egalitarian culture, we resent singling anyone out. Except of course, the conservatives, who favor laws that would require that Muslims travel by covered wagon with an armed federal escort. If they have to be permitted travel at all.

    And people would bitch like crazy if the airlines hired a super-efficient crew of TSA people and passed the costs along to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices.

  46. 46
    POS says:

    You simply cannot staff the TSA with trainable, competent professionals, get the best and brightest air traffic controllers, maintain the physical and silicone infrastructure of aviation all on the vig for a $50 fare.

  47. 47
    PurpleGirl says:

    IIRC, when the Democrats were introducing the various changes to TSA and making airport personnel federal employees instead of employees of the airport, it was the Republicans who made a fuss about the possibility of the TSA people being unionized.

  48. 48
    John B. says:

    Congress won’t listen to a bunch of people complaining about civil liberties, the fourth amendment, or even the uselessness of the invasive procedures. No, we have to get the people who really matter behind us: the airlines.

    Seriously. Let the airlines know that we’re changing our travel plans to avoid going to airports, and they’ll pay Congress to fix the problems.

  49. 49
    Mr Furious says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    If that had been my daughter, I would have needed someone to restrain me from punching the living crap out that screener.

    Word. If that were my daughter, in Lewis Black’s words, “My journey—would end.”

    Seriously. I would have a hard time not making a scene if I observed that with ANY child. But if anyone was doing a pat-down like that on my daughter there would have been arrests.

  50. 50
    The Moar You Know says:

    You attack and insult TSA employees – who I have always found to be competent and polite.

    @Tim I: Please cite those airport locations. I have found one in my travels; the little airport in Arcata, CA – which gets maybe a couple of hundred people per day on an insanely busy day – has nice, professional TSA people. Everyplace else has been an insane, degrading nightmare.

    The shining exemption? San Francisco, who has opted out of the TSA and uses a contractor. Those folks are professional as it gets.

  51. 51
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Am I the only person in our terrified little country who would start flying again if they drastically reduced the security theater, with the understanding that there is a 0.00001% chance a terrorist will blow up my flight to Missoula?

  52. 52
    Luthe says:

    The one, and I emphasize only one, decent post Jeffery Goldberg has even written involves this kind of security theater.

    Well, maybe he has two good posts, but the other one is the follow-up to the one above, so I’m not sure it counts.

    P.S. Mexican security involves none of this kind of bullshit. Flying out of the Cancun airport is a piece of cake compared to flying out of Kennedy.

  53. 53
    annamissed says:

    I really didn’t need to read this, this morning. It only goes to confirm we’re living in the dumbest fucking country in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the little girl went on to develop some sexual – screaming “stop touching me!” – or authority based complex as a result. All the while daddy big shot news man stands idly by in mute witness to his daughter who in her mind is being molested by a uniformed female, no less, authority figure. Stanley Milgram cries out from the grave, “what no tazer for the little non-conforming brat?” Believe me , those fools who work for the TSA would have no compunction, as police forces all over the USA would confirm, about electrocuting ANYBODY for ANY REASON – given the authority to do so.
    Face it folks the terrorists have won.

  54. 54
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    Hello? Give the kid her teddy bear back.

  55. 55
    JRon says:

    I agree it’s mostly theater, but as someone who flies about once a week, I strongly believe that anyone who complains about the competence of TSA guards must never have been on a plane prior to 2001.

    But then I take most of my flights from Atlanta. Maybe our little airport is different.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:

    @JRon:

    I don’t think people are complaining about competence so much as the fact that many TSA workers seem to be on a power trip and make a game of humiliating passengers. The bigger problem is that TSA management doesn’t seem interested in doing anything to fix the problem despite many, many complaints.

    Did you see the Kafkaesque story the other day about the guy who was told he would have to leave the airport if he didn’t want to go through the machine, and then was stopped before he could leave and told he would be fined $10,000 if he left the premises? And when he pointed out that he had been instructed to leave by TSA personnel, he was told that they had made a mistake but he would pay the $10,000 penalty for their mistake.

  57. 57
    YellowJournalism says:

    Like I said before, I have a strong feeling that I will be going through something similar come the spring if I have to fly with the kids. They tell you that you give up certain rights when you fly, but we were never allowed to give our input on those rights being lost prior to this implementation and some of us do not have the luxury of choosing not to fly.

    As far as TSA attitude and competence goes, I’ve found that it varies form airport to airport. The smaller ones seem to have the people that are sympathetic, friendly, and not on a power trip, while some of the larger airports have people who have all the personality of a bored midnight-shift checker at Wal-Mart but with the added bonus of being able to deny you entry on your flight if you are flying while brown, if you’re set on expectations of professionalism, or if they just plain feel like giving you a hard time for personal entertainment’s sake.

    I just want to add that I feel for whoever described their experience with their infant’s shoe. I had a similar one while flying with my son. They made me take off his socks because they looked like shoes (printed fake shoelaces and an actual shoelace-like bow at the top) and remove a sweater jacket (I had removed his actual jacket.) in the middle of a very cold security checkpoint.

  58. 58
    Ben says:

    I’ve got to side with the folks who point out the danger of holding Israeli airport security up as an example. Having been there several times, I would definitely not want to import their system wholesale into the US, regardless of whether it could even be scaled from a small country with a few airports (yes, there are more than just Ben Gurion) to a country the size of the US.

    First, there is the question of speed. There is a reason El Al recommends that economy class passengers check in three hours before departure. It’s because it sometimes takes a very, very long time to process everyone. In the US, it’s a humiliating, intrusive, and labor-intensive process, but it’s actually kind of quick by comparison. What makes it seem less time-consuming in Israel is the fact that most flights to/from an Israeli airport are international, and we’re basically used to longer check-in times, etc., for international flights.

    Second, there is the issue of privacy. More often than not, I have found the security process in Israel to be less physically onerous than in the US, but certainly not less intrusive. I traveled several times to Israel on a red passport (= US official, traveling on government business), and still got the same detailed questions, repeated in different ways to trip me up. On at least two trips, Israeli officials had to be called at home to let me through when I refused to tell the 20-year-old security officer everything I did or said in Israel on the grounds that it was classified. Although in all of my trips, it really wasn’t their business why I was in Israel in the first place, or leaving when I was, the process always reminded me of being in high school and coming in at 3 am to an interrogation from my parents. By comparison, I can’t remember the last time a TSA employee asked me anything more personal than “Is this your bag?” Yes, I’ve been bossed and bullied by the TSA, but they typically don’t care whether I met with a friend in the city in addition to meeting someone for business.

    Finally, there is the whole downside to the “profiling” approach. Having been through the process a bunch of times (either to/from Ben Gurion, or even worse, coming through a border checkpoint to Egypt or Jordan), believe me when I say that physical security is pretty clearly used as an excuse for political/religious harassment where some groups are concerned.

    I have a three-part solution for airport security: 1) Announce in big red letters on every airline website and boarding pass, and at every airport, that flying cannot be made 100% safe from suicidal zealots; 2) Reduce the screening security to pre-9/11 levels but make extensive and conspicuous use of explosive-sniffing dogs in terminals and baggage handling facilities; and 3) impose a $1 fee on every ticket used to fund a ridiculously over-generous life insurance fund (say, $20 million per death) awarded to any airline victims of terrorism.

  59. 59
    cjdavis says:

    @ jaime

    Holy crap. That’s a photo my friend took 3 years ago and I posted with his permission because it was so amazing. Total rorschach test.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjd/1418632004/

    And I don’t see where drudge put an attribution or link as required. But I have a ton of links from facebook it would appear.

  60. 60
    cjdavis says:

    @ jaime

    Holy crap. That’s a photo my friend took 3 years ago and I posted with his permission because it was so amazing. Total rorschach test.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjd/1418632004/

    And I don’t see where drudge put an attribution or link as required. But I have a ton of links from facebook it would appear.

  61. 61
    Keith G says:

    The video, which was taken by the phone of a Houston reporter (his daughter) has been taken down and I cannot find it up anywhere.

    You’d think this would be a heck of an eyeball collector. Why would the Tribune Co. want to bury this?

  62. 62

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