Monday, December 19, 2011

Is Security "Profiling" Discrimination?

Yesterday, before leaving home, I was watching BBC (if I'm not mistaken or one of the few news channels we receive via our "dish,")  and they were showing a panel debating the effectiveness and morality of security "profiling" in airports.  To make it "interesting" for the viewers, they had a Moslem woman in favor and a sibling of a terror victim against.

The Israeli system was mentioned, though superficially and inaccurately.  The key to the Israeli system is less the solely "racial" and "national" profiling than the pre-security interview.  This extremely important aspect of Israel's air-security method wasn't mentioned while I was watching the program.  The program's security expert made light of Israel's methods by saying that we only have a few dozen flights a day while the United States has tens of thousands.  He purposely distorted the fact that air security in the United States is different airport to airport.  That's why I endured a public "pat-down" in Phoenix but not in JFK.  I had traveled in the same skirt from Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, NY's JFK and Phoenix, but only the Phoenix security considered me a potential danger.

Passengers traveling from Israel's airport are interviewed when first waiting on line with all their luggage.  A security inspector asks for passport and ticket and begins asking very innocuous questions.  From the answers and the passenger's passport, nationality/race, manner of dress etc. the inspector must make a decision.  Does this person warrant further inspection or not.  Of course, a key to this method is having a security staff of multi-linguists who themselves have passed all types of security checks.  That's where the Americans would have a problem.  Outside of major metropolitan locations, it would be very difficult to find enough qualified people.

Another subject I didn't hear was the total waste of time when using "random checks."  It's like throwing letters up in the air and expecting them to land in in order that would give you properly spelled words and grammatical sentences.

The anti-profiling people on the panel refused to reply to the statistics stated that a very large number of terrorists are young adult Moslems, and countries that do racial/cultural profiling suffer less airport terrorism. 

If you have to choose between profiling and random checks, it's a no-brainer.  Random checks are a waste of time and money.  And profiling alone is insufficient.  The Israeli method is much more complex.

I work in Yafiz, a large clothing store Sha'ar Binyamin, and a sizable percentage of our customers are Arabs.  As in any store in the world, part of my job is preventing shoplifting.  Shoplifters can come from any national or religious group.  I approach everyone smiling asking how I can help.  Most smile back and tell me what they're looking for.  There are always those who seem afraid and quickly scamper away.  My gut feeling is that some of them had been casing the joint to see if they're sufficiently ignored in order to steal from us.

All of these security methods are important, crucial for everyone's safety.  The more one works in the field, the better your antennae get to sense who needs more "attention."  Yes, that's "profiling."  You can't get away from it, no matter how "immoral" some people may think it. Cut out the ideology and get real.

In the following video I saw on facebook; "Candid Camera" style, they have an Israeli woman (her accent is very Tel Aviv, not Arab at all) dressed as an Arab and refused service at a gas station kiyosk.  (Please ignore the awful English spelling.)  Watch how Israelis deal with it.


Hadassa said...

Within the past year or so the New York Times had an article and a forum topic on this subject. Most of the comments on the forum mentioned the Israeli system and were very supportive of it. I'll look for a link, if it's still available.

Batya said...