Since the attempted bombing of Flight 253, experts have been pining for a security system as stringent as that of Israel's famously rigorous national airline El Al. "What Israel Can Teach the World About Airport Security," read one Huffington Post headline. Conservative Jonah Goldberg quoted an Israeli security expert: "the United States does not have a security system; it has a system for bothering people." Likewise, Jennifer Abel writes in the Guardian, "if we were really serious about airline security, we'd imitate the tough-but-effective system Israel uses to keep El Al terrorism-free." A video of the former El Al chief has been making rounds on the Internet.
But a few folks are challenging the conventional wisdom and saying, in fact, it's no use longing for the El Al model: it simply wouldn't work the the U.S. The Atlantic's Megan McArdle quotes a friend familiar with the El Al system:
The Israeli security model is (as noted in the article) more about the passenger than their baggage. This approach is both effective, time-consuming, and "racist": the profilers have a conversation with each passenger; as I'm an Israeli Jew, I always get the abbreviated treatment -- focusing more on where my bags have been since I've packed them. As a foreigner, you get a much more in-depth grilling. As a Muslim? They want to know your shoe size, and then a whole 'nother screener comes over and asks you everything all over again, just to see that you keep your story straight.
Israeli screeners, however, are also highly-trained and "as a generalization...possess above-average intelligence, whereas your average TSA screener seems to be a working stiff, blindly following some not-too-complex screening algorithm in a three-ring binder."
The Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal agrees: "this isn't just a matter of getting over our objections to race-based screening ... where are we going to get this amazing security force?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.