Our Leadership in Washington is the Problem, Not Body Scanners

Star Parker

11/29/2010 12:01:00 AM - Star Parker

The common explanation of why we cannot implement Israeli-style airport security here, despite acknowledging that the Israeli approach is the world's best, is logistics.

Israelis don't rely on machines. Their approach is human centered. All passengers get a quick interview by an agent trained to identify revealing behavior.

Such an approach, the reasoning goes, is possible in a nation dealing with 10 million passengers annually, but with the 600 million we deal with, the logistics become unmanageable.

But this is not the whole story.

It's true that the Israelis use primarily people rather than machines to screen. But the real difference in the Israeli approach and success is reliance on human judgment.

Human judgment can never be removed from the equation. We've been sold, and we're buying, the big lie that machines can replace human judgment and responsibility.

All technology starts with people. It is people who define problems and then design machines to deal with those problems. If the problem is incorrectly defined to begin with, then the machine, no matter how technologically sophisticated, is not going to solve it.

In other words -- garbage in, garbage out.

The first rule of warfare is to know your enemy. The Israelis know their enemy. They know exactly what to look for and their priority is to identify and stop them.

I wish I could say the same here. But I can't. And this is the problem.

How can we possibly use technology to identify and root out terrorists when the leaders of our country cannot, or refuse to identify with clarity who these individuals are and what they are about?

This latest round of humiliation that we citizens have to endure - electronic strip searches or intimate physical groping of our bodies - is the result of the so called "underwear bomber" incident from last Christmas.

Can we possibly forget that our Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the nation after that incident that" the system worked?" Or can we allow ourselves to forget that when Napolitano began her new job she wanted to expunge the word "terrorism" from our vocabulary and call these incidents "man-caused disasters?"

Or can we forget the exchange in congressional hearings between Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Attorney General Eric Holder where Holder refused to acknowledge a link between terrorism and radical Islam?

Holder said then, "There are a variety of reasons why people do these things. Some of them potentially religious."

Israelis can identify terrorists because they know exactly who they are and what they're about.

If Eric Holder cannot, or refuses to see a connection between Islam and terrorism, what, in his view, does define who these individuals are? And if he cannot do it with more precision than "there are a variety of reasons why people do these things," how can we possibly hope to have an effective strategy for identifying and dealing with terrorists?

Now we've just had the latest product of Holder's impeccable judgment: All murder counts dismissed on al-Qaida operative Ahmed Ghailani because of Holder's insistence that terrorists be tried in civilian courts.

We're spending more and more on technologies designed to deal with the last terrorist incident, which they can readily circumvent by doing things a little differently the next time.

Even if logistics make it impossible to do interviews as Israelis do, we could still design technologies to help zero in on likely suspects.

It's hard to sort out whether our current administration is simply confused and naive, or whether they actually sympathize with our enemies.

Either way, we citizens are the ones paying the price, in the wasted money we're shelling out and the humiliating invasions into our privacy.

So let's be clear that body scanners are not the problem. They are the symptom. The problem is our leadership in Washington.