How the Israeli airline does security

The Israeli airline El Al, though an obvious target, has never had a terrorist bring one of their planes down. What is their secret? Not heavy-handed intrusive searches. Not ethnic profiling. Not at all what you might expect. According to this interview on CNN, it’s much simpler than that:

Isaac Yeffet, the former head of security for El Al and now an aviation security consultant in New York, said El Al has prevented terrorism in the air by making sure every passenger is interviewed by a well-trained agent before check-in.

“Stop relying only on technology,” Yeffet told CNN. “Technology can help the qualified, well-trained human being but cannot replace him.”

Read the rest of the interview. Mr. Yeffet tells how they train their security people, how they have to have specific qualifications and expertise, and how just by talking to each passenger they are able to spot those who might be problems. This is in contrast to our American insistence on finding a technological fix for everything.

HT: Webmonk

The jihadi elite

Anne Applebaum notes that the terrorists we are seeing lately are from the upper crust.  She discusses the widow of the suicide bomber who killed the CIA agents in Afghanistan, a woman who is a well-known author in the Arab world, having written, among other things,  a book comparing Osama bin Laden to Che Guevara:

Bayrak is a shining example of what might be called the international jihadi elite: She is educated, eloquent, has connections across the Islamic world — Istanbul, Amman, Peshawar — yet is not exactly part of the global economy. She shares these traits not only with her husband — a doctor who was the son of middle-class, English-speaking Jordanians — but also with others featured recently in the news. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, for example, grew up in a wealthy Nigerian family and studied at University College London before trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas Day. Ahmed Saeed Omar Sheikh (“Sheikh Omar”) was born in Britain and studied at elite high schools there and in Pakistan and dropped out of the London School of Economics before murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan was born in Arlington, graduated from Virginia Tech and did his psychiatric residency at Walter Reed before killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

These people are not the wretched of the Earth. Nor do they have much in common, sociologically speaking, with the illiterate warlords of Waziristan. They haven't emerged from repressive Islamic societies such as Iran, or been forced to live under extreme forms of sharia law, as in Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, they are children of ambitious, “Westernized” parents who sacrificed for their education — though they are often people who, for one reason or another, didn't “make it,” or didn't feel comfortable, in their respective societies. Perhaps it sounds strange, but they remind me of the early Bolsheviks, who were also educated, multinational and ambitious, and who also often lacked the social cachet to be successful. Lenin's family, for example, clung desperately to its status on the lowest rung of the czarist aristocracy.

With that bin Laden and Che association and the Bolshevik comparison, could radical Islam be the new Communism? That is to say, a revolutionary ideology to challenge that of Western democracy?

via Anne Applebaum – We need a smarter way to fight the jihadi elite –

Al-Qaeda’s new strategy

Counter-terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman has a fascinating op-ed piece, Al-Qaeda has a new strategy. Obama needs one, too. –  Here is a summation of that strategy, which Hoffman explores in detail:   Overwhelm. Divide. Bankrupt. Spread. Diversify.

The terrorists have certainly succeeded in dividing us, both from our allies and from each other.  Al-Qaeda is trying to take credit for our current financial woes, which is ridiculous, but the direct and the indirect costs of the war on terrorism are not helping. And it is certainly overwhelming  the way the terrorists keep shifting their bases of operations and attacking us in so many different ways.

Any ideas?

Special airport security for passengers from terror-prone nations

Airport security is finally narrowing down the passengers who will get special scrutiny. Passengers from 14 nations will all get pat-downs and luggage searches: “Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen are on the list as countries of interest. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are listed because they have long been identified as "state sponsors of terrorism" by the United States, NBC reported.”

But some international airports–both of some of the singled-out countries and the major airports of Europe–are refusing to implement the new measures.

Incoherent terrorism policy

Charles Krauthammer says that President Obama and his administration are confused and inconsistent when it comes to dealing with terrorism:

The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration's response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism "man-caused disasters." Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York — a trifecta of political correctness and image management.

And just to make sure even the dimmest understand, Obama banishes the term "war on terror." It's over — that is, if it ever existed.

Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term "asymmetric warfare."

And produces linguistic — and logical — oddities that littered Obama's public pronouncements following the Christmas Day attack. In his first statement, Obama referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as "an isolated extremist." This is the same president who, after the Fort Hood, Tex., shooting, warned us "against jumping to conclusions" — code for daring to associate the mass murder there with Nidal Hasan's Islamist ideology. Yet, with Abdulmutallab, Obama jumped immediately to the conclusion, against all existing evidence, that the would-be bomber acted alone.

More jarring still were Obama's references to the terrorist as a "suspect" who "allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device." You can hear the echo of FDR: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — Japanese naval and air force suspects allegedly bombed Pearl Harbor."

Obama reassured the nation that this "suspect" had been charged. Reassurance? The president should be saying: We have captured an enemy combatant — an illegal combatant under the laws of war: no uniform, direct attack on civilians — and now to prevent future attacks, he is being interrogated regarding information he may have about al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Instead, Abdulmutallab is dispatched to some Detroit-area jail and immediately lawyered up. At which point — surprise! — he stops talking.

This absurdity renders hollow Obama's declaration that "we will not rest until we find all who were involved." Once we've given Abdulmutallab the right to remain silent, we have gratuitously forfeited our right to find out from him precisely who else was involved, namely those who trained, instructed, armed and sent him.

This is all quite mad even in Obama's terms. He sends 30,000 troops to fight terror overseas, yet if any terrorists come to attack us here, they are magically transformed from enemy into defendant.

The logic is perverse. If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator — no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation.

“Lawyered up.” Good word. The point is, we need to decide whether to treat terrorists as unlawful (because they are not fighting under a lawful chain of command as soldiers of a nation do) enemy combatants or as criminals. If the former, they can be interrogated (which does NOT have to include torture) and indefinitely detained. If the latter, they have the right to remain silent! Nor may they or their camps be searched or their communications tapped without a warrant. Nor should they be subject to use of force when they are not in the process of committing a crime, as in having Hellfire missiles from a drone strike their camps. Instead, they would need to face extradition. We are trying to have it both ways at different times.

UPDATE: The administration has confirmed that it will try the Underwear Bomber in federal court. The president’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said that although he is now exercising his right to remain silent, we can still extract information from him by plea bargaining. Which means that the more he talks, the more he gets off!