How to Design Impenetrable Airport Security

How to Design Impenetrable Airport Security


This video was made possible by Blue Apron. The first 100 people to sign up at the link
in the description will get $50 off their first two weeks of Blue Apron. In 2015, a bombshell report came out detailing
how the TSA, the agency responsible for airport security in the US, missed 95% of drugs, explosives,
weapons, and other prohibited items sent through their scanners in a test. In 2016, the test was repeated with the same
result. The following year, 2017, the test was repeated
again with an improved success rate, but still, it let 70% of prohibited items through. In fact, within the US, there’s no evidence
that the TSA has ever prevented a terrorist attack and outside the US, there are very
few examples of physical airport security thwarting an attack. Airport security slows people down, increases
cost, and yet does little to actually improve safety so it’s safe to say that airport
security is broken, but why? Since the purpose of aviation is to get from
one place to another, it’s tough for a single country to regulate the industry. Instead, the International Civil Aviation
Organization, a United Nations agency, does. All but two UN member countries, Liechtenstein
and Dominica, are part of the ICAO so its regulations are more or less universal. They’re the ones responsible for making
sure that air transport works the same way all around the world, but what they require
for airport security is rather inconcrete. They simply say, “measures need to be established
to prevent weapons, explosives or any other dangerous devices, articles or substances,
which may be used to commit an act of unlawful interference, the carriage and bearing of
which is not authorized, from being introduced, by any means whatsoever, on board an aircraft
engaged in civil aviation.” Essentially, all they require is that before
a passenger gets onboard a plane, the airport assures they don’t have weapons. While the ICAO does determine whether this
requirement has been fulfilled, it’s up to each country to decide how they achieve
that. In the US, airport security works like this. After check-in, a passenger first goes to
have their documents checked, puts their bags through an x-ray scanner, and walks through
either a metal detector or millimeter wave scanner. There are potentially additional steps such
as a pat-down or explosives residue test for some, but these three steps are how the process
works for most. It is though, important to note that, if you
so choose, you can skip the metal detector or millimeter wave scanner step of the process
and receive a pat-down instead. This is fully compliant with ICAO regulations
since it does effectively screen an individual for weapons. In fact, an airport could hypothetically be
compliant with ICAO regulations only by conducting physical bag-searches and pat-downs since
this does screen for weapons even if this would be slow, invasive, and unpopular. Some small airports actually do this for bags—they
physically search them instead of passing them through an x-ray. The words “security theater” are thrown
around a lot in regards to US airport security. This term is used pejoratively—it means
that the TSA’s function is only to make airports look secure, but here’s the thing—on
paper, the TSA has done its job. There has not been a single death on a flight
leaving from a US airport since 9/11 as a result of terrorism. In fact, in the same time period, there has
not even been a single attempted terrorist attack on a flight leaving from a US airport—all
have been on flights originating from abroad. So maybe the TSA is doing its function. Maybe the mere threat of being caught has
been enough to thwart terrorists or maybe terrorists have moved on from attacking airplanes. The US is certainly a prime target for terrorism,
but there are more controversial nations. Israeli airport security is considered to
be the best in the world. Despite being situated in one of the most
politically contentious countries in the world, no airplane leaving from Tel Aviv’s Ben
Gurion airport has ever been hijacked or bombed. It’s been attempted, but this airport’s
security is simply nearly impenetrable. What’s most fascinating is that this airport
is hardly using any super-advanced technology—they use the exact same metal detectors as the
US and Europe—but they’ve focused on the human factor. Israel has come to realize that its unfortunately
easy to get weapons through airport security. Plastic explosives, non-metallic knives, and
blunt weapons are just tough to detect so rather than focusing on the weapons that could
be used for an attack, they focus on the people who could use them. At Ben Gurion airport, security starts before
passengers even get to the airport. Cars pass through a security checkpoint a
mile away from the airport entrance where guards inspect cars and look for any suspicious
looking individuals. The minute passengers arrive at the airport,
they’re being watched already. Highly trained plainclothes officers roam
around in the check-in area again searching for individuals acting abnormally or nervous. Then, before passengers are even allowed to
check-in, there’s the interview. Anyone who’s passed through Ben Gurion airport
knows how intense this interview is but its likely the single greatest factor leading
to the safety of Israeli airports. Passengers are first asked standard questions
like what their jobs are, why they came to Israel, how long they stayed for, if they
packed their own bags and all the while, the security agent watches the passengers face
for reactions. They’ll also probe deeper—asking why the
passenger has been to various countries stamped in their passport. They’ll then ask oddly specific questions—which
school they went to, when they last moved, what kind of car they have. These are all to see if the passenger is being
honest about who they are. If the security officer senses hesitation
or finds a hole in their story, they could deem the passenger a higher risk. Once passengers have completed their interview,
a barcode is placed on the back of their passport that starts with a number from one to six. If it starts with a one, the passenger is
deemed a very low risk—this is almost only given to Israeli citizens—while if it starts
with six, the passenger is deemed a very high risk and will be subjected to extremely thorough
screening. While a lot of the risk determination has
to do with the interview, profiling also plays into it. According to the Israeli security system,
passengers are deemed higher risk if they are male, if they are traveling alone, if
they are young, and most of all, if they are Arab. Israel unapologetically uses racial profiling
in their risk assessment which has led to international condemnation. Israel, meanwhile, argues that this technique
is effective. After all, the country has recently been at
war with many of its Arabian neighbors. At the same time, though, its almost impossible
for an Arab traveller to pass through Ben Gurion airport without getting deemed a number
six security risk. Western non-Israeli individuals are also generally
considered to be a higher security risk typically receiving a four or a five. After the interview, passengers are finally
allowed to check-in. Their checked bags are put through a standard
x-ray and then are placed in a pressure chamber. The chamber’s pressure is lowered to the
level of a pressurized aircraft, about the equivalent of six to eight thousand feet of
altitude to set off any explosives designed to trigger when a plane’s cabin pressure
is lower at cruising altitude. Meanwhile, the passenger passes through a
standard x-ray or body scanner. For the majority of passengers, this physical
screening process is exactly the same as it would be in North America, Europe, or Asia—they
just walk through the scanners and grab their bags. Those deemed a higher security risk—above
three or four—likely would have their bags manually searched and then the highest risk
individuals—five or sixes—are often taken aside for another round of questioning and
a pat-down. The security doesn’t even stop once passengers
board the plane. Like the US, Israel has a system of air marshals—armed
security guards on planes—but unlike the US, at least in the case of El Al, Israel’s
national airline, there are air marshals on every single flight. They sit among the passengers, often near
any that were identified at the airport as high risk, and they have alert buttons that
communicate with the pilots in case of an attempted hijacking. If the marshals press this button, an alarm
will go off in the cockpit and the pilots will often send the plane into a dive to knock
the hijacker off their feet. This technique has successfully prevented
terror attacks in the past. These air marshals secure the plane from the
inside, but another system protects the outside. El Al’s planes are installed with thermal
flares that deploy when a radar detects an incoming missile. Thermal guided missiles will then target the
flares instead of the plane. El Al and the other Israeli airlines also
stay secure by having security officers at their destination airports. For departing passengers to Israel, they repeat
much of same security process as at Ben Gurion Airport—conducting interviews, profiling,
and assessing the risk of each passenger. At many foreign airports, these agents also
physically screen luggage before handing it off to the regular airport security. El Al, despite being the flag carrier of one
of the most controversial nations in the world, had its last and only hijacking in 1968 and
even this incident resulted in zero deaths. It and the Ben Gurion airport are testaments
to the fact that truly secure security is theoretically possible, but is it possible
worldwide? Here’s the thing about Tel Aviv’s airport—its
not that big. 20 million passengers pass through it each
year making it only as busy as San Diego or Berlin airport. These are not small airports, but they’re
not on the same scale as the world’s largest like JFK, Heathrow, or Dubai. It’s tough to determine if a system like
what Israel has implemented could scale up to be used universally. What’s sure is that certain elements of
the Israeli system would not work—most countries could not justify a system that relies so
heavily on racial profiling. In many countries and US states, practices
such as this are simply illegal, but still, airports and countries around the world are
watching Israeli security methods closely. The US has already implemented a system of
security interviews for many international flights to the US however these are generally
conducted by less trained contract workers. Brussels airport, after its terrorist bombing
in 2016, now positions officers trained in behavioral detection at its entrances. Plenty of other airports have sent delegates
to Ben Gurion airport to evaluate their security techniques as well and have quietly made changes
to closer emulate Israel. But few ever stop to question if we even want
an increase in airport security. If it comes at the expense of time, maybe
we don’t. As mentioned, the US has not had a successful
terror attack on an airplane since 9/11. Worldwide, airplane hijackings are now almost
nonexistent, but security has a consequence. In the most direct way, tickets for every
single flight leaving from a US airport include a $5.60 fee that goes towards paying for security. This may n ot be much in the scope of a multi-hundred
dollar flight to Europe or Asia, but if the US ever wants to get to the point where Europe
is of having $10 or $20 budget airline tickets between domestic destinations, this fee has
to go. A study found that the TSA’s average cost
per life saved—how much money it spends to stop one human death—is $667 million. You can certainly say that you can’t put
a price on a human life, but the security that saves these lives costs lives. The plane is empirically the safest way to
travel—its hundreds or thousands of times safer than driving—so stopping people from
flying is in and of itself deadly. Economists found that the increase in airport
security in the US post 9/11 can account for 6% of the decline in air travel. Given that, in 2002, more than 500 people
died because, as a result of longer security times and more extensive searches, they chose
to drive over fly and were involved in a fatal accident. Flying being easy helps everyone—it lets
people travel faster and it helps airlines as businesses, just as long as it doesn’t
result in a decrease in safety. In Israel, passengers arrive three hours before
their flights just to clear security which means plane travel is inefficient while in
some places in Europe, airports encourage travelers to arrive a mere hour before their
flight. The goal is to keep security fast, efficient,
but also secure. No country or airport has the perfect system
but to achieve this, one likely needs to combine elements of the strictest security systems
with those of the fastest. Israel can get away with invasive, unethical,
yet effective security measures because they need to. They are a country seemingly constantly at
war. Many other areas of the world just aren’t
big targets for terrorists, though. Its hard to know whether or not security measures
are effective. There’s no control group of developed countries
that don’t have airport security to compare to. The most effective security systems stop attacks
by the mere threat of consequences rather than through physical screening so maybe airport
security works. In the US and Europe and Asia and all the
other developed, safe areas of the world, one must therefore ask whether airport security
is actually saving lives or ending them. If you’ve been watching this channel for
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18 thoughts on “How to Design Impenetrable Airport Security

  1. I hope you enjoy this new video! If you didn't see already, I started a personal channel and the good news is that the second every video on there goes up Thursday and it features Mike Boyd so go subscribe to that here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDA1X6RrhzZQOHOGvC3KsWg

  2. Fuck Israel and their racism, of course they’re going to racially profile arabs maybe its because Israel decided to just kick them out.

  3. Lol some people from certain societies don't have to normally declare private information, imagine the wires crossed when asked "Do you have family in Thailand?" – "Erm actually I don't need to declare that information to you, based on my own state's blah blah blah"

    Response: "Okay then. (walks off to supervisor) give them a 6, this person doesn't comply with us, they are a potential threat"

  4. I'm not sure why racially profiling is such a big deal…its efficient. The quaran tells muslims to kill infidels . So guess what, they get special attention!

  5. A good country with good people in good standing and not terrorists wouldn't need all this security and force to legitimize its existence. Terrorist is a terrorist even more so.

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