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Airport Security and Common Sense

Every time I point out the complete absence of common sense in our airport security procedures — You think it will protect anyone to take away granny’s tweezers? What about the bottle of wine you can quite legally buy on the other side of the security gates, anyone ever thought about how easily you could turn that into a weapon? — I can count the minutes until someone brings up the equally ludicrous idea that the solution to this problem is “profiling.” Inevitably there’s a lament that our collective political correctness prevents us from adopting this obvious, common-sense solution. Apparently, only our pusillanimous unwillingness to admit what we apparently all know to be the truth keeps us from snapping our fingers and making our skies safe.

Yes, well, this idea too reflects a complete absence of the ability to think one’s way out of a paper bag. Think beyond the “robust indignation” stage. Be practical. How would this “profiling” business work?

We start with the idea that statistically, over the past decade, most attempts to take down commercial airliners have been committed by young male Muslims. Fine, fine. I’m not too politically correct to say that, and frankly, not many people are. So, okay, let’s take all the young, male Muslims and take away their tweezers. After all, it’s easy to see who’s young and male.

Oh, wait, the third part is hard, isn’t it. Muslim — that’s a religion. So, what exactly are we looking for?

Idea: Muslim names. Yep, let’s look for those. We search anyone named Muhammed. For good measure, we search anyone whose name we can’t pronounce.

Terrorist with half-a-brain’s response: No worries, my name’s Shmuel Leibovitz. Excuse me, please, I’m in a hurry–which way to the “non-Muslim” line?

Idea: Well, okay, let’s give special attention to anyone traveling on a passport issued by a country with a lot of Muslims.

Terrorist with half-a-brain’s response: Thank God these Americans have no grasp on reality. “Yes, sir, I’m Swedish. Which way to the express line?

Idea: Well, we’ll just ask! “Excuse me, Sir, are you a Muslim?”

Terrorist with half-a-brain’s response: “Goodness, no. I’m a Quaker.”

Idea: Well, what about people who look like Muslims?

Terrorist with half-a-brain’s response: God must want this nation destroyed, why else would he have made these people so stupid? They can’t even decide whether their own president looks like a Muslim, they’re going to figure out whether I do?

Idea: Okay, all dark-skinned people!

Terrorist with half-a-brain’s response: Man, the lines at the airport are long.

Someone’s about to say, “But the Israelis profile, and that works!”

No, you’re completely misunderstanding what the Israelis do. They do not profile, they ransack your luggage over and over and they interrogate you for hours — it is an effective but incredibly time- and labor-intensive system. Among their successes include two famous cases: in one, they prevented Anne-Marie Murphy, a pregnant Irishwoman (a white, non-Muslim woman named Murphy: I repeat Murphy) from carrying a bomb on to the plane; in the other they prevented an ethnic-German national (a white, non-Muslim guy) from boarding the plane with explosives. Neither of them knew what they were carrying. Look up the cases of Colleen Renee LaRose, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, I could extend this list for a very long time–and tell me what “profiling” would have done to keep them off a plane.

What the Israelis do is effective, but it’s not scaleable. Israel is a minuscule country. You could probably fit the whole Zionist Entity inside of Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. (That may even be literally true: I leave it to you to check.) It has exactly one major international airport, which handles maybe ten million passengers a year. In America, you’ve got about two million people flying every single day, 86 airports that carry more than a million passengers per year, and 25 that carry more than ten million — each one, in other words, handling the volume of traffic handled by the entire State of Israel. If you think the lines move quickly in Israel, think again. Implement those kinds of procedures and you’d grind what’s left of the US economy to a halt.

The Israelis aren’t using some racial or religious algorithm to screen passengers. If they were, I wouldn’t get stuck at security at Ben Gurion for hours every time I fly there, would I? I assure you they don’t take a look at my passport and say, “Well, she’s an American, and ‘Berlinski’ sounds kind-of Jewish, so she’s probably fine.” Every single time, they interrogate me for hours.

“Profiling” is a security fantasy, just like “sticking your hands down an elderly woman’s diaper” is a security fantasy — both amount to some kind of neo-pagan pre-flight prayer ritual. What’s rational is competent intelligence work of the kind the FBI actually does pretty well, to judge from the number of terrorist attacks that have been interrupted in recent years. What’s rational are locked and hardened cockpit doors, and making passengers fully aware that if the plane is hijacked, you rise up as one and kill the hijackers. Metal-detector screening — for firearms — is reasonable. Looking for tweezers and liquids is not. Indecent bodily searches are not. Making people take their computers out of their bags is not — that’s an X-ray machine, for goodness’ sake.

The fact that Americans don’t want to face is that you just can’t take all the risk out of flying. We’ve done all we reasonably can. Anything more is a waste of time and resources, and the overwhelmingly nonsensical part of this is the exclusive focus on airplanes: You don’t need to be in the air to be the object of a terrorist attack, do you? Just ask the Israelis (or the Turks, for that matter).

Once you say, “We’ll put up with anything to make sure terrorists can’t kill us,” the logic is inescapable: Some government official should be sticking his hand up everyone’s pants everywhere human beings in America gather. I would have thought that impossible, but I would have thought it impossible we’d put up with this, too.