PM Netanyahu with Janet Napolitano.
(photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Tuesday deflected criticism that the American aviation safety system should be more like the Israeli one, telling The Jerusalem Post there is no one “cookie cutter” approach to security.
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“One of the key differences obviously is one of size and scale,” Napolitano – in the country for two days – said in an interview. “Israel has one major international airport, which processes about 11 million enplanements a year. We did 770 million enplanements a year last year, out of 450 airports. So size and scale require some different approaches. But the goal is the same, the protection of the traveling public.”
Asked whether it would not be more efficient for the US – like Israel – to focus on seeking out the terrorist even if it entails profiling passengers, rather than looking for bomb-making material on every single passenger, Napolitano said it was as a “misconception” to think that in the US “we only do aviation security at the gate.
“We actually have an intelligencebased approach that does focus on travelers, and that begins before the traveler arrives at the airport. We have a multilayered approach that is intelligencebased,” she said.
The technology at the airport is “the last line of protection before the plane takes off,” she added.
Napolitano, speaking on her way to Ben-Gurion Airport to inspect the system in place there, said that the US did have “behavior detection officers” at airports who were not seen.
“We do different things at different airports so that terrorists cannot rely on predictability in their arsenal,” she said.
In addition, there were agreements in place “in terms of sharing information about passengers who have purchased tickets, in terms of their identities.
There are a whole set of things that happen before you even see a scanner at the airport,” she said.
Regarding the highly controversial full-body pat-downs that have recently been put into place in US airports, Napolitano said there was no plan in the immediate future to change that procedure.
“We have actually been moving passengers speedily through the system, and part of it is that people are adjusting to the new system,” she said.
“As with anything we are always refining – procedures, technology and the like – but I don’t see any major change in the near future on that score.”
Napolitano met for nearly an hour on Tuesday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and said the conversation focused on how to deal with illegal immigration, as well as the issue of cyber security.
Regarding illegal immigration, Napolitano said the discussion dealt with both how the US physically secured its long borders with Canada and Mexico, as well as with how the legal system dealt with illegal migrants.
Israel is building a physical and technological barrier along the 240-km. border with Egypt to keep out illegal migrants coming from Africa via Sinai.
Napolitano has also met since she arrived on Monday with President Shimon Peres, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
Napolitano said the purpose of her visit, the first in her position as secretary of homeland security, was to “show that the US has long-standing unwavering support of Israel, and that we really share a common interest on the security side.”
Napolitano’s visit followed stops in Ireland, Afghanistan and Qatar.