Man versus Machine

By Ron, Rafi | Newsweek, December 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Man versus Machine


Ron, Rafi, Newsweek


Byline: Rafi Ron; Ron is CEO of New Age Security Solutions Inc. in Dulles, Va.

On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my office at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, where I was director of security, and watched in horror as the world changed. During the next few months, I saw America quickly identify screenings as the source of all evil and the reason for the attacks--despite, illogically, the fact that Mohamed Atta and his terrorist teams didn't carry any weapons that were supposed to be detected at the checkpoints.

I've since moved to the U.S. to consult on airport security. Time after time, I've watched the country react retroactively--making us take off our footwear after Richard Reid's attempted shoe bombing, deciding not to let us bring water or shampoo on flights after a failed plot to blow up planes with liquid explosives, and, now, subjecting passengers to full-body scans or invasive searches after last December's thwarted underwear bombing. It's time to accept that terrorist attacks are not carried out by things but by people. A security strategy based on detection technology alone is a failed one. Our great love of gadgetry--and the belief that it can solve all our problems, without a personal touch--has only led to one failure after another.

Looking for better solutions takes me back to Ben Gurion. Israeli aviation security manages to create a reasonable balance between detection technology and human interaction. While at American airports we deploy people to support technology, in Tel Aviv technology is deployed to support people. Does it work? Ask Anne Marie Murphy, a young Irishwoman who, in 1986, nearly boarded a plane while carrying an explosive device without her knowledge.

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