Megan McArdle on the Israeli Way

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Megan makes an interesting, market-oriented point about airline security:

Maybe we could do it smarter, like the Israelis do.  But the Israelis also armor the holds of their airliners, making it very difficult to blow them up--and impossible to fly at a profit.

I've gotten a lot of e-mails in the last 24 hours or so all asking variants of the same question: At what point do we model American airline security after Israeli security? The answer, I think, is never, not because it wouldn't work, but because we can't scale up. Israel's one national airport, Ben-Gurion, has a total passenger capacity of 10 million annually; Baltimore-Washington International, by contrast, processes more than 20 million a year -- I pick BWI because the security lines there, in my experience, go fairly smoothly, but they wouldn't if the airport adopted the Israeli system. The Israeli system, which features individual interviews with each traveler, also wouldn't work because, cow-like though we are, Americans are not going to stand for the invasive questioning that is the most crucial component of the Israeli system. Also, we'd have to show up at the airport five hours ahead of our flights to be processed at the more overcrowded American airports. I'm having a hard time imagining this happening. And I'm having a hard time imagining the airline industry surviving if we moved to this system. On the other hand, if underwear bombs stop dropping planes from the sky, the airline industry won't survive anyway.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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