Mona Charen

In 1972, members of the Japanese Red Army opened fire in Tel Aviv's airport, killing 24 people. In 1986, a pregnant Irish woman was attempting to fly from Heathrow to Tel Aviv. A check of her luggage revealed that her fiance, a Palestinian, had planted Semtex explosive in her carry-on bag. If not discovered, it would have brought down the plane. In the early 1980s, a German national recently released from prison was befriended by Palestinians. His new friends bought him an airline ticket to Tel Aviv. He thought he was smuggling drugs. But in fact, his bags contained 10 pounds of explosives.

Yes, most aspiring airline suicide bombers are young Muslim men. But not all of them are from the 14 countries listed by the Obama administration. Richard Reid was British. Zacarias Moussaoui was French. One of the terrorists who hijacked an Air France jet in the 1970s on behalf of the Palestinians was a German woman. The suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway in March were women. And women suicide bombers have struck at checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israeli security succeeds by questioning every passenger. What is the purpose of your trip? Who packed your bags? Where will you be staying? The security agents are all former army (well, nearly everyone in Israel is), have college degrees, and are fired immediately if they make a mistake. They learn psychological profiles of terrorists as well as how to detect things -- like the Irish lady traveling to meet her fiance's family without him -- that don't smell right.

While it's true that Israel has about 1/60th of the air traffic that we do, and it may not be feasible to undertake exactly that kind of examination in our country, we could at least attempt to apply the principle -- looking for terrorists more than weapons. How much longer would it take to ask each passenger a few questions than it does to put them through the full body scanner or to subject them to a pat-down? Some travelers will be questioned more extensively, but on balance, it probably wouldn't add any time to the average trip and might even speed it. And the invasion of privacy would be much less offensive.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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