Rand Paul's TSA moment: airport patdowns around the world
Sen. Rand Paul says US airport security officials are invasive without being effective. How are air passengers treated in other countries?
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Israel has reason to be cautious, of course. Numerous terrorist groups within the region, and even a few countries, have made it part of their mission statement to wipe Israel off the face of the planet. Israeli security may be repressive, but it is effective. The last hijacking of Israel’s state airline, El Al, occurred in July 1969; the last successful airline related attack was in 1986, when a bomb-laden suitcase exploded at the airport terminal, injuring 13.Skip to next paragraph
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In Britain, airports follow many of the same security measures that US airport security personnel use, mostly because Britain is a major transit route for air traveling leaving from and entering the US. As a result, British airports require passengers to place all metal items in a tray for scanning; remove all liquids more than 100 milliliters; remove laptops from briefcases for scanning; remove shoes and belts; and require all pre-flight passenger information to be passed along to US airport security officials.
This has started to become a little annoying, British airport officials say, and it doesn’t do much to deter terrorists.
"It is clear that the terrorist is not deterred from planning and carrying out these types of attack,” Ian Hutcheson, British Airport Authority’s head of security, was quoted as saying by the Guardian. “This is partly due to the fact that some of the things we do are predictable and our challenge now is to identify different ways of delivering security."
European airports, by contrast, rely on national militaries and private security companies to maintain security. Countries such as France and Spain, which have had lengthy experience with violent terrorist groups, focus on extensive ID checks and screenings to sort through possible terrorist threats on airlines, and rather less on pat-downs.
As a reporter traveling throughout Africa and South Asia over the past decade, I found there was often an inverse relationship between airport security methods and the actual conditions of risk. There was no pat-down for my flight from Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif, for instance, during a trip to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Security was a be-turbaned Taliban fighter with a Kalashnikov, sitting in aisle 10. (He did not wear a seatbelt, but given the age of the Russian-made aircraft, it’s possible that he didn’t have one.)
It probably bears mentioning that the people charged with keeping US airports safe are among the poorest paid of all US federal employees, with an entry level salary starting at about $25,000 a year. If they appear to be grumpy, there might be a reason.
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