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Israeli Security V. Disparate Impact
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January 06, 2010, 01:23 AM
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A person writes:
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. Like they say in the article, the conversations they have are not so much about what you say as how you say it. The screeners are taught to iterate a few levels deep into your story and see that it doesn`t break down under scrutiny.

Naturally, this process supposes that A) the threat is foreign and mostly limited to one ethnic/religious group, and B) screeners have this sort of time.

In the US, racial profiling is... unpalatable, and if each passenger / family got even a perfunctory 1-minute Q&A session with a TSA security officer, the system would crash. The US is dealing with a larger threat profile, and a whole different order-of-magnitude of traffic.

A lot more domestic travel in the U.S., whereas a high percentage of flights out of Ben Gurion are international, which can afford higher quality security people.
2. The security screener`s job: manpower, training, history

Normally these are intelligent men and women, usually students or twentysomethings, who pass a series of exams and then pass a several-month course. The hours are craptastic but the pay is decent, and a lot of students prefer it to shiftwork or waitressing. Passing the course is difficult but not arduous, and in the end you are really being taught guidelines on interrogation and then set loose to use your judgment — if you have a red flag to raise, then you just call over a senior screener who has more years of experience.

The reality is that there are few enough openings that the program can be selective. I`d say, as a generalization, screeners here 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 number of screeners requisite for staffing all of the US airports precludes the TSA from exclusively employing screeners with the ability to make "judgment calls". There just aren`t enough smart people with the desire to work a screener`s job in the US.

Of course, that`s exactly why computerized profiling is more necessary in the U.S.

Bush`s Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta crusaded in 2001 (and after!) to drive ethnicity and religion out of the computerized profiling systems, and to make sure that airport personnel weren`t even unconsciously more suspicious of Arabs and Muslims.

We`d be safer if we just went back to how the Clinton Administration did it: include "Arab" and "Muslim" in the profiles.

.... In the end, the system here relies on quality manpower, trained to employ their judgment of whether or not a given person constitutes a risk. In the US, "subjective" is merely a synonym for "pending lawsuit".
It also helps that Israel self-consciously exists for the benefit of the majority, while in the U.S. over the last 50 years, the tendency has been to automatically suspect the majority.

Reader Thomas comments:

Of course we don`t look at the person. The belief that one person is somehow any different from any other person is the gravest sin in our civic religion.