Security Theater Now Playing at Your Airport – by Daniel Pipes


As hands are wrung in the aftermath of the near-tragedy on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit, a conversation from London’s Heathrow airport in 1986 comes to mind.

Nizar al-Hindawi and Ann-Marie Murphy.

It consisted of an El Al security agent quizzing one Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, a 32-year-old recent arrival in London from Sallynoggin, Ireland. While working as a chambermaid at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane Murphy met Nizar al-Hindawi, a far-leftist Palestinian who impregnated her. After instructing her to “get rid of the thing,” he abruptly changed his tune and insisted on immediate marriage in “the Holy Land.” He also insisted on their traveling separately.

Murphy, later described by the prosecutor as a “simple, unsophisticated Irish lass and a Catholic,” accepted unquestioningly Hindawi’s arrangements for her to fly to Israel on El Al on April 17. She also accepted a wheeled suitcase with a false bottom containing nearly 2 kilograms of Semtex, a powerful plastic explosive, and she agreed to be coached by him to answer questions posed by airport security.

Murphy successfully passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection and reached the gate with her bag, where an El Al agent questioned her. As reconstructed by Neil C. Livingstone and David Halevy in Washingtonian magazine, he started by asking whether she had packed her bags herself. She replied in the negative. Then:

“What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?” Recalling Hindawi’s instructions, Murphy answered, “For a vacation.”

“Are you married, Miss Murphy?” “No.”

“Traveling alone?” “Yes.”

“Is this your first trip abroad?” “Yes.”

“Do you have relatives in Israel?” “No.”

“Are you going to meet someone in Israel?” “No.

“Has your vacation been planned for a long time?” “No.”

“Where will you stay while you’re in Israel?” “The Tel Aviv Hilton.”

“How much money do you have with you?” “Fifty pounds.” The Hilton at that time costing at least £70 a night, he asked:

“Do you have a credit card?” “Oh, yes,” she replied, showing him an i.d. for cashing checks.

That did it, and the agent sent her bag for additional inspection, where the bombing apparatus was discovered.

Had El Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria. The bombing plot came to light, in other words, through a non-technical intervention, relying on conversation, perception, common sense, and (yes) profiling. The agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry. Israeli counterterrorism takes passengers’ identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection. “In Israel, security comes first,” David Harris of the American Jewish Committee explains.

Obvious as this sounds, overconfidence, political correctness, and legal liability render such an approach impossible anywhere else in the West. In the United States, for example, one month after 9/11, the Department of Transportation issued guidelines forbidding its personnel from generalizing “about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious, or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity.” (Wear a hijab, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security.)

Worse yet, consider the panicky Mickey-Mouse, and embarrassing steps the U.S. Transportation Security Administration implemented hours after the Detroit bombing attempt: no crew announcements “concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks,” and disabling all passenger communications services. During a flight’s final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage, nor “have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap.”

Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices, and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, “A demand by one attendant that no one could read anything … elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter.”

Widely criticized for these Clouseau-like measures, TSA eventually decided to add “enhanced screening” for travelers passing through or originating from fourteen “countries of interest” – as though one’s choice of departure airport indicates a propensity for suicide bombing.

The TSA engages in “security theater” – bumbling pretend-steps that treat all passengers equally rather than risk offending anyone by focusing, say, on religion. The alternative approach is Israelification, defined by Toronto’s Star newspaper as “a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.”

Which do we want – theatrics or safety?

  • eerie Steve

    ok Horowitz, I got it now. Increased regulations by the theoretical Barak Monster can backfire and lead to other countries hosteling old ladies.

    Well watch this: good. I'm glad. They are weak. Friggin get some BTK wannabe's who want to feel tit on that. Slap a badge on them and just call them tardive Air Marshals. Then have another line for the better people, ie, people smart enough to pay not for the one time life insurance, but possess personal liability insurance and put them on a giant bank tube a la how you put your money in the bank. Paint it green and just do the dwah-dwah-DWAH sound and there you go.

    F1ck spielberg's american graffiti, I want america has somehow gave dhimmi a bad name. You will get you're demo, and after the earth really does start worshiping you as a god when we grow raccoon ears on you, you get this great yellow cape and parachute and you get to fly around collecting more shiny copper objects. Friggin Gates Foundation better be down with that stuff. That's the type of “charity” I want to see.

    All queens,

    one big white pawn that is a pigeon which constantly pecks bad people who don't follow the rules out of the chess game.

    Oh yeah, and congratulations on the new building. Yeah its big, but really, can king kong climb up it? With the composite fiber technology he would more likely be sling shotted out to the desert. Bravo idiots, bravo. You have wind. We have wind sleet and snow and your retarded offspring who get so high on THC they think flying a plane into the WTC is a great way to build a building. I mean I have seen death cults, but one man's cleopatra needle is another man's washington's monument is another man's erection. I wanna see Lebron base jump off it, land at half court, keep the momentum up so he does that Let-It-Flow dunk literally launched from the top of the key.

    There. That's it. That's all it will take to usher in a new era of the curse of tecumseh.

  • delfinjbeltran

    Emotional theatrics won the presidency and is just as likely going to determine the destruction of the Constitutional Republic. Honesty, Humility and Humanity have never been the earmarks of Chicago Politics, The bullying strength of unionism and its one world political background smells more like dictatorship on a world basis.

  • Robert Bernier

    Wow! Read this one. It is really good. And this gentleman says it just like it is.

    This venerable and much honored WW II vet is well known in Hawaii
    for his seventy-plus years of service to patriotic organizations and causes all over the country. A humble man without a political bone in his body, he has never spoken out before about a government official, until now. He dictated this letter to a friend, signed it and mailed it to the president. Consult :

  • Robert Bernier

    Every American should know the truth

    No one should miss this video:

    Look to the end ( 10 min.)

  • thinker1

    We are always a few steps behind jihadists….Now we are supposed to believe that a terrorist will not detonate a bomb in the last 61 or more minutes of flight…The theater is still performing its idiotic excercise in futility on honest Americans.BTW – if there wasn't a Duchman on the plane, the story might have a different ending….nobody next to and behind the bomber did anything – because they were afraid they might be sued."Nice job", flying imams. Even "better job" – American idiotic PC and liberal judges.

  • LindaRivera

    Instead of U.S. authorities showing grief and asking forgiveness for our military murdered at Fort Hood (it was known for quite some time that the Muslim killer was a significant terrorist threat), the government let us know that their BIGGEST concern was that there might be a back lash against Muslims.

    It is quite evident that the Transportation Security Administration are more concerned about securing the safety of Muslim terrorists than they are in protecting innocents. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost ALL terrorists are Muslims. As one person commented: Discriminate or DIE. It appears our government prefers that we die.

    Council on American-Islamic Relations: “Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faiths, but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.” – Omar Ahmad (CAIR co-founder).

    Addressing a youth session at the 1999 Islamic Association for Palestine's annual convention in Chicago, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) founder Omar Ahmad praised suicide bombers who “kill themselves for Islam,”

    Jihadists are winning because of pro-Islam Western leaders. U.S. Airport Security Deliberately and Shockingly Destroyed for Islam:
    Controversial Muslim group
    gets VIP airport security tour
    Feds show CAIR latest screening steps,
    sensitive counterterrorism procedures
    August 18, 2006

    The Department of Homeland Security
    took a Muslim group with known past ties to terror organizations on a VIP tour of security operations at the nation's busiest airport at the same time British authorities were working to break up a plot to blow up U.S. airlines.

    On June 21, a senior DHS official from Washington personally guided Muslim officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations on a behind-the-scenes tour of Customs screening operations at O'Hare International Airport in response to CAIR complaints that Muslim travelers were being unfairly delayed as they entered the U.S. from abroad.

    CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a “front group” for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

    Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terror-related charges.

    During the airport tour, CAIR was taken on a walk through the point-of-entry, Customs stations, secondary screening and interview rooms. In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were asked to describe for CAIR representatives various features of the high-risk passenger lookout system.

  • LindaRivera

    JIHAD Against Americans is UNOPPOSED by Washington

    Muslim terrorist training camps that teach murder of non-Muslims and violent Islamic conquest of America are allowed. They are not considered the enemy. Homeland security informed America who are regarded as the enemy: peaceful, patriotic Americans – pro lifers, tea party attendees, returning war veterans who risked their lives for America. God help America.
    'Chilling' new video: How to slit throats
    Jihad maneuvers taught at New York compound
    December 15, 2009

    By Bob Unruh

    A new video released by the Christian Action Network shows Muslim women at a compound in New York state practicing throat-slitting techniques and assault weapons attacks.

    The video was distributed by the makers of the movie “Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S.,” which documents how a jihadist group has developed dozens of training camps across the nation.

    WND reported at the time how Jamaat ul-Fuqra has built 35 compounds – mostly in the northeastern corridor of the U.S.

    …The U.S. State Department's 1998 “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report notes the organization “seeks to purify Islam through violence.”

    The report continued, “Members have purchased isolated rural compounds in North America to live communally, practice their faith and insulate themselves from Western culture. Fuqra members have attacked a variety of targets that they view as enemies of Islam.”

    CAN, led by Martin Mawyer, has researched Muslims of America for years and has provided its video to the FBI, State Department and Homeland Security. To date, there has been no response from the government, the group said.

    …”Gilani has stated he is preparing his members to the Soldiers of Allah, and he's set up the most advanced guerrilla warfare training camps,” he said.

    The organization's “Homegrown Jihad” video includes a chilling scene of Jamaat ul-Fuqra's leader Sheikh Mubarak Gilani telling followers to “act like you're his friend. Then kill him.”

    According to the Religion of Peace website, there have been more than 250 jihad attacks by Muslims around the globe – including two inside the U.S. – in just the last two months.The death toll from the attacks has surpassed 1,400, the report says.

    New MOA Terror Training Video Exposed

  • LindaRivera

    It is clear Washington have no problem with Muslim terror attacks and are committed to NOT protecting the public. With the full knowledge that almost ALL terror attacks are committed by Muslims, Washington is vehemently opposed to profiling Muslims.

  • USMCSniper

    The Obama Administration is a joke.

    Joan Rivers, 76, was deemed a danger to national security and booted from a Newark-bound flight in Costa Rica on Sunday by a jittery Continental Airlines gate agent who found the two names on her passport fishy.

    Her passport reads: Joan Rosenberg AKA Joan Rivers. Rosenberg was her late husband's last name.

    The “nasty and cruel” Continental gate agent bumped Rivers from the last flight out Sunday and the comedian found herself alone (her daughter, Melissa, flew out to Los Angeles earlier in the day) and with no ATM card and just $100 cash, she said.

    Rivers' tale of woe put a famous face on travel's new reality – one that leaves many feeling like common criminals.

    Read more:

  • Alex Kovnat

    If the best that the airline industry and the TSA can do is act like arses, I'd rather not fly. And to make things worse, you have incidents of people being trapped on airplanes for 14 hours because of screw-ups by airline and airport staff. As much of an aviation enthusiast as I've been since I was an adolescent, I'd rather not have anything to do with the airlines.

  • larrymjj

    Some good news! Just in:

    “Cuba protests US screening of airline passengers

    “HAVANA – Cuba summoned the top U.S. diplomat on the island Tuesday to protest extra screening for Cuban citizens flying into the United States, calling the rule a “hostile action” meant to justify America's trade embargo.”

    Cuba, and the other enablers of terrorism, are starting to share our pain. They have suddenly become aware that there are two ways to fight computer viruses: anti-virus programs and firewalls. Up until this week we have mostly focused on the anti-virus method, trying to catch the single virus in the act, using filters (i.e. airport scanners) and virus libaries (lists of people to watch).

    Now we are implementing stage two: firewalls. That means nothing gets in or out of our computer (country) unless they are on the “white list.” Initially, being a liberal country, we had every country on the white list. No more. Any country that harbors, supports, or turns a blind eye to their known terror organizations, will be on the “blocked list,” and will be made to know the value of a trip to America. It's not foolproof and does little to stop those already here. But countries like Cuba, if they want to get off the blocked list, will now have to prove they are safe. The responsibility to stop terrorists is now being shifted. And every complaint by a black-listed government should be considered a victory.

  • Robert Bernier

    Americans WAKE-UP

    Hate to the US is part of a deep and sincere ideology.
    PMW Director Itamar Marcus spoke in the US Congress several month ago about the dangers inherent in the creation of a PA state. While US President Obama and other senior politicians have touted the creation of a PA state as beneficial to American interests, a PA state would in all likelihood ally itself with America’s enemies, he said. Among the statements quoted in the report: “Allah, take hold of the Americans and their allies… Allah, count them and kill them to the last one and don’t leave even one.” Ahmed Bahar, speaker of the PA legislative council, on PA TV in April 2007. Be correctly informed :

  • sflbib

    “During a flight’s final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage, nor 'have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap.' … Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices, and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, 'A demand by one attendant that no one could read anything …' “

    I'd wager that the condemned Nazis in their Nuremberg prison cells were treated better as the awaited execution.

  • Louis Burroughs

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  • Elena Stoel

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