Ehud Barak’s 80-15-5 rule of airport profiling
Jonathan Kay November 6, 2010 – 4:21 pm
Here at the Halifax International Security Forum, we just finished the panel on “Protecting the Public: Job #1.” Panelists were former Israeli PM Ehud Barak, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, Minister of State for Security, Home Office, UK. Interesting discussion by all participants, but Barak stole the show with two comments, both related to protecting airliners from hijack and destruction:
- Following on John Manley’s earlier anecdote about just having watched an 80-year-old grandmother being singled out for a head-to-toe search at a Denver airport, Barak explained the Israeli approach: “[Israelis] profile people. We are making [distinctions] very quickly between 80% of individuals who are out of the question [as security threats]; 15% who probably have a certain relevance but are very far-fetched; and a very small [5%] fraction that has to be dealt with [by security personnel] in a more [extensive] way.”
- “Forty-five years ago, the first Israeli aircraft was hijacked to Algiers. [We asked ourselves] ‘What should be done about [hijacking]?’ It became clear that the only way [was to prevent] the attackers from getting to the cockpit. So we established a system of two doors [on El Al aircraft]. You have to open one only after you talk to the pilot. After you enter, the previous one is closed, and then the captain can look at you through an eyehole and decide whether to let you in [the second door], leave you there, or he could shoot you in the head. The cost at the time [for this system] was $12,000 — probably 1/10,000th the cost of the airplane. Now think what could have happened to world terror if this practice would have been adapted by all airliners as a simple answer. Even 9/11 could not have happened.”
I like the idea of a pilot being able to shoot a hijacker “in the head” as he stands helplessly in an airplane-cockpit airlock. But that situation would come to pass rarely in the post-9/11 age, when terrorists prefer simply to blow themselves up rather than seize a plane’s controls. Even more useful is the 80-15-5 rule, which I would urge Canada and other Western nations to adopt as soon as possible.
p.s. I’ll be interested to hear the commenters describe what sort of specimens they think should be lumped into the 15% and 5% categories. But please try to avoid hate speech in doing so.
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3:42 PM on November 6, 2010
I agree with using a 80-15-5 rule. As to what profile goes into each category, talk with Isreal. After several years use, they have likely refined their categories.
The two door airlock system for the cockpit sounds good also. It might not stop suicide bombers, but it would surely stop hijacking.Score: 6
3:48 PM on November 6, 2010
I’d profile anyone who insisted on presenting him or (especially) herself as a member of any controversial group.Score: 4
4:25 PM on November 6, 2010
“I’d profile anyone who insisted on presenting him or (especially) herself as a member of any controversial group.”
In other words, anyone who “looks Muslim.” Brilliant idea, because (a) it’s not bigoted at all, and (b) no terrorist could ever devise a means to defeat such a clever scheme.Score: 11
5:09 PM on November 6, 2010
Let’s see now.
All of the bombers/hijackers have been Muslim males between the ages of 20 and 30.
They have darker skin than an Anglo Saxon’s, and half of them are named Mohammed.
This should be a good starting point for “Racial Profiling”.Score: 9
5:23 PM on November 6, 2010
OK, here goes:
15% rule applies to people who have previously travelled to Muslim countries.
5% rule applies to men who have their hair freshly shaven (can usually tell from the difference in colour from lack of tan) and smell like rose water. This is in preparation for paradise.
But things are changing rapidly. For example, after a stint in Iran, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law has converted to Islam. Who knows what useful idiots are capable of? The next wave of suicide bombers may be blonde-haired, blue-eyed Westerners.Score: 7
5:26 PM on November 6, 2010
How about the ‘airlock’ being equipped with a quick eject system for the outside? You give the captain a red button, labelled ‘garbage disposal’ and full authorization to use it if he doesn’t like the looks of his visitor.
And you screen 85-15-5 with regard to threat estimates and with no regard whatever for political correctness. If you did that, you wouldn’t need the above silly design modification except for its propaganda effect.Score: 11
6:29 PM on November 6, 2010
Canada is far more likely to become home to the 5 – 15 – 80 rule.
5% of people who are way too scary to talk to so we’ll let them by.
15% of people who will get a human rights tribunal involved so we’ll let them by.
80% of people who are regular travellers just doing their thing so we’ll incinerate their shampoo, strip them to their socks and prod them incessantly with metal detectors and intrusive questions (e.g. how many bathrooms do you have in your house).
To top it all off we’ll find someone under qualified to lead the program, find they’ve bungled the job and let them go with golden parachute. Following that process there will be the ceremonial rounds of finger pointing, demanding that the minister involved be hung drawn and quartered, back patting over the creation/aversion of an non-scandal, obligatory media cool down time and then lather, rinse, repeat.Score: 8
6:58 PM on November 6, 2010
The think the National Post should do a full article on the Halifax Security Conference. I saw several of the open sessions on CPAC and am impressed at the quality of the discourse. 37 countries are represented with some very influential people, John McCain, senior Democrats, officials from the EU, Japan, etc. . Peter McKay and Canada have been praised for setting up this conference. The Ehud Barak comments are only one aspect of the conference. I think that The National Post should be providing Canadians with full coverage. The other MSM organizations are ignoring it. One only has to wonder how they would cover it if Ignatieff was involved????? It is much more substantial than his recent “Thinkers Conference”!Score: 10
7:10 PM on November 6, 2010
I recall reading details of the Israeli system and was struck by one thing in particular. They had well trained and well paid security in their airports. In North America we have adopted the security model that uses low paid and under-trained employees. This is our biggest risk point. To ensure success we need to address the level of professionalism in the security services and eliminate the attitude that the people who are protecting us are just a bunch of rent-a-cops. The sooner we get serious the sooner we will have the same success as the Israelis.Score: 5
8:17 PM on November 6, 2010
Political correctness prevents security officials from following a 15% rule, never mind a 5 percenter.Score: -1
8:29 PM on November 6, 2010
This comment is under review.Score: 1
8:48 PM on November 6, 2010
can’t some of the type questioning be done in advance before a person leaves his home or hotel by anwering a series of questions already attached to the ticket via internet before he/she goes to the airport?..that way so much time consuming mundane question/answers are already available to security as they confirm your ticket etc..then all thats needed is the screening part ..scanning machines and whatever….this can speed up the process..even if marginally…anything to move the long winding lineups along faster..Score: 3
10:39 PM on November 6, 2010
I have been to Israel and can say that their security is more effective and less insulting than the 20-year-olds that pass for security officers at Ottawa International Airport.Score: 5
10:54 PM on November 6, 2010
If the goal is to once again be so politically correct that we have to inconvenience everyone because we’re labeled as Islamophobic or racist if we focus on the proven group, we won’t get anywhere.Score: 5
1:09 AM on November 7, 2010
Why on earth would we need to decide who falls into these categories? Why don’t we just ask the Israelis? Besides a couple of Sikhs back in 1985, which was a one-off event, the exact same people more or less are trying to blow up both our airplanes and Israeli airplanes. They’re the experts, follow their lead.Score: 1
1:31 AM on November 7, 2010
This comment was left by a user who has been blocked by our staff.Score: 1
1:42 AM on November 7, 2010
The profiling approach appears to validate the “evidence-based outcomes” principle: If what is done provides the correct or desired outcome, then it should be expanded to the rest of the airline industry. Forty-five years of success sure seems to meet the test.
Furthermore, if the “distinctions” of the profile start trending to other characteristics, this 80-15-5 system could be adjusted accordingly.
What has been done, though, is the multi-billion $$ implementation of a security system that may become only self-serving to the industry that provides it, all the while providing sub-standard security at high inconvenience to the 80%.Score: 2
4:10 AM on November 7, 2010
Easy to catch the last batch of would be’s…. Single men, 20-30, none or little baggage, one way tickets, paid in cash, headed to america.
Stop focusing on
Women with children
obviously old (but make sure they are old)
do like isreal and start the screening at the driveway, not the jetwayScore: 0
5:49 AM on November 7, 2010
This comment is under review.Score: 1
6:25 AM on November 7, 2010
Going through Israeli airport security, would a hypothetical John Walker Lindh belong to the 80, 15, or 5?Score: -2
7:57 AM on November 7, 2010
There is still one significant difference with respect to airport security: Israel has but one international airport. Countries like Canada and the US have both more airports and more volume. And this thing about a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that makes all talk of “profiling” impossible.Score: 6
8:01 AM on November 7, 2010
Got to love these Israelis. As the rest of the Western world is bending backward to achieve security without offending the bad guys, Israelis know this is impossible and have clearly chosen their side.
One probably meaningless little statistic: since the very first highjacking, El Al never had another plane highjacked or blown up. This despite dozens of attempts.
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