January 5, 2010

Israeli security v. disparate impact

A person writes:

The Israeli security model is (as noted in the article) more about the passenger than their baggage. This approach is both effective, time-consuming, and "racist": the profilers have a conversation with each passenger; as I'm an Israeli Jew, I always get the abbreviated treatment -- focusing more on where my bags have been since I've packed them. As a foreigner, you get a much more in-depth grilling. As a Muslim? They want to know your shoe size, and then a whole 'nother screener comes over and asks you everything all over again, just to see that you keep your story straight. Like they say in the article, the conversations they have are not so much about what you say as how you say it. The screeners are taught to iterate a few levels deep into your story and see that it doesn't break down under scrutiny.

Naturally, this process supposes that A) the threat is foreign and mostly limited to one ethnic/religious group, and B) screeners have this sort of time.

In the US, racial profiling is... unpalatable, and if each passenger / family got even a perfunctory 1-minute Q&A session with a TSA security officer, the system would crash. The US is dealing with a larger threat profile, and a whole different order-of-magnitude of traffic.

A lot more domestic travel in the U.S., whereas a high percentage of flights out of Ben Gurion are international, which can afford higher quality security people.

2. The security screener's job: manpower, training, history

Normally these are intelligent men and women, usually students or twentysomethings, who pass a series of exams and then pass a several-month course. The hours are craptastic but the pay is decent, and a lot of students prefer it to shiftwork or waitressing. Passing the course is difficult but not arduous, and in the end you are really being taught guidelines on interrogation and then set loose to use your judgment -- if you have a red flag to raise, then you just call over a senior screener who has more years of experience.

The reality is that there are few enough openings that the program can be selective. I'd say, as a generalization, screeners here possess above-average intelligence, whereas your average TSA screener seems to be a working stiff, blindly following some not-too-complex screening algorithm in a three-ring binder. The number of screeners requisite for staffing all of the US airports precludes the TSA from exclusively employing screeners with the ability to make "judgment calls". There just aren't enough smart people with the desire to work a screener's job in the US.

Of course, that's exactly why computerized profiling is more necessary in the U.S.

Bush's Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta crusaded in 2001 (and after!) to drive ethnicity and religion out of the computerized profiling systems, and to make sure that airport personnel weren't even unconsciously more suspicious of Arabs and Muslims.

We'd be safer if we just went back to how the Clinton Administration did it: include "Arab" and "Muslim" in the profiles.

.... In the end, the system here relies on quality manpower, trained to employ their judgment of whether or not a given person constitutes a risk. In the US, "subjective" is merely a synonym for "pending lawsuit".

It also helps that Israel self-consciously exists for the benefit of the majority, while in the U.S. over the last 50 years, the tendency has been to automatically suspect the majority.

Reader Thomas comments:
Of course we don't look at the person. The belief that one person is somehow any different from any other person is the gravest sin in our civic religion.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

33 comments:

Dubei's class said...

Mineta's apparently ridiculous decision highlights how each person's 'objective' sense of right and wrong is colored by his sense of racial or ethnic history. Mineta might thought otherwise had it not been for the mass imprisonment of Japanese-Americans.

Anonymous said...

"The number of screeners requisite for staffing all of the US airports precludes the TSA from exclusively employing screeners with the ability to make 'judgment calls'."

Why is this obvious? Twenty U.S. airports handle as many or more passengers than Ben Gurion, but the U.S. has 40 times Israel's population. It's not obvious that the ratio of people-savvy potential screeners and passengers needing screening is vastly different.

"There just aren't enough smart people with the desire to work a screener's job in the US."

This is a reworking of the cliche about low-skill immigrants, "doing the jobs Americans won't do". In both cases there's a suppressed rider: "...at the wages offered."

If skilled airport-security jobs paid 20 or 25 bucks an hour, you'd have no trouble staffing them with intelligent people of the right sort.*

*By which I mean, not people like me. Though fairly intelligent, I would be hopeless at this.

Anonymous said...

But I thought diversity was "our" strength? (sarcasm off).

Harry Baldwin said...

President Obama says that the 12.25.09 incident represents a "failure to connect the dots."

Isn't teaching people to fail to connect the dots the great ongoing sociological project in today's America?

TomG said...

Profiling? That's all we ever do as humans - looking for mates, friends, and even a comfortable work environment. And if we're trying to find probably terrorists, the least likely folk we're going to pay attention to in a crowd are those we know on average don't fit the profile. To minimize the effects of such, they can do some occasional random sampling - but the concentration will be on those that most approximate the attributes sought. As Wm F Buckley once described as an a propos scenario - would you feel/react differently if walking down a sidewalk one evening and seeing a youth gang vs. a group of churchwomen approaching (something to that effect)? Which would make you cross the street even? Case rested. Cheers, Tom

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that Steve is reading Hacker news. Can we expect his views on Erlang versus Haskell too?

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the "checking" of elderly, wheelchair bound travelers was done just to put on a show for everybody else, to demonstrate to all how fair and evenhanded we are. But the real focus would be on the more likely types, they just don't want to make it apparent. It's PR, the USA promotes itself as the leading nation, and as such can't be seen to be oppressive towards any one group. Reality, of course, always lurks behind these facades.

pingpong said...

Reader Thomas comments:

Of course we don't look at the person. The belief that one person is somehow any different from any other person is the gravest sin in our civic religion.


And guess who are the uber-enforcers of that color-blindness? Yeah, the very ones who cannot give a shit about being uber-racist in their own country.

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen, Israel racially profiles non-Muslim white people as well as Muslims. We should return the favor.

shawnee said...

AMERICA,

a nation that inspects old white ladies as possible terrorists...

but shall--under Obamacare-- profile and set aside old folks as unworthy of deserving medical treatment. What a country!

headache said...

One of the reasons I am no longer interested in travelling to Israel is this very screening. Makes you feel like a criminal and is humiliating. And then you are supposed to willingly spend your money in an expensive country which basically disdains all foreigners. Israel just sucks so badly for tourists.

Steve Johnson said...

Steve,

You're missing (or choosing not to point out) a second dimension to this story that is one of your major themes. Even if it wanted to the TSA has no way to actually hire people competent enough to run the Israeli system. Hard to hire exclusively competent staff in a large organization if you cannot use standardized testing.

Testing candidates is also forbidden because of what testing would show. Ahh, the perfect storm of PC induced incompetence.

Sam said...

The answer is to completely privatize all airport security, and the airports should be able to screen as they see fit. The principles of supply and demand would take into effect. Safe airports = more demand = more money for the owners.

frizzled said...

Yes, if only we could be like Israel and legalize racism while being the most despised nation on earth.

As an alternative to this spiraling paranoia and terrorism, has anyone considered the rather cheaper step of modifying our foreign policy of subsidizing and pandering to Israel while confronting the entire Muslim world?

Perhaps a slightly less demented foreign policy might reduce the number of Muslims who are willing to die to avenge America's occupation of Muslim lands and support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians.

glass door of lincoln hall said...

Didn't we build entire housing blocs for poor urban blacks so they would live there and leave us alone?

Maybe we should build a theme park city called Satanic Infidelopolis--maybe in Southern California to take advantage of cheap Mexican labor for construction--for Muslims to visit and blow things up. There can even be amusement rides like "9/11 Sky Coaster". The airport in this city need not profile or inspect anyone. Maybe the Muslims will then leave the rest of America alone.

Anonymous said...

Woah! the comment background is like a wave. Nice uprade. Soon isteve will be as overproduced as television

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

As an alternative to this spiraling paranoia and terrorism, has anyone considered the rather cheaper step of modifying our foreign policy of subsidizing and pandering to Israel while confronting the entire Muslim world? - frizzled

Ya know, besides Whiskey and maybe Fred, not many commenters here would disagree with you that we should cut Israeli foreign aid. It's just that most of us aren't stupid enough to believe it's our relationship with Israel that earns us the enmity of Muslims worldwide. Aside from the Diversity Religion, Islam is the dumbest, most stubborn, most hateful, most ignorant, and most violent religion on the planet. There's just too much hatred there for Israel alone. They'll always find a reason to hate the United States.

airtommy said...

Great posts by Steve, but I can't help but disagree with Steve's tacit premise that we aren't racially profiling. I believe we are. That said, he's 100% right to tackle the media lunacy.

They'll always find a reason to hate the United States.

How stupid does one have to be to believe that, given the fact that they began hating us at precisely the moment we began supporting Israel, and given the fact they keep saying over and over that Israel is the main reason they hate us? It takes some serious cognitive dissonance to ignore that reality, like a liberal trying to ponder issues of race.

Anonymous said...

"And guess who are the uber-enforcers of that color-blindness? Yeah,the very ones who cannot give a shit about being uber-racist in their own country."

American Jews and Israelis are two distinct groups of people, despite what you want to believe. (And before some idiot posts something about someone with dual citizenship - yes, there is a small overlap.)

Don't blame the Israelis for the sins of the Diaspora Jews (and vice versa).

frizzled said...

@Captain Jack Aubrey

Go read up. Recommended: "The Israel Lobby" by Walt and Mearsheimer. Then go read up on what researchers like Scott Atran have found about terrorists - they're educated and politically motivated.

Or even (shock!) talk to some Muslims. There's a reason people like Abdulmuttab and Richard Reid were prepared to die. Political grievances.

Gee, what if we weren't pandering to Israel all the time?

Here's what Richard Reid had to say in 2002. Gee, is he pissed at US foreign policy? Nah, couldn't be...

"REID: I further admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah. With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed 2 million children in Iraq. If you want to think about something, against 2 million, I don't see no comparison.

"Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. I don't know, see what I done as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of the two million children in Iraq.

"So, for this reason, I think I ought not apologize for my actions. I am at war with your country. I'm at war with them not for personal reasons but because they have murdered more than, so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah.

"This is the only reason that America sponsors Egypt. It's the only reason they sponsor Turkey. It's the only reason they back Israel."

Judge Young then instantly grasped Reid's point: Reid really hates freedom! I mean, isn't it obvious? What else could it be?

"It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom."

And here's what Osama bin Laden had to say in 2007. As you can see, bin Laden's motivation is entirely about religion. Nothing to do with foreign policy at all!

"American people: This address to you is a reminder of the causes of 11 (September) and the wars and consequences that followed and the way to settle it once and for all. I mention in particular the families of those who were hurt in these events and who have recently called for opening an investigation to know its causes. This is a first and important step in the right direction among many other steps that have deliberately gone in the wrong direction over eight barren years that you have experienced.

"The entire American people should follow suit, as the delay in knowing those reasons has cost you a lot without any noteworthy benefit.

"If the White House administration, which is one of the two parties to the dispute, has made it clear to you in the past years that war was necessary to maintain your security, then wise persons should be eager to listen to the two parties to the dispute to know the truth, so listen to what I am going to say.

"At the beginning, I say that we have made it clear and stated so many times for over two decades that the cause of the quarrel with you is your support for your Israeli allies, who have occupied our land, Palestine. This position of yours, along with some other grievances, is what prompted us to carry out the 11 September events. Had you known the magnitude of our suffering as a result of the injustice of the Jews against us, with the support of your administrations for them, you would have known that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House, which is in fact a hostage in the hands of pressure groups, especially major corporations and the Israeli lobby."

Anonymous said...

"The answer is to completely privatize all airport security, and the airports should be able to screen as they see fit. The principles of supply and demand would take into effect. Safe airports = more demand = more money for the owners."

As much as I love this idea and understand how it could work, nothing is ever fully "private" in the U.S. The Liberal religion doesn't believe in full privatization; every aspect of American life must be ruled by the Holy Liberal politically correct religion, of which "discrimination" and noticing patterns are the gravest of sins. When you consider our religiously inspired anti-discrimination laws, not to mention the Muslims and civil rights organizations who will sue companies that profile them, airline/airport companies will be shut down in a heart-beat if they actively and openly profiled Muslim travelers.

I do believe more people will wake up. Unfortunately, it will probably require the nuking of an American city by Muslim extremists before the government says "maybe profiling isn't such a bad idea after all".

jody said...

of course, norman mineta was a total idiot in more ways than one.

as a japanese man, he was ultra paranoid about how the US federal government had treated various groups in the past, to the point that he would rather muslim terrorists be allowed to travel freely inside the US, than use the same tactics on muslims that the american national government had used on japanese people.

except, the US government WAS CORRECT to inter japanese people living in the US around the year 1940. this policy probably DID prevent a few japanese spies from operating during a war.

today, we are supposed to react with histrionic revulsion at that idea - YET WE CATCH MORE THAN ONE CHINESE SPY EVERY YEAR!

how this fact gets left out of every discuss boggles my mind. chinese spies are coming to the united states on a regular basis. today. right now. in 2010. stealing industrial and military secrets.

Whiskey said...

Frizzled, the Pope (years ago when he was a Cardinal) made some obscure comments about the lack of ecumenical common ground with Muslims.

For this priests and nuns were murdered and numerous threats (real ones) against the Pope made. An obscure Danish cartoonist and his grand-daughter had to hide in a safe room while a Jihadi from Somalia who traveled there explicitly to kill him attacked the room with an axe (and was shot by responding police). An obscure Dutch film-maker, a descendant of Vincent Van Goh, was shot and nearly decapitated by an outraged Muslim. Theo Van Goh did not like Jews or Israel much, and that did not save him. China is one of the most anti-Israeli nations on earth with almost no Jews and THEY suffer their own Jihadist groups.

We will ALWAYS have Muslim terror, that's the consequence of globalization, technology as a commodity, and rising wealth in Islamic lands.

Tell me again why a Nigerian wants to blow up Americans over Jews in Israel but Peruvians, Mexicans, Spanish, Italian, French, and Brazilian Catholics do not want to blow up the English over the Six Counties?

Huh? [Abdulmutallab is one of 17 children, his father having two simultaneous wives in a polygamous marriage, Abdulmutallab being from the lesser, younger wife.]

Osama wants to be King of Saudi Arabia. He is much like Abdulmutallab. He could not care less about Palestinians, Jews, Israelis, or Americans. Only power. Guy blew up his mentor and sons, a co-founder of Hamas, to take over AQ. It is rumored Zawahari was the trigger man on that job. Every two bit whack job knows how Mohammed used raiding to build up an exile Army in Medina and retake Mecca. Imagine a society where Ghenghis Khan and Caesar and Jesus were all the same person. That's Islam.

Piping Hot Magma said...

"It also helps that Israel self-consciously exists for the benefit of the majority, while in the U.S. over the last 50 years, the tendency has been to automatically suspect the majority."

Steve, you really sugar coated this thought.

"Suspect the majority?" How about some brutal honesty:

"It also helps that Israel self-consciously exists for the benefit of the majority, while over the last 50 years," ...the U.S. self-consciously exists for the dispossession of the majority.

sabril said...

"And guess who are the uber-enforcers of that color-blindness? Yeah, the very ones who cannot give a shit about being uber-racist in their own country."

Please give me three examples of these uber-racist uber-enforcers you speak of.

sabril said...

"Testing candidates is also forbidden because of what testing would show. Ahh, the perfect storm of PC induced incompetence."

I agree, and it's actually worse than that because even competent screeners would be afraid of appearing racist.

What if you are a screener and 9 out of 10 passengers you flag for extra scrutiny are young Muslim men?

.

dearieme said...

"Tell me again why a Nigerian wants to blow up Americans over Jews in Israel but Peruvians, Mexicans, Spanish, Italian, French, and Brazilian Catholics do not want to blow up the English over the Six Counties?" How wise of you to omit American Catholics from your list.

J said...

Steve seems to be unaware the security checking that foreigners undergo when asking for an American visa or trying to enter the United States. I am not talking about that you (the USA) demand about 300 dollar payment for the application. Why is so expensive? Second, they make you stand in queau for an hour, while you are filmed and analysed. Then you have a personal interview: why you want to go to America, and so on, while you are filmed from several angles. I happened to be interviewed by an African American lady in the Tel Aviv Consulate in the Hayarkon street, and she was sitting behind a heavy thick anti-aircraft glass window, acting polite and professionally. American security people are heavily protected and they never ever descend to the cattle (sorry, foreigners) floor as Israeli security people does. I tend to believe that Americans know what they are doing, and it is a fact that no fat, old Jewish farts like myself succeeded in infiltrating the American security system to blow themselves up in a plane. They must have been all caught before.

Bonnie said...

China is one of the most anti-Israeli nations on earth with almost no Jews and THEY suffer their own Jihadist groups.

Why? Because China doesn't send 10 million dollars a day to Israel?

More accurately, they suffer their own ethnonationalist groups in their western regions because they're ruling over foreign territories and peoples that aren't their own.

Whiskey, if you want people to be sympathetic to Jews and Israel, either stop commenting altogether or tone down the blatant dissembling. Each comment of yours really tries the patience of people who are genuinely favorable to Israel/Jews and chips away at their reserve of favorable feelings.

David said...

> Please give me three examples of these uber-racist uber-enforcers you speak of. <

Alan Dershowitz and any two of his fans.

David said...

sabril said

> What if you are a screener and 9 out of 10 passengers you flag for extra scrutiny are young Muslim men? <

Ha ha! The answer is you won't be a screener for long. Or as you point out, you wouldn't even get as far as being hired; they would screen you out more rigorously than they scrutinize passengers.

David said...

airtommy said

> I can't help but disagree with Steve's tacit premise that we aren't racially profiling. I believe we are. <

Hope springs eternal.

Meanwhile, here's some examples of our highly paid government workforce. "I am God, I'm in charge" "behaving erratically" "drug parties." Bad apples, no doubt, but their minds sound a million miles away from serious business. At LAX, mind you.

sabril said...

"Alan Dershowitz and any two of his fans."

Here's an apparent quote from Dershowitz:

"We know that all al Qaeda members, and certainly all al Qaeda suicide bombers, are Muslims. It is foolish, therefore, to misallocate our resources in the fight against suicide bombers by devoting equal attention to interrogating an 80-year-old Christian woman from Maine and a 22-year-old Muslim man from Saudi Arabia"