How Safe Is Your Airport?

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Airport security is severely lacking in many locations around the world, and yesterday’s attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport showed how vulnerable Europe’s third airport was.

Europe’s public airports areas are relatively open compared with some facilities in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia where travelers and their documents are checked before they even enter the airport building.

After an Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) attack at Brussel’s Zaventem Airport which, along with an almost simultaneous attack on a rush-hour metro station, killed close to 30 people and wounded at least 271, an Israeli airport security expert spoke to the press about what could be done to beef up security.

"If you provide a system of security circles, your ability to locate a passenger that is supposed to be suspicious is six kilometers before he entered the terminal building," said Pini Schiff, the head of security chief at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel’s international airport located close to Tel Aviv. Shiff is currently the CEO of the Israel Security Association, a company which provides security services for more than 105 companies and government offices around Israel.

Shiff was referring to the checking of every driver, car and passenger kilometers before they reach the terminal building, a procedure in force at Ben-Gurion but not done in any other airport in the world. This is what Shiff calls the first circle.

The second circle consists of security personnel and technological equipment used to check all persons entering the terminal building.

The third circle is passenger profiling, a potentially life-saving procedure that is ostensibly outlawed in the United States and many other Western countries where it is considered politically incorrect.

Profiling does not necessarily mean racial profiling, but covers a variety of metrics including nervousness, unusual or incongruent dress, etc.

"The basic conclusion is that 99.9 percent of the passengers are not terrorists therefore, you have to define among the 100 percent of the passengers, the one who is the terrorist — meaning that putting energy, manpower, time [and] technology checking all the passengers is a waste of time and a waste of energy. This is the basic logic that stands behind the profile system," Shiff said.   

Passengers at Ben-Gurion report that they feel safer at the Israeli airport than at European facilities.  

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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