2010-12-03 / Editorial/Opinion

Stop The Indignities We Impose On Ourselves

The news pages and airwaves have been filled lately with stories about this nation’s airport screening program. There have been a myriad of interviews with people who object to going through the “intrusive” full-body scanners recently installed at the New York airports. The same people then complained that the substitute for the scanner, the pat-down by Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) workers, is even more intrusive. They argue that their rights have been violated and that both the scanners and the pat-downs should be scrapped. A call to a boycott of the scanners over the Thanksgiving weekend, which would have caused chaos and interminable lines, never materialized. That is because, despite all the hoopla in the media, most Americans believe that the scanners and pat-downs are necessary to secure the safety of the flying public. In fact, a Gallup poll completed last week, just before Thanksgiving, shows that 71 percent of air travelers say that the intrusive scanners are “worth it to prevent terrorist attacks.” Only 27 percent opposed the scanners. That there was little opposition to the scanners and patdowns over the holiday season proves that the poll is correct. Given that, is there a better, less-intrusive way to screen flyers? Some say we should do it like the Israelis. After all, what nation has more experience and more success in dealing with terrorists? The Israelis use a proactive approach, screening baggage the day before the flight and screening passengers twice before they even get on the plane – once at the airport boundary and the other while they wait on line to get their boarding passes. All passengers are questioned by trained ex-military intelligence specialists. Those who fit the “profile” are pulled out of line and taken into an interrogation room. Those who do not, sail through the process and go on their way with no further checks – no scanners, no pat-downs. For those who do fit the closely-guarded and ever-changing profile, it is a different story. Their treatment is even more intrusive than any passenger boarding a plane at an American airport. Israel looks at us as “children” when it comes to anti-terrorism activities. “We should spare ourselves the indignities we impose on ourselves because of our civil liberty laws,” one Israeli terrorism expert said recently. He is right. It is time to use profiling – not necessarily racial profiling – at our airports. Not only are they less intrusive for the masses, but they work much better than what we have now. We look for weapons. The Israeli’s look for terrorists. There is a big difference.

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