Wednesday, November 24, 2010


An article detailing how one of the Mythbusters got through a TSA pat-down carrying 12 razors sparked some surprise when I posted it on Facebook with this comment:

"Intrusive, ridiculous and ineffectual.
El Al planes never blow up.
Can we PLEASE send some senior TSA officials to Ben-Gurion for a month?
Can we please make sure the ones we send aren't dolts?

I ♥ Mythbusters!"

Here's the original article:

I responded on FB to the surprise, but I like what I wrote well enough to reiterate it here.

"El Al foils bad guys with multiple, one-on-one conversations, in concentric layers before one gets anywhere near an airplane. They get in your face, literally, to look for things like dilating pupils, changes in skin coloration, twitches, tics and (I hope) a bunch of attributes that haven't found their way into the press. Often the questions don't matter anywhere near as much as the reaction, especially the reaction while under additional stress.

Undoubtedly, some of the attributes Israelis screen for would be suspect under U.S. law, including most especially our Bill of Rights. But many, I daresay most, would not.

Because the current protocol is ineffectual, it is ridiculous. If it was useful, I might not be so outraged.

The Bill of Rights protects against unlawful search and seizure, too.

Balancing these two fundamental rights (not to be profiled vs. not forcing Grandma to choose between being felt up by a stranger or ogled naked by a stranger) might be a hard call if the physical intrusion actually worked.

But the Mythbuster proved that it doesn't. So it's an easy call. There's nothing on the sexual assault side of the scale. On the EL Al-style countermeasures side, especially if the countermeasures are implemented by officials more sensitive to the requirements of our Constitution than Israel must be, the weight is tremendous.

Please note, I do not call for subcontracting our protection out to El Al security. I just want some non-dolts from the upper levels of TSA to spend a month at Ben-Gurion and see what parts of the Israeli approach could work in America.

I understand your surprise. I'm a knee-jerk, bleeding-heart ACLU-nik, and I have friends who've been stopped for DWB (Driving While Black). Still, civil liberties vs. security is a false dichotomy here.

We need to learn what we can from the Israelis, decide what we can't do as Americans, and implement protocols that actually protect us. What we're doing now violates the first rule of holes.

If you're in one --- stop digging."

What do you think?


sybil law said...

I agree with you 100%!

Brian Cornell said...

David, in what class didi you learn the "first rule of holes". I totally missed that one. Musta been too busy taking "Persuasion".

David in DC said...

I learned it from George Will, who cites it in some context near-annually. But searching for a better source I found this: