News / Middle East

Foiled Detroit Airport Attack Highlights Israel's Security Success

Scene at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport
Scene at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport

Multimedia

Israel has what security experts say is perhaps the world's most effective system of screening air passengers.  Despite constant threats from Palestinian terrorist groups, no flight from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport has ever been blown up or hijacked, and the airport has not been attacked since the early 1970s.  This success is due to a sophisticated system that combines intelligence reporting, profiling, and state-of-the-art technology for detecting weapons and explosives.  

It's another day of stringent security checks at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

About a million passengers pass through the airport each month, on average. But here, the lines move quickly thanks to what Israeli security experts say is an approach that - unlike other countries - relies more on eye contact with passengers and less on technology.

Pini Schiff is one of the founders of Israel's airport security division and was formerly in charge of security at Ben Gurion airport. He now heads a security company that advises the Israeli government. "We are focusing on the passenger.  Who is the passenger.  If the passenger is bona fide by his background, his suitcase does not have to be checked very carefully.  If the suspect is characterized as a suspect passenger, he will be checked deeply," he said.  

Most people clear security within 30 minutes. Here, not everyone has to take off their shoes,  dump their water bottles, or go through body scans.  

This reporter was not allowed to video the screening process. It includes a 25-second interview in which agents determine why a passenger has come to the airport, where he or she has been and is going, and the person's general background.  "Your aim is to locate, to find the one passenger that is a terrorist and is carrying explosive material under his possession. You have to characterize the passengers and  to focus on those who are suspected and it's less than one percent," Schiff said.

Narrowing the number of people to scrutinize means agents can clear thousands of passengers more quickly than if every one has to undergo thorough body and luggage searches. 

Israeli security agents say it would probably be impossible for someone like the suspected Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board an airplane at Ben Gurion without being stopped.  He was a 23-year-old Muslim male traveling alone, without checked luggage, and a ticket paid in cash.

Israeli security experts say their profiling system is complex and does not single out Muslims specifically.

Nir Ran, head of the Homeland Security Academy near Tel Aviv is a former head of aviation security at the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency. He also directed security operations at the Israeli airline, El Al. "The passenger himself, arriving to the flight with a bomb in his suitcase will not necessarily be a Muslim, will not necessarily be a young man, or the terrorist himself. On the contrary, in most of the cases, past experience teaches us that the people carrying the bomb to the plane were non-Muslim young women," he said.

Palestinians complain about the profiling and rarely use Ben Gurion airport, opting instead to fly from Amman in neighboring Jordan where they usually face less scrutiny.

Some of the scanners and detectors currently being promoted have been developed in Israel.  Pini Schiff says they are effective but technology alone cannot do the job. "The right thing to do is to put the technology as a circle in order to complete the profile system.  Profiling and technology together gives you the best result in checking outgoing passengers from the country," he said.

Israel's system might be in some ways controversial, but it has made for a near-perfect record.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs